Scripture tells us that man is God’s temple (see 1 Cor. 3:16). In order to fully understand this analogy, we must recall the division of the Jewish temple into three parts.
There was its exterior, seen by all men, with the outer court, into which every Israelite might enter, and where all the external religious service was performed. There was the holy place, into which alone the priests might enter, to present to God the blood or the incense, the bread or the oil that they had brought from without.
Although near, the priests ministering in the holy place were still not within the veil; into the immediate presence of God they could not come. God dwelled in the holiest of all, in a light inaccessible, where none might venture. The momentary entering of the high priest, once a year, was only to bring into full consciousness the truth that there was no place for man there until the veil was rent and taken away.
In man, as in the physical temple of the Israelites, there are three parts. In the body you have the outer court, the external visible life, where all the conduct has to be regulated by God’s law and where all service consists in looking at how things are to bring us close to God.
Then there is the soul, with its inner life, its power of mind and feeling and will. In the regenerate man this is the holy place, where thoughts and affections and desires move to and fro as the priests of the sanctuary, rendering God their service in the full light of consciousness.
Then there is, within the veil, hidden from all human sight and light, the innermost sanctuary, “the secret place of the most high”-the spirit-where God dwells and where man may not enter, until the veil is rent at God’s own bidding. In the believer this is the inner chamber of the heart, of which the Spirit has taken possession and out of which He waits to do His glorious work, making soul and body holy unto the Lord.
However, this indwelling, unless it is recognized, yielded to, and humbly maintained in adoration and love, often brings comparatively little blessing. The one great lesson that the truth-that we are God’s temple because His Spirit dwells in us-teaches us, is this: to acknowledge the holy presence that dwells with us. This alone will enable us to regard the whole temple, even to the outmost court, as sacred to His service and to yield every power of our nature to His leading and will.
The most sacred part of the temple, that for which all the rest existed and on which all depended, was the holiest of all. Even though the priests of old might never enter there and might never see the glory that dwelled there, all their conduct was regulated, and all their faith motivated, by the thought of the unseen presence there. It was this that gave the rituals they performed, such as sprinkling blood and burning incense, their value. It was this that made it a privilege to draw nigh.
It was the most holy, the holiest of all, that made the place of their serving to them a holy place. Their whole life was controlled and inspired by faith in the unseen, indwelling glory within the veil.
It is no different with the believer. Until he learns by faith to tremble in the presence of the wondrous mystery that he is God’s temple because God’s Spirit dwells in him, he will never yield himself to his high vocation with the holy reverence or the joyful confidence that he should. As long as he looks only into the holy place, into the heart-as far as man can see and know what passes there-he will often search in vain for the Holy Spirit, or only find cause for bitter shame that his workings are so few and frail.
Each of us must learn to know that there is a holiest of all in the temple that he himself is; the secret place of the Most High with us must become the central truth in our temple worship. This must be to us the meaning of our confession: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
And how is this deep faith in the hidden indwelling to become ours? Taking our stand upon God’s blessed Word, we must accept and appropriate its teaching. We must believe that God means what the Scriptures say.
I am a temple, just such a temple as God commanded to be built of old; He intended for me to see in this physical structure what I am meant to be.