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Pentecost_mosaic cred Pete Unseth

Christ’s Body Is the Temple

There is only one verse in the New Testament that teaches specifically that a believer’s physical body is a temple:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (1 Cor. 6:19)

But it seems like believers today have removed this verse totally from its immediate context, its greater context, and from the many similar verses that clarify the full meaning of this truth. Let’s take a look.

A Variety of Passages

Now, there are at least seven passages in the New Testament that compare believers themselves to a temple or building, but we commonly only hear that our bodies are temples. In fact Paul is emphasizing different things in different passages, but we’ll note some patterns that bring them together.

You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:9)

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them ...” (2 Cor. 6:16, q. Ezek. 37:27)

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God … Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure … grows into a holy temple in the Lord … (Eph. 2:19-21)

The main thing you should notice is that Paul is talking about the entire, invisible Church as God’s temple in the New Covenant—not the individual believer, or the physical church—and that none of these verses are talking directly about physical health.

Health Is Never Mentioned—Sexual Purity Is

In none of these verses does Paul mention working out. 1 Corinthians 6:19, so often trotted out in that sense, is actually about avoiding sexual immorality by keeping away from sexual immorality and prostitutes, which are still so common in many of the world’s cities.

Prostitutes were kept in pagan shrines, and money from sex funded the work of these temples. Shrine prostitutes are mentioned many times in the Old Testament. So it makes sense for Paul to say to them, you shouldn’t be going to the shrine of a pagan god for sex, when you yourself are the shrine of the one, true living God.

Indirectly, you can of course say that a miniature “temple” demands respect and care. I’m not saying that health isn’t important, or that Christ’s workers shouldn’t live long, healthy lives. That may be true and implied, but it’s simply not directly what this verse is saying. If anything, rather than teaching on working out, we should teach from this verse against pornography and its vital role in maintaining the wicked global sex trade. Any believer that supports this sins against much more than his own body.

I Am Not God’s Temple—We Are

The subject is plural in every case except for 1 Corinthians 6:19. So Paul teaches that we are God’s dwelling place much more often than he teaches that our individual bodies are. (The singular/plural distinction was clear in the early modern English of the King James: “Ye/you/your” was plural, while “thou/thee/thine” was singular.)

Paul used the singular just once, to emphasize the sense of personal responsibility, and the personal defilement that comes from misusing your body sexually. But in most of the New Testament he teaches not that God dwells in me, but that God dwells in us.

When Paul compares the body to a temple, he is taking a cue from Jesus, who compared his body to a temple. Now, in the same passage where he says that “your body is a temple,” he uses the word “body” to mean Christ’s body:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! (1 Cor. 6:15)

So each of us is only one part of the picture. Even the most commonly quoted verses on Christ’s indwelling, like Colossians 1:27, where he says that “Christ in you” is “the hope of glory,” are plural, and being addressed to a group. “The Holy Spirit dwells in us” (2 Tim. 1:14). “He put his Spirit in the midst of them” (Isa. 63:11).

We Are Not a Religious Building—We Are a Sanctuary

The word used for temple in these verses is slightly more specific than ‘temple’; it is the sanctuary of the temple. Richard Trench points out that the distinction is well maintained in New Testament Greek. Whenever Jesus is teaching “in the temple,” we are to understand that he is in the courts of the temple; whenever Zechariah goes into the temple and has a vision, we can understand that he was in the sanctuary, the Holy Place.

Every verse that compares believers to a temple uses the word for sanctuary. The implication is not that it is a grand, important building, consecrated to a religious purpose, but that it is a sacred place, consecrated to God, whatever else it may be.

The teaching that says that our physical well-being honors the indwelling Christ, may be true in some sense. But is this to say that people with lifelong illnesses are dishonoring Christ? That is not what the Bible teaches, and we dishonor the sick when we try to create a karmic link between health and spirituality. There is no mystic link between physical fitness and spiritual fitness.

