A Church of Christ The Temple of God
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that tht Spirit of God dwelleth in you? - 1 Corinthians iii:16.
As the apostles were Jews, they often employed Jewish phraseology. Many forms of expression, of which they availed themselves, were familiar to the minds of the Jews. Hence, if we would understand various allusions which they make, we must acquaint ourselves with the Jewish economy. The temple at Jerusalem was an object dear to the heart of every Jew. It was the house of God. He was represented as dwelling there. It is in reference to this fact that the Corinthian church was termed the temple of God. Every church of Christ, and every individual Christian may be thus designated. God dwells in every church of the saints, and in every pious heart.
I. WHAT IS NECESSARY TO CONSTITUTE THE HEART A TEMPLE OF GOD?
The comprehensive answer to this is - regeneration. Man, in his original innocence, was God's temple. God dwelt in his heart as his mansion; he considered it & suitable habitation,
and worthy of himself; he who dwells in the heaven of heavens, can consistently dwell in any pure heart. When man sinned, his house was left desolate. God would not remain in it. He left it in indignation. The temple was in ruins - utterly unfit for the Divine residence. Every part was polluted, defiled, unclean. If God ever dwells in it again, it must undergo a thorough renovation; it must be reconstructed; there must be a new creation; for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away - behold! all things have become new." I know of no portion of Scripture which indicates more clearly than this the radical nature of that change which occurs in all who become Christians. They are new creatures - there is a new moral creation. If all created things were to sink into the abyss of nothingness, it would manifestly require the power of God to give them existence again. So the principle of divine life in the soul of man, having been extinguished by sin, God alone can recreate that principle. The regenerate are the workmanship of God; he has performed on them a mighty revolutionary operation, indicated in the Scriptures by the phrases "born again," "born of the Spirit," "born of God," "created in Christ Jesus," etc. This operation reconstructs and renovates the demolished temple of man's soul, and makes it a fit residence for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God takes up his abode there. I have referred to individual, personal regeneration. Now, a company of regenerate persons
are the scriptural materials of which a church of Christ is composed. "By one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body;" that is, under the impulses of one regenerating Spirit, who qualifies for church membership, you have received baptism, which brings Jew and Greek, bond and free, all believers, into one body; and as the Holy Spirit dwells in the individual Christian's heart, he dwells in the hearts of believers when they come together as a church. Every church of Christ is, therefore, the temple of God, 'and the Spirit of God dwells in it. Let us notice, -
II. THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Spirit of God dwells in you.
1. He dwells in you as the spirit of adoption. - "Because ye are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." The spirit of adoption prompts those who enjoy it to claim filial relationship with God. They consider themselves "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty," and rejoice in the distinction. In contemplating the adopting love of God, the beloved disciple was overwhelmed with delightful wonder, and exclaimed, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" Well may we "consider the manner of love" - love which recognizes as children of God those who were once aliens from him, and rebels against his government. What a privilege to have the
spirit of adoption! How sublime the honor of claiming kindred with the skies! How exalted the distinction implied in the title, "sons of God!" Those who enjoy this distinction may, like the saints of old, "wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, being afflicted, destitute, tormented;" but "the world is not worthy of them;" for they claim the God of heaven as their Father and their best friend. They are led by the Spirit of God, and they are the sons of God!
2. As the glorifier of Jesus. - "He shall glorify me," said Christ, "for he shall take of the things that are mine, and show them unto you." The spirit glorifies Christ by revealing to the soul his suitableness as a Savior, and inducing a proper appreciation of his salvation." Wherever the spirit performs his work on the heart, there is an exalted estimate of the mediatorial offices and excellencies of Christ. It is written in the prophets, "They shall be all taught of God." The preciousness of the Redeemer is one of the lessons taught. The Holy Spirit directs attention to the work of Christ rather than to his own work. In this way he glorifies Christ. As the work of the Spirit makes progress in the soul, there is an increasing admiration of the character of the Savior and the glory of his salvation. The Divine Spirit "shines in the heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." We should glorify the Spirit, the glorifier of Jesus,
3. As A Sanctifer. - The epithet holy is frequently applied to the Spirit. Why? Not to attribute to him more holiness than to the Father and the Son, but to indicate that it is his province to make men holy. He begins and carries on the work of grace in the heart. There is no holiness in any heart until the Holy Spirit produces it. He originates the principle of holiness, and superintends its development. He sanctifies the desires, purifies the motives, spiritualizes the feelings, and elevates the affections. He conforms the believer to the divine image. He cleanses the soul from the pollution of sin. In doing this he brings the purifying virtue of the blood of the cross into operative contact with the heart. He employs the word of truth as the instrument of sanctification, always reserving to himself the efficient agency in the work. The process of sanctification is preliminary to a perfect moral fitness for Heaven. The sanctified will ultimately appear before the throne of God, radiant with the beauty of immaculate excellence. How glorious will they be, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish."
