“in whom the whole building, being joined together, increases into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also have been built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
The “in whom” found in each of these verses, of course, speaks of Christ of whom the previous verse spoke. And here we have two parallel ideas that are really Biblical-theological notions. The parallel is simply that we the true church, born again in Jesus Christ, are being formed together not only as a single body, but as stones of a new temple (also see 1 Peter 2:4-5). Notice the emphasis that Paul places here on our being bound and tied together as a single Temple made up of both Jew and Greek to the glory of God. And, as a temple, the church is called to be a holy place — a place set apart for God’s use. Remember, this is not speaking of the bricks and mortar of a physical structure, but of the bricks and mortar of the lives of believers. We are the church building set apart for holy use, not worldly purposes.
This, of course, is where the conversation needs to transition into Biblical theology. When the Temple of Solomon was destroyed, people lost all hope and God promised them that a Temple would be rebuilt that would be greater in glory (Haggai 2:9). Of course, what we know from history was that the rebuilt Temple never rose to the glory of the former. Herod tried with all of his worldly might to do so, but that which made the Temple glorious was the Shekenah Glory of God — the glory of God dwelling with his people in the form of the Glory Cloud. And God’s glory never returned to the Temple…at least, not as the people expected.
The glory of God did appear in the Temple briefly in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ and the Son of God, who is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Yet, when Jesus entered the Temple, it was for judgment and condemnation at the idolatry that was found therein. This new Temple that was to be of a greater glory was the temple of his body (John 2:21) — a body that would be resurrected to glory on the third day. Yet, the story does not end. As we have already discussed, the church is called the body of Christ, so we are participants in the fulfillment of Haggai’s prophesy. As members of the body we are part (stones) in the new Temple a place wherein God dwells in His Spirit (sounds like the Shekinah Glory, does it not?). In principle, that should be manifested in the church.
The real question is whether we reflect that in our lives, especially when the church is gathered. Are we a holy people, indwelled by the glory of God? Do we live like it? Are our bodies consecrated for God’s purposes and not for the pleasures of the flesh? Truly, this will only be seen in its fullness when the church reaches its fullness in the new creation, yet do we strive to live out this principle in our lives. Sadly, I fear that it is often the case that the church does not. Even more sadly, in some places, this is the last thing that is on the corporate church’s mind.