When Solomon dedicated the temple, he prayed: “But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (2 Chron. 6:18). The temple in Jerusalem was not a container for God. He is always present everywhere and “does not live in temples built by human hands” (Acts 17:24). But God did reveal His presence there in a unique way, and His glory was visibly seen (2 Chron. 7:1–3). The same thing happened during the time of Moses with the tabernacle (Lev. 9:24).
The temple in Jerusalem is not the only temple of God mentioned in the Bible. The New Testament describes believers’ bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). This description is not spatial so much as it is relational. Paul did not mean that the Holy Spirit fills up the physical space inside our bodies but rather that our bodies belong to Him. He purchased us with the blood of Christ and empowers us by His Spirit. God’s ownership obligates us to use our bodies for God’s glory (1 Cor. 6:20).
Similarly, the New Testament describes the church as God’s temple. All those who have been united to Christ in faith “are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).
In this church age, the glory of God is not revealed by means of smoke and fire but through the transformed lives of individual believers who honor God with their bodies. God’s people experience His presence when they come together as church to worship and to hear the Word of God (1 Cor. 14:25). The truth that Christians are temples of the living God sanctifies ordinary life. Every ordinary act is an opportunity to express my devotion to God and display His transforming power.
The truth that believers are being built together to be God’s dwelling is a reminder of the vital importance of coming together as church. We do this to encounter God through His Word and to be built up so that we can continue to glorify Him with our obedience. Jesus Christ ushered in a new age in which believers are the temple, and true worshipers worship the Father in Spirit and truth (John 4:21–24).
To learn more, read How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit by A. W. Tozer (Moody Publishers).