|Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 205-220), Chapter 4|
c. The Temple of God
The dwelling place of God is the temple of God. First Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Here “a temple of God” refers to the believers collectively in a certain locality, as in Corinth, whereas “the temple of God” in verse 17 refers to all the believers universally. The unique spiritual temple of God in the universe has its expressions in many localities on earth. Each expression is a temple of God in that locality.
God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9) is not an ordinary building; on the contrary, it is the sanctuary of the holy God, the temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. We, the builders of such a holy temple, should realize this that we may be careful to build not with the worthless materials of wood, grass, and stubble but with the precious materials of gold, silver, and precious stones (vv. 10-12), which correspond to God’s nature and economy.
Another verse which reveals that the habitation of God is the temple of God is Ephesians 2:21. “In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” The Greek word translated “temple” denotes the sanctuary, the inner part of the temple. Because God’s building is a living one, it is growing. It grows into a holy temple. The actual building of the church as the house of God is by the growth in life of the believers. Furthermore, the entire building of God’s house as His temple, His sanctuary, is in Christ the Lord.
2. The Household of God
The church is a composition of the believers, and the believers are children of God, born of Him and having His life and nature. Thus, they become members of the household of God.
In Ephesians 2:19 Paul says, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God.” Both the Jewish and the Gentile believers are members of God’s household. God’s household is a matter of life and enjoyment; all believers were born of God into His household to enjoy His riches. The members of God’s family added together become the household of God, which is the house, the dwelling place, of God.
God’s dwelling place is His household, His family, and His family comes into being by God’s begetting. If we had not been begotten of God, God could not have a family. But God does have a great family, the largest family in the universe, composed of those who have been born of Him to be His children. Eventually, God’s children will grow up to be His mature sons, and then they will become heirs.
We would emphasize the fact that the church is not only the assembly of God but also the household of God. The church is not only something separated from the world but something born of God, regenerated by Him. God does not simply separate sinners from the world and put them together to be His household. In addition to separation, there must be a change of life and nature through regeneration. For this reason, after God separated us from the world, He put Himself into us, germinating us, begetting us as His children. It is in this way that we have become His household. This household then becomes God’s house, His dwelling place in our spirit. Intrinsically speaking, therefore, the church as God’s household is in our God-created, God-regenerated, and God-indwelt spirit. It is crucial for us to see this.
3. The Pillar and Base of the Truth
In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul tells us that the church as the house of the living God is “the pillar and base of the truth.” The church is the supporting pillar and holding base of the truth. Here truth refers to the real things revealed in the New Testament concerning Christ and the church according to God’s New Testament economy. The church is the supporting pillar and holding base of these realities. A local church should be such a building that holds, bears, and testifies the truth, the reality, of Christ and the church.
God’s New Testament economy is composed of two mysteries: Christ as the mystery of God (Col. 2:2) and the church as the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4). Christ and the church, the Head and the Body, are the contents of the reality of God’s New Testament economy. As the pillar which bears the truth and the base which upholds the pillar, the church testifies the reality, the truth, of Christ as the mystery of God and the church as the mystery of Christ.
According to the context, we may say that the truth in 1 Timothy 3:15 denotes the mystery of godliness, the manifestation of God in the flesh, in verse 16. The unique truth, the unique reality, in the universe is the manifestation of the Triune God in the flesh. As we shall now see, this manifestation is not only in Christ but also in the church.
4. The Manifestation of God in the Flesh
First Timothy 3:15 and 16 indicate that the church as the house of God is also the manifestation of God in the flesh—the mystery of godliness. God is manifested in the church, the Body of Christ and the house of the living God, as the enlarged, corporate expression in the flesh.
First Timothy 3:15b and 16 say, “The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth. And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness, who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” In Greek, the antecedent “who” is omitted but easily recognized. The antecedent is Christ, who was God manifested in the flesh as the mystery of godliness. The transition from “the mystery...” to “who” implies that Christ as the manifestation of God in the flesh is the mystery of godliness (Col. 1:27; Gal. 2:20). This mystery of godliness is the living of a proper church. Such a living is also the manifestation of God in the flesh.
