Last evening I was reading from 1 Corinthians 3 and I was meditating on how the Apostle states that we are the Temple of God (vss 16-17) – “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.” I noticed in a note in my study Bible that the ‘ye’s and ‘you’ here are plural. After verifying this statement in my GNT, it prompted some serious (and on going) meditation on what Paul meant by stating that all of you are the Temple of God. Could Paul be saying that all believers are collectively the Temple of God? Is the Church the Temple of God in this present dispensation?
Thinking upon this, I decided to look up every use of Temple in the New Testament, excluding those in the Apocalypse. The following represents the early fruit of my inductive study on the subject of the Temple…
OLD COVENANT TEMPLE
The Old Covenant Temple, of course, is the place where God’s glory dwelt with his chosen people Israel. God was approached by sacrifice through mediators, obviously shadowing the priestly ministry of Christ and His role as intercessor. For my present inductive study, I’ll skip all Old Testament references to the Temple, especially those used in prophetic visions.
[begin New Testament Inductive Study]
JESUS AND THE TEMPLE
From a cursory examination of the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that the Temple was the place where God dwelt among men (Matt 23:13-21). God, of course, cannot be confined to time and space (Acts 7:48-49, Acts 17:24) – “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands…“; but His glory dwelt in a special way in the midst of His people as He was served by mediators through sacrifices and offering.
But, once Jesus came, there was one present who was greater than the Temple (Matt 12:5-7); because He was very God incarnate (Col 2:9) – “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus was the Temple (Jn 2:21) – “But he spake of the temple of his body.”
Just before Jesus’ crucifixion he promised that this carnal Temple made of stone would not always stand (Matt 24:1-3) – “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” For Jesus promised that after He rose again from the dead, He would build another Temple (Mark 14:58, Mark 15:29, Matt 27:35-40) and “shall change the customs which Moses delivered…“. In fact, Jesus’ words about tearing down the Old Covenant Temple were some of the very words for which he was convicted by the Jewish authorities: (Matt 26:59-62) – “…Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”
At Jesus’ crucifixion, when He yielded up the ghost, the veil of the Temple (which represents the separation between man and God) was riped in twain, (Matt 27:50-51) – “…Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom…”
Under the Old Covenant, God dwelt specially among His people in the Temple. Once Christ came, God dwelt bodily among His people. While Jesus ministered on Earth in the days of His flesh, He was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Today, those that are born again (the Church) are dwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:9, etc.). So then, is the Church the Temple of God in the New Covenant? (John 14:16-20) – “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [Holy Spirit], that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. …At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”
YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD
Back to 1 Cor 3…
In 1 Cor 3, Paul is warning God’s laborers to be careful how they build upon the foundation that has been laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ (vs 11). Jesus is, of course, the foundation of the Church, upon which the Temple of the Holy Spirit is built (Eph 2:20), but we will get to that shortly.
In the process of warning about defilement of the Temple of God, Paul states: (1 Cor 3:16-17) “…Know ye not that ye (plural) are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you (plural)? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye (plural) are.” Once again, do you notice the use of ‘ye’ above? ‘ye’ is plural. ‘You all’ are ‘the’ temple of God. All of ‘you’ – all of you Spirit dwelt believers – ‘you’ the church. You all are the Temple of God – the church is the Temple of God.
See again in 1 Cor 6:16, how in the course of warning against idolotry, Paul states that ‘you all’ are the Temple of God – (2 Cor 6:16) “…And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye (plural) are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them (plural), and walk in them (plural); and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
THE NEW TEMPLE AND THE TRUE ISRAEL
Let’s look again at Ephesians 2…
Ephesians 2:19-22 states: “… Now therefore ye are no more strangers [from the nation of Israel, vs 12] and foreigners [from the Covenants, see vs 12], but fellowcitizens with the saints [fellow Israelites], and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles (New Covenants) and prophets (Old Covenant), Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
It is abundantly clear that Paul is telling those gentile believers who were once strangers from the covenants and promises and foreigners from the nation of Israel that, in Christ, they are now no longer strangers and foreigners, but are fully Israelite citizens with all the saints of old! And where is the Temple of this New Covenant Israel? – ‘In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord (vs 22)’.
God dwells amongst his people! His Temple are where His people are – the Church.