Ephesians 2: 19-22
1 Corinthians 3: 16-23; 6: 19-20
RMB I wanted to draw attention, dear brethren, to the references in these scriptures to “a holy temple in the Lord”, “the temple of God” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit”; referring respectively to the universal assembly, to the local assembly, and to the believer’s body. We should begin at the top and consider, in this first scripture, not exactly what the assembly is now, but what it will be when the building work is complete, as a great vessel of light in the world to come. It is important to keep before us the greatness of the assembly, and the greatness of the dignity and blessing God has conferred upon us by giving us part in this body in which all the light of God will be known in the future.
Then we might see that God has His temple on earth now, just as much as He did in Solomon’s day. 1 Corinthians 3 teaches us that the temple of God at the present time is found in the local assembly. In these days when there is so much weakness and fewness it is important to keep before us the greatness of the local assembly in the mind of God. In a world where there is so much in the way of darkness and corruption, the local assembly is the only place where the presence of God and light from God can be known.
From 1 Corinthians 6 we might get a fresh impression of the importance and value of the believer’s body. Most remarkably it is referred to as “the temple of the Holy Spirit”. God has given us something priceless in giving us our bodies as an instrument in which He might be glorified day by day in the lives of the saints.
PJW That is confirming, establishing, but exercising too. I suppose that the thought of a temple is a dwelling place. I wonder if you could open that thought up for us. It has always been God’s desire to dwell with His creature. There must be a suitable dwelling place for Him, and I wonder if your exercise would help us along those lines?
RMB The two leading thoughts in connection with the temple are that it is the place where God’s presence might be known; and it is a place where divine light can be known. I think those two things go together. I understand this reference to “a holy temple in the Lord” to be to what the assembly will be as part of Christ’s kingdom. There will be light shining out from it. There will be light available to men on the earth from this wonderful temple. That would help us to appreciate the greatness of what God is working out at the present moment.
PJW The present time, then, is a time when there should be increase. Is that your thought? It says, “in whom all the building fitted together”, which might relate perhaps to the individuals, “increases to a holy temple in the Lord”. That is the present time, is it? I suppose in God’s purpose the assembly is always complete, but there is the thought of it increasing. It says “the Lord added to the assembly daily those that were to be saved”, Acts 2: 47.
RMB You get the two sides in these verses. Verse 22 gives us what, in one sense, has been complete on the earth at any time since Pentecost. It says, “in whom ye also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit”. That is an important point for our hearts to lay hold of, that there is a habitation for God in the Spirit at the present time on the earth. But then verse 21 is the work that is going on, as you have drawn attention to it: it is increasing. In this first scripture it is exclusively a divine work. In the passages in Corinthians we have to consider our responsibility. But in this first scripture it is exclusively a divine work, that is going on steadily, and nothing can prevent it. Not all Satan’s attacks, nor man’s failures, can prevent this work, which will result in perfect beauty and harmony marking this great divine temple.
DJR It is significant that it is “built together”: every addition of each one, I suppose, right up to the rapture, will add something to the building that is to be displayed.
RMB The work will not be complete until every single soul who is part of this has been brought into it. That is one aspect of the increase. But there is another view of the increase: it “increases to a holy temple in the Lord”. That would stimulate the exercise as to what increase there is with us on the line of holiness, and what increase there is with us as to this great matter of being “in the Lord”. As we take up a verse like this, and see what God will yet bring about, it would exercise us as to there being some moral answer to it even now.
DJW Would the moral answer that you speak of be of the character of “Jesus Christ himself being the corner-stone”. Everything takes its measurement from Him, and everything takes character from Him? That is what is being developed in the temple in the Lord, is it?
RMB It is important to draw attention to that, because both verse 21 and verse 22 start with the words “in whom”. That would raise the question as to the character of man that God is going to build things on, the character of the man that God would entrust things to. What you say about Jesus Christ should ever be kept before us. In that sense there is no other man before God.
