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Lesson 9: Lord of Our Body Temples *

Introduction: How many times have I heard someone say, "Your body is God's temple?" What does that mean? Does it mean that I have to jog? Does it mean potato chips are off my menu because I cannot get too fat? Must I wear a seat belt when I drive? Must I avoid driving small cars or flying in private planes? Generally, people who use this phrase are talking about smoking and drinking, not jogging. Does this phrase convert issues of health, safety, fitness and temperance from practical issues into spiritual issues? Let's dive into our study and see what the Bible really teaches about our bodies being the temple of God!

  1. Temple: Physical or Spiritual?

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. What aspect of my body makes it a "temple?" (Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit lives in us.)

      1. What does that mean? Is this something like a pregnancy? How did the Holy Spirit get in us? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:13. We find that we drank the Holy Spirit! Obviously, you need to pay close attention to nutritional labels! If only drink manufacturers knew about this possibility!)

    2. Read 1 John 3:21-24. Are we, too, living in someone else's body? (I hope I have not offended anyone by sounding silly, but the point is very serious. Paul is using physical terms to describe what is obviously only spiritual and mental. We do not physically live in God and He does not physically live in us. "Living in" refers to living a life in tune with God's will. We are aided in knowing God's will through His Holy Spirit.)

    3. Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and focus on verse 20. What is the reason for our body being filled with the Holy Spirit? (We were bought with a price - Jesus died on our behalf. God owns our temple house.)

      1. Is that a spiritual or physical issue? (Jesus' death was certainly physical. When Paul refers to our bodies, he must be speaking of both physical and spiritual. However, the emphasis is on the spiritual.)

  2. Temple Context

    1. We cannot fully understand Paul's reference to our bodies being a temple unless we study the context of his words. Let's do that right now. Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-13. Notice that the phrase "Everything is permissible for me" has quotation marks around it. The Greek has no quotation marks, what are the NIV translators suggesting to us? (The Bible Exposition Commentary (among others)explains that "Everything is permissible for me" was a common saying in Corinth - the town in which the people to whom Paul was writing lived. Paul is repeating a common saying, not what he believes.)

      1. What is Paul's answer to "Everything is permissible?" (Interestingly, Paul does not say "That's a lie." Instead, he adds that not everything is beneficial to us and some things can end up being our master.)

    2. What other phrase is in quotation marks in 1 Corinthians 6:12-13? ("Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.")

      1. What does that mean? (It means that our stomachs were designed to eat food. It is the same kind of logic (but the opposite) of the saying, "If God had meant us to smoke, He would have created us with chimneys.")

      2. What point does this Corinthian saying make? (The Bible Exposition Commentary explains that the Corinthians were talking about sex. Just as it is natural to eat food, so they argued our bodies were made to have sex - and therefore it is God's will that we satisfy these urges and use our bodies the way God designed them.)

        1. Is this an argument we hear today? (Absolutely. "God made me this way, so what I am doing is what He wants.")

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 6:13-14. What does Paul think about this argument that the design of our bodies proves we were naturally made for unrestricted sex? (1. Paul reminds them that a judgment is coming: God will destroy both the stomach and food. 2. The creation of our body shows that we were meant to serve God. 3. Paul reminds us that Jesus has redeemed us from sin and given us eternal life.)

    4. Let's continue. Read 1 Corinthians 6:15-17. What topic is Paul speaking about when he is says our bodies are "members of Christ" and temples? (Paul is discussing sexual immorality.)

      1. Focus on verse 16. What historical point is Paul making? (Paul reminds us ( Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5) that God invented sex, and He also gave us instructions on how it should be used. Sex is unique in that it reproduces life.)

        1. Look again at 1 Corinthians 6:14,17. Why is Paul talking about raising Jesus (and us) from the dead and us being united with Jesus? What does eternal life have to do with sexual immorality? (Sex is the way in which humans give life. Paul reminds us that as Christians, Jesus has given us new life. His logic is this: Why would you unite for new life with a prostitute, when you are already united with Jesus for eternal life? The two concepts are fundamentally opposed.)