A Church Is Not God’s House—The Church Is

Another misunderstanding about God’s dwelling is the still-frequent usage of the phrase “house of God” for a church building. This phrase, when used in this way, is essentially a vestige of Judaism, or a holdover from heathenism. It is not the language of the New Testament. Paul and Peter both teach that the church itself—that is, believers—are the house, or family, of God.

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in [or among] the household of God, which is the church of the living God … (1 Tim. 3:15)

Some versions say “house of God” in 1 Timothy 3:15, but only a medieval interpretation of the Bible would say that Paul was referring to a physical church.

We are his house. (Heb. 3:6)

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house … (1 Pet. 2:5)

The word for house also means household. In the time when Paul wrote this, when most churches were still meeting in houses under threat of persecution, Paul could not have conceivably taught that a church building is God’s dwelling place. He taught something much more shocking—he taught that we are.

Conclusion

When Jesus said that the Comforter was with the disciples, but would be in them, he was teaching the fulfillment of multiple prophecies given over hundreds of years. He was teaching that Moses’ wish, that all God’s people could prophesy, was one step closer to fulfillment. He was teaching the end of the Old Covenant—in which God dwelled in limited believers and limited places—and the beginning of a new economy of grace, in which God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh.

That pouring out began on the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish celebration centered around the assembly of men at the temple. But now this outpouring has broken the bounds of upbringing, ethnicity, gender, age, and nation. It is not limited to any physical church or temple, but has entered the hearts of a manifold spiritual assembly, “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:23). This assembly now gathers to no physical meeting place, but under the spiritual banner of the slain Lamb.

Each person who is part of this assembly is like a single stone of a sacred building, or a single cell of Christ’s body, which he said was the temple. Each cell contains the DNA blueprint that represents the whole, which is why we can point a finger at a fellow believer and say, “You yourself are God’s dwelling place.” But it would be far better to imagine every believer from Pentecost onwards, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and say together, “We are God’s dwelling place.”

Your body may be a temple. But Christ’s body is the temple.

Mosaic credit: Pete Unseth
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“I Am the Lord” in Ezekiel’s Prophecy

When Will We Know That He is Lord?

– God tells us over and over that he is the LORD (YHWH), and he tells us when we will know that he is the LORD. This revelation of God’s character is a constant theme in Ezekiel, whether this revelation comes through judgment or mercy.

– The quote “I am the LORD” is God’s self-identification that began with Moses in the book of Exodus. In Exodus, as here, God identifies himself primarily by his activity. The verbal revelation clarifies an action which could otherwise be misinterpreted (e.g. Ex. 20:2, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt”). This revelation does not change or develop who he is, but it does develop our understanding of him, and that is a goal worth mentioning around 80-90 times in Ezekiel’s book (listed below).

– Exodus 6:7 introduces two promises: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
The first part, “you will be my people, and I will be your God”, is repeated six times by Ezekiel (11:20, 14:11, 34:30, 36:28b, 37:23, 37:26-28). It is also found in Jer. 24:7, 30:22, 31:1, 31:33, 32:38, and Rev. 21:3.
The second part, “you will know that I am the Lord”, is repeated by Ezekiel about 70 times.
While “knowing that he is the Lord” involves revelation, owning up to him as “your God” and us as his people involves commitment—or, in biblical language, covenant. In both cases, the wealth of repetition gives a sense of the idea’s importance.

– Here, in particular, I am looking at the second part of the promise. When does Ezekiel say that we will “know that he is the Lord”?

– Note that Ezekiel’s final passage of this kind, 39:28, is somewhat summative. Both the negative results—Babylonian captivity—and positive results—promised restoration—for Israel were part and parcel of God’s self-revelatory activity.

– These are not the only verses in Ezekiel that display God revealing himself, and many others could be named; but this list shows how important and well-developed this single motif is in Ezekiel’s book.

List of Occurrences in Ezekiel

– This list includes every time that God says “I am the LORD” in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Verses in italics are simply God stating, “I am the LORD.” Verses in normal font include reasons leading up to knowing that he is “the LORD.”