PJW Would you enlarge on that by helping us as to the foundation here in Ephesians 2: 20? In another scripture, Paul says, “which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3: 11), but here he says, “being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”.
RMB The apostles and prophets referred to here are the New Testament ones, which brings out that what God has established in relation to the assembly is entirely new. As we sometimes say, it is not an add-on to what proceeded in Old Testament times; it is not a growth out of Judaism. It is “the foundation of the apostles and prophets”, showing that it is based on something that never existed before. Further, through the apostles and prophets, the mind of God has been made known to us. Through their ministry and what has been left on record by them, God has been fully revealed to us. And it is on that great foundation that God is working at the present time.
PJW I think that is helpful, because in the previous verses he speaks about forming “the two in himself into one new man”, v 15. So any thought of Jew and Gentile, and the rivalry between them, is gone. It is a new concept altogether.
RMB That is a theme that runs through this chapter, how God has taken up both Jew and Gentile. That is in mind in verse 19, when Paul says, “ye are no longer strangers and foreigners” - that is what the Gentiles had been but they had become “fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God”. You get the impression Paul expected the Ephesians to be impressed by that - “fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God”. In addition, they were built into this temple. The Gentiles never had access to the temple under Judaism, but now they were part of it!
JRW Can you open up a little more what you understand by “a holy temple”? I was thinking of what Stephen says, “the Most High dwells not in places made with hands”, Acts 7: 48. You made reference to Solomon’s temple, which was an actual building. Stephen seems to suggest that that has been superseded by what God really had in mind. Can you say a little more about what you understand by “a holy temple”?
RMB It is referred to as “a holy temple in the Lord”. The reference to “in the Lord” is an allusion to Christ’s kingdom. We get the idea of it from Solomon, because there was no temple until the kingdom was established. There had to be the establishment of the kingdom before there could be the establishment of the temple. Now this holy temple is going to be the light and glory of Christ’s kingdom in the future. Being a holy temple “in the Lord” involves, I think, not only that everything is in accord with God Himself, in accord with His holy presence, but there is what will shine out in the way of light and blessing towards others. So it says in one place, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah”, Isa 11: 9. The world to come is going to be a time of great light, and persons will draw on that light by means of this temple. Men and women on earth, Jews and Gentiles, will get the gain of the shining out of what is set forth in this temple.
JRW What you are saying is very helpful. We sometimes need these figures for our minds to picture things. We have made reference to Jesus Christ “being the corner-stone”. That is something we can relate to in a practical way, as to a building of a house or whatever it may be. But I think what you are saying helps to elevate our minds to what is in God’s thought, which is entirely spiritual, and yet at the same time very real.
PJW You have made reference to the kingdom. Is it true to say that only persons who are in the kingdom, subject to the King, are built together into this holy temple? I am thinking of what we have often been told, that the truth of the kingdom underlies the truth of the assembly. We have spoken of the moral answer. Is it persons who are subject to the King, and rightly in the kingdom, who are built together?
RMB Every believer forms part of this, but in order to get the gain of it we have to come under the sway of Christ. That will be manifested in the world to come, the absolute supremacy of Christ. If there is to be any answer to what is in God’s mind for us here at the present time, it involves that we should be exercised about practical holiness, and that we should be exercised about the authority of the Lord with us.
RHB It says of the city in Revelation that “the nations shall walk by its light; and the kings of the earth bring their glory to it”, Rev 21: 24. Does that indicate that God’s temple will not only be a place where light is diffused, but it will become regulatory?
RMB Yes, I think Revelation 21 helps us in the understanding of this. Of course, it is a city there, not a temple; the thoughts are distinct but closely connected. One of the themes which runs through Revelation 21 is that there must be the light within in order for the light to shine out. It speaks, first of all, of the holy city “coming down out of the heaven from God”, it says, “having the glory of God”; that is the light within. Then it says, “Her shining was like a most precious stone”, v 10, 11. Men and women who will live on the earth at that time will not be able to bear the direct shining of the glory of God. It is not something they will be able to stand; but it will shine for them indirectly through the assembly. So it says, “I saw no temple in it; for the Lord God Almighty is its temple” (v 22), and then it says, “the nations shall walk by its light” (v 24). The nations will learn from God; they will acquire the knowledge of God; their whole course and pathway here will be regulated by the shining of this most remarkable vessel.
