The wonder of being the temple of the Holy Spirit


“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you …?” (1 Cor. 6:19)

Isn’t this one of the most extraordinary questions in the entire Bible?!

Another way of phrasing it would be to ask:

Do you not know that you are sleeping, waking and living in the constant, never-withdrawing, closer-than-breathing Presence of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe?

Wow!  Do you know that?  Do I know it?  Deep in my heart and not just in my mind?

It is one thing to read this verse and to give mental assent. Quite another to believe it in our hearts and to trust the Holy Spirit to work this truth – and the fruit of the Spirit that flows from it – into our lives.

An important thing to remember is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with our feelings. Oh, the scourge of the feeling trap!  That was the trap I had fallen into for several years after my conversion to Jesus Christ: “How can this broken, so-often-failing human being dare to call herself the temple of a pure and righteous God?!”  That was my reasoning – but it was deeply flawed.

If we go by our feelings, we will remain trapped in our “old Adam” nature, the nature that was crucified with Jesus on Calvary (see Rom. 6:6).  We have a new nature now – the very nature of Christ – and we are completely new creations in Him (see 2 Cor. 5:17).

This new nature is invisible at first, though, and we have to learn practical ways in which to focus on that which is invisible (yet real) and to walk “by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

The solution is to find out what the Word of God says about us, then to keep pondering it and to ask the Holy Spirit to work it into our day-to-day lives. We cannot do that of ourselves – it is the Holy Spirit who works this transformation within us. He breathes and moves through the Word of God to reveal the Christ-nature to us and through us.

For this very purpose, it is wondrous to know that God has given us the “fellowship” (or companionship) of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Cor. 13:14). Companionship involves talking with the Spirit within us and trusting Him to be our Helper and Teacher, as promised in John 14:26.  Let us thank Him often that He is faithful to guide us into all truth and to reveal the things of Christ to us (John 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit within us is also called the Spirit of Christ – Christ in us (see Col. 1:27).  We have His holy Presence abiding constantly within us. But if this is to become real in our experience, we need to respond actively in prayer and in meditation upon verses of Scripture. It is a relationship, and, like all relationships, it needs to be nurtured in order to flourish. Otherwise, it remains stagnant and it can seem as though it does not exist at all.

Our minds, bodies and circumstances can often scream out to us that surely we cannot be described as the temple of the Holy Spirit.  But most certainly we can because that is exactly what God says about us in His Word. We are called to believe it – whatever our circumstances may look like or feel like.

It inspires and helps me very much to reflect on how Mary, the mother of Jesus, responded to the extremely difficult circumstances she faced in her pregnancy and after giving birth. She was bearing God Himself within her, so we can say that she was indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Yet did it look (outwardly) as though she was?

No, not at all!

Mary, who was carrying the Creator and Saviour of the world within her womb, was treated as an outcast in her society and culture. Furthermore, she found herself giving birth to the Son of God in dirty, stinking and very unhygienic conditions. Soon after that, Mary and Joseph had to flee for safety to Egypt, to protect the life of baby Jesus.

In all this, it would have been very logical for Mary to cry, “Surely, none of this can be of God!!”  But, even in the midst of such hellish circumstances, she knew that God was taking care of their lives and was in control, despite appearances.  Her confidence was not affected by her outer circumstances, nor by what she may have been feeling.

Instead, her confidence rested upon the message that God had given her through the Angel Gabriel; that she would bring forth a Son who “will be great and, and will be called the Son of the Highest … and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

Mary’s reply was: “Let it be to me according to your word”. She fully trusted this Word from God and she also pondered the things of God in her heart (Luke 2:19). That is, she kept them in mind and meditated upon them.

May we, too, trust in what our heavenly Father says about us and to us, and – like Mary – ponder His words in our hearts. May we ask the Holy Spirit to cause the Christ-nature to grow within us – more and more – and to overflow from us as Love, Life and Light into this world.


(The main image above is a painting by James Tissot:  Joseph seeks a lodging in Bethlehem.)

Ann Shakespeare

Welcome to the Ann Shakespeare blog. Ann, a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, BBC World Service and The Daily Journal, is currently involved in editing and writing on Christian themes. She also ministers in a local ecumenical centre which provides prayer and pastoral support.

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