Unqualified statements: “I am the LORD”: 19 times*
Judgment/scattering of Israel/Judah: 25 times
Judgment on Gentiles: 21 times
Regathering/New Covenant of Israel: 15 times
Mixed/other (explanation in parentheses): 12 times
Total: 92 times

*See end note.

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The “Antihero” in Judges

Unwilling Leaders: No One Wants to Go First
“Who shall go up first…?” (1:1)
Barak tells Deborah that he will only go into battle if she goes with him. (4:4-10)
In ch. 5, the song of Deborah and Barak celebrates willing fighters like Jael (v. 2, 9, 24)  but curses draft-dodgers like Meroz (v. 23).
Jotham’s parable: righteous leaders are unwilling, so the wicked take the reins. (9:7-15)
“Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” (10:18)
“Come and be our leader” (11:6)
“There was no king” (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25)
“There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame” (18:7, NKJV)
“Who shall go up first for us to fight…?” (20:18)

Unlikely Heroes
Ehud’s left-handedness, considered a bad omen in many cultures, was also the reason he could sneak a weapon into the king’s chamber (see 3:16).
Barak requests the help of Deborah, a prophetess and judge. Then another woman, Jael, defeats the enemy commander (ch. 4)
An unnamed prophet reminds Israel of the Exodus while they are oppressed by Midian. (6:1-10)
Gideon fears Midian (6:11), fears his neighbors (6:27), doubts his own valor (6:12), doubts his pedigree (6:15), and requires several assurances from God (6:17, 6:36-40).
Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute.” (11:1) He is a tragic figure, rejected by his half-brothers. Like David at Adullam, “worthless fellows collected around Jephthah” (11:3). He  delivers Israel, but ends up killing his own daughter to fulfill a vow. (In his culture this was more honorable than breaking his vow.) (11:29-40)
Four obscure judges from small towns. We know almost nothing about them.
Tola from Shamir, judge for 23 years. (10:1-2)
Ibzan of Bethlehem, judge for 7 years. (12:8-10)
Elon of Aijalon, judge for 10 years. (12:11-12)
Abdon from Pirathon, judge for 8 years. (12:13-15)
Samson is a strange and angry man, whose wife marries his best friend (14:20). Among other aberrant behaviors, he poses riddles and kills animals bare-handed.  He is eventually entrapped by his girlfriend; the reader thinks he would have seen it coming. (ch. 16)

Unorthodox Methods
Left-handed Ehud subverts the king’s guards and kills him in his own palace. (3:15-30)
Shamgar saves Israel and wields an ox-goad. (3:31)
Jael lulls Sisera to sleep with milk, and afterwards kills him with a tent stake. (ch. 4)
Gideon thins his fighting forces instead of expanding them. Even his methods for choosing men are strange. (ch. 7)
Gideon gives his warriors trumpets and lanterns, using innovative smoke-and-mirror techniques against Midian. (ch. 7)
A certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head…” (10:53)
Jephthah commits linguistic genocide by killing everyone with an Ephraimite accent. (12:1-6)
Samson ties torches to foxes’ tails to destroy Philistine crops. (15:4-5)
Samson uses a donkey’s jawbone to kill 1000 Philistines. (15:14-17)
Samson pulls down two load-bearing columns, destroying many Philistines and himself with them. (ch. 16)
Benjamin’s army includes 700 left-handed stone-slingers (20:16).

“The Seed of the Woman” in Genesis

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent … I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:14-15 (KJV)

What does seed of the woman mean?

This very ancient promise refers to a descendant of Eve who would defeat the serpent, or Satan. The unique part of the promise is that seed in Hebrew is normally equivalent with semen, which a man contributes toward a pregnancy. A woman does not have a seed, but an egg; she is the one in whom the seed grows. So the seed of the woman refers to a person born without the help of a man, i.e., a virgin birth.

Who is the seed of the woman?