GCB Why is it that we are perhaps more up to the appreciation of verse 22, which you have spoken of as true at any time since the Spirit came, and rejoice in it, than what you are now speaking about as to what will be in the day to come?
RMB The light of what the assembly will be is an item that we carry with us in testimony. I wonder if it affects us sufficiently that we belong to this body in which all the light of God is going to shine out in the future. One of the dangers, when living in days of breakdown, is that we might have limited views. It is a constant exercise for us all to have the greatness of the assembly before our souls.
GCB I think what you have said is helpful, that we might in our day have limited views.
PJW Do you think the next chapter would help us to see something of what you are saying, when he says, “that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the assembly the all-various wisdom of God”, Eph. 3: 10? That is a present matter; and then what you are speaking of will be seen not only by those in the heavenlies but by men and women on the earth?
RMB The “all-various wisdom of God” has been manifested in different ways at different times. It was seen at the creation - the remarkable wisdom of God that entered into the creation. The wisdom of God was seen in His ways with the children of Israel, choosing a people, bringing them out of Egypt, defeating their enemies, bringing them into the land and establishing His dwelling-place among them - all a wonderful testimony to the wisdom of God. At the present time the “all-various wisdom of God” is set forth in the assembly to these heavenly beings. We might wonder how that would work, but it shows what a remarkable vessel the assembly is as having in view the setting forth of what is in the mind of God.
DJR I was thinking that what our brother has just said is quite important, because how do we get help to see this from the divine point of view? Sometimes we might look at things a bit negatively from our own point of view, but what the angels and principalities see is something different, something glorious.
RMB Our starting-point should be the Scriptures. God’s great thoughts for us are set out for us in His holy Word. We can be exercised to commit ourselves to these things, so that they are not simply texts to us, but become light in our souls. It seems to me that it is a great exercise that what God has set out in His word should become light in the soul. That will only be so where there is desire for it and committal to it. It is as we exercise diligence in regard of the heavenly things, that we prove their power and satisfying character.
RAS Would you say a little more about the practical bearing of this? You have spoken of practical holiness, and how the view of these things should help us practically, but could you say a little more as to that for our teaching?
RMB The first thing to understand is that this is exclusively a divine work. We have to recognise that and, of course, to be thankful for it. There is no failure attached to this whatsoever; it is what God is working at, and He will bring it through and accomplish it in divine perfection. But as we treasure divine thoughts in our affections, as we increasingly value what God has in mind for us, it will be an exercise that there should be an answer to it. So, as to holiness, what are the conditions with us actually for the experience of the presence of God? Are we exercised to maintain holy conditions, both individually and collectively? As to being “in the Lord”, are we exercised about the Lord’s will? Are we exercised about what His will is for us, individually and collectively, and how that might work out in detail?
DSB When was the “habitation of God in the Spirit” established?
RMB At Pentecost.
DSB I was thinking that; and that Paul’s exercise here was that they might not feel as if they were strangers and foreigners; but they were fitted together into something that was already there. When he went to Ephesus initially, “he said to them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit?”, Acts 19: 2. Solomon’s temple was made of stones, hewn stones and costly stones (1 Kings 5: 17), but they were fitted together so that there was no hammer or axe heard in the house while it was being built, chap 6: 7.
RMB As “strangers and foreigners”, they had been outside the sphere of divine blessing. But they were no longer that. In chapter 1 he opens up to them that they had been in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, v 4. Then, drawing on the illustration we have in Solomon, Mr Darby says we are like stones that have been taken out of the ‘quarry of the world’ (Collected Writings vol 16 p191) , and are being shaped by God in order to fit into His holy temple. It is a wonderful thing - I think it ought to impress our hearts more - that God has taken us up in that way.