4. As the Author of peace and joy. - Paul speaks of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit - that is, peace and joy produced by the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy as well as love. The Divine Spirit is emphatically the comforter. There is one fact which strikingly proves the value of the Spirit's comforting presence.
That fact is, that the presence of the Spirit, as a comforter, more than compensated the Apostles for the loss of Christ's personal presence. The Savior said, "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the comforter will not come; but if I depart I will send him to you." The world can not receive the Spirit as a comforter. He acts upon the world as a reprover. He dwells with the Christian and with the churches of the saints as a comforter. The first churches were represented as "walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit." To the Holy Spirit, as the author of peace and joy, are we indebted for the experimental consolations of the gospel. He who enjoys the presence of the indwelling comforter, has a peace the world knows not of - experiences a happiness which does not lie at the mercy of circumstances. How pure, how sublime the joy arising from the work of the Spirit as a comforter.
5. As the earnest of the heavenly inheritance. - We are said to be "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." The Spirit dwells in the heart, exciting an expectation of future glory, and giving a foretaste of it. The saints are said to rejoice "with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Their joy is like the joy cf the glorified in heaven; it is the same in kind, though different in degree. And this joy, the product of the Spirit, is an antepast of the joy of heaven. The spiritual life which now
animates believers is the foretaste of eternal life. The beginning of holiness in the soul here is an anticipation of the perfect holiness of heaven. The love which glows in the heart now, will, in the upper world, ripen into seraphic ardor. It is the Holy Spirit who produces the joy, the life, the holiness and the love referred to. The Spirit is, therefore, the earnest of our heavenly inheritance. He gives us now a part of that, the whole of which we are ere long to receive. In giving us enough of our inheritance to answer the purposes of our minority, he sacredly pledges himself that we shall have all when we shall attain our majority. He is the earnest of our inheritance.
III. THE DUTIES OF INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS AND CHURCHES IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THEY ARE TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. They should cultivate a sense of constant dependence on the Spirit. - They are dependent, and they honor the Spirit by admitting and feeling the fact. The same agency which originates divine life in the soul must sustain and perpetuate its existence. The apostle Paul said to the Ephesians, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption." In condescension to our weakness the Spirit is represented as susceptible of grief. And how can we grieve him more than by failing to cherish a sense of entire dependence on his agency? "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith
the Lord of hosts," is a doctrine which the Bible everywhere teaches.
2. They should cultivate holiness of heart. - The Spirit loves to dwell in a holy place. No polluted habitation invites his presence. The impure heart repels him. The Son of God, to whom the Spirit was given without measure, said, "Blessed are the pure in heart." Christians should take care lest they indulge feelings and cherish purposes inconsistent with purity of heart. They should keep their hearts with all diligence. They should crucify every "inordinate affection," and perfect holiness in the fear of God.
3. They should exhibit holiness of life. - They say that the Spirit dwells in their hearts, but their hearts are invisible. How can it be known that he dwells there unless holiness of life indicates his presence? The world will judge of the state of the heart by the life; and it is the proper way of judging. The life must be conformed to the divine Word - The Word of the Spirit. He who is a Christian inwardly must be a Christian outwardly. Professions of internal piety amount to nothing in the absence of external conformity to the will of God. If the Spirit of God dwells in our hearts, let the fact be shown by the obedience of our lives.
4. They must guard the purity of the churches. - Every church of Christ is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in it. Its members must guard its purity by rejecting unworthy applicants
for membership, and by expelling those who dishonor their profession. To take the unworthy into church fellowship, or to retain them in fellowship is to defile the temple of God. Their presence pollutes his holy place. A church of Christ is the proper place for regenerate persons, but it is the most inappropriate of all places for the unregenerate. No one ought to belong to a visible church of Christ on earth who is not morally fitted for membership in the church triumphant in heaven. The discipline of most churches is very lax. If we would enjoy the approbation of the Head of the church, we musl withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly.
1. How indispensable to salvation is a change of heart! The demolished temple of the fallen soul must be built again - renovated, and refitted for the Occupant, who left it when it became contaminated by sin.
2. How highly are Christians honored! They are the temples of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in them; he whose glory fills heaven takes up his abode in the heart of every humble Christian, and finds a habitation in every church of Christ.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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