CHAPTER IV: The Temple, from "The Christian Ministry According to the Apostles" by Thomas Hughes Milner
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1 Cor. iii. 16.
1. A TEMPLE IS the residence of deity, real or supposed. The ancient temple of Jerusalem contained the symbols of the divine presence as the tabernacle had done before. There was “the holy,” and the “holy of holies.” The latter was the place of the presence. Into it none but the high Priest entered, and that only once a year, and then not without the blood of atonement which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people. These were figures for the time then present, but Christ being come as high Priest of the everlasting institution, has entered into the true holiest of all, the actual presence of God, having obtained eternal redemption for his people, Heb. ix.
2. But the temple on earth remains, but in new and different form from the old erection made with hands. Said Jesus to the Jews, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will rear it again. This he said of his body. But his body is the Church, and in his ecclesia it is that we now find that the abode of God is with man.
3. In Scripture there are two words––hieron and naos—which are given in our version by the one word temple. But hieron means the whole compass of the sacred edifice, courts and walls included, while naos is restricted to the centre of the whole, the holy and holy of holies, into which none but the priests might enter, and in which the divine presence was manifested. Jesus taught in the hieron where the people congregated, but he never himself so much as passed into the naos for he was not a priest while on earth. The naos, from habito, “to dwell,” denotes the proper habitation of God.
4. It is always this latter word which the apostle employs when he designates the disciples of Jesus the temple of God. And that he preferred this word with the strictest regard to its signification is evident from the fact that he adds to it statements to confirm the idea of divine residence: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, Eph. ii. 20-22. The idea of the divine indwelling is here shown not to be a subordinate, but the principal thought; it is declared to be the object of the erection of the edifice. The foundation is laid, and the stones are built together upon it expressly in order to a habitation of God. For this purpose Solomon built his house, and for this in a higher sense the Messiah has erected his.
5. How God thus dwells on earth is a question that may, and yet may not be answered. The apostle replies to it when he says, it is “through the Spirit.” There is no doubt that it is by the indwelling of the holy Guest in the believing that they are built together for a habitation of God: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit dwelleth in you? This much we know, both because it is testified by the word and by our own consciousness. Every believer in Jesus is conscious that upon his conversion to God, and his adoption into the family of God, he became the possessor of the Spirit of the Son, even that Spirit by which he could and does cry, Abba, Father. So it is written: The spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And that this Spirit is now within him as the Holy Spirit, he also knows by all the evidence of conscious experience, for he feels himself led by the Spirit, so that he cannot now do those things which he would otherwise have done. Walking in the Spirit he does not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and are contrary one to another, Rom. viii. 16, 17; Gal. v. 16-26. He may indeed be tempted to ask: How do I know that this is the Spirit of God dwelling in me? How can the Holy Spirit dwell in me? May not these experiences––the realty of which I do not and cannot question––be nothing more than a change in my own disposition? To this we reply that a change in natural disposition will often produce fruits, in many respects akin to those designated in Scripture “the fruits of the Spirit.” But such a change will never be accompanied by that filial feeling towards God which the Spirit of Christ––the indwelling Spirit of the Son imparts. As to how this Spirit dwells in the believing, we know nothing more than the word of God tells us. We do not know how the human spirit inhabits the person, yet we are satisfied with the evidence of the fact. We know not either how God at any time dwelt in tabernacle or temple made with hands, or how it is that he fills immensity with his presence, so that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. It were as easy to suggest difficulties, as to God’s inhabiting the universe, or as to his dwelling in the light which is unapproachable, as it is to raise them, respecting his having a temple in the believer. Certain it is, no one can say that either is impossible or self-contradictory, or contrary to experience or consciousness. On the contrary, the believer is conscious of the possession of a spirit which he had not before he received the truth in the love of it; he knows it to be a spirit of sonship and of holiness, and that word which he most surely believes, informs him that it is the Spirit of God––that he has become a habitation of God through the Spirit of God given to him, and now dwelling in him. And thus, although he can say little or nothing as to the mode of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit any more than he can of the manner of existence of his own native spirit, his own consciousness corroborates the declaration of Scripture, that God hath sent forth into his heart the Spirit of his Son. And though if left to himself he might not be able to distinguish this possession of the Holy Spirit from mere change of disposition, his judgment assures him that much more than this is meant by those express statements of the word of God, in which every variety of phraseology is employed to impress the sanctifying thought of 1 Cor. vi. 19, Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. Even though the dwelling of the divine Spirit in the human soul were much more difficult to understand than it is, the consideration that it is so expressly and repeatedly stated in Scripture, and that the distinction––as in this passage––is so clearly drawn between the native spirit and body––your body and your spirit, and the divine––the Holy Spirit––in you––which ye have from God––is an end of all controversy with us.
