The background for this figure of speech refers back to the temple that was built in the Old Testament. God gave the pattern for this temple (which was planned in David's day and actually built in Solomon's) see 1 Chronicles 28:10-19 "All this", said David, "the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern." The temple was the place where the service of God was performed. The temple was also the place of God's symbolic presence. It was God's house.
What I get trouble by in our current culture (and probably even more so in times gone by such as the Middle Ages) is that many people seem to confuse Church buildings with the temple and see them as the same thing. They aren't!
1 Corinthians 3:16 says: "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 says: "Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate", says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you."
The church is the temple of God and that is not talking about any building. It is talking about people. Christians! In 1 Timothy 3:15 the church is also referred to as the house of God: "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."
Here are some more verses that refer to the church /Christians being built into a temple of God:
Ephesians 2:19-22 "So the you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
1 Peter 2:5 "You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Like the temple in the Old Testament this temple also is one in which God dwells. He has sent His Spirit to dwell within every Christian. Acts 2:38 and 39 says: "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself."
Let's remember too that Jesus is the builder of this Church (not one made with cold stones but rather living stones - People!). "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." Matthew 16:18
Are you a part of God's church? Have you heard this little children's song before:
"I am the church, you are the church. We are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world. Yes, we're the church together!
The Church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place. The church is the people!"
That little song explains much of what I have been writing about today.