|RPM, Volume 12, Number 17, April 25 to May 1 2010|
The Church is the great temple. Each saint is a temple. In His Church, and in each member of that Church, Jehovah dwells. "Ye are builded together for AN HABITA¬TION OF GOD through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).
Man was made for God to dwell in. Man thrust God out of His dwelling-place, and left Him homeless; without a habitation on earth. The universe was His; every star was His; every mountain was His: but none of these did He count fit to be His habitation. Only in the human heart would He be satisfied to dwell.
Man thrust out God from His dwelling, but God would not be thus driven away. He must return; and He must return in a way which would make it impossible that He should ever be thrust out again; and He must return in a way such as will show not only the hatefulness of man's sin in thrusting Him out, but the largeness of His own grace, and the perfection of His righteousness.
Jehovah is bent upon returning to His old dwelling¬place. He might have created others, and dwelt in them. But He has purposed not to part with His old ones. It is as if He could not afford to lose these, or could not bear the thought of casting them away. "I will return," He says. He casts a wistful eye upon the ruins of His beloved dwelling-place, and He resolves to return and rebuild, and re-inhabit. 1
When the Son of God was here, He had no place to lay His head. He was a homeless man in the midst of earth's many homes. But still He did come, seeking a home, both for Himself and for the Father. The home that He sought was the human heart; and He came with this message from the Father,—"I will dwell in them." To this closed heart He comes, in loving earnestness, seeking entrance, that He may find for Himself and for the Father a home. Thus He speaks: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20); and again He speaks, "We will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). So that this is our message to the sons of men,—the Father wants your heart for His dwelling,—the Son wants your heart for His dwelling.
But it is for more than dwelling that God is seeking. It is for a temple. To dwell in us, in any sense, would be infinite honour and blessedness. But to take us for His temples, to make us His Holy of Holies, His shrine of worship, His place of praise, His very heaven of heavens, is something beyond all this. Yet it is temples that God is now seeking among the sons of men; not marble shrines, nor golden altars, with fire, and blood, and incense, and gorgeous adornings; but the spirit of man, the broken and the contrite heart.
The Church is God's temple. "In whom ALL THE BUILDING, fitly framed together, groweth into AN HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21). Each saint is God's temple. "Ye are the temple of God" (1 Cor. 3:16). Our body is God's temple. "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor. 6:19). 2
God is seeking temples on earth,—living temples, constructed of living stones, founded on the one living stone,—¬"built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5).
Of this temple God is Himself the Architect, and the Holy Spirit is the BUILDER. It is constructed after the pattern of heavenly things, according to the great eternal plan, which the purpose of the God, only wise, had designed for the manifestation of His own glory. As both the Architect and Builder are divine, we may be sure that the plan will be perfect, and that it will be carried out in all its details without failure, and without mistake. It will be beauty, completeness, and perfection throughout,—a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; in size, in symmetry, in ornament, in majesty, in stability, altogether faultless,—the mightiest and the fairest of all the works of Jehovah's hands.
In another sense, hereafter, when all things are made new, "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb" are the temple (Rev. 21:22). But we also are the temple; both now and hereafter. Both things are true. He in us, and we in Him. We are God's temple, and He is ours for ever.
The foundation is Christ Himself (1 Cor. 3:11; Isa. 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4-6). He is the rock on which we are builded; He is no less the foundation-stone which bears up the building, and knits its walls together. In the eternal plan of the divine Architect, this foundation-stone is grandly prominent,—the chief part of God's eternal purpose; framed by God; laid by God in the fullness of time; laid in Zion; laid once for all: a sure foundation, a tried stone; one, without a rival and without a second. It was this stone, laid by God, which the apostle (if we may carry out the figure which he uses in connection with his own ministry) carried about with him from place to place, when he went through the gentile world founding churches. "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid THE FOUNDATION . . . For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:10,11). On this foundation each soul rests. From the first saint, downward to the last, it has been and it shall be so. There is but one foundation for Old Testament saints as well as for new. On this, too, the Church of God rests; the one Church from the beginning, the one body, the one temple, filled with the one Spirit, for the worship of the one Jehovah. Not two foundations, nor two temples, nor two bodies, nor two Churches; but ONE, only one, made up of the redeemed from among men, bought with the one blood, justified with the one righteousness, saved by the one cross, expectants of the one promise, and heirs of the one glory.