The seed of a woman could hardly refer to anything except the virgin birth of Jesus, in which he was not born of a man’s seed. The most famous verse of the Bible in English is John 3:16: “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that he who believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” The phrase “only begotten” is somewhat confusing for at least two reasons:

1. Christian orthodoxy has always held that Jesus existed before he was born as a human, and birth was not the beginning of existence for him. (John 8:58) This aspect is especially confusing to Muslims.

2. John says that Jesus grants us the right to be born as “children of God” (John 1:12-13). If we become sons and daughters of God through the new birth, then Jesus is not God’s only son.

The Greek word is a unique compound word, monogenes, which many interpret to mean “uniquely begotten” or “singly born”—a probable reference to the virgin birth.

How does this promise figure in the rest of the Book of Genesis?

When Cain was born, it is quite possible that Eve thought that he was the promised seed of the woman. After all, she was the only woman around, and she had brought him forth “from the LORD” (4:1, KJV). When Seth was born Eve celebrated that God had “appointed another seed” for her (4:25). If Eve indeed thought that either Cain or Seth was her promised seed, then, as is the pattern in human life, she had misestimated God’s timetable for bringing his promises to pass.

Genealogies became important because there is a promised seed that would come forth in a specific way, and repeated promises in Genesis indicate that this “seed” will come from a specific lineage (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). Many cultures have very high views of genealogy, and many Middle Eastern cultures still relate their tribes back to the book of Genesis without interruption.

Noah also was a man of promise, since his father prophesied that he would comfort them concerning the work of their hands (Gen. 5:29). Mankind was preserved through him, but it would be many more generations before the promised seed of the woman would come.

Abraham is commanded to count the stars because “thus will his seed be.”⁠1  Although the meaning could refer to the number of Abraham’s descendants, Paul points out “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16, NIV) The seed of Abraham and the seed of the woman are one and the same.

Isaac, more than anyone else in the book of Genesis, bears the weight of the coming seed. Abraham is given more seed promises than anyone else in the Bible, and the most immediate application would be his son. Since Ishmael is excluded from the promise, now we understand the significance of God’s request that Abraham sacrifice his son. His son was the only means he had of fulfilling God’s promise, and God asked him to sacrifice him. When he goes alone with Isaac, Abraham says, “we will go, and we will return.” The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham showed his faith in the resurrection from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

The purpose of election continues as God decides that Jacob and not Esau will be the source of the promised seed. Paul writes to the Romans about these twins, saying that God used them to make it obvious that God does not choose the best, brightest, or holiest to join him in his plan, so “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth” (Romans 9:11). Election here means choice, and God’s choice is key to following both the narratives and the genealogies of the book of Genesis. All of these are tending towards the fulfillment of the promise that was spoken at the beginning.

Even Joseph’s story, centers around the preservation of this covenant people and the “seed of the woman.” Even though the scepter fell to Judah, Joseph preserved the family through whom salvation would be revealed. He received riches and wealth in the story, but he tells his family that the express purpose of God was to preserve his family through the crisis (Gen. 45:4-8, 50:15-21, Ps. 105:16-17).

Summary

In the first half of Genesis, God speaks, promises, and explains himself over and over. He appears to Abraham twice in chapter 12, and once in almost every chapter from there until Abraham’s death.

In the second half of Genesis, there is much more action and much less of God’s voice. From chapter 36 to chapter 45, there is no mention of the seed of the woman or the promise of the land. Jacob and Joseph only see in retrospect that God’s redemptive purposes were at hand. So Jacob says that God has “redeemed” him from all trouble (48:16), and reminds himself and his family of all the promises that God had spoken so many years before (48:3-4, 48:21).

After Genesis, the story of the seed of the woman does not advance significantly until God begins sharing the promise with David in the book of 1 Samuel. However, this promise becomes a background to understanding the promise of the land, the Exodus, the conquest of Joshua, and the rejection of God as king in 1 Samuel. The entire Old Testament leads us toward the victory and resurrection of Eve’s seed, our virgin-born Messiah.

1 Although the view is eccentric, E. W. Bullinger believed that God had spoken to Abraham using the constellations as a pre-biblical revelation of Jesus, “the seed of the woman.”