After Christ’s ascension to heaven and His inauguration as High Priest in the sanctuary there, the temple on earth no longer had any real purpose in the plan of salvation (see Matt. 27:50-51). However, God still seeks to dwell among His people on earth, which was now possible through the Holy Spirit. The apostles use temple imagery to convey this truth.
Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 to the church as a corporate unity, and he presents to them the temple themes of ownership (1 Cor. 3:16) and of holiness (1 Cor. 3:17). He applies the same principles in 1 Cor. 6:19-20 to the individual believer. As a temple, the believer is holy terrain and, as such, is under divine obligation to live in holiness. Paul uses the temple imagery to emphasize his call for pure and holy living, which in this context he identifies as sexual purity over immorality (1 Cor. 6:15–18). Paul’s last reference to the church as a divine sanctuary fits in to this pattern. There is no common ground between believers and unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14–7:1), for the church is in a covenant relationship with God and thus is exclusively His (2 Cor. 6:18).
At the same time, the church is not only God’s temple but also a holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:51 Pet. 2:9). No doubt, with such a privilege as this, important responsibilities follow. How crucial that we surrender our lives in faith and obedience to the Lord who has given us so much, and who, therefore, asks much of us in return.
Of course, we are saved by Christ’s righteousness, which covers us completely. However, because of what we have been given in Christ by grace, what does God ask of us in return? And even more important, how can we best do that which He asks of us?