Temples of the Holy Spirit
The 7th commandment teaches us that one of the most beautiful things given by God – the bedroom embrace between husband and wife – is not to be defiled by adultery because, says the catechism, we are temples of the Holy Spirit. If, as the fruit of that embrace, God gives the birth of children, then these, too, are temples of the Holy Spirit, each one marked: ‘holy to the Lord’. Since through the birth of godly children God’s name receives praise (Psalm 8), His kingdom is established (as children grow up to confess Christ and fight Satan’s kingdom) and the return of Christ is promoted (in coming to the full number of the elect), it follows that adultery (and all that entices one to it) unties the beautiful marriage embrace of the bedroom from its ultimate purpose.
But what is meant by being temple of the Holy Spirit? In the Old Testament, the temple was a structure for the service to God and to His glory. When the Bible later refers then to people as temples of the Holy Spirit, we understand that each person is to serve God in holiness to His glory. Believers love God for who He is and what He has done in Jesus Christ, and are able to serve Him according to His Word because the Holy Spirit dwells in them. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Hence they are to be governed not by the spirit of this world but by the Holy Spirit.
The fact that not everyone has the Spirit but goes astray is their own fault; by nature we resist the Spirit. Nevertheless, to serve God to His glory was the obligation of Adam and Eve and hence of every man and woman ever born—of the prophet and of the prostitute, of the mother and the murderer, of Solomon and Stalin. The calling to serve God in everything as temples of the Holy Spirit is a call that goes out not just to Christians but to every man, woman and child because it’s a call that has its origin in Paradise, in the God-given purpose for creation and mankind. God is not unjust by requiring in His law what sinful man can’t do because he was created with the ability to do it (LD 4). All are called to be God’s vice-regents on earth, to rule all of creation in His service and to His honour, to keep His commands, and to do this now in the expectation of the new undefiled Paradise at Christ’s return.
We know that not everyone wants to walk by the Spirit. Genesis 3:15 shows that the fall into sin resulted in society being split into two: the seed of the woman (Christ and his church) and the seed of the serpent (Satan and his followers). The one (the church) engages in ‘temple service’ by serving and honouring God; the other, beginning with the first sectarian, Cain, turns away in unfaithfulness.
That temple service took on a new dimension for God’s people at Mt Sinai when the law was given and the official temple (tabernacle) service was instituted. There Israel heard God’s beautiful covenant promises but also God’s covenant curse. Mt Sinai was the reformation ground between two corrupt places: Egypt and Canaan. God’s people had been rescued from Egypt where they witnessed the 7th command being trampled underfoot through rampant sexual immorality; and now Israel was going to Canaan where, too, the 7th command was trampled underfoot and sexual immorality was rampant. Israel, God’s own people, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, was to be different, holy, dedicated to the service of the LORD. He wanted the idolatrous pagan temple worship with its sexual perversity to be replaced by a holy, God-honouring temple service.
In the New Testament, the old temple with its sacrifices and ceremonies disappeared. Now every church member is called to temple service. Being temples of the Holy Spirit is to “present our lives a living sacrifice to God” (LD 12). The church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). It means that a boy or girl will not court someone outside the church, because marriage is temple service, and the bedroom is for temple service, and the fruit of one’s embrace—the children God allows—are to grow up as temples of the Holy Spirit. We confess in LD 41 that in obedience to the 7th commandment we are to detest all “unchaste acts, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice us to unchastity”. We want to hate it from the heart, and teach our children to hate it, because “all unchastity is cursed by God”. In our temple service, we want to eradicate sin from our personal lives and from the communion of saints. Also herein we seek to be hand and foot to one another.
That is why it was good to read a principal’s challenge to parents in a recent school newsletter. He wrote:
A father came to his 14-year-old son with a box in his hands.
“Son”, he said, “here is a box full of magazines with pictures of semi-clad women, others naked and even pictures of women with men. I think you are old enough to handle this responsibly. You need to slip this under your bed, and keep it shut. Don’t open it!”
Would any father EVER do that!?
You would have to be foolish, naïve and irresponsible even to contemplate the idea. No-one in his right mind would consider such an action appropriate. You’re putting your child in a very dangerous and precarious position. That would be unjustifiable for anyone!
But people do it all the time! Give them a mobile phone…
The above was part of our discussion during a staff meeting this week. We were talking about the growing misuse of technologies amongst our student body. Do we as teachers know what is going on? Are we sufficiently prepared to address these matters? What responsibility do we have and are there boundaries for home, church and school? How do we arm our students in this type of warfare? Do we need an explicit curriculum? Are these matters discussed in our Ethics class? Should words such as pornography, sexting, grooming be normalised in our teaching?
Lots of questions!
But the big question for today is this: if you are a parent and have given your children that box to slip under their bed, what are you doing to either retrieve it, or ensure it remains shut?
True, we can’t escape the rottenness of society altogether. Our youth are continually in Satan’s sights and therefore extra vigilance is required. Today’s smart-phones allow youth to access pretty-well anything the world has to offer, including raunchy films, sleazy pictures and other offensive material. Shocking material is available in the mass media—computers, cinema and television. Walk through a shopping centre and some of the advertising is blatantly pornographic. Others openly promote homosexuality and lesbianism. Even governments are in on the act, with the state government of Victoria promoting homosexual and other deviant material. Young people there can get advice about sexual relations from public schools without their parents knowing. In today’s decadent society the call to avoid as much as possible exposure to all that leads to the transgression of the 7th commandment is so urgent.
Yet amidst this degenerate culture, Christ has His church to which He has entrusted His Word of life. And it is to that church, which He gathers, defends and preserves by His Spirit and Word, that we are privileged to belong as temples of the Holy Spirit. Let us delve deeply into that Word and mine its riches. For the history of salvation in Christ found on those hallowed pages provide the reason for our thankful temple service. Moreover, our Saviour has shown us that only through that Word and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit are we able to stand amidst this crooked and perverse generation. Therefore, too, we pray, “lead us not into temptation”, for:
“In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment. Moreover, our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—do not cease to attack us. Will You, therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that in this spiritual war we may not go down to defeat, but always firmly resist our enemies, until we finally obtain the complete victory.” (LD 52)