Sanctuary (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Do you not know that you are a sanctuary of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

The modern world has done much to muddle the concept of a sanctuary. In English, the term is derived from the same root word as sanctify, viz. the word sanctus. Sanctus carried the idea of holiness — which has also lost much of its meaning and become a “church word.” For something to be holy, it merely had to be set apart for a special or designated purpose. Carry that back on up to the idea of a sanctuary and it was a place for storing holy things.

When Paul writes that believers are a sanctuary of God, it naturally follows that the holy thing contained within us is God Himself. Is this translation a good one? Absolutely. Looking up the Greek word in the concordance, it notes that the word used — naos (ναὸς) — was used in classical Greek to denote the part of a temple where the image of the god was placed. As a believer, the image of the Living God is placed within me. The Holy Spirit Himself; God dwells in me.

The implications of this should stagger me. God sees fit to not only save me, but to then place Himself within me; to make of me a sanctuary where the Spirit of God dwells. The language used in this verse is also used in speaking of the Holy of Holies; the place where the Ark of the Covenant was. The comparison rocks me. The holiest part of the tabernacle and temple; the place where only the High Priest could go and then only once a year; the place where God’s presence rested between the wings of the cherubim is what God now, through Paul, compares the believer to. That is how God sees every believer. Small wonder, then, that He calls us His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10).

Since God sees me in this light, let me walk accordingly. Let me live a life that is set apart for God’s purposes and make myself available for His especial use as the Holy of Holies always was. Let me be a sanctuary for God.

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