The Indwelling Spirit
The Corinthian church members of the Apostolic age were exposed to such powerful temptations to unclean living that they had been influenced to look with complacency upon their sins, some of which were not even tolerated by heathen opinion. They had reduced the value of the Lord's church to the place that caused it to be treated as only another form of social and political life, with natural divisions of opinions and passions, and the taint of the world was everywhere evident. Candidly, the church in many ways today is becoming much like the Corinthian church was at that time.
The remedial truth which Paul revealed to the Corinthians should be given attention today; that is, Christians compose the organization in which the Spirit dwells, because he dwells in them individually, and thus has made them collectively the body of Christ. That he might emphasize these facts, to the one he wrote, "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" (I Cor. 6: 15). To the other he wrote, "Know ye not that ye are the temples of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Cor. 3:15).
When he revealed the fact, "ye are the temple of God; the Spirit dwelleth in you," Paul did not confine it to the mere recognition of the presence of God in nature. That God is the Being from whom it is impossible to escape is accepted by every thinking person who believes in the existence and spirituality of God. David knew that God is everywhere, upholding, penetrating each of his creatures, yet in his uncreated presence distinct from all, he was before the psalmist when he wrote: "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Psalms 139:7-10).
Man just cannot get outside the all-pervading ubiquity of God. Therefore, the universe is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in it. Perhaps this is the most direct lesson of this psalm. God is present with the lowest and the highest forms of life. He is present with the fiercest beasts, with every variety of vegetation, with the processes of mineral transformation through unmeasured centuries in the depths of the earth, with the heavenly bodies which move through trackless space with unvarying obedience to the laws of order, with men of low and high estate, and with the heavenly hosts. And I am persuaded that there are no degrees of his presence, yet many are the modes of manifestation. He is everywhere in the force and power of his Being, because he is God.
However, friend, Paul did not mean that Christians are God's temple simply because they are a part of his universe. Mankind is related to the omnipresence of God differently from anything else in his creation. Mankind alone can know of his presence, acknowledge it, and respond to it. God is just as present with a tree or a beast as with man, but neither beast nor tree is aware of the contact. The members of the kingdoms of beasts and plants can offer only the response of an unconscious obedience to God's lards, but man can know and love God, by the exercise of his intelligence and of his moral freedom. Thus the human spirit is the temple of God in a sense different from any other form of life. The spirit of man is a living temple, designed and proportioned in every detail to show forth the Maker's praise.
Nor did the apostle mean that church members are the temples of God only in the sense as were the heathen priests, philosophers, and prostitutes, which must have thronged the temple of Aphrodite that was in Corinth. To be sure God is present to all beings in whom he sustains life, yet he is not present to approve and bless those who pervert the powers he has given to produce things which he hates, and by which God would be destroyed, if it were possible. So, there is a sense in which mankind in sin is less suitable to be a temple of God than is the irrational creation. Trees and beasts do not insult God, do not limit his authority, do not defy his laws, but sinful humanity is in a state of contradiction, violating his revealed laws and defying the very essence of their being and his Being. But, friend, to those who are Christians, God makes them his temples in an altogether different sense than is possible for the sinful worldlings.
Gentle reader, the presence which Paul emphasizes is a presence in the individual who has been born again, not of corruptible but of incorruptible seed, the word of God (I Peter 1:23); and who is the promised recipient of this blessing. It seems evident that the difficulty in realizing this truth, and the extravagant expectations which rise from misunderstanding it, are the results of a failure to do justice to the exalted portion of our composite being, which is the habitation of the Spirit's presence. May we understand, man is not merely a perishing animal gifted with life for a while, and "psuche": man is an immortal spirit, a "pneuma"!
Our Lord and his disciples were careful to distinguish between the life of the human organism, which ends at death, and the immaterial essence, which cannot be destroyed by death, and which is evidently the seat of the divine Presence. Jesus Christ, at the time of his death, commended his Spirit into the hands of the Father (Luke 23:46). It is so evident that this Spirit cannot be the divine Almighty Being, but must be a being that in some sense needs protection and succor; and the word must refer to it as that part of human nature which did not become inanimate at death. Conformably with this, Peter writes of Christ as having been put to death in the flesh, but quickened in Spirit (I Peter 3:10).John alludes to living men as he might write of disembodied spirits, simply as centers of thought and knowledge: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" (I John 4:2). Paul teaches this composite makeup of man: "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thess. 5:23). A life according to the flesh is described as a life in which animal vitality and emotions control thought and action; and a life according to the spirit is described as a life ruled by the immortal being within man, enlightened by the revelation of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24).
Now, gentle reader, that intimate, instructing, transforming gift of the Spirit of God, presupposes a recipient unlike all creatures that merely grow and feel and are incapable of reflective thought and absolutely free determination. Therefore, man as an intelligent, immortal spirit is the temple of God! But, if the divine Spirit enters the human being transcendent of and separate from God's revealed truth, which supplies informing knowledge that becomes an integral part of man's intelligent spirit, it has not been universally revealed to mankind, and to the individuals of this creation God shows no respect of persons (Acts 10:34). The untreated Spirit is as immaterial as the created spirits, and just so far as a person exercises, develops and enlarges his intelligence with regard to his "pnuema", the immateriality of his real self, that far can he understand the exalted privilege to which he is called in Christ.
Kind reader, we can also readily see that the Spirit present in man in this way does not leave his lower nature unsanctified and without blessing, for the presence of the Spirit, having his abode in the intelligent, immortal spirit of man, is inseparable from man's lower being of instinct, emotion, and feeling. Therefore, the sanctification of man's whole being radiates from the sanctification of his inmost self-consciousness, involving the self-dedication to God of that imperishable center of life, the root of all feeling and thought.
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