A Holy Temple in the Lord

“…in whom… the whole structure grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:21)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:19-21

The idea of a household “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets…” (Ephesians 2:20) gives rise to a further blessing that all nations enjoy in Christ. In him, they become “a holy temple… a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (v. 21).

Temples are universally dwelling places for deities (gods). It was always God’s desire to dwell with his people. The Garden of Eden can be thought of as a garden temple, and later, the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple fulfilled that role.

At Mount Sinai after rescuing his people from Egypt and establishing his covenant with them, God commanded Moses to gather an offering of materials from the people to “make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8). Many of the regulations of the Law concerned how that initial sanctuary or holy place (the tabernacle) was to be built, transported and kept undefiled. It was here that God chose to meet with his people.

The tabernacle was followed by Solomon’s temple. Ultimately, these physical buildings gave way to a more glorious expression of God’s presence with his people in the coming of the Son of God to dwell in human form on earth. When the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary, he told him that the child she would bear would be called “Immanuel, which means God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus truly was God living among us in human form.

Upon Jesus’ departure and return to his Father in heaven, his disciples were not left without the intimate personal presence of God. Rather, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, came to live within each of them (John 14:15-23). Through his indwelling presence, there is a sense in which each Christian becomes a “temple” of the Holy Spirit – or at least, their bodies do (1 Corinthians 6:19). God is personally present in all true believers.

Greater weight is given, however, to the idea that all believers together are built into a temple, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. That is what Paul is referring to here in v. 22. “In him”, he says, “you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”. The church, as well as the individual, is the dwelling place of God (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 1 Peter 2:4, 5).

What blessed thoughts these are. God is present with us today just as surely as he was in the days of Moses and Solomon and Jesus’ disciples. It is proper for us to take all the essential truths we learn from these phases of salvation history and translate them into our situation today.

When we do that, we are immediately impressed by the possibility of intimate fellowship with the triune God now. But we cannot escape the scorching holiness of God that characterises his being and the demand that the temple of the Lord should be holy.

 Closing Thoughts:

  • Do you think of yourself, and the church, as a dwelling place of God?
  • Does this excite you, yet also arouse reverential fear?

– Andrew Young