Though the temple at Jerusalem was completely destroyed by Titus, and not one stone left upon another, let it not be thought that God has no temple on earth today.
True, it may not be one formed of such material as stone, nor built by human hands. No such structure, however artistic, or venerable by age or association, may rightly be termed a temple of God throughout the period of Christianity. There has been a material temple, and there will be another in the coming age, but not such today. Much is written of this future temple in Ezekiel and the Revelation forming, as it does, a deeply interesting study; but our business, as Christians, is to learn the nature of the temple of God as presented to us in those scriptures which are applicable to the purely Christian period.
The idea of a temple is a sacred edifice, a space “cut off” from others, where God may be worshipped, and from whence things secular, such as commerce, trade, etc., are excluded. With all this we are of course familiar by the ordinary usage of the day. The question is, does such custom comport with the Christian idea of a temple of God? Sincerity as to it cannot make the practice of it right, if indeed the word of God supply no sanction.
What then, today, is God’s temple? Let us begin at the lowest point. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we read: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price?” Here the body of the individual Christian is that temple; his body—it does not say soul—but the body, which is the instrument of his activities, volition, passions, and the like. This is (most wonderful fact, and to be duly pondered) the temple of the Holy Ghost. Do we know it? Are we influenced by such a marvellous fact? Let me lay hold of it in power, then I will shrink from sin of every kind, and cherish the holiness that the presence of such a Guest involves. I shall seek not to grieve Him, but the rather to encourage Him. I am not my own. I am bought with a price that I should glorify God in my body. Oh! for grace! Spend time in reading the context.
Then we read in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you . . . for the temple of God is holy, and such (holy ones) ye are”.
This address is not individual, but it is sent to the local assembly at Corinth. The saints there formed, collectively, God’s temple, while, of course, the aggregate of all the saints on earth made up, not merely God’s temple, but the temple itself.
The whole body of saints on earth at any given moment today forms the temple of God. He dwells in that body. It is the vessel of worship. He assuredly inhabits their praises. Such a body stretches far beyond the confines of an edifice, a locality, a district, or a country (see John 4:21). It is the temple of God.
Did these Corinthian saints grasp the truth that they, collectively, were God’s temple—His dwelling place?
Where He dwells God is necessarily everything. His dwelling is holy. All His name and nature are there displayed. Man may not exhibit his folly there. Room for rival schools and religious pride there is none. Who is Paul? Who Apollos? Glory itself appertains to that temple. To defile it is to court destruction, while to build on the foundation that which is valuable and indestructible is to earn a reward. What a voice to these Corinthians, and to our—no better—selves!
What an effect would not a truer conception of God’s temple produce in us all! “Ye are God’s temple and the Spirit of God dwells in you”.
Again, in 2 Corinthians 6:16 we read, “What agreement has God’s temple with idols, for ye are (the) temple of the living God?” No agreement whatever! A gulf of infinite space separates, morally, between God’s temple and the entire system of idolatry. The two may not be mentioned or classed together. It is no question here of seeking the blessing of the poor idolater—that should be earnestly done—but it is the call for not the very least compromise between them. To import into God’s temple the smallest principle of idolatry is, so far, to destroy it.
And not only idolatry, but a yoke with unbelievers, a compact with unrighteousness, communion with darkness, concord with Belial, part with an infidel, as well as agreement with idols. There must, at all costs, be a clean cut. God wants holiness. Hence He commands us to: “Come out from among them and be separate”, with the precious and unfailing promise to those who obey, that He will receive them and be to them for a father, and they to Him for sons and daughters.
Exercise of soul for such a path there must be, but godly separation to Christ from the world, religious or wicked, is the call of God to all His children; and if that separation be to Christ, it will be one of humility and not of sectarianism, pride, or Phariseeism. “Ye are (the) temple of the living God”. Then in Ephesians 2:21 we read: “In whom, all the building, fitly framed together, grows up to an holy temple in the Lord”. This is the grand future and sure result. The building grows to that. It shall be fitly framed together. Never did the highly-polished stones of Solomon’s temple fit more perfectly, or lie more exactly, than shall the fitting of these stones, once so shapeless, so angular so incongruous, rest comfortably together in that completed temple of beauty, grace and holiness.
How, all through, does holiness mark and characterize God’s temple! “A holy temple in the Lord”. So much for the temple. We have the house of God in 1 and 2 Timothy, and also in 1 Peter 2, in the last of which the analogy between the house and the temple is very close; but, the word “temple” not being used in it, I close this paper.