An Holy Temple in the Lord
“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord .”
In the previous part of the epistle, the Christians—Jew and Gentile are looked at as the one body of Christ, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all”—that is to say, it looks at the Christians in their heavenly association.
But in the verse before us we have the Christians looked at as “an holy temple in the Lord.” The figure is changed. This sets before us the great truth of God dwelling in the midst of His people on this earth. But not only does God dwell but the word temple carries the thought of a shrine, a dwelling place indeed, but connected with the thought of holiness , because of who it is that dwells. It becomes a sanctuary, a sphere of priestly activity, a place of worship—a place made by the persons who compose it, not by stones and mortar. “God . . . dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24).
It is this thought that is so largely not recognized nor acted upon by Christians. The building is “fitly framed together,” that is, Christians are not so many individuals, who can pick and choose their associations, but God sets us in relation one to another with the view of being His dwelling place on earth.
The apostle Peter runs parallel with this when he writes: “Ye also as lively [living] stones are built up a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). One stone cannot make a building, nor do stones choose their own place. Each stone finds its place according to the mind of the Divine Architect.
This idea runs right through Scripture. Did God redeem Israel out of Egypt simply to relieve them of intolerable bondage? Nay, it was to bring them to Himself, and even the tents of the “common” people had to be pitched in a certain order round the tabernacle, and holiness became them in their ways.
Did God demand the half shekel of silver—the redemption money, when He numbered the people, and that was an end of it? Nay, the half shekels produced over one hundred talents of silver which was used in connection with the tabernacle, principally as sockets for the boards, again emphasizing the same truth.
There is great energy as to appropriating personal blessings, if we may so put it, and great activity in serving others, in Gospel effort, whether in home or missionary spheres (would there were still more of this), but if Christians generally sought to enter into the sense of God dwelling in their midst, of taking up what is, after all, the highest privilege of the Christian, that of their priesthood, how different things would be. Service in other directions would not lose, but infinitely gain. It is this taking and maintaining of assembly ground that is of such vast importance.
We have no choice in this. The responsibility is ours, whether we like it or not, but in taking it up we find that our privilege is so immense that responsibility becomes a matter of joy. A married man has responsibilities towards his wife, but if these were irksome and distressing it would speak little for his love. If love is as it should be his responsibility is his privilege, his joy, his delight. So with divine things.
Lastly the building “groweth.” Grow is a word that is only rightly applicable to that which has life. A child grows, a plant grows. In all its stages a child, a plant, is complete; development may add size, and qualities latent in the child or plant become patent, but we never think of either at any stage as incomplete. So God's temple is ever looked at as complete, yet growing; but surely the end is in view when the last stone shall be added, when the whole ransomed church of God, whether as we say triumphant or militant, whether the saints are passed away or living, shall be caught up by the summoning shout in the air, and God shall be still in the midst of His people.
It is not a little remarkable that whilst the word “temple” is used in Revelation 21:22 in connection with the church in millennial display when we come to the fixed eternal state we get the word “tabernacle.” “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people” (Rev. 21:3). The last glimpse we have is that of God dwelling among His people for eternity. May we anticipate that day by seeking to take up the Divine thoughts even now, so giving God and His Word in this connection a true practical place in our lives. What a change in association this would make with multitudes of Christians.
Extracted from “Christ and the Assembly”