When people talk about unpleasant things, they use the language of exclusion. They speak in the second and third persons: ‘he/she/it’, ‘they’, ‘them.’ They thus exclude themselves. Hence, you hear things said about or being done by them. That church is this and that.
But today, I want us to speak the language of inclusion. I want us to turn the search light inwards, towards ourselves. The question I want us to look at and try to answer is: “Is Your temple fit for purpose?”
I want you to make it personal by asking, “Is my temple fit for purpose?”
Isaiah chapters 57:1-58:14 detail some of the sins and waywardness of the people of Israel in the sight of God. To common onlookers, they would have seemed not only religious but truly devoted to God:
They went to the temple. They brought sacrifices and offerings. They attended the feasts prescribed by God and performed many other religious rituals. But God saw through their pretence and hypocrisy and told them so.
The church is in a similar sorry state today.
And the question in another form “What is the status of the temple of God under your care?”
I am hoping that by the time you are leaving you will know for certain whether that temple is still the temple of God or it is wholly given to idols.
From the Holy Scripture we have:
“For thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isa 57:15).
“For all those things hath mine hand made, And all those things have been, saith the Lord: But to this man will I look, Even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, And trembleth at my word.” (Isa 66:2).
These texts essentially describe God on the one hand, and his creation including man and others that are not of mankind. But the conversation is directed at man. While it spoke primarily to the Israelites of its day, it has continued to speak to all believers from that day till it is speaking to us today.
A contrite heart or spirit is one in which the natural pride and self-sufficiency have been completely humbled by the consciousness of guilt.
The theological term “contrition” refers to the grief experienced because of the revelation of sin made by the preaching of the law (Jer. 23:29).
“Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29)
The holiness of God.
What does it mean?
The holiness of God is not just one of His attributes. Rather, it is the conception of His consummate perfection and total glory. It is His infinite moral perfection crowning His infinite intelligence and power.
It is the moral excellence of God that unifies His attributes, and is expressed through His actions, setting Him apart from all others.
All believers are holy in that they are called to be set apart from the world as God’s own people:
The nation of Israel was thus chosen by God under the Old Covenant and through Abraham (Deut. 7:6, cf. Gen 12:1-3, 15:1-21, 17:1-19).
“For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6).
Israel was thus warned against walking in the manners of the nations around them:
“23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. 24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. 25 Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.” (Lev 20:23-26).
Believers in Christ are a chosen people of God through the Lord Jesus Christ under the New Covenant. The apostles and prophets (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; Eph. 3:5). Believers in Christ (Eph. 1:4; 1Pet 2:9).
Hence, believers are not to conform to the world (Rom 12:2). They are not to love the world nor the things of the world (1John 2:15-16). And they are articles and materials for divine use holy and to be kept holy (Ex 40:9-11)
Picture from the Old Testament
The tabernacle/temple: The Place of the worship of and service to the LORD.
- What does it mean for human relationship with God?
- Where are we as believers in Christ?
Within the vicinity of the temple, there were various washings of either the whole body or parts of the body as part of the ritual cleansing that made the priests, and the people clean enough to stand in the presence of such a holy God.
The ultimate demonstration of the holiness of God is seen in the approach to the holy of holies, containing the Ark of Covenant, that symbolised the very presence of God.
The whole people of Israel were prohibited from entering the holy of holies. The penalty for breaching this command was instant death.
Remember there were no solid doors with lock and key to keep out the simply curious.
There were only curtains used to separate the different compartments of the tabernacle. Only the high priest had the authority of God to enter the holy of holies. Going in there was not when or how he pleased, but according to how God had commanded him to. He was to go there on only one day of the year, that is, on the day of atonement. Failing to adhere to the process God prescribed would mean instant death to the high priest too.
The day of atonement (Lev 16:1-34).
The holy of holies was accessible only to the high priest. That access was granted only once a year, on the day of atonement. On that day, he entered thrice: He washed himself with water, then put on the linen garments prescribed for the occasion. Then He could enter the holy of holies.
