The Habitation of God
C. Gahan, Ilminster
EPHESIANS 2. 21-22
God no longer dwells in a temple made with hands; He who had a temple for His people, now has His people for a temple and in their midst He is pleased to dwell. Here He has constituted for himself a spiritual house, and in Him "all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord". With what dignity does this invest the Church of God! In this dispensation it is, in a very special sense, "the habitation of God".
It is the Habitation of His Choice. The Church, the habitation of God, is a chosen Church and its members are a chosen people. The New Testament word for this doctrine is the word "elect" or "election", and few words have given rise to more heart-burnings than these. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to allow this to hide its importance from our view; as we are at present constituted we can only know a part of God's ways. To us there may seem to be strange discrepancies and perplexities in the doctrine of election, but it is only seemingly so. God is just in all His ways: "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne", Psa. 89. 14; we must patiently wait the dawning of that glorious morning when the light of perfect comprehension will make all things clear and plain. That God has an elect people the Scriptures abundantly show: "God who hath saved us ... not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began", 2 Tim. 1.9. This is one of many such scriptures; everywhere in the New Testament God is represented as purposing, foreknowing, predestinating, and calling out of the world a people for His name, and both the calling and the choice is said to be "according to the good pleasure of his will", Eph. 1.5. Thus did God choose the Church in Christ Jesus before the world began; it is the habitation of His choice. But more than this is suggested to us here -
It is the Habitation of His Name. In the days of Israel the habitation of God had to be in the place "which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there", Deut. 14. 24. This was the essential condition of God's presence and blessing: "in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee", Exod. 20. 24. Having superseded Israel, the Church of the New Testament now answers to the place where God has set his name; here believing Jews and Gentiles are being builded together for an habitation of God in the Spirit, Eph. 2. 22 r.v. God's habitation now is not a material structure, it is a spiritual building; the outward form has changed but the divine principles of gathering remain the same. In the words of our Lord, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them", Matt. 18. 20. In our assembly gatherings, His presence and blessing are conditioned by what is due to His name. The literal rendering here is all too often overlooked: "For where two or three are gathered together into my name, there am I in the midst of them", R.v. We have been gathered together into His name, into that divine society and spiritual unity which derives its value from His name. The same word is used by our Lord in His last instructions to His disciples: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", Matt. 28. 19 R.v. Here, to be baptized involves being brought into all that is revealed concerning the will of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The children of Israel "were baptized into Moses", 1 Cor. 10. 2 R.v.; they were baptized into that dispensational economy of which Moses was the chosen head, and this involved implicit obedience to him. We modern believers have been baptized into a greater than Moses, we have been baptized into the Triune God; we are men and women under divine authority and we should have no will but His. Having been brought into the place of God's choosing, we must constantly recognize in a practical way the divinely appointed conditions which govern that place. Thus the Church, the Assembly of God, is intended to be the habitation of His name, and our coming together unto Him must be in keeping with His name and purpose. Again, the Church of God is intended to be -
The Habitation of His Power. How weak are the mightiest of the earth compared with Him, the mighty One! They have some power, but He has all power, and nowhere is that power more gloriously seen than in the redemption of His people. After their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, the Israelites sang this song unto the Lord, "Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy", Exod. 15. 6. But we have been delivered from a greater than Egyptian bondage; what a song is due to Him "who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, Col. 1. 13. Our redemption is a demonstration of "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe", Eph. 1.19. It follows, therefore, that more of God's power is felt and known in the Church than anywhere else on earth; in this dispensation, the Church, the habitation of God, is the highest and holiest vehicle of the divine power. Of Israel the prophet said: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty", Zeph. 3. 17; here it is not just that "the Lord thy God is mighty", but that "the Lord thy God is mighty in the midst of thee". If this was true of Israel, much more it is of the Church; the most glorious displays of God's power can only be found in the congregation of His people. God is producing His greatest wonders and working His greatest miracles in the assemblies of the saints. It is a far grander thing, and it requires the exercise of far greater power, to save a soul from sin than to create a world. What a standing and portion are ours! We have been brought into the habitation of God's choosing, and among other things, it is intended to be a place of power. Once more, the Church, the Assembly of God, is
The Habitation of His Care. He looks upon it from above and fills it with His boundless love. God bestows more care on the Church than upon anything else in the boundless universe, and He is the glory in the midst of her. Men value jewels and treasures, and the Church of God is His treasure chamber, His casket of jewels. When He wants to know how rich He is, He does not count the stars of the sky or the thrones of heaven; He counts His saints and He will keep them until in the coming day
Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.
With what joy and satisfaction does God contemplate the Church, His casket of jewels! He rejoices over her with singing, and here He rests in His love. In Psalm 132. 8 we hear the psalmist saying, "Arise, O Lord, into thy rest", and in verse 14 we hear the Lord replying: "This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell". The word "dwell" in this verse means a permanent eternal dwelling; He came looking, not for a passing, but for an eternal abode. This could never be said of the tabernacle and temple of old; the tabernacle was constantly moving from place to place and the temple was destroyed several times. God's true and final resting place is the Church; here the eternal Father and the eternal Son will rest for ever.