When the Son of God came into the world, for the first time in its history a divine Person was upon earth. The Creator was come into the creation. He made it at the beginning, and had spoken to it in various ways all along its history, but never before had He come into it, as One having part in it. The body of Jesus was the true temple—the shrine in which the fullness of the Godhead dwelt. The eternal Son was there personally, the eternal Father was there in testimony, and the eternal Spirit was upon Him and in Him. The Godhead glory shone through the human veil, and in His death the veil—His flesh—was rent, and God came fully to light, and “God is love.” He was declared in His nature.
The Person of Christ became the point of attraction for everything that was of God upon earth. Those that were gathered to Him became the stones, the living stones of a new structure, in which God was to take up His abode, when Christ would be no longer here. These He builded together for a habitation of God, and on the day of Pentecost the Spirit of God occupied the building. He would have filled the whole earth with His presence, had it been suitable; but never had it been more unsuitable for a dwelling than at that moment, for it was freshly stained with the murder of the Son of God. There was no part of the earth habitable but that assembly in the upper room in Jerusalem. From that spot, if I may use a figure, the waters of death had been rolled back, and the heavenly Dove could find a resting-place. As soon as ever there was a spot in creation in which God could take up His abode, He filled it with His presence. The house of God will in the end take in the vast redeemed creation. At the present moment it is limited to believers.
The next thing is that it is by His SPIRIT God dwells there. If it is His Spirit, it is as equally God as if it were the Father or the Son. But it is neither the Father nor the Son, but the Spirit, and this is important to notice. God is before us objectively in the Father; the Son became man, that He might be servant to the Godhead, and the accomplisher of the Father’s counsels; and the Spirit is the One who has undertaken all subjective work in our souls, and who connects Himself with that work, as the spring and power of life in us, and as the means by which we enjoy all the blessings that are ours in Christ by the will of God. By the Spirit we are born again, sealed, anointed, know that we are children of God, enjoy the love of God, mortify the deeds of the body, live to God, are led into all truth, know the deep things of God, know things to come, and contemplate the vast expanse of glory which stretches out before the vision of faith, radiant with the golden light of infinite and everlasting love. By Him our souls are nourished with all that God is as revealed in Christ. He is also the power of all worship, and service and prayer. He dwells in our bodies individually, uniting us together as one body in Christ, and He dwells among us as His habitation.
If we understand this, we shall have no difficulty in seeing that He will never direct attention to Himself as an object, but will turn the thoughts of all to God as revealed in Christ. He will “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 15); “He shall testify of me” (v. 15), “He will guide you into all truth … show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (v. 16). You will find everywhere in Scripture that He is here to occupy the heart and mind with God and Christ—the Father and the Son.
He is here in a twofold way, as in us and as with us. “He dwelleth with you and shall be in you” (John 14).
The Son of God built the house, and He is over it as Son (Heb. 3); but He is not said to dwell in it, nor is God, except by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), and in love (1 John 4:12). The Spirit dwells in our bodies, but that is a different idea from dwelling in the house. It does not seem to me that it could be said of the Holy Ghost as indwelling us, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us,” for there you have two; whereas the Spirit dwelling in us, unites Himself with us as the power of our life. It does not seem to me that the Spirit indwelling me could be said to address me. We have also, “the Spirit said unto Philip,” and “the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip” (Acts 8). Besides, believers are builded together for an habitation of God by the Spirit, and this is an entirely different idea from indwelling our bodies. Neither are the activities of the Spirit confined to the saints, which would have to be the case were He only here as in the bodies of the saints.
The house of God is down here. But though it is down here it is not linked up with things down here, nor as of this old creation. It is altogether linked up with heaven. As Israel was brought out of Egypt, that God might dwell among them (Ex. 29), so are we brought out of the world for the same purpose. It is the first instalment, if I may use the expression, of that “breadth and length, and depth, and height” which will be filled with the glory of God in the coming day. Looked at in its true character it belongs to the new order of things which are heavenly. It is also, in a way, “the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17). Every believer is part of this structure; not only when gathered together in assembly, but at all times, and in all places, even when a thousand miles from the nearest Christian. He has not, when isolated, the companionship of those who love God, and this causes a sense of loneliness in the soul, and his longing is after those of his own company; but in his isolation he has ever the Holy Spirit both in him and with him, and therefore his heart and mind may at all times be occupied with Christ, and he has always access to the Father; and he finds in his wilderness surroundings that nothing but Christ is indispensable, and, perhaps, only in his isolation could he learn this.
