September 4, 2022. Our Bodies: Dwelling Places of the Holy Spirit.

First Mennonite Church

September 4, 2022

Our Bodies, Dwelling Places of the Holy Spirit

Text: 1Corinthians 6:12-20

There is a large and important cultural background that could help us better understand this passage. Paul was writing to Christ believers in the city of Corinth. Corinth was a large cosmopolitan city, and a commercial and religious hub. Sailors, travelers, and merchants brought with them their religions and planted them successfully in Corinth. There were more than two dozen temples in Corinth during Paul’s time, and among them, “a temple for all the gods.”[1] 

In terms of cultural attitudes, Corinth was known as the “Sin City,” and its citizens as “lacking charm and grace.” Everyone looked to his/her own. People’s behavior in the city of Corinth, as Alciphron, a second century composer describes, was “disgusting, coarse and objectionable.”[2] Taking by the words Paul had to use to address the issues he found among the Corinthian believers, the culture’s attitude and behavior had seeped into the church as well. At the beginning of chapter six, Paul “shames” (v.5) members of the church for taking their fellow brethren to court. Paul is exasperated that immorality is tolerated even among church members. Throughout the letter, Paul addresses various issues, most of them in relation to the rampant disregard for the other. In this passage alone, this selfish and individualistic approach to life is clearly reflected four times (see also 10:23) with the maxim Paul quote about their attitude: “I have the right to do anything, you say.” That sounds very much like our society’s attitude. Doesn’t it?

Paul quotes a popular maxim of the Corinthian culture, “Everything is permissible for me.” Maxims are truths and principles used as guides for life. Thus, in the case of the Corinthians, they lived by the rule that they are free to do as they pleased. Nothing is off limits. So, it was of no surprise that some male Christ believers, although having been baptized in Christ, kept visiting temple prostitutes.

It could be that male believers were equating the gospel message of Christ’s freedom with the cultural adage: “I have the right to do anything.” Thus, they wanted to do whatever pleased them. However, on each of the four times Paul makes reference to this adage, he places alongside it another consideration. He subjects the maxim to Christ’s principle for the life, especially for those who identify with him through baptism. Therefore, Paul reframes the maxim: “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  

 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others (1Corinthians 10:23,24).

On the basis of that new perspective about the maxims, Paul addresses the heart of the matter regarding the sanctity of the body. He addresses his point with three defining questions regarding the body.

In verse 15, Paul asks the first question: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? That is a highly entrusting call and privilege, but Paul expects his Christian brethren to agree with him on this. Paul declares that once we have been redeemed by Christ, our bodies no longer belong to us. Once redeemed by Christ, our body comes under the lordship of Jesus Christ. But not only that, it, in fact, becomes a member of the body of Christ. That’s amazing! That’s so profound! That means that your body and my body form and represent Christ in a visible and palpable manner to the world. For that reason, we cannot do as we please with our bodies. Abusing or neglecting our bodies, result not only in the detriment of our wellbeing, but even in its representation of who Christ is. So, let us take good care of our bodies. And I do not need to tell you how.

The second question Paul asks, he addresses it particularly to the men in the Corinthian church: Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? Paul wanted his male Christian believers to know that they could no longer keep going to the temples prostitutes. Based on the definition of marriage, physical union with prostitutes make anyone who goes to them, one with them. Therefore, anyone who does that gives away their bodies which has already belong to Christ. For that reason, Paul declares that sexual sins are in fact the only sin that goes against the body.

As a result of correcting the problem among some of his male Christ believers about the nature of the body, Paul makes the third and an all-encompassing question. The question is followed by an equally all-encompassing statement:Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Paul’s third question is now not directed only to the Corinthian Christian men. It can be addressed to all believers in Christ, men and women. The body is temple of the Holy Spirit.

First, let us consider Paul’s understanding of the human body. In Paul’s Jewish worldview, the body is not something humans have—I have a body, as if I am the owner of the body, or that there are other components that constitutes who we are. In Paul’s Jewish worldview, the human body is synonymous to self—personhood. Body is who we are. This explains why people who do drugs or are alcoholic not only damage their bodies, but whole lives. This explains why neglecting or abusing our bodies, not only affects our physical wellbeing, but also our state of mind and emotional equilibrium. This explains why when we are hurting with pain, we cannot think clearly or we easily become emotional or are downcast, at times.

Also, in Paul’s understanding about the body, salvation is not only for the “soul.” Christ’s salvation to us, includes the promise of the resurrection of our body. The body is God’s creation. In the Greek philosophy, often times the body is considered a burden, a cage from which the soul needs to be liberated. Thus, often times the body is despised or considered vile or impure in contrast to the spirit, which is thought to be pure.

However, in total rejection to those ideas about the body, Paul affirms that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in us and whom we have received from God. Thus, our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. If we take time to ponder the implication of this statement, we would live in awe of who we are as believer in Christ. You might remember Solomon’s prayer when he was dedicating the newly built temple in Jerusalem. Solomon confessed that even the highest heavens could not contain the presence of God and much less the temple Israel had built for God (1Kings 8:27).

However, with Jesus’ ascension after his resurrection, God now gives his people the gift of his presence through the Holy Spirit. But God’s Spirit does not dwell in houses like this where we are this morning. Church buildings and sanctuaries, however ornate or solemn as the could be, are not where God Spirit lives. God’s presence in the world is realized through our fragile, imperfect, and temporary bodies. Yes, God’s presence through his Spirit is concretized, palpably and visibly, through our bodies, with everything they represent. Our bodies, with their desire for pleasure, for good food, or that is refreshed with a good nap, when tired are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies, that come in all shapes or which are out of shape according to some, are sacred entities dwelt by the Divine. In God’s good pleasure he chose to make of these growing and growing old bodies special vessels of his Holy presence here on earth.

That is why, no matter how we look, what physical, mental or emotional flaws we might have, we are special in the eyes of him who made of our bodies his home. God’s Spirit lives in you, my dear sister and brother. You represent a sacred space; no matter how you are and where you go. There is one thing we should also remember: God presence through his Holy Spirit does not happen by default. God’s presence through us requires of us to allow the fruit of the Spirit of God to be revealed through us. As a reminder, this is also what Paul says: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatian 5:22-25). Others will know that God’s Spirit lives in us when they see the fruit it produces in us.

Paul closes with this appeal: “You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” When we allow the Spirit of God to flow through us, God will be honored through our bodies. Amen! 

Pastor Romero

[1] 1Corinthians. The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X. Abington Press. 2002

[2] Ibid. pg. 775