November 2, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NRSV)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
Here’s an amazing thought. If you have accepted God’s grace through Christ, then your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God, through the Spirit, dwells within you. Therefore, you have the opportunity to glorify God with your body. May it be so, Lord!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In the Greco-Roman world, the gods had temples. They were the places where the gods were worshiped. They were considered to be the gods’ dwelling places on earth. One generalization concerning all religions of the ancient world is almost always accurate: Religions had temples.
Except for Christianity. The first Christians stuck out like a bunch of sore thumbs because they did not build and worship in temples. This confused the Roman Empire. They couldn’t figure out if Christianity was a religion, a philosophical movement, or something else altogether. It made Rome rather nervous, in fact.
It’s true the first Christians didn’t have buildings they identified as temples. But, in a sense, they did have temples. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, for example, the Apostle Paul refers to the Christian community in Corinth as “God’s temple” in which “God’s Spirit” dwells. The Christians in Corinth didn’t build a temple because, well, when they gathered, they were a temple.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul uses similar language but in a different way. He writes: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” In this case, the “temple” is not the community of Christians, but the body of each individual Christian. Because God’s Spirit lives within each believer in Jesus, each one could be considered a holy temple.
Why did Paul talk about human bodies in such a surprising and body-valuing way? Because many Christian men in Corinth were having sexual relations with prostitutes, much as they had done before believing in Jesus. Discreet prostitution was common in Corinthian society, even among married men. One defense of such behavior was the familiar Greek understanding that the body really doesn’t matter. Spirit was everything for the Greeks. Body, not so much.
So Christians in Corinth would defend their engagement with prostitutes, arguing that what they did with their bodies really didn’t matter. Paul, on the contrary, argued that their bodies really did matter. They were temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he said to the Corinthians, “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Yes, the Corinthian Christians should glorify God in their common life as the body of Christ. And, yes, each individual believer should glorify God in his or her body by acting according to God’s righteousness. Having sex with prostitutes was not an acceptable use of one’s body and was not glorifying to God.
It’s striking that Paul doesn’t only give the prohibition: Don’t visit prostitutes. Rather, he calls the Corinthians to something positive, something wonderful: Glorify God in your body. What you do with your body, Paul says, actually matters a great deal. You can choose to glorify God or to dishonor God with your body. Because you belong to God through the death of Jesus Christ, you should choose to glorify God, not just with your mind, not just with your heart, but also with your body.
Glorifying God with your body isn’t only a matter of participating in Christian gatherings, praying regularly, and doing other actions we associate with Christian piety. Rather, you can glorify God with your body in all you do, if it is consistent with God’s will and offered to the Lord. You can glorify God by doing honest work, making good products, feeding the poor, and embracing your children.
In these and so many other ways, you can use your body as a means of worshiping God. I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow. For now, please consider the following questions.
Have you known people in our time of history who believe that what you do with your body really doesn’t matter? Where do you see the body devalued today?
How do you respond to the idea that you should glorify God with your body? Is this a familiar thought? A new one? Do you do this already? If so, why? If not, why not?
Set aside some time to reflect on the fact that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Write down your thoughts and feelings.
Gracious God, this is truly an amazing revelation. Without the Scripture, I would never have the audacity to think of my body as your temple. Yet, your Word is clear and compelling. For this I thank you.
O Lord, I don’t feel like a worthy temple. I know my weaknesses and sins. I know the times I don’t value my body, failing to care for it or use it in good ways. Forgive me, Lord, for being an unworthy temple.
Yet, my worthiness doesn’t depend on me. It depends on you, your mercy, your grace, your choice to dwell within me. Thank you for this amazing gift.
Help me, I pray, to keep in mind and heart my status as your temple. Help me to live out this reality each day, in all that I do. May you be glorified in my body, Lord. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Give Your Bodies to God
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.