RHB The assembly is also spoken of as the house of God. That is the matter of dwelling that has been referred to; it refers to a habitation of God. Did you have any more in mind as to the distinctive thought of a temple?
RMB We could turn to the passage in 1 Corinthians 3. He does not say to the Corinthians, ‘ye are the house of God’, but “ye are the temple of God”. It has been pointed out before that the apostle never speaks of the house of God when writing to a local assembly. The house of God is a much wider thought. When people spoke about the house of God, for example, in Old Testament times, it meant not only the building but all its precincts, including the court. So the house of God includes the whole profession of Christianity. Another thought in connection with the house of God is that, because God dwells in us by the Holy Spirit, we are in it all the time. But the temple of God is brought in in the Scriptures in this context specifically in relation to the local assembly; and its particular bearing is on when the saints are together. The idea of a temple is a holy enclosure in an unholy environment, where the presence of God might be known, and where we might receive light from God. That strikes me as a very great privilege if it can be proved by us.
RHB It should be proved by us, to bring it into focus, in meetings of this character. The psalmist speaks of beholding the beauty of Jehovah and enquiring of Him in His temple, Ps 27: 4. We often hear that referred to in relation to reading meetings, that we might experience the temple of God. It is a real exercise, is it not, as we come together on an occasion like this, that it is not just the exchange of thoughts about the Scripture, but there is some diffusion of light by God Himself amongst us? If that is experienced, it is something that is intensely precious, and is to be protected.
RMB I would suggest that the idea of the temple is not limited to our reading meetings, because the literal temple included the holy of holies; and nothing was said there. But I think what you say is right, and it has been confirmed by those who have gone before. The thought of receiving light form God particularly applies to occasions of this character. So that it becomes an exercise in that way as to whether, in gathering together like this, the temple of God is the thing which has ascendancy in our minds. I would urge the dear brethren, as we gather together for occasions like this, that the functioning of the temple of God ought to be the prominent thing before our minds.
PJW And that must depend upon the Spirit being free, is that right?
RMB That must be so. He puts those things together: “Do ye not know that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
PJW “Ye are … temple of God” is a characteristic thought, is it not,? The Spirit of God might dwell in us, but we might not be giving Him liberty and freedom in our local gatherings; so that is an exercise. I doubt there was much of temple character about some of the Corinthians’ meetings practically. But characteristically and abstractly Paul addresses them as such, and it would provoke exercise with them, do you think?
RMB Yes. We might wonder how Paul could speak of them in this way, “ye are the temple of God”, given all that we know about them and what was proceeding amongst them. But I think it shows us that this is what the local assembly is. In the first place we need to grasp objectively that the local assembly is the temple of God. It is not that we make the temple of God. It is not that we somehow bring the temple of God into existence. My desire is that that might lay hold of our souls in view of being maintained in the sense of the greatness of the local assembly and the privilege that belongs to it.
JRW What you are saying is very challenging because Paul says here, “the temple of God is holy”. That, as a statement, cannot be gainsaid. Then he says, “and such are ye”. That is very challenging. How do we bring ourselves up to that very high standard?
RMB I would suggest it is not a question of bringing ourselves up to it, but of answering to what we are in the mind of God. We may have to hold the idea somewhat abstractly in our minds, particularly in localities where conditions are not as they ought to be, as at Corinth. But we must hold to God’s thoughts about us. In these days when practically there may only be a handful of us together, it is vital that we keep before us what the local assembly is in the mind of God.
JRW I think the way you have put it is very succinct, and suggests that the way we can enjoy it is to make way increasingly for the Spirit and allow Him to have sway. Is that how we will enter into the enjoyment of it?
RMB The temple of God exists, but we need to be exercised about temple conditions. The teaching of the first two chapters of this epistle would show us the way to that. Firstly, the bearing of the cross of Christ; Paul says, “I did not judge it well to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”, chap 2: 2. And then he brings out in chapter 2 the service and operations of the Holy Spirit. I think these are the way into the practical experience of the functioning of the temple of God.
