Your Body is a Temple
Many good and godly pastors (some very well-known) have weighed in on the subject of smoking and concluded that it is a sin. In Part 2 I argued that a health risk does not equal sin. Here I would like to address the passage of Scripture most commonly used against smoking, 1 Corinthians 6:19. Here it is in context.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:12-20 ESV)
The common argument is that since the Christian's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit we must refrain from defiling the temple with smoking. There are a few immediate problems with this argument.
One, it begs the question whether or not smoking is a sin. It assumes smoking is wrong and that it necessarily defiles what has been set apart for God. Two, the context shows us that Paul is not dealing with health or cleanliness issues, but sexual immorality.
As he often does, Paul is calling the church to a life of purity (see 1 Tim 4:12; 5:2). As motivation to maintain purity he reminds us that we, as believers, are the dwelling place of God. The Holy Spirit takes up residency in each believer making each of us a kind of temple. The temple is a sacred place set apart for God. Its purpose is the glory and enjoyment of God.
Many in the city of Corinth were arguing that the body is made for sex, so get to it! Have your fill. Do not deny what your body was made for. The Apostle rebukes the notion. "The body is not meant for sexual immorality!" Sex has a God-given place in life, but in the joyful safety of marriage. Your body is where the Holy Spirit resides in a special way. To use your body for sexual immorality desecrates the temple. The issue here is fornication/adultery.
To try and apply this to smoking cigars is a kind of square peg in round hole hermeneutic. It is eisegesis, and it actually downplays Paul's real point about the heinous nature of sexual immorality. It is a distraction from the real danger of sin and temptation.
If we want to play the silly eisegesis game then I'll start pointing out how God came down on Mt. Sinai in smoke, that he delights in the smoke of sacrifices offered in faith, and how there was always the smoke of incense in the temple. When Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple the place was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6). In Rev. 15:8 the glory of the Lord pours forth in smoke. God loves a smokey dwelling place! Of course, all of this is nonsense. The point is we have to let Scripture speak on its own terms and we must understand each passage in its own context.
Smoking a cigar cannot defile the temple. It neither makes us unclean nor offends God. Next up we will look at the real danger in all of this: calling something sinful that God has not himself called sin.
To join the conversation leave your comments or questions on Facebook, Twitter, or IG with the hashtag #cigarQ4joe. I'll be answering those questions in the final post this week.