It is only on the basis of Christ's work that God can come and dwell among his people. This article shows that this dwelling is done by the Holy Spirit in believers, as revealed in 1 Corinthians 3:16.

Source: Trinitarian Bible Society, 2006. 3 pages.

A Temple of the Holy Spirit

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

Each true believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit. This striking and important truth was taught by Paul. (See also 1 Corinthians 6:19.) While the Apostle was instructing the church at Corinth, he raised the question, 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' Reminding the Corinthians of this special blessedness and dignity of believers, Paul challenged them to live and to act accordingly.

This teaching, that believers are, collectively and also indi­vidually, a temple of the Holy Spirit, was not new. In Old Testament times the Temple was God's dwelling place. But even then, the true children of God were considered to be the real temple of God. While we meditate on this precious truth, may the Lord grant us His blessing.

Each creature is an evidence of God's wisdom, goodness and power. However, man, the crown of God's creation, was singularly endowed. At his creation, he received a moral nature similar to that of his Creator. Although finite, man resembled God in understanding, purity, love and truthfulness. God was near and dear to man and did communicate with him. God dwelled in man. Man was God's holy temple, God's delightful dwelling place.

Alas, this beautiful temple destroyed itself. Seduced by the subtle serpent, man yielded to the malicious tempter, and disobeyed the special command of his Creator. Man ceased to love his Maker. He chose Satan's side and became an enemy of the divine Being. Indeed, the walls of God's fondest temple lay in ruin. Fallen man was no longer an appropriate home for the holy, heavenly Inhabitant.

Man became a spiritual ruin. A ruin cannot restore itself. Yet it pleased God, according to His sovereign love and counsel, to restore fallen sinners. This surprising grace cannot be measured.

The restoration of ruined temples required a firm, unshak­able foundation. This basis was divinely laid, when Christ was born at Bethlehem, when the Son of God assumed a human nature. In His manhood, Christ was a perfect and delightful temple of the Holy Spirit. His divine nature was also of the utmost significance in the marvellous undertaking of the restoration of fallen sinners. The Saviour's deity was the guarantee of the accomplishment of redemption. How impressive is the sublime temple JESUS!

However, the divine requirement was that this temple should be destroyed. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up' (John 2:19), and Jesus 'spake of the temple of his body' (John 2:21). The active obedience of Jesus was essential. By His life of perfect obedience He fulfilled the requirements of the divine law. However, His passive obedience, His substitutionary suffering unto death, was likewise required. The crucified Redeemer is the Fountain opened for sin. The price of pardon is the blood of God's Son. Therefore, the Cross is the healing balm for needy sinners.

How precious in this regard is also the resurrection of Christ! It was an essential element of the divine undertaking to provide a way for the blessed Holy Spirit to restore and to take pos­session of the human heart as His temple and dwelling place. 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The apostles Paul and Peter also testify to this great truth. Paul in Romans 4:25 says, He 'was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification'. Peter in 1 Peter 1:3 wrote, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead'. The rich treasures of divine grace are laid up in the crucified and risen Redeemer. In Him is enough to fulfil all the temporal and spiritual needs of poor, wounded and unworthy sinners. They may cling to Him in their deepest trials and temptations. He is a very present Help in time of need.

The incarnation of the Son of God, His life of obedience, His atoning death, and His resurrection from the dead, form a sure foundation for God to return and to dwell again with man. On this very basis, temples ruined by sin may be restored and become dwelling places of a holy God. This takes place at the time of the new birth, when by God's sovereign grace the Holy Spirit enters and renews a sinner's heart. He then produces a Godly sorrow that works a repentance unto life. The Holy Spirit convinces of sin, guides to Christ, and speaks to the heart of peace and pardon through the atoning blood of God's dear Son. He reveals God's love in Christ and produces a responding love to God and to our neighbour. The Holy Spirit makes the renewed heart His temple. He dwells in the believer and abides with him forever.

The work of atonement was accomplished when Christ died. The everlasting righteousness was wrought. It is impossible to add anything to the perfection of the redemption accomplished by Christ. But the Spirit must needs apply what Christ has purchased by His blood. The objects of divine mercy are regenerated by the Holy Spirit's grace. When the Spirit has renewed a sinner's heart, and united the heart to Christ, old things have passed away and all things have become new (See 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Spirit of God takes His abode in the renewed and sanctified heart. It is necessary to emphasise that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in the understanding but in the heart. Indeed, He enlightens the understanding with the truth. This is important, but not the ultimate purpose of the Spirit. For by the enlightening of the understanding, He paves His way to the heart and makes the renewed heart His dwelling place.

Infinitely rich are the blessings related to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Biblical instruction on this subject is inexhaustible. We will limit ourselves to the following. Without the Holy Spirit we are most ignorant of spiritual matters. However, when He teaches us, we are humbled and realise our utter dependency on the Lord. This heavenly Teacher, by means of the Word of God, instructs in the truths necessary for our salvation. He teaches with much love, wisdom and patience. All God's children are taught of the Lord (Isaiah 54:13 and John 6:45).

The Spirit also influences the memory of the believers, so that they may utilise the precious truths taught in the Word of God (John 14:26). He unveils to them more and more the glory and beauty of Christ.

Furthermore, the indwelling Spirit graciously assists the believers when they approach the Throne of Grace. 'Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered' (Romans 8:26). The Spirit's assistance is invaluable when we draw near to God in prayer and supplication. The Spirit's wisdom makes us acquainted with our deepest need and causes us to plead the love of Christ.

How precious is the grace of the Holy Spirit, when He sheds abroad the love of God into our hearts and produces the cry, 'Abba, Father' (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). In the beginning of our spiritual life that cry may be faint. Yet it is a fruit of the indwelling Spirit and pleasing to God.

In Romans 8:16 the apostle develops this comforting truth a little further. He states, 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God'. Paul teaches here that there is a joint witness. First, our spirit bears witness to the truth that we have become children of God. This in itself is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit's grace. Secondly, the Spirit of God bears joint witness with and to our spirit that we are the children of God. This is the more direct witness borne by the Spirit to God's people.

Thus Paul deals in Romans 8.15 and 16 with the wit­ness borne by our own spirits in the cry which we utter, 'Abba, Father'. In addition he refers to the witness of the Holy Spirit to our spirits. It is therefore evident that the Word of God teaches here a distinction between the sub­jective consciousness of the believer and the more direct testimony of the Holy Spirit to our hearts. The latter is a seal of the Holy Spirit to the trustworthiness of the witness borne by our own spirits when confidence is uttered in the plea, 'Abba, Father'. It is important to observe that this work of the Holy Spirit, producing in the heart of God's peo­ple love, trust and assurance of their sonship, must never be viewed apart from the other saving and sanctifying oper­ations of the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the Holy Spirit is a wondrous Comforter, when He shows a needy sinner that Jesus is the perfect Refuge for the oppressed. Whatever the trial may be, in Jesus is enough to satisfy the needs of the poorest among the poor.

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