“Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
The Apostle Paul
To the Jew, the temple was the summit of all things God. Solomon’s temple was magnificent. The temple in Jesus’s day was magnificent times 10. What was the worst day for the average Jews? When God’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Remarkably, the apostle Paul refers to us as God’s temple (cf. I Cor. 3:16-23). Jesus predicted both the destruction of Herod’s temple (cf. Mark 13) and its replacement by Christians (John 14:17-23).
What’s the worse day in a Christian’s life? The worst day is the same as it was in the Old Covenant. It’s the destruction of God’s temple. Paul warns: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person, for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
The new “Holy of Holies” is me.
Herod’s Temple was one of the great wonders of the world. Professor Freedman writes:
“The retaining walls themselves towered more than 80 feet above the roadways going around its perimeter and reached over 50 feet below street level in their foundation courses. The stones used to build these walls were gigantic. On the Western Wall (the “Wailing Wall” in Jewish tradition) the largest stone is about 40 feet long; an even larger one in the S wall weighs over 100 tons. According to Josephus, the outside of the Temple was adorned with so much gold that, when the sun shone upon it, it virtually blinded those who looked at it. The grandeur of the whole complex of courts, buildings, and porticoes led rabbinic sources to proclaim that “No one has seen a truly beautiful building unless he has seen the Temple” (Sukk. 51b).” Meyers, C. (1992). Temple, Jerusalem. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 6, p. 365). New York: Doubleday.
If I replaced our lenses with God’s eyes, we’d see the most beautiful structure in the world residing in ME.
God gave detailed temple construction instructions (cf. I Chronicles 28). God also gives us detailed instructions about His New Testament temple. Instead of outside stuff, almost all of the New Testament construction is inside stuff. Or to put it another way, Natural Stuff vs. Supernatural Stuff.
In Matthew 5, 21-48, Jesus offers six inside materials.
Forgiveness instead of Hate.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,n ‘You shall not kill, and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry* with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you.
Augustine taught the process of losing my love for my neighbor occurs in three parts: 1) I feel angry toward my brother. 2) Next, I insult my brother. 3) Finally, I am bound by this anger. God’s temple is free from unrighteous anger.
Love Every Moment.
“You have heard that it was said,r ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
As Satan knows, eyes are the gateway to the soul (cf. Genesis 3; Matthew 4). As also Hollywood knows, “eyes are the gateway to the soul.” How many TV and movies introduce the allurement of the “other woman or man?” David saw Bathsheba from his rooftop. Why? His sin began with slothfulness (“the time when kings went to war.”) Instead of seeking a godly release, we join the vast crowd on the broad road to destruction in activities encouraging sin (cf. Matthew 7).
Love for a Lifetime.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Lifetime marriages don’t just happen. They are made up of moments of love and forgiveness. The tensile strength of a society is gauged by its divorce rate. In Jesus’ day (similar to ours) it was like steel. We have hard, inflexible hearts. In today’s society, unlike 1st century Palestine, the wives have all the power and the men very little. However, husbands and wives must have hearts as flexible as rubber. We bend but we never break. Instead of creating man-made loopholes (aka tradition), we rely on the teachings of Scripture and the Church.
Life is Not a Talk Show.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”
Do talk show hosts or politicians fall under a special dispensation? If not, God have mercy on their souls. Jesus referred to the devil as the “father of lies.” (John 8:44) Jesus also promised, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” (cf. Matthew 12:37). How many Bible commentators think they have a special dispensation with their hateful comments? Jesus hates hypocrisy of our words (cf. Galatians 2:13; Mark 2:15; I Peter 2:1) but requires an undivided heart (cf. James 3; John 1:47).
Give AND Take
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile,* go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
Lapide quotes Augustine’s understanding, “False swearing is destructive, true swearing is perilous, swearing not at all is safe.” As members of God’s temple, instead of seeing each other as members of a hierarchy, we are called to a mutual society. We give and take? Why, its best for God’s temple. We respect each other because we are His workmanship creating the new kingdom of God.
God’s Temple is Perfectly Supernatural.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In today’s politics, vengeance is the law of the day. When the Jewish elite destroyed the temple of Jesus’ body, He lived out forgiveness (“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”). Loving our neighbor is tough. Loving our enemy is supernatural. God calls each temple dweller to strive for the same love as Stephen’s(cf. Acts 7).
Since each of us has the Holy Trinity in our temple, God calls us “Be Perfect as He is Perfect.”