J. A. Trench.
Article 36 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
As to the house of God, and temple of God, the two thoughts are closely allied as applied to the Church's relationship with God, though with a divine fitness in the use of them. When it was a question of the material building in the Old Testament it would readily be seen that the house and temple of God were one and the same: and that this was the use of Scripture such passages as 1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chronicles 4:22; Psalm 65:4 ("tabernacle" and "sanctuary" being also identified in Ezek. 37:27, 28, temple and house by the Lord in Matt. 21:12, 13) prove.
When we turn from the material temple in Jerusalem to the far more intimate way in which God has taken up His dwelling-place among His people now in the Church, the same terms are used, as also "God's building," and "habitation of God," for this aspect of its wonderful relationship. For there is also its relationship to Christ, as His body, which is not before us. At Pentecost the Church became the "habitation of God through the Spirit."
But it is important to see that as such it is presented to us in two ways. First, according to the mind of God as the fruit of a wholly divine work, with no intermingling of human responsibility. This is found in Matthew 16:18, where Christ is the builder, and no power of Satan can prevail against it, with which may be compared 1 Peter 2; Ephesians 2:21; Hebrews 3:6, and Revelation 21:3. Secondly, as an existing fact on earth in connection with which His servants have their part, with the alas! inevitable result of failure. (See 1 Cor. 3:9-17; Eph. 2:22; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Peter 4:17) Even in Apostolic times a Simon Magus, who had "no part nor lot in the matter," could be introduced; and we learn from 1 Corinthians 3 how the door could be opened wider and wider to take in a vast mass of profession, with so little reality, as now. Paul had laid the foundation, but the labourers are warned of their responsibility. "Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." Wood, hay, and stubble might be built upon the foundation as well as gold, silver, and precious stones. The fire in which the day will be revealed should try every man's work of what sort it is; and in result we see that there are three classes of workmen at the building — those who being true men themselves, build nothing but work that will abide, and who will have their reward (ver. 14); those who though personally saved, have all their work burned up and suffer loss of reward; and finally, those who, being only professors, defile the work at every touch and are destroyed with their work.
Now it is significant that just at this point, where failure in the character of the work is contemplated (ver. 15), the building is characterised as the Temple. (Compare verses 9 and 16) "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Serious as it would be to corrupt God's building, the heinous nature of the corruption would be shown out in that — in a sense in which no other house but God's ever was — it was His temple or sanctuary. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."
With the same force and fitness we see the temple of God introduced in 2 Corinthians 6:14, when the Apostle is seeking to bring home to the saints the separation that becomes them from unbelievers. "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath the believer with the unbeliever? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said: "I will dwell in them," etc., to verse 18. It is as His temple that the full character of false association would be discovered. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing."
Even where not the Church, but the individual believer is in question in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, the solemn power of the application of "the temple of the Holy Ghost" (not merely His dwelling-place) to the body in the connection of the Apostle's thoughts will be felt.
That which is ever associated with the thought of temple is plainly expressed in Ephesians 2:21, where we find "all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." The work being wholly God's, from the point of view of the verse, will result in that perfection of holiness suited to Him, whose temple it is, in the eternal glory.
Possibly it may be asked why then, when in Revelation 21:1-8, we come to the eternal state — a new heaven and a new earth where the Church is seen still in its double relationship to Christ as His bride, and to God as His tabernacle — it should be called the tabernacle of God rather than the temple? Perhaps it lies in the force of the word by which He expresses His use of it as His dwelling-place — "and He shall tabernacle with them" (see N.Tr.); confirmed as this is in its significance by the same word in the original, being used in John 1:11 to express the way He came amongst men as the Word become flesh — "and tabernacled among us"; when the opened eye of faith beheld "His glory, a glory as of an only begotten with a Father." It is thus God has been revealed, and will be for ever known, if "unto him be glory in the Church in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages." (Eph. 3:21)
It may be noted lastly, that when in Rev. 21:9 to Rev. 22:5, we have the millennial display of the glory of Christ in the Church, in the symbol of the holy city Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, John saw "no temple therein" for the beautiful reason that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. His presence made the whole city a sanctuary.