Into a Holy Temple
January 20, 2019
What do you think of when you hear the word temple? What comes to your mind?
Some people might think of an old but beautiful building in the middle of a forest or a city, made of stone or wood, marked with color and lights and perhaps a perfectly tiled roof with pointed corners, a place filled with pavilions and pagodas and priests, gardens and gates, a place of culture and architecture and a blast from the past for tourists to experience and enjoy.
Other people might think of the flat part of either side of the head between the forehead and the ear, the place to massage when you get a headache.
And still others, upon hearing the word temple, might think of Temple University, a large research university in Philadelphia whose symbol and mascot is the owl for its roots in ambitious and hard-working folks who needed to earn a living during the day but wanted to receive an education during the night.
You would probably know the word “temple” very well if you grew up in a Buddhist family, came out of Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, and specialized in headaches. But if you grew up in a Buddhist family, came out of Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, specialized in headaches, … and then became a Christian, then you should definitely know the word “temple” very, very well.
And the reason why is because God calls us who are believers in Christ his temple.
The idea of a temple is simple but profound. A temple is a place for God to dwell. And it is a place for God to dwell with his people. Temple therefore means family and home. Temple therefore involves covenant relationship.
The garden in Eden was the first and original temple. It was a place for God to dwell with his people. But his people rebelled against him. Adam sinned against God. And as a result of this, we lost everything that the first temple was all about. We lost home. We lost our relationship with God.
But God made a promise. He promised that he would save a people from their sins. He promised that he would be their God and they would be his people. He promised that there would be a home again for us and a relationship again for us.
God proclaimed his promise and displayed a preview of his promise through the temple building that was built by Solomon and then rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah. It was a nice building. And God’s presence was really located in it.
But the temple building was only a proclamation and a preview of God’s promise of salvation. The temple building was not the promise of salvation itself. For salvation would not be found in a place. Salvation would be found in a person.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered into our world and took on human flesh. And the Bible describes Jesus as having “templed” among us. In John 1:14, where in it famously written, “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…,” that word in the Greek is actually not “dwelt.” It is the word for tabernacle or tent. Jesus tented, Jesus tabernacled, Jesus templed among us. The way that our Triune God dwells with us is through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity: Jesus Christ.
And now Jesus is the temple. Jesus is the true and ultimate temple because his name is Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus is the true and ultimate temple because he is the fulfillment of God’s promise to be with his people and dwell with them. Jesus is the true and ultimate temple because he restores our covenant relationship with God. Jesus Christ is the true and ultimate temple because through him and him alone, we can have fellowship and communion with God - for he himself is God.
This is amazing. God’s salvation would not be found in a place. God’s salvation would be found in a person. God would not dwell with us through a building. God would dwell with us through a body and a blood. God would not dwell with us by giving us a cloud. God would dwell with us by giving us a Christ.
Jesus is the temple. And we who are believers in Christ are united with the ultimate and eschatological temple. We who are believers in Christ are a part of the ultimate eschatological temple. We who are believers in Christ are the ultimate and eschatological temple.
This is amazing. If we are the temple of God, then we are God’s dwelling place. And that is where the Holy Spirit comes into play. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This glorious reality was inaugurated on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. For when the believers in Christ experienced from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind and when divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on them and when they all began to miraculously speak the gospel in foreign tongues and languages, the church was corporately and historically and officially filled with the Holy Spirit. God officially moved into his final temple and home. And his final temple and home is the church. His final temple and home is you. God therefore does not just dwell with us. God dwells in us.
Brothers and sisters, we are a temple in the Lord. We are a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Therefore, let us be unified. The Apostle Paul brings this up in today’s text because he is talking about unity. Unity between Jewish believers and Gentile believers who were brought near by the blood of Christ. Christ who himself is our peace.
We are fellow citizens of God’s kingdom and fellow members of God’s household. We fly the same flag. We are part of the same family. Let us therefore be united with a sense of good pride and good duty. Let us therefore be united with a sense of belonging and kinship, dear brothers and sisters. We are all immigrants. We are all adopted. We were all sinners. But we are now all saints. We are now the temple of God. Let us therefore be unified.
Brothers and sisters, we are a temple in the Lord. We are a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Therefore, we need to get our cornerstone right. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a building. It is the most important stone because all other stones are set in reference to it.
The cornerstone of the church therefore cannot be friends. The cornerstone of the church cannot be a political or social mission. The cornerstone of the church cannot be the simple reason of “well I’ve been going to church all my life so here I am.” The cornerstone of the church cannot be a lead pastor or a charismatic individual or a strong leader or a generous giver or a family or a ministry group or a majority race. The cornerstone of the church cannot be its history or legacy. The cornerstone of the church cannot be its events or programs or even its good works. And all of this is because the cornerstone of the church is Jesus Christ. Why do you go to church? I hope that your first reason, your cornerstone, is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us boast in Christ. Let us get our cornerstone right.
Brothers and sisters, we are a temple in the Lord. We are a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Therefore, let us be patient with one another as God sanctifies us. One of the most popular toy of all time is Legos. Legos are colorful interlocking plastic bricks that can be put together to make whatever. I loved Legos when I was a kid. Maybe you did too.
But I’m sorry to inform you that church and the Christian life and sanctification and relationships do not work like Legos at all. We are not perfectly straight building blocks that snap together easily in place. But we will be. We are being joined together. We are being built together. We are growing into a holy temple. We are slowly but surely becoming more like our cornerstone Jesus Christ, who is the first and currently only perfect piece of the temple.
The apostles and the prophets who were in Christ were not perfectly straight pieces. Your parents who are in Christ are not. Your friends at school who are in Christ are not. Your pastors who are in Christ are not. Your spouse who is in Christ is not. And you who are in Christ are not. But praise the Lord. We are not the cornerstone. We are not the cornerstone for others. We have a cornerstone. And the temple is going to stand at the end. But until then, until the Day of the Lord arrives, we are a temple under construction. Let us therefore be patient with one another.
Brothers and sisters, we are a temple in the Lord. We are a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Therefore, let us read the Bible and especially the Old Testament with a renewed sense of heartfelt drama. A lot of the stories about the temple of God in the Old Testament are hard to read.
But when we read about how the tabernacle was supposed to be made with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns (Exodus 26), or when we read about all the precise measurements of the pillars and panels in the temple (1 Kings 7), or when we read about Ezekiel’s vision of a gigantic new temple, or when we read about how the people in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time rebuilt the temple after the exile but wept because it was nothing like the original in its glory, or when we read about how the psalmist would rather be a doorkeeper of the house of God for just a day than be somewhere else a thousand days (Psalm 84) - when we read about all of these stories of the temple of God - we are ultimately reading about our Lord Jesus Christ. And we are ultimately reading about ourselves the church. Let us therefore find joy in reading about the concept of God’s temple in God’s Word.
At the end of the Bible, in the final chapters of the book of Revelation, we are given a wonderful picture of the future. There will be a new heavens and a new earth, a place without headaches and without medical schools. And there will be a city, a New Jerusalem.
But unlike the Jerusalem of old, this New Jerusalem will have no temple. For it is written these words in Revelation 21:22, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” Why is there no temple in the New Jerusalem? The answer is because Jesus is the temple. And we who are in him are the temple as well. The physical temple of old was a proclamation and a preview of a promise. But at the end, the promise will come true. And for us today, the promise has already come true.