The people of God are the temple of God; His presence is active in the Church.
“I miss my church.”
That’s the common refrain I heard from my friends when congregations weren’t meeting in person because of COVID-19. Most of the folks I heard say this attended churches that offered some type of online service, so when they said, “I miss my church,” they weren’t talking about the music or the preaching. When I probed a little deeper, their meaning was clear: they missed the people. They longed to see their church family face to face again.
The apostle Paul stressed the mysterious unity we enjoy in Christ in 1 Corinthians 3. The Corinthian church was facing an issue that is not unfamiliar to us; the church found itself divided over different teachers. One person would say that he followed Paul, while another claimed to follow Peter, and yet another devoted himself to Apollos. Then, the brother who desired to correct everyone would step in and proclaim, “Well, I follow Christ.”
These divisions fractured the unity of the Body of Christ, so Paul reminded them of their corporate identity. He asked, “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1Corinthians 3:16). Paul used the language of the temple, which would have been familiar to those who were steeped in the scriptures. As we’ve read over the last two weeks, in the Old Testament, the presence of God dwelt in the temple and people who wanted to meet with God had to go there. But even then, only the high priest could enter the most holy place.
Then we read about how when Jesus came, He used temple language to talk about Himself. In John 2, when He turned over tables in the temple, Jesus told the crowd, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days” (v.19). The crowd seemed confused by His words and mocked Him, but John explains that “he was speaking about the temple of his body” (v.21). Jesus is the new temple. Now we enter the presence of God not in a building, but through faith in Him.
In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul extended this metaphor: God’s people have been filled with the Holy Spirit and now the presence of God is in us and active among us. This is especially true when the Church is together. using our gifts to serve each other, which demonstrates that the Spirit is among us.
The people of God are a reminder of God’s presence. We’re reminded of His presence by the encouragers, the ones who the Spirit uses to lift us up when we are down. He works through those with the gift of hospitality, those who warmly welcome us and care for us, reminding us that God has welcomed us into His forever family. He works through our friends with the gift of mercy, because their presence with us during difficult times is a tangible reminder of God’s steadfast presence. We need the Church because it reminds us that God loves us completely, that He is always with us, and that He is always for us.
Written by Scott Slayton