The stones are the saints, (1 Peter 2:5) "Unto whom coming as unto a living stone, ye also as lively (living) stones, are built up a spiritual house." Of the quarrying, the hewing, the polishing, the building, of these living stones I cannot here write. But each has a history of his own. Though dug out of one rock, hewn, polished and fitted in by one Spirit, yet each has come to be what he is by means of a different process, some longer, some shorter, some gentler, some rougher. But on the one foundation, they are all placed by the one hand, one upon the other, in goodly order, according to the one eternal plan in Christ Jesus our Lord; forming the one glorious temple for Jehovah's worship and habitation. Many stones, one temple; many members, one family; many branches, one vine; many crumbs, one loaf. They are "BUILDED TOGETHER for an habitation of God through the Spirit." The "unity of the faith," (Eph. 4:13), from the beginning is the pledge of the unity of the temple; and as this faith has been one since the day of the announcement of the woman's seed, so has this temple been; the multitude of stones not marring but enhancing the unity. The "unity of the Spirit," too, (Eph. 4:3), is both the pattern and the pledge of the temple's unity. It has been one spirit and one temple from the beginning; not two spirits and two temples, but only one. "There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Thus all the "building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21). God is now seeking these stones for His temple among the lost sons of Adam. Worthless and unfit in themselves for use in any divine building, they are sought out and prepared by the great Builder for their place in the eternal building. Yes, God is in search of these stones now; just as He has been these many ages, since Adam, and Abel, and Seth, and Enoch, and Noah, were sought out and fitted in to form the glorious line or row of stones lying immediately above the foundation-stone. God is coming up to each son of man, degraded as he may be, an outcast, and saying, "Wilt thou not become a stone in my temple? I seek thee: wilt thou prefer thy degradation, and reject the honour which I present to thee."
The temple is holy (1 Cor. 3:17; Ps. 93:5). It is set apart for God; it is to be used for sacred purposes; it is pure in all its parts; its vessels, its walls, its gates, its furniture. It is not yet perfect, but it shall one day be so. Into it nothing that defileth shall enter. And even now God, the inhabitant of the temple, is seeking holiness of all who belong to it. "Be ye holy, for I am holy."
Let us dread the defilement of His temple; for it is written, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (1 Cor. 3:17). For God will not be mocked, nor allow His throne to be polluted. Yet do we not defile it by sin, by worldliness, by vanity, by formality, by profanity, by our unfragrant incense, our impure praises and prayers?
Let us rejoice in the honour of being living temples, living stones, consecrated to the service of the living God. Let us walk worthy of the honour,—the honour of being filled with God, penetrated by His light, perfumed by His sweetness, gladdened by His love, and glorified by His majestic presence and indwelling fullness.
1. "The designation was most apt, of so excellent a creature, to this office and use, to be immediately sacred to Himself and His own converse: His temple and habitation, the mansion and residence of His presence and indwelling glory! There was nothing whereto he was herein designed whereof His nature was not capable. His soul was, after the required manner, receptive of a deity; its powers were competent to their appointed work and employment; it could entertain God by knowledge and contemplation of His glorious excellencies, by reverence and love, by adoration and praise. This was the highest kind of dignity whereto creature nature could be raised,—the most honorable state. How high and quick an advance! This moment nothing; the next, a being capable and full of God."—Howe's Living Temple.
2. In all these passages the word used signifies the inner part or shrine of the building,—the holy place and the holy of holies. We are the holy of holies, where the cherubim dwelt, where Jehovah dwelt, where He is said to "dwell between the cherubim"; or as it really is, to "inhabit the cherubim"; the cherubim being His habitation. Into this inner shrine the blood was brought, but not the fire. The effects of the fire were there, the smoking incense, but not the fire itself; for into this sanctuary no wrath can enter. The wrath has been expended and exhausted outside; and this sanctuary is the abode of love and favour; they who belong to it have been delivered from wrath for ever. They are the monuments of exhausted wrath,—wrath which has spent itself upon another, and which has passed away from them for ever. I may notice that it was into the holy place, that Judas threw the pieces of silver,—going to the gate, and flinging them in among the priest as they were carrying on the service.
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