6. Nor is our position affected in the least because that the miraculous endowments of the Spirit vouchsafed to the first disciples for the confirmation of the gospel are withdrawn. It is not in virtue of these endowments that believers are called the habitation of God through the Spirit. These miracles were, of course, wrought through the indwelling Spirit, but the indwelling did not depend on them. And it is worthy of note, that where the apostle speaks of it, the Spirit is designated either as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Son, or the Spirit of adoption, Rom. viii. 1-17; Gal. iv. 1-4. Sonship and holiness rather than miracle are the ideas associated with the inhabiting of the body as a temple. In all the seven occurrences of the word temple, which the letters to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus contain, holiness is the principle related thought, while miracle is not named: 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 ye are, 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. Ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said I will walk in them, and dwell in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: “wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean, 2 Cor. vi. 16, 17. All the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord, Eph. ii. 21.
7. Holiness to the Lord is therefore the chief conception involved in the specification of believers as the divine habitation on earth. The argument everywhere and in every way, is to holiness. They are sacred to him and to his service; they are to consider themselves devoted to his worship and glory, as his temple ever should be.
8. And this is the argument alike as respects the individual believer and associated brotherhood. Believers are individually specified as the temple of God, and thereby urged to personal consecration. Their person is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and they are therefore to glorify God in body and in spirit. But they are also said to be built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit––all the edifice fitly framed together, is said to grow into a holy temple in the Lord. By this is doubtless implied the sacredness of their united service––the holiness of their conjoint worship. Their ecclesiastical separation from the impure is urged in consideration that they are unitedly the temple of God––that he dwells in them, and walks in them. The idea thus supplies a twofold argument for holiness: first, that of personal consecration, and second, that of ecclesiastical sacredness.
9. But this holiness, though capable of reference to the individual disciple, as well as to the whole ecclesia, cannot be developed except in combination. A church is made up of individuals, and if the individuals be not holy, the church cannot be so. And if the church in its action be not so, the persons comprising it cannot be so. A temple is composed of stones, and cannot be different in composition from what they make it. The personal holiness of the individual Christian will, therefore, operate on the combined holiness of the temple, and the purity of the worship unitedly offered in the temple will react upon the character of the individual worshippers. Hence the double necessity of personal and associate salvation from sin and sinners.
10. Ecclesiastical sacredness is but ill understood. It is supposed to consist rather in the consecration of a mere material edifice than in the holiness of a people. The old Jewish idea of a “temple made with hands” still prevails, and churches are now built of stone and lime instead of believing men and women! In Paul’s time the whole church came together into one place, in our day the church stands empty all the week! The temple in which the apostle included the disciples in Ephesus was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner, but modern temples are reared after the fashion of those of Rome, on prominent sites in the principal thoroughfares of the city! The apostolic converts came to Jesus as to a living stone, disallowed indeed by men, but chosen of God and precious, and to them Peter therefore wrote, Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
11. Life, spirituality, and holiness, are three inalienable characteristics of the Messiahmic temple. Every stone is living, spiritual, and holy. As the Spirit in possession is the Holy Spirit, so the life is spiritual and divine. The apostle’s idea of the life in question is not that of nature, but of Christ. It is not merely that the stones are living, in the sense that men and women are meant, and that as such they are not dead but animated, but his thought is expressly that they are living stones in the acceptation in which Christ as the foundation is a living stone. The parallel drawn is between Christ, to whom the converts have come as to a living stone, and themselves as also living stones. As he lives, they live also. It is the life of God, the life everlasting, given to the believing that Peter affirms of the stones of the spiritual house. It is, therefore, not at all enough that the conception of a material church or temple be discarded as non-Christian; for the edifice is still dead in the New Testament sense of the word, even though restricted to persons so long as the individuals are not converted, born again, new creatures, alive from the dead. In the context preceding Paul’s words to the Ephesian disciples, in which he says they were built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, he reminds them they once were dead in trespasses and in sins, but that God had quickened them. And so with all the disciples of the Lord––each possesses that life which is through him. And without this, a holy, spiritual, living temple is utterly impossible. Here, in the most important of respects, modern churchism falls radically short. In recognizing an unconverted membership, the life, the spirituality, and the holiness of the true temple are together foregone.
