Sunday Sermon from October 13, 2019 on the Second Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 6:16-7:1
“You are the temple of the living God,” as Saint Paul says. Sounds great, but what does it mean? Well, first of all, a temple of God is a house of God, a place where God chooses to abide. Second of all, it’s a place that was either built by God or according to His specific instructions.
In the Old Testament, God, Who is everywhere present, as we say in our prayers, chose a specific place of His presence with His people. At first it was the Ark of the Covenant, which God instructed Moses on Mount Sinai to build, at the same time as the Commandments were also given.
God told Moses what specific materials to use, and the exact measurements. All the details of the building of the Ark of the Covenant are in the Book of Exodus chapter 25. God told Moses that He will meet with him there and give all of His commands for Israel.
The Jews, who were still a nomadic tribe at that point, they had no permanent home, would carry the Ark of the Covenant wherever they went. They traveled a lot and the Ark was not small or light.
Later on, when David became king of Israel, God instructed him to build a Temple in Jerusalem, where the Ark of the Covenant would be placed, and where God would be present among His people. David began building the Temple, but his son Solomon finished it.
Some of the most tedious chapters in the Bible, in the First Book of Kings, describe the precise instructions for the materials and measurements for everything that was to be included in the Temple. Reading those chapters, we can’t go away thinking that God does not care about the details. He clearly does.
The Temple in Jerusalem became the dwelling place of God. God did not become restricted to one physical place, this was rather the place that God chose to manifest His presence among His people. The Temple was also the place where the Jews made their sacrifices, the place they brought their best cattle and their best crops to offer them to God for thanksgiving, for repentance, or for purification.
This all changed when God manifested Himself in a completely unexpected and awesome way – when God became incarnate, when God appeared as a human being, when the Son of God came down and lived among us as Jesus Christ.
God went from meeting with His people in the Temple, to meeting with them wherever Christ went. This was a big deal, but it became even a bigger deal when Jesus abolished all sacrifices by offering the ultimate and most perfect sacrifice – Himself, on behalf of all and for all.
Christ’s death on the Cross fulfilled all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. His subsequent resurrection accomplished something that the old sacrifices never could – salvation. When Christ ascended and then sent down the Holy Spirit upon all the believers on Pentecost, the believers became the dwelling place of God.
Ever since then, those who receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, those who believe in Christ and His saving teachings, and live the Christian life are the temple of the living God, the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ.
This is what Saint Paul means when he says that we are the temple of the living God. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in us. And He has made this new temple, meaning us, with the most intricate details. He has made us in His own image. He cares about details.
So, what do we do with this temple of the living God? First of all, realize who we are and what we are. We are Christians, we are the disciples of Christ, we are the chosen ones of Christ (because it is not us who chose Christ, but He chose us). This is our main identity, and I would argue the only identity we need – Christians. Anything else we choose to identify as, comes after this and is almost irrelevant.
We are also the dwelling place of God, and as such, we keep it pure and we witness to the whole wide world what it means to be the temple of the living God. We keep ourselves pure by abstaining from sin as best as we can. If we have trouble identifying sin, we come to confession, and intentionally and consciously examine ourselves.
And finally, since God chose us as His temple, we witness with all of our being to the world what it means to be the temple of the living God. We witness to His love, we witness to His mercy, and we witness to His promises.
And God has promised that He will be our Father, and we will be His sons and daughters.
To our Heavenly Father, Who chose us as His dwelling place, we humbly give glory, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.