He entered: First with a censer filled with burning coal upon which he then put the sweet incense. He must put the incense upon the fire before the Lord so that the cloud of the incense covered the mercy seat that is upon the testimony so that he would not die. Second time, he entered with the blood of the goat for the atonement for himself and his household. Third time, he entered with the blood of the goat for the atonement for the sins of all Israel.
But before entering certain precautions against defiling the holy of holies were put in place because God could strike the high priest dead while performing his duties there for whatever reason. The helm of the high priest had small bells attached to it (Ex 39:25-26), so that as the high priest moved about performing his duties, the jingling sounds of the bells informed those worshipping outside that he was alive.
A long rope visible from outside the holy of holies was tied to one of his ankles. Should it happen that the high priest should die there within the holy of holies, the rope was to then be used to pull out his dead body as no one would be able to go in to retrieve his dead body.
The rituals of atonement performed yearly was just to cover their sins enough for God to be able to relate to them. It did not actually remove the sins.
How could such a holy God relate to sinful flesh, especially when we are told that no man shall see God and live?
Fast forward to the New Testament:
As expected, there is still a temple of and for God
The believer in Christ as the temple of God
Jesus came and died for the sins of mankind. At His death, the veil of the temple was rent in two from top to bottom (Mat 27:50; Mark 15:38). This signified access to God through Christ who has reconciled man to God. He became our peace, as He made us, (the believers) one with God. He broke down the middle partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity (Eph. 2:14-15).
“14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” (Eph. 2:14-15).
A new order is thus established:
New priesthood with Christ being the high priest of the order of Melchizedek priesthood not by the power of the law but by the power of an endless life (Heb.5:6-10; 6:20; 7:15-18) was established. There are now no more special priesthood family as all believers in Christ are now a royal priesthood to God (1Pet 2:9).
While the Aaronic priesthood was established by law, that of Christ was established by oat of God (Heb. 7:21-22). For the priesthood of Christ is a higher and better priesthood than that of Aaron, an unchangeable priesthood as He continues forever (Heb. 7:23-25; 8:6).
Unlike Aaron who ministered in the earthly tabernacle which was a shadow or temporary copy of that in heaven (Heb. 8:5), Christ is a minister in the real tabernacle of God in heaven (cf. Heb. 4:14; 8:2).
Unlike Aaron and others of his offspring who went in with the blood of bulls yearly, into the physical earthly tabernacle, Christ went in into the tabernacle in heaven with His own blood once and for all (Heb. 9:11-12).
The church is the new temple.
The church, the believer in Christ is now the temple of God (2Cor 6:16).
“14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2Cor 6:14-18).
God dwells there in the person of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:9; 1Cor 3:16-17). The same level of purity demanded of the physical tabernacle in the OT is demanded of the human tabernacle in the NT.
From this text (2Cor 6:14-18): The NT temple is living, breathing place. It is the church. Therefore, God says:
We are saved but still live in the presence of sin in this world and can still be enticed to sin.
How then is man to meet the demand of God for purity?
We have positional sanctification, the instant you are saved, you are set apart for holy use by God. Then followed by progressive sanctification. This is the process whereby God progressively removes desire and craving for sin and all those things we are told defiles a man. He replaces them with the desire and craving for God and righteousness.
Contrast between the OT and NT Temples
However, there is big contrast between the OT tabernacle/temple and the NT one.
The Old Testament temple was a none-living structure that was stationed in a particular location, and that contained the presence of God symbolised by the Ark of Covenant within the holy of holies. That holy OT temple was planted amid the people of God who though holy unto God still engaged in sinful activities.
But the New Testament temple is a person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and is indwelled by God in the person of the Holy Spirit. Such a living temple still lives in the presence of sin in the world. This holy temple is constantly challenged, enticed, and attacked by the flesh and its inordinate desires, and the world with is allures and the devil with his devices. They all have in common their insatiable and incessant desire to pollute the temple of God which is the New Testament believer in Christ.