12. That life which is associated with holiness and spirituality is unattainable except through Christ. It is alone to be found in him. And it is consequently with exactest propriety that in the description of the edifice of Eph. ii. 21 it is said to be in Jesus that all the building is fitly framed together, and in the Lord that it grows into a holy temple. The stones––the persons comprising it are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets––manifestly the foundation which they laid––other than which 1 Cor. iii. 10 says, “No man can lay,” and which is “Jesus the Christ.” So that he is said to be the chief, or foundation corner, that which is the base, and holds in compact the entire edifice. It is, therefore, to him that it is reared and rises into a holy habitation. No one, therefore, who is not “in Christ” is a stone in the temple of God.
13. Not merely is the temple founded on the Messiah, but in him it is “fitly framed together,” and in him it “grows.” Its foundation, its conjunction, and its up-building are respectively in Christ. On Jesus as the Christ it all rests; in him the whole is accurately conjoined, and in him its upbuilding proceeds. Foreign elements of ground-work, compact, and edification, are all excluded. No other foundation can be laid that has been laid by the apostles and prophets, and because of this the warning is given to every builder to take heed how he builds. Every man who professes the Christian name is is a builder on the foundation, and as such, the caution is given, that if he build thereon gold, silver, precious stones––incombustible elements—his work shall remain, and he shall receive reward; but if he build “wood, hay, or stubble”––combustible material––that which cannot stand the fiery test that shall be applied to every work, he shall suffer loss––the loss of all his labour, even though himself be saved; that if he “defile the temple,” himself also shall be destroyed. So fitly framed, so nicely, so exactly compacted is the whole building that not the smallest liberty of deviation is allowed to any builder. The apostles and prophets, as skillful architects, have supplied the specifications, and given warning to all concerned to build according to plan. In view of these words of the apostle, how ridiculous is the popular fallacy, that the Christian temple has no divine arrangement, but that the builders may devise, adopt, and follow plans and measurements of their own!
14. Undeniably it is the wisdom of all to take warning from the mad and fatal example of the Jewish builders. In their wisdom they rejected the stone chosen and laid by God. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders which is become the head of the corner; this is the doing of the Lord, and marvelous in our eyes; and whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder, Ps. cxviii. 22; Matt. xxi. 42, 44; Acts iv. 11. Wherefore also it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, who believe, he is precious (an honour), but unto the disobedient the stone which the builders disallowed the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. The strikers against––the willful rejecters of the word—to this are appointed. Two opposite classes of character are here specified––the believing, and the obdurate, and God’s determination respecting the former is, that Christ shall be an honour to them, and that having come to Jesus as presented to them, they should be a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people, to tell-forth the perfections of him who hath called them: but that the latter, rejecting, striking against the stone, obdurately disbelieving and disobeying the word, should find in Christ a stone under which they would fall––a rock against which they would vainly and fatally fight. The sum of the whole is, that the believing––the obedient, shall rise to honour in Christ, as stones in his temple, but that the unbelieving––the disobedient, must fall and sink, and be crushed beneath him. He is set for the fall and the rise of the many. Men must thus fall or rise by him. Neutrality is impossible. 1 Pet. ii. 6-9; Luke ii. 34.