  3. Assaulting the Temple: Sexual Immorality

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. When Paul reminds that our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, is he talking about jogging, being fat, smoking, drinking or wearing our seat belts? (No. Paul tells us that "all other sins" are outside the body. The only sin that is against our bodies is sexual immorality. Our review of the context of these verses clearly shows that Paul is addressing sexual immorality.)

      1. I have often wondered why the church is so hard on marital infidelity. Pride, arrogance, greed will keep you safely in the church pew, but have an affair and you get booted out of church. Is that appropriate? (Yes. Paul identifies sexual immorality as a special class of sin. It corrupts the new life process. Instead of preserving this process for "the wife (husband)of our youth," we share it with a stranger. This particularly offends God because He gives us new life and He "dwells" in us.)

      2. If you were Satan, and you knew that sexual immorality was particularly offensive to God, what temptation would you press?

        1. As you look at the world around you, how strong is the push for immorality?

      3. Notice how 1 Corinthians 6:18 begins. It says "flee" from sexual immorality. How, as a practical matter, would you put that advice to work in your life?

      4. Because I believe in "truth in teaching," there are a couple of points about 1 Corinthians 6:18 I need to share. The Greek is properly translated "All sins a man commits are outside his body," as opposed to "all other sins." Nevertheless, I think the NIV properly supplied the word "other," because that is the sense of what Paul is writing. Second, a minority of commentators believe that the beginning of this verse is another example of Paul quoting from a popular Corinthian saying. If it is true that "All [other] sins a man commits are outside his body" is a Corinthian saying, and not Paul's view, then that would seriously undercut the conclusions we reached that safety and health issues are practical, not moral issues. I mention this minority view only so that the reader can make an informed decision. I think the minority view is wrong.

    2. Read Matthew 15:16-20. Jesus says that sexual immorality comes out of the heart - and seems to compare it with what goes into the body. Is there a conflict between the teaching of Jesus and Paul? (No. Jesus agrees with Paul that sin, in general, is not about the body. Jesus tells us that the origin for sexual immorality is our mind. Paul adds that it is the only sin that is against our body.)

    3. The next time someone reminds you that your body is a "temple of God" when talking about diet, health, fitness, seat belts, etc., what should you say? (They need more Bible study! (Don't we all?) Diet, health, fitness, seat belt wearing are all excellent ideas, but they are not the "temple" issues discussed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6.)

  4. The Temple of Others

    1. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul writes that the Corinthians should set their hearts on the right things. One thing they should avoid is idol worship. Let's pick up Paul's advice by reading 1 Corinthians 10:23-24. Paul again repeats this common Corinthian statement, but he adds a new element to what he taught in 1 Corinthians 6. What is this new element? (That in deciding what conduct is acceptable for us, we need to consider its impact on our fellow Christians.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 10:25-27. Paul says that the Corinthians should not worry about whether the meat they purchased or are served as a guest has been sacrificed to idols. Why? (Paul has previously said that idols are nothing ( 1 Corinthians 10:19-20), and therefore we should not worry that meat might have previously been offered as a sacrifice to an idol. God owns all the meat - not idols.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 10:28-29. Whose conscience is being protected? (The conscience of the other person.)

      1. What principle is Paul teaching us? (That although we know that certain actions are not sinful, we should avoid doing them in front of others who think that they are sinful.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 10:31-33. What does Paul suggest that eating and drinking have to do with sin? (The suggestion is that when we decide what we should eat and drink, the primary factor is what impact it has on our fellow Christians.)

      1. Is the "eat and drink ... for the glory of God" a teaching on diet and health? (No. It is about being considerate of the views of fellow Christians.)

    5. Friend, God asks us to keep our body temple free from sexual immorality. Will you determine to flee from this sin?

  5. Next week: Lord of Our Labor.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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