Clark's Corner

The Unclean Temple

Perhaps you have heard this oft-repeated phrase among Christian ministers: "the holy Ghost will not dwell in an unclean temple". I have heard it a number of times through the years, even by elderly ministers such as the Church of God District Overseer who was pastoring in my hometown some years back. (He was the same minister who promised in the town's newspaper that he would kiss a pig if a certain number of people showed up for one of his meetings.)

As surprising as it may seem to some, the phrase, and more importantly, the principle that "the holy Ghost won't dwell in an unclean temple" is not in the Bible, and for good reason; it is not true. The holy Ghost will not forsake a child of God when that believer stumbles and falls; that is when we need the Spirit's help most! But if that believer refuses to repent and sets his face to do evil continually, then the Spirit will destroy his temple, as Paul said, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." I have seen tragic results of believing that "the holy Ghost won't dwell in an unclean temple." I met a young girl who had grown up in a Pentecostal Holiness denomination whose testimony about this was heart-breaking. She had received the holy Ghost as a child (nine years old, I think she said), but as a teenager became a little rebellious. She was told by the elders of that sect that she no longer had the holy Ghost because she wasn't dedicated to the Lord as she once was, and "the holy Ghost won't dwell in an unclean temple." That meant, of course, (and they taught her this) that she no longer was a child of God. She and her sinner boyfriend decided to marry, and as the date for the ceremony drew near, she said she kept hearing a gentle voice saying, "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers". Hearing that voice would puzzle her. "How will we be unequally yoked," she would ask herself, "If I am no longer a child of God? I don't have the holy Ghost any more." To make it short, because she believed what she had been taught, that she no longer had the Spirit in her, she ignored the Lord's gentle voice and married the sinner boy. The marriage lasted about six weeks and her life was deeply scarred.

Another backslidden woman with the Spirit was convicted by the Lord and wanted to be clean again. She came to my father, who was not holding any meetings at that time. He talked with her and encouraged her to keep seeking God. So, under a heavy conviction, she went to a prayer meeting. It was either at the Church of God denomination or another Pentecostal Holiness place. She was so eager to repent and be cleansed that when the minister gave the "altar call", she ran--not walked--to the front. And as soon as she fell down on her knees the holy Ghost began to speak through her, forgiving and comforting her!! Guess what happened next. The people there, including the minister, REBUKED HER, saying it was a demon speaking through her. Why? Because according to their doctrine, she was an unclean vessel, and the real holy Ghost wouldn't be in there yet. They told her she had to "get saved and sanctified" again before the real holy Ghost would come in.

Such people as these are near the blasphemer's neighborhood because of that teaching. As it was, they were merely foolish. Their reproof made her so confused! She expected them to be happy for her, but they rejected the work of God in order to maintain their own ways. Their "get saved and sanctified" doctrine is false, and their "holy Ghost won't dwell in an unclean temple" is false. The Lord was using that poor repentant sister to show them that, but they rejected his wonderful work and justified themselves instead.

Then, there was the lady visiting a friend at Veteran's Hospital in Durham who fell under conviction as Earl, Mike, and I ministered to her friend with some music. Her tears ran down her face, and she said, "I want to get back right with God. I want the holy Ghost again!" I said, "If you ever had it, you still do." "No, no," she answered. "I mean the real holy Ghost , with speaking in tongues." "It's still there." "No," she said, "I'm backslidden. The holy Ghost won't dwell in an unclean temple" "You just lift up your hands right now," I told her, "And let the Lord bless you." I laid hands on her head and prayed, and she began to weep and speak in tongues. "I didn't think the Lord would do this!" She said. "I thought I had to get saved and sanctified all over again!" She was so happy!

And there was also old Sister Weaver's daughter, Louise. She was devoted to that old saint, and spent a great deal of time ministering to her needs. For years she had been told by the Church of God people that she no longer had the Spirit because she wasn't attending their services any more or living as they thought she should live. I was around her often enough to know that she was not living an immoral life. One day, as Brother Earl Pittman and I walked into Sister Weaver's house for a visit, Louise was standing in the kitchen, and I asked her, "Louise, did you ever receive the holy Ghost?" "Yes," she answered. "I used to have the holy Ghost." "If you ever had it, Louise," I replied, "you still do." Immediately, tears welled up in her eyes, and she said with great relief and the sweetest humility, "You can feel it, can't you?" In other words, she had felt the holy Ghost inside of her all along and knew it was there, but the doctrine she had been taught prevented her from believing that truth and receiving the help that Jesus wanted to give her. To have somebody in whom she had confidence in the Lord to tell her that the Spirit was still there was an incredible relief to her soul. The sight of her tears and the enormous relief my words gave to her that day still bless my soul whenever I think of it. Praise God! The truth enables us to do good to the children of God. We can relieve the burdens of false doctrines that Christian ministers unwisely lay on their backs!

The phrase, "the holy Ghost won't dwell in an unclean temple" is found nowhere in the Bible. But several times in the Mormon bible we find the phrase, "the holy Spirit will not dwell in an unholy temple." That is saying the same thing in different words, and it is still a lie.

From what I have seen, not only in the stories related above, but in other cases as well, is that it makes people harsh and cold to those who are backslidden to believe that the Spirit forsakes the person who stumbles into sin and removes them from membership in God's family. I have seen this attitude face to face. It is arrogant and hateful toward those who are "unclean". And how foolish that is! Paul said (Gal. 6:1) that we should be very gentle toward those who err, "considering yourself, lest thou also be tempted."

When a person receives the baptism of the holy Ghost (with the evidence of speaking in other tongues), they are, at that moment, made as much a member of God's family as they can ever be. However, as we know, there are many "perils" along the pilgrim's pathway through this life. When we understand that the baptism of the holy Ghost is the new birth, it provides the opportunity for a wayward child of God to follow the Spirit back to a restored and whole relationship with God if they are given mercy from Him to be of a willing heart to do so. And rather than wallow in needless religious guilt and confusion, God wants us to know that if we have received the promise of the Spirit at some time in our lives, it is always there to guide us into all truth.

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