First Timothy 3:15 and 16 imply that not only Christ Himself as the Head is the manifestation of God in the flesh but also that the church as the Body is the manifestation of God in the flesh. When the church grows in Christ with the growth of God (Col. 2:19), it will function as the house of the living God for His move on earth and as the supporting pillar and holding base of the truth, bearing the divine reality of Christ and His Body as a testimony to the world. Then the church will become the continuation of Christ’s manifestation of God in the flesh. This is the great mystery of godliness: Christ lived out of the church as the manifestation of God in the flesh. Such a church is the continuation, the enlargement, and the expansion of God manifested in the flesh. The church, then, is the increase, the enlargement, of the manifestation of God in the flesh. This is God manifested in the flesh in a wider way according to the New Testament principle of incarnation.
The conjunction “and” at the beginning of verse 16 indicates that Paul’s speaking about the church in verse 15 is not finished. This conjunction indicates that, as the house of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth, the church is also the mystery of godliness. According to the context, godliness denotes the living of God in the church, that is, God as life lived out in the church to be expressed. This means that the church life is the expression of God. Both Christ and the church are the mystery of godliness, expressing God in the flesh. Therefore, the mystery of godliness is the living of a proper church, and such a living is the manifestation of God in the flesh. This manifestation began with Christ when He was on earth, and now it continues in the church. May we all see this vision of the church as the house of God.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
MESSAGE TWO HUNDRED NINE
THE CHURCH THE STATUS OF THE CHURCH
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In this message we shall see another aspect of the status of the church—that of the kingdom of God.
C. The Kingdom of God
Ephesians 2:19 says, “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God.” The term “fellow citizens” indicates the kingdom of God. All the believers, both Jewish and Gentile, are citizens of God’s kingdom, which is a sphere wherein God exercises His authority. As long as anyone is a believer, he is a citizen of the kingdom of God. This citizenship involves rights and responsibilities, two things that always go together. We enjoy the rights of the kingdom, and we bear the responsibilities of the kingdom.
In 2:19 Paul covers two aspects of the church: the kingdom, indicated by the term “fellow citizens,” and the family of God, indicated by the phrase “the household of God.” God’s house is a matter of life and enjoyment; all believers were born of God into His household to enjoy His riches. God’s kingdom is a matter of rights and responsibilities; all believers who were born into the house of God have the civil rights of and their responsibility in the kingdom of God. Therefore, in 2:19 two profound matters are covered: the kingdom of God with its rights and responsibilities and the house of God with its enjoyment of the Father’s life and riches.
Ephesians 2:19 speaks of the saints, the household of God, and the kingdom of God. The saints are individuals, but the household of God is corporate and results in the kingdom of God. If there were no household, there could be no kingdom. First, we are saints, individuals. Then, corporately, we are the house of God resulting in the kingdom of God.
It is significant that in verse 19 Paul refers to the kingdom of God before the household of God. Paul’s thought here concerns our former status as strangers and sojourners. Strangers and sojourners are related to a kingdom, not to a household. Those who are aliens in this country are not aliens in relation to a family but in relation to the nation. Because strangers and sojourners are aliens to kingdoms, not to families, Paul mentions the kingdom first. In this verse Paul’s main concept is that of citizenship in God’s kingdom. The kingdom, however, is composed of families. For this reason, Paul also mentions the household of God, that is, the family of God.
Ephesians 2:19 affords us the basis for saying that the church today is God’s kingdom. The citizens mentioned here are related to a kingdom, a nation, not to a family. A family is composed of members, not of citizens. On the one hand, we are members of God’s household; on the other hand, we are citizens of God’s nation, of God’s kingdom.
Although the church today is God’s kingdom, we are in the kingdom in reality only when we live and walk in spirit. Whenever we behave according to the old man or live in the flesh or the self, we, in a practical way, are out of God’s kingdom. This means that when we are in the flesh, we are in the old realm of the fallen human nature, which has been fully usurped by Satan to form his kingdom. Therefore, a genuine Christian, if he lives in the flesh instead of in the spirit, may live in a practical way not in the kingdom of God but in the kingdom of Satan. Only when we live, walk, behave, and have our being altogether in our spirit, not in our natural man, are we in the kingdom of God and, in reality, are the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God, like the house of God, is a corporate person. The church as the house of God is a corporate person because this house is the family of God, the household of God. The kingdom is likewise a corporate person because it is also a corporate entity. Whether we are living in the church as the house of God or as the kingdom of God depends on whether we are living as members or as citizens. To live as members of the house of God is a matter of enjoyment, but to live in the kingdom of God is a matter of bearing responsibility and of being regulated. We are members of our Father’s household, and we are citizens of our God’s kingdom.
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