MRC I was noticing that the word that is used for temple here, naos, the shrine, is the same word which the Lord uses in John 2 as to the temple of His body, v 19. I wondered if, while, on the one hand, that would exercise us, on the other hand, it would give us a sense of the greatness of the temple of God, the glory of it? We cannot limit that to the handful of those with whom we meet. It is the assembly of God in the place. It may in measure be abstract, but God has no lesser thought in mind, does He?
RMB He does not. The saints are the temple of God because they are the body of Christ. As you say, the Lord refers to His actual body as being the temple. It must also follow that what we are as the body of Christ is the temple of God too. We have to be careful about how we speak of these things in days of breakdown, but where you have persons who are seeking to maintain the truth and principles that are proper to the assembly, the thing in principle is there.
DJW In John’s gospel the Lord Jesus speaks to His disciples as to the Comforter coming. I understand that that is a collective setting, and in those verses He speaks about Him guiding us “into all the truth”, John 16: 13. I wondered if that was an important thing in relation to giving place to the Spirit, that the whole truth is kept before us. But at any particular time there may be something specific that the Spirit needs to draw attention to. That would require holiness and sensitivity on our part, do you think?
RMB That is most important. So the teaching of the cross, as it comes out in the first chapter, would help us as to the removal side, and the disallowance of everything with us that would militate against the gracious activities of the Holy Spirit. We need to be constantly exercised to be committed to what God has set forth in the cross of Christ. But then, that makes way for the operations of the Holy Spirit. What possibilities are open to us in a holy environment where the blessed Spirit of God is free!
PJW I think you have put that very attractively, because it says, “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God”, 1 Cor 2: 10. We are not able for that by ourselves. But the Spirit searches them and brings something of the savour of them, and opens them up to us, if we allow Him to.
RMB That is good. Then the verses that follow show how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit. The things of God are “revealed to us by His Spirit” (v 10); they are communicated “by spiritual means” (v 13); and they are “spiritually discerned” (v 14): revealed, communicated and discerned by the Holy Spirit. The appreciation of that would exercise us as to providing holy conditions amongst us, where we can really get the gain of all that is available to us in the presence here of the Holy Spirit of God.
RHB We often speak of making room for the Holy Spirit, but what does that actually mean?
RMB There are two sides to it. One is the negative side that we, individually and collectively, seek to judge anything with us that might act as an obstacle or a hindrance to the Holy Spirit, anything that might grieve Him, anything that is out of keeping with the holy presence of God. That is one side. Then there is a positive side, in which we definitely commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and to moving on this line. In this particular context, as we come together in this way, we are to be exercised that nothing should have greater prominence with us than this thought of the temple of God. As we are gathered like this the temple of God is to have ascendancy with us. What would you add to that?
RHB That is helpful, and would therefore begin before we come together. John speaks of himself in the isle of Patmos; he says, “I became in the Spirit on the Lord's day”. Although he was on his own, he speaks of being “your brother and fellow-partaker”, Rev. 1: 9, 10. So that he was conscious of his part with others. But he was exercised on that day to be in a state to receive divine communications. We said earlier that what we are speaking about is challenging. If God is going to speak to us we should expect to be challenged, should we not?
RMB I think we should expect to be challenged and searched, but find too that spiritual desires are stimulated with us. So we ought to approach each occasion in a state of spiritual exercise and expectancy. We are very thankful for the outward order in our gatherings, that we can sit down together quietly, but you could have all the outward order and yet not have the functioning of the temple of God. That is why I think it ought to be a great exercise with us, especially as we are together, that we should have some sense of the operations amongst us of the temple of God.
JRW Why do you think the apostle brings in so much about the wisdom of the world here by way of contrast? Why would that be necessary in going into these precious matters?
RMB To show us that it has no place; the temple of God is no place for the mind of man.
