“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 2)
Two weeks ago, I began a 5-part blog series with this article, and today I want continue with part two.
So there I was sitting in the adult Sunday School class as a young 20-something year old preacher at my home church in Austin, TX. I don’t recall what lesson or text of Scripture we were discussing that day. All I do remember is one of our church members raising his/her hand to respond to a point that the teacher had just made about the need for us Christians to live godly lives. “Yes, brother/sister so-and-so, you have something to say?” the teacher asked. The member replied, “Yes, brother teacher. I agree with you that we as Christians should live godly lives…” Nothing too controversial there, right? Well, just wait for it. He/she continued, “because after all the Bible says God won’t dwell in an unclean temple.” I distinctly remember having this confused look on my face, thinking to myself, “Are you sure about that?” So after a few people nodded their heads in agreement, I, along with a couple of others, spoke out in disagreement. And a spirited debate ensued.
“God won’t dwell in an unclean temple.”
So what does this whole “God won’t dwell in an unclean temple” concept mean? Essentially this: Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we should live clean or holy lives because to do otherwise will cause God the Holy Spirit to not remain in us. To say it another way, living incongruent with Scripture jeopardizes the indwelling of the Spirit in our lives. God will depart from us if we keep disobeying Him. I am in support of the truths that surround this statement because they are biblical: 1. Christians – specifically our bodies – being temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and 2. Living holy or clean lives (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 1:14-16); but I do not agree with it for two fundamental reasons.
The Permanent Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
In his upper room discourse with the disciples – minus Judas Iscariot – Jesus informed them that in the near future the Holy Spirit would come to be with and in them forever (which now becomes an objective reality for all of us post-Pentecost Christians at the moment of belief in Jesus – see Ephesians 1:13):
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine; ESV)
Nowhere in the New Testament do we see any teaching on the potentiality of the Holy Spirit departing from us due to our sinful behavior. We can grieve him (Ephesians 4:30) and quench him (1 Thess. 5:19), but we can never evict him. This is in no way a license for us to sin. The Holy Spirit sanctifies, transforms, or conforms us to the image of Jesus (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), which implies that there is a constant putting away of sin and striving to live obedient lives for Jesus to the glory of God (Colossians 3:5-17).
The Sealing with the Holy Spirit
According to Ephesians 1:13, at the moment of salvation we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” This idea of being sealed has various nuances in Scripture. The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives some helpful insight here: “The word ‘seal’ indicates security (Matthew 27:66; Eph. 4:30), authentication and approval (John 6:27), certification of genuineness (John 3:33), and identification of ownership (2 Cor. 1:22; Rev. 7:2; 9:4).” (pg. 619)
As those in Christ, you and I have been stamped, if you will, with the Holy Spirit, indicating that we belong to God. But notice as well that the Holy Spirit himself “is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (1:14). That word guarantee means a down payment. The Holy Spirit is God the Father’s initial deposit – for our lives now on earth – of what He has in store for our lives in heaven for eternity.
That’s not all though. Paul continues, “until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:14). Does this say that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance unless we disobey? No. It says until we acquire possession of it. The Holy Spirit is our assurance that we will receive all that God has in store for us in eternity – the resurrection and transformation of our bodies, an eternal place in heaven, etc. The Holy Spirit, my brothers and sisters, will never leave us in this life because it has been determined by God the Father that he remain in us from now until the consummation of all things when Jesus returns.
So instead of living in pseudo-fear of losing the Holy Spirit due to our sin, how about we focus on what the Bible actually commands us to do and that is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, ever presently yielding to His controlling influence in our lives, resulting in our obedience to Jesus in accordance with the word of God (1 Peter 1:2; Ephesians 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16).