Theology 101 — Holy Spirit and Holy Temples: Believers Collectively as a Templecomment (0)
August 7, 2014
By Jerry Batson
We began thinking about the Holy Spirit several weeks ago in light of Pentecost Sunday. The starting point for our thinking was the four passages in which Jesus spoke of the Spirit as the Paraclete or Helper (John 14–16). Then in the last three weeks our focus has been on the Holy Spirit and the Bible. We looked at His inspiration of its writers, His illumination of its readers and His work of helping apply Spirit-illumined truth to our lives. Thus we transitioned from the Spirit and the Book of God to the Spirit and the people of God.
For God’s people, Israel, the temple was where God uniquely manifested His presence. The prophet Habakkuk contrasted the lifeless and imaginary gods of the nations with the living and true God of Israel, saying, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:20).
Spirit of God’s dwelling place
The New Testament picks up the imagery of a temple as the place where the Spirit of God dwells. One such passage is 1 Corinthians 3:16–17. Written originally to a local body of believers in Corinth, these two verses referred to those believers as a temple of the Holy Spirit. The plural form of the pronoun “you” is used four times in these two verses. The resultant idea is that in a collective or congregational sense a body of believers constitutes a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
So when we gather for worship where is the Holy Spirit? Do we not sometimes think Him to be an invisible presence floating around in the place of worship, moving among the rows or hovering just below the ceiling? Does the Holy Spirit dwell in the physical structure in which we gather for worship? Careful reflection will lead us to think otherwise. God’s Spirit dwells in human hearts. He takes up earthly residence in those who have opened themselves to the Savior. In fact, the Bible goes so far as to say, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). The reverse of this declaration also is true. If a person truly belongs to Christ in a saving relationship, that person has the Spirit of Christ. In short, the Holy Spirit is present in the gathered body of believers by means of His indwelling each worshipper, thereby turning the congregation into His temple.
Some practical outcomes of recognizing our hearts as the Spirit’s entranceway into our midst include the awareness that to the extent any of us are grieving the Spirit, quenching the Spirit or disobeying the Spirit our place of worship is limited as a dwelling place of the Spirit. Furthermore when the Spirit is not free to flow through us individually for the collective good His convicting presence is curtailed so that unbelievers among us do not come under strong conviction about their need and the Savior’s supply.
When we notice that some worship times seem to be moving and powerful but others seem lifeless maybe the individuals of us need to engage in a do-it-yourself heart checkup. Have we brought into church a backlog of unconfessed and uncleansed sin or maybe hearts that harbor unreleased forgiveness toward others? Members with cluttered hearts hamper the church’s being a temple of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God has always had an affinity for clean hands and pure hearts.