The Spirit is here, and here to put us into contact with both the Father and the Son, that we may have fellowship with them, and also that we may be able to serve God acceptably. The Spirit does not occupy us with Himself, though we need to know something of the greatness of the gift bestowed upon us, but His delight is to occupy us with Christ though it is neither the Father nor the Son who dwell in the house, by His power the individual may have the joy of the presence of both in love (John 16:23).
In the light of God we have fellowship with one another, and the company of those that love God is to be greatly esteemed. But we must not forget that the overcomer is addressed in each of the seven churches of Asia. To trust in the church is to trust in a broken reed. No one is to be trusted but Christ. Paul’s troubles began in real earnest through coming into contact with those who led in Jerusalem (Acts 21). The world, pure and simple, was not the greatest difficulty against which he had to contend; from it he expected nothing but persecution; but the leaders at Jerusalem led him into a snare. Saints are only valuable to me in the measure in which they turn my thoughts to Christ in heaven. When they bring themselves before me, as those in whom I may trust, they are working for my ruin. The great value of the house of God lies in the One who has taken up His abode there—the Holy Spirit, and He is the power by which we are occupied with Christ.
I have spoken of it as “the gate of heaven.” The light of heaven is there, and flows through it in every direction. God was at the top of Jacob’s ladder, not at the bottom. I do not doubt it is a millennial picture, but I use it as an illustration of the house of God at the present moment, as the gate of heaven. It is where the light of heaven breaks forth upon the world. Paul speaks of it as the pillar and base of the truth (1 Tim. 3). It upholds the truth, and presents it before men not by preaching or teaching, for the church, as such, does neither, but in practical godliness. God was manifest in the flesh of Christ, and His moral characteristics shine out in His house. It ought to be radiant with living light. Every stone in that structure should tell forth the virtues of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. There is not a ray of light anywhere else under the sun. In that “Gate” I may taste a little of the good of heaven before I am glorified. But not only this, for in spirit I may enter through the “Gate” into His presence, who has gone into heaven itself, for the power of the Spirit, who is in that “Gate” can conduct me to the source of the light that fills the “Gate”—to the Father Himself; and indeed this is just what He delights to do.
I am not speaking about preaching or teaching, but about the blessedness of the house of God, in which He dwells by His Spirit, and where the household is fed with the bread of heaven, and where the light of heaven shines amid the surrounding gloom, it is the place where all the grace of Christ that is upon earth resides. Not where it is found, for all in the house get all the grace they possess from the living Head in heaven. It is also the place where the love of God is known as it is in the hearts of men. Not where it has been manifested, for that was in Christ (1 John 4:9), and not where you and I have witnessed it, for that was in His death (1 John 3:16); but it is where it is tasted and enjoyed in the midst of those in whose hearts it has been shed abroad by the Holy Spirit. It is the sphere of divine affections.
Now, as to the world: as I have said, the house of God is the witness and support of the truth before men. The saints are the epistle of Christ. It may be greatly obscured and blotted by elements of the world coming in, and by the unfaithfulness of those who compose the building, but the heavenly light is nowhere else in this world. It may be—has been—an unfaithful witness, but there is none other. Through its unfaithfulness the world has, humanly speaking, suffered loss. Had divine love characterized the profession of Christianity the world would have had testimony that the Father sent the Son (Join 17:21); but through its unfaithfulness the world has to stumble on in the darkness; but true or false, faithful or unfaithful, it alone is the pillar and base of the truth.
In what I have said I am thinking of the house more in the way it comes before us in 1 Timothy. In 1 Peter 2 it is viewed as the place where sacrifices of a spiritual nature are offered to God by Jesus Christ. Those who compose the building are also the priests who offer those sacrifices. Of course such sacrifices cannot be offered outside the house of God, for God as revealed by Jesus Christ is unknown outside the limits of God’s house. The priests and the house are one.
No one but those in the house of God possesses any of the blessings of Christianity, for it is on the principle of faith every blessing is possessed, and all believers are in the house. But no soul finds the blessings in the house, but in Christ (Eph. 1), neither were they made good to him by the assembly, but by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 1). In the house the Spirit speaks of Christ, and of the grace and love of God in Him; and there Christ is before every eye, and the beloved Object of every heart, and the theme of every tongue. I speak of the house in its true character. Man and his pretensions have disappeared, and Christ is everything, for there the Spirit of God has His way, and He delights to direct the mind and heart to Him.