EMPTY TEMPLES (ACTS 17:24)
January 1, 1997 Issue
by C.A. Smith
As stated in our earlier article, Paul's declaration: "Our God does not dwell in temples made with hands", plainly and simply teaches us that God's true temple was not and not a physical house at all, but a living community of Believers in Christ. Oh, yes, the church is holy, but not because of her ornate buildings, but rather, because of sanctified believers who comprise her. This was a lesson that they needed, and may I say, one that we need as well, for this materialistic concept is still around today, and men foolishly believe that they can contain God in a man-made temple. It cannot be done! Naturally this raises the question: If God does not dwell in temples made with hands, and these temples are not the "Temple of God", what is?
The Church Is The Temple of God! "Knew ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor 3:16) The words of this text are sometimes applied to individuals, but, the reference here is to the church. The building of which the apostle speaks is the CHURCH OF CHRIST, called in this verse "The Temple of God."
Under the Law of Moses there was first a tent and later a building of stone which was called God's house. Today, God does not dwell in a temple made with hands. The church is God's temple. It is a spiritual house that enables his people to offer up spiritual sacrifices.
(2) The church at Corinth defiled the temple of God by becoming carnally minded.
Paul said that he "could not speak to them as spiritual, but as carnal" (1 Cor 3:1).
Today we are guilty too, when we allow the temporal and fleshly things to become important in our lives, while allowing the spiritual things to become secondary. It doesn't seem to bother folks anymore to read, "To be carnally minded is death" and "They that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom 8:6,8).
3) The church at Corinth defiled the temple of God by improperly observing the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:17-22). A sin that is prevalent in the churches of Christ today. When we fail to observe the Lord's Supper or improperly observe the Supper as Jesus instituted it, we defile the temple of God.
(4) The church at Laodicea defiled the temple of God by allowing indifference to pervade the church. They were just unconcerned, and because of their unconcern, Jesus said: "I will spew thee out of my mouth", and admonished them to "anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see", "be zealous and repent" (Rev 3:14-21). I wonder what he thinks of the church today, who in her indifference has opened the flood gates to any type or kind of sin that might want to enter?
(5) In the Old Testament temple, nothing was allowed in this temple as an act of service or glory to God except that which had been dedicated by the blood of animals, which was the way the temple was dedicated. And today, in the church of our Lord, nothing is allowed as an act of worship or a condition of salvation, or condition of living the Christian life that has not been dedicated by the blood of Christ in the New Testament.
Of all the beautiful metaphors of the church, such as the bride of Christ, the vineyard of the Lord, the household of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, the spiritual body of Christ, and the flock of Christ, none is more beautiful and more intriguing than "The Temple of God." The Spirit of God is alive in the church only when the teachings of the New Testament are put into practice. Peter says that "We are living stones" (1 Pet 2:5). The true Temple of God, therefore, has never been anything except the church of Jesus Christ our Lord. In it alone, not in some manmade shrine, men are called to worship and serve the Lord of glory.
However, in spite of God's revelation that the church is "The Temple of God," men are prone to ignore it and to "Defile The Temple of God. "There are even those in the church of our Lord who do the same. What shame! It appears to me that we could learn from the Book of God how that men defiled the "Temple of God" and profit therefrom. The church at Corinth comes to mind. They flagrantly defiled "The Temple of God."
(1) The church at Corinth defiled the temple in their division and strife. There was different groups following different men, like Apollos, and Cephas, and Paul. Paul condemned this and shows that to do this was defiling the temple of God, in I Cor 1:10-13. Division and Strife were sinful then, and they are sinful today.
Any or all who perpetrate and engage in such are guilty of defiling the temple of God. Today, divisions and strife are still around. When will we ever learn to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment?" We must, if we "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3).
Away then with Instrumental Music, Individual Cups, Multiple Loaves, Sunday School, and etc., and let us realize how sacred the "true" temple of God is, and with reverence and awe hold the church, as given us by God in highest esteem. If we do not, our efforts will surely be in vain, and cause the church to be a hollow empty shell. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:l6)
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