The state of the temple: the believer is not doing the priesthood duties
Small for date / Failure to thrive:
Like a baby who though being fed appropriately fails to grow as expected, many believers do not live up to the maturity level their age as believers would suggest. They manifest problem of failure to thrive in several ways: Such believers are found to be not better than, and in many cases, worse than unbelievers. They make little or no progress in their spiritual growth. They are thus small for date or fail to thrive spiritually.
Because though Holiness translates into separation from the world, and separation unto God, rather than being separate, many are deeply immersed into the world. Far too many are still too wrapped up with the world like the Israelites of old with the nations around them. So much so now that the church is much like the world around her.
And God is incredibly angry with His church for this.
Let us remind ourselves of some of the ways people are wrapped up and strongly allied with the world. Yes, the devourers you have not only allowed into your life, but you are diligently feeding.
Here are a few:
- Claiming to be sick at work only to go and work at another workplace
- Spending so much time on social networks and mobile phone at the expense of nurturing your spiritual life
- TV / Computer:
- Rather than, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16), you are investing the time and other resources in building your kingdom on earth.
- You are almost submerged in the depths of the frivolities of life. You are an expert in the knowledge and practice of sin and have no understanding of your professed faith.
- Not investing in your spiritual life: Library, time to study, to pray etc.
- No wonder then that you have the same worldview and opinions about spiritual things as the world around you but at variance to Christ.
Do remember: How your temple gets defiled
- When you so engage your time and resources in the affairs of the world, you store the word of the world in your heart.
- Your heart gets taken over.
- Hence, your thoughts, words and actions will be contrary to God but in tandem with the world and the devil in tow!
- You as a temple then become defiled and unfit for the things of God.
- As we are told by the Lord Himself,
“18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” (Mat 15:18-20).
There are numerous similar lists in Scripture.
But God is serious
There is a “terror of God” (2Cor 5:11), and because of this, we should persuade ourselves as individuals, and persuade others to turn away from the world and to run back to God. God has demonstrated this abundantly as detailed on the pages of Holy Scripture, and throughout the history of mankind. And we are warned that:
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1Pet 4:17).
The wife of Lot. Anybody would have thought Lot’s wife was a believer. She had even entertained angels with her husband (Gen 19:1-26).
Israel in the wilderness, and in the promised land. Of the people numbered in the wilderness of Sinai Numbers 1-3, none was alive when the censors were repeated 38 years later in the plains of Moab by the Jordan near Jericho. And we are specifically told:
“63 These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 64 But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. 65 For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.” (Num. 26:63-65).
“14 And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them. 15 For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.” (Deut. 2:14-15).
And after God settled them in the promised land, they went into apostasy. God eventually had to scatter them as he had promised if they disobeyed Him (Deut. 28). Also see the summary (1Cor 10:1-14, but the whole chapter).
Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They died for their lying to the Holy Spirit and for their hypocrisy
God is not slack concerning sin but does not want any to perish, rather, wants people to repent and return to Him (2Pet 3:9).
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9).
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31).
What to do, the way forward:
- Church, it is time to wake up. Revival of the individual believer / the church
- Recognition, and submission to the sovereignty of God over your life, and over His creation
- Vigorous effort to clean and rededicate your defiled temple and thus, rectify the situation
- Invest both more time and resources in your spiritual growth.
Again the person question you alone can answer “What is the status of the temple of God under your care?”
Determine to cleanse out everything that is contrary to God, so God can truly begin to dwell there now.
Please, ensure your temple is fit for purpose. You should recognise where you are in relation to the holiness of our God. Reconsider your ways by getting rid of the things that are causing you to be small for your Christian age or failure to thrive spiritually. You must make haste now so that you will not be counted with the wicked.
I pray that your eyes of understanding be opened to see the derelict state of the temple of God under your care, the grace to remove all the debris of defilement and rededicate it to God again, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.