The Church Of God - The Temple Of God 1 Cor. 3. 16, 17
William Trew, Cardiff
In previous Articles Mr. Trew has brought forward the practical power of the fact that the local Assembly is characterised as “God’s Husbandry” and as “God’s Building.” We are now invited to study a third designation, equally practical in that it emphasises our responsibility to preserve the sanctity of the Assembly.
THIS designation of the local assembly is peculiar to the epistles to the Corinthians. (In Eph. 2.21 the reference is to the Church of the dispensation.) These Corinthian saints were carnal and worldly, and the apostle felt that the remedy for their condition was to remind them of the character of the assembly as Divinely constituted, and the intensely practical demands of the place to which the Grace of God had brought them.
There are three words translated “Temple” in the New Testament. The particular word used here is the word which means, “The Inner Shrine”—”The place of the Divine Presence.” Here then is a passage suggestive of greatest privilege and highest dignity, and yet intensely solemn in its practical implications and demands. “Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the Temple of God is holy, which Temple ye are.” How very often our lives provide evidence of the fact that we have lost our appreciation of truth that had been learned in brighter days, and the Holy Spirit has to address us as if we had never known it. How searching is the power of that word, “Know ye not?”
The practical force of this is twofold.
A. HOLINESS OF CHARACTER IS REQUIRED.
Without doubt the primary reference in these words of warning is to evil teachers and the result of their evil teachings. But it is certain that any of us may contract defilement, and bring it to that which is to-day “the sanctuary of God,” and the Hand of the Lord be laid upon us in chastisement. The assembly is a fellowship of light, and demands from every member of it holiness of life.
There is, in the words of the apostle, a very obvious reference to Numbers 19. The uncleanness of which that chapter speaks was such as could be contracted by any in Israel in the privacy of their tent i.e., in their home life. But if, having contracted defilement, they neglected to use the means of cleansing that God had provided, “that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation” (v. 20). The reason for such extreme discipline is stated. It was “because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord.” In such a case, they brought their defilement to that which was the holy dwelling of God in their midst, and “defiled the sanctuary.”
This principle is exemplified in God’s dealings with the saints in the assembly at Corinth. Their carnal condition brought them under the Lord’s government, because of which many were weak and sickly, and many had fallen asleep (ch. 11. 30). Having neglected to judge their condition before the Lord, they had brought their uncleanness to “the Temple of God,” where the Holy Spirit was dwelling in the midst, and therefore were “cut off from among the congregation.”
That we have been brought to the place where God dwells, is a high privilege indeed. But the practical responsibility connected with that place of dignity is unutterably solemn. “Holiness becometh Thine House, O Lord, for ever “(Psa. 93. 5). “This is the law of the House; upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the House” (Ezek. 43. 12). It is imperative that we be governed by this clearly defined law, walking according to the dignity of the sanctuary place to which we have been brought. Our fellowship in the assembly lays upon us the obligation to so conduct ourselves in every sphere of life that the sanctity of “the Temple of God” will be preserved.
B. FEAR OF GOD IS DEVELOPED (2 Cor. 6. 11-18; 7.1).
The exhortation to “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” is based upon certain fundamental principles, the application of which to Christian life demonstrates the unreasonableness and undesirability of the unequal yoke, that yet is formed and justified by so many. It is incredible that any will suppose that there can be agreement between “the Temple of God” and “Idols.” And the assembly is nothing less. “Ye are the Temple of the living God; as God hath said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” It is this that gives such solemn force to the command, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, . . . and touch not the unclean thing.”
Three promises encourage to such a path. “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The Almighty One is all-sufficient for every phase of need that will arise in the path. Jehovah eternally abides to keep faithful covenant with His own. His people of old knew Him in these ways, and all that He was to them He is willing to be to us. Moreover He says, “I will be a Father to you.” Which of us has yet fully grasped all that lies for us in the Fatherhood of God? He will give us to know in sweet experience all that that amazing relationship can mean, if we will obey His call.
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” “Having” is the language of appropriation and possession. “Having” the promises, not only in our Bible, but in the grasp of energetic faith, will bring into our spirits the moral strength necessary for the path.
Perfect love has banished the terror that has torment. But that love has begotten in our hearts the reverential fear that dreads to grieve Him who has willed to dwell in our midst, making us “the Temple of God.”
(To be followed by “The Body of Christ—A Unity of Life, Law and Love.”)