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A Holy Temple

“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.”

(Ephesians 2:21-22)

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. 

A Proverb in a Song, part 14

“For his soul will bless his life,

and he will praise you when you are good to yourself;

he will enter into the generation of his fathers,

he will not see light eternally.”

(Psalm 49:19-20 {Psalm 49:18-19 in English Bibles})

 

Darkness.  Darkness was over the face of the deep before God revealed his Shekinah Glory over creation.  After the fall of man, darkness was in the world until God revealed his Shekinah Glory in his Son.  Indeed, God has shown light in various places and at various times, revealing himself in his Word to us through the prophets who wrote the Old Testament, but the fullness of his revelation had to wait until the coming of his Son—the fullness of God revealed in flesh. Apart from God and apart from his presence there is no light in the world—there can be.  And those who reject God in this life—those who seek after idols of their own making and never submit to God’s Son as their Lord and Savior—are destined for a place of darkness and gloom (Jude 13) where the fire is never quenched, the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), and the torture does not end (Matthew 19:34-35).  It is a place filled with the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28).  Oh, beloved, eternal damnation awaits those who flee from God.

Yet, while the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth form the song of Hell, the sound of tens of thousands of angels and all creation form the background to the song of praise that will fill eternal glory.  Oh , what a contrast there is.  We may not receive the accolades that the pagans receive in this life, but how wonderful is the promise that we have been given for eternity.  And, oh, beloved, how much longer eternity is than even hundreds of years on this earth.  What a wonderful thing we have been promised and that we have to look forward to!

But how is it that we know whether that person walking down the street is really an person destined for damnation or just a life in whom God has yet to work?  And how is it that you can tell whether it is you that God intends to use to witness to this person?  That is—until you share the gospel with them—until you try and tell them of all the wonders of God—until you, like this psalmist, share the truth with all who would hear?  Oh, dear friends, so often we assume that God will work through someone else.  The question that you should be asking God every day is, “why not me, Lord, why not work through me?”

A willing spirit, a thankful heart,

Dear Lord, to me will you impart,

That the truth of Jesus I may share,

To those who walk this world without a care.


 

Shekinah is derived from the Hebrew word !k;v’ (shakan), which means “to dwell”—it is the glory of God dwelling with his people, symbolized by the tabernacle and the temple and made perfect in the coming of Christ.

Do Not Send Me Away from Your Presence: Psalm 51 (part 12)

“Do not send me away from your presence,

and your Holy Spirit—do not take him from me.”

(Psalm 51:13 {Psalm 51:11 in English Bibles})

 

In this verse, David returns to a chiastic structure.  The verses that have gone before have been largely arranged in a simple parallel structure and this change is designed to add emphasis.  And the emphasis that David is making strikes at the very heart of the human condition:  sin has driven us out of relationship with God.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked in communion with God; sin changed that.  Because of sin, man and woman were driven out of paradise and out of the relationship that would make even the most hellish place a paradise to be in—they were driven out of their intimate and personal relationship with God in his presence, and all of the struggles and difficulties we face in our fallen nature when we seek to commune with God all have roots back to this origin.

How could a Holy God remain in communion with those who rebelled in sin?  Indeed, sin must be punished, and the wrath of an infinite, Holy God was the only punishment suitable to the crime.  Beloved, facing someone’s anger is one thing—it is rarely a pleasant thing to do, but it is something we have all done and will likely do again—this kind of anger can be weathered.  But righteous anger is something altogether different—especially when we are in the wrong.  Facing the righteous wrath of a man who has been wronged is a heavy thing to deal with and is grievous to endure.  But what about the righteous anger of an infinite God who is perfect in his holiness and perfect in his righteousness?  No man could stand.  We would be utterly lost—even the best and most noble human being—we would be forever consigned to the fires of hell; and, in doing so, God would be vindicated.

Yet, in God’s unfathomable richness and mercy, he chose to redeem a people for himself.  Sin had to be dealt with, but rather than putting a burden that could not be borne upon men, he allowed his Son to become flesh and to bear that penalty on behalf of those who would cling to him in faith as their substitute, mediator, and paraclete.  Indeed, this is the demonstration of the infinite love of God, that he would give his only begotten son to die and bear the penalty of sin for those whom he would call in faith, that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life and those who would reject the offering made by Christ would be forever consigned to their reasonable fate, paying the penalty for their sin in eternal condemnation (John 3:16-21).  There is no other way and no other path to the paradise of God but through Christ.  Adam and Eve lost access to it and Christ has shed his blood to offer it back to humanity once again—what good news that is to a dark and dying world!

Thus, in Christ, communion is restored through the work of the Holy Spirit, and David, recognizing the great blessing connected with God’s presence before him, clung to that above all else.  Though his sin may have caused him to deserve to be forever cast out of God’s presence, the work of Christ allows the prayer offered in faith to be heard and answered.  And though God may remove our sense of assurance for a time as a means of disciplining his children, he will not leave or forsake us because he has called us his own and adopted us as sons and daughters in Christ.  God paid too dear a price to abandon those for whom his Son died.  Thus, David pleads that God not remove from him the closeness and presence of communion that they had enjoyed, and indeed, how this should guide our own prayers of repentance, recognizing that God will not let his people be forever lost, but recognizing how essential that it is that we remain in daily—moment by moment—communion with God.  Loved ones, cling to this promise, and cling to Christ.

O love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

-George Matheson