JRW I was struck by what you said as to the form and order of these things. Maybe there could be an intelligent mind that would follow things in the order in which they should be followed. But do we need to be on our guard in relation to that? Is that the thought here?
RMB I think it is. So how would you know when you have had a good reading?
JRW That is a challenging question, but all I can say for myself is that the thing goes further than the mind and it reaches my heart. If my heart is touched and attracted to what we are going over, then there will be a lasting impression. That is only my simple thought. What do you say yourself?
RMB The word of God is quickening, and I think that if in any measure we are conscious of having been brought into touch with the word of God, there will be that quickening effect within us. Then too, in connection with what we are saying as to the temple of God, there would be some sense of having received light from Him.
GCB I suppose one exercise for each of us personally, if we have set on a reading, is that we have received something ourselves, besides what we have introduced.
RMB Well, I find that a great test, because you come to the occasion with some thoughts in mind, but it is a great exercise to be sensitive as to what it might be that the Holy Spirit is drawing to our attention on this particular occasion.
RAS You have spoken of light a number of times, but what is it, please?
RMB The effect of light from God is to cause us to see something which we had not seen before. Persons like you and me, who have been born and brought up among the brethren, pick up a lot of things along the way, so to speak, in our understanding of the truth, simply because we have heard them from others. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. But what seems to me to be so vital is that we should receive the truth as light from God, because it is only as we do that it will really enter into our souls and govern our practice. But light from God is the experience we have when God causes us to see things, either that we have never seen before, or in a light in which we have never seen them before.
PJW Do you think we see it set out perhaps very forcibly in the experience of Paul himself? In Acts 9: 3 it refers to a light out of heaven. It was not just something that he saw, I suggest, but light in his soul - “why dost thou persecute me?”, v 4. Then he speaks of a “great light” (Acts 22: 6), and then he speaks of “a light above the brightness of the sun”, Acts 26: 13. There are many great lights in the world, but this was like none other, and it filled his soul, do you think?
RMB That is something we ought to be in faith and exercise about.
DJW Would it be right to say that light, as we speak of it, must be in relation to the Person of Jesus, that we see some fresh aspect in Him that we had never seen before?
RMB And then widening out from that in relation to the greatness of God’s thoughts of blessing for us.
AW We have spoken of dependence, and we have referred to the Spirit; does prayer play a big part in this?
RMB It does. So you would pray for each meeting before you went to it, would you not?
RMB That is most important.
DSB I was thinking of what was said about light coming into Paul’s life; he saw those in the testimony as those who were “of the way”. As receiving light he saw them as brothers, he saw them as disciples. And he was able to preach Jesus that He was the Son of God.
RMB It is an exercise to see the saints in the light in which God sees them. So, when he says to them, “Do ye not know that ye are the temple of God?”, it was almost as if Paul was surprised that they did not know that. This could have been light for many of the dear saints in Corinth. And there is no doubt that, as this light dawned on their souls, it would make them very exercised about the things they were going on with.
DJR So, earlier on they seemed to have sectional thoughts. But Paul reminds them that “all are yours”, 1 Cor 3: 22. They said, “I am of Paul … I of Apollos”, v 4. But he said, ’No, it is Paul and Apollos and Cephas or anyone else’. That would give us the idea of the resources that are there. Then he reminds them that “ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”, v 23.
RMB Verses 22 and 23 really bring out the greatness of the saints. I suppose it is because we are Christ’s that all these things are ours.
MRC This is addressed to “the assembly of God which is in Corinth”, chap 1: 2. Is it no less true of the assembly of God in Strood today?
RMB We have to recognise that we are now living in days of breakdown. No instructed believer would regard their gathering as the assembly of God in a place. But where you have persons who are exercised to be moving on this line, then what is set out in these verses in principle ought to be known and enjoyed. Is that what you were thinking?
MRC I was thinking that. Every blood-bought saint as indwelt by the Spirit forms part of the assembly of God in this place. How much they are practically in the gain of it is another matter. But from the divine side it is accredited to every one.
RMB We ought to refer to the passage in 1 Corinthians 6. The verses we have read come at the end of a paragraph in which the apostle is seeking to bring home to the Corinthians the importance and value of the believer’s body. So he says, for example, in verse 13, that “the body is … for the Lord, and the Lord for the body”; and in verse 15, “Do ye not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”. Then he comes to where we read, and he says, “Do ye not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God … ?”. That is a most remarkable reference. What must God’s thoughts of blessing for us be for Him to make our bodies the temple of His Holy Spirit? It seems to me that is a most wonderful thing to lay hold of. Then to see that in doing that God has given us a great treasure, because in our bodies He has given us a vessel which may be used to glorify Him.
JRW Say a little more as to the distinction which you see between “the temple of God” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit”. Is it more than one being collective and the other being individual?
RMB I think that is just the distinction. “Ye are the temple of God”, as we said, applies to the whole of the local company in Corinth. But here he says, “Do ye not know that your body” - “your body” is individual - “is the temple of the Holy Spirit”. If that laid hold of me more, what a difference it would make to my walk and ways.
JRW How does that link with “ye are not your own? for ye have been bought with a price”? There is something very precious about that.
RMB Underlying “ye have been bought with a price” is the great truth of redemption. God has paid a great price for us through the blood of Jesus. That establishes His holy claim over us. That is a question for us all: have we considered God’s holy claim over us? The way we answer to that claim is in glorifying Him in our body. So our bodies - which previously were vehicles for the doing of our own wills, committing those sins which God has had to address - these very bodies in which we pleased ourselves, are now held for God and used to glorify Him day by day.
STE Is it a wonder that our bodies can be filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the encouragement of the Acts?
RMB They can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We have examples in the Scriptures of men who were. What we can say of that from experience is, of course, another thing. But this verse, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”, applies to every individual who has received the Holy Spirit.
RHB Is the thought of the individual’s body being a temple conveyed in what the apostle refers to in the second epistle: “the God who spoke that out of darkness light should shine who has shone in our hearts for the shining forth …”, 2 Cor 4: 6? God had shone in; He had shone in the apostle’s heart that there might be a shining out. I wondered if that is the thought of the believer’s body being a temple, that - as he says elsewhere - they are “lights in the world”, Phil 2: 15? The way we use the body, what we put on it and how we appear, may becloud that light, but it could enhance it.
RMB The shining out is a practical consequence. The idea of our body being the temple of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit has found suitable conditions for His dwelling there. It is a remarkable thing that the Holy Spirit, a divine Person, should find suitable conditions for His holy dwelling in the body of a believer. I think what you say is right, that as we think carefully about that, it would cause us to reflect on how we dress, how we appear before others, where we go and what we do with our bodies. All these things ought to be profoundly affected by the fact that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
DJW Does Romans 12: 1 have any bearing on this: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice”? That affects our day-to-day life, and everything that enters into it, which I find very testing. As these exercises are gone through, is the effect that we present our bodies a living sacrifice?
RMB So God is glorified in that. I think it helps to see that God is glorified by believers who practise His will day by day. I was affected some time ago by something I read in ministry. It was in connection with that incident in Luke’s gospel, where at the Lord’s baptism, the Father said, “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight” (chap 3: 22) - not ‘I am finding it’, but “I have found my delight”, A J Gardiner, Piety and Other Addresses p 125. In other words, that was the Father’s assessment of the first thirty years of the Lord’s life, years which we know almost nothing about. It was said that it was in the Lord’s ordinary circumstances, brought up in Nazareth, in subjection to His parents (Luke 2: 51), His occupation in the workshop, and so on, in those ordinary circumstances of life day by day, that He was an absolute delight to God. That is something to weigh over. If we think of glorifying God, we might think of what men would speak of as great things. But God is glorified in the lives of believers who practise His will in the power of the Holy Spirit.
PJW So the question for me, in connection with the reference to Romans 