In The Beauty of Holiness
Some considerations regarding worship
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? …For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are." (1 Corinthians 3.16,17 RSV).
In these words Paul states plainly that the temple of God in this Christian era is not one 'made with hands' but one composed of 'living stones', with whom and in whom God dwells. The place where Christians meet for devotion or for the exposition and study of the Word of God is often spoken of as the 'House of God' as though He is there in a particular sense. Some therefore believed the furnishings and decorations should give an atmosphere of quietness and dignity usually associated with 'the House of God'. While a suitable environment is good, is it right to think of 'sacred' furnishing as adding beauty and dignity to the real house or temple of God, or to His true worship?
The Spirit of God moves powerfully where His people assemble in reverence, regardless of their material surroundings. Is His house His people or a beautifully furnished building? Jesus once referred to a building of Herod the Great as His "Father's House" (Luke 2.49). In the words of the hymn "Such ever bring thee where they come, and going take thee to their home." Wherever the Lord's people meet around His Word in sincerity, as they perceive the glory and majesty of their God and the wonders of His grace, their material surroundings are of little concern to them. Their one desire is to know Him better, to serve Him more perfectly, and to bring forth fruit in their lives that shall be to His glory (John 15.8; Galations 5.22,23). This fruit is the beauty that the Lord desires to see today in His temple of 'living stones'.
"We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. A minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." (Hebrews 8 1). The Lord Jesus said "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt 18.20)
He also said "…neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him." (John 4. 21-24 RSV)). The prophet Isaiah (57.15) tells us "Thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him that is of a humble and contrite spirit.." No mountain, city or building marks the particular place for the worship of God but "In every nation, he that fears God and works righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10.35). The worship and devotion of such consists of a life of full and joyous consecration to God and He dwells with them. They are His temple and precious in His sight. As such, "we have boldness to enter into the holiest" (not made with hands Heb.9.24) "by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, and having a High priest over the House of God" we draw near to God in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10.19-22). If we love the Lord Jesus and keep His commandments, His sure promise is that we shall be loved by the Father and by Him "and they will make their abode with us" (John 15.21,23). Where the Father and the Lord Jesus dwell, there is the true temple, the Sanctuary of God.
The early Christians in time of bitter persecution did not have or need special buildings in which to worship God. They served and worshipped Him even when hiding in the catacombs. Faithful ones of the past worshipped God whilst they wandered about "in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented, in deserts, in mountains and in caves of the earth". (Hebrews 11.36-39). When Jacob cried out, "This is none other that the house of God and this is the gate of heaven", he was not in a lofty church. He was a fugitive fleeing from Esau his brother who had threatened to slay him. God was in that place with Jacob because he was heir to the promises concerning the "land" and the "descendants". There He gave Jacob the assurance "I will never leave you"
As "children of the promise" and "heirs according to promise" (Gal.4.28; 3.29) we have the same assurance from the Lord. His presence is with us, not because we are in a holy place but because we are in His promise. We are living stones built up as a spiritual house, a people to show forth His praise. When Jesus said "Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again…He spoke of the temple of his body" (John 2. 19-22). Paul says, "The temple of God is holy which temple we are" (1 Cor. 3.17). Peter says "As He which calls you is holy, so you must be holy in all manner of behaviour." The writer to the Hebrews tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together and he also says that the earthly Tabernacle in the wilderness is but a picture of the true Tabernacle. As Christians we are raised up and seated in the heavens with Christ. We must maintain this living, vital, spiritual relationship to our Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father where'ere thy people meet,
There they behold thy mercy seat.
Where're they seek thee thou art found
And every place is hallowed ground.
This article, taken from a 1953 BSM, has been abridged and is submitted as of interest. Not every Christian reader will agree with some of its suggestions. Alternative views would be interesting to receive. The editorial committee do not endorse every statement of every article published in the BSM but submit articles as having some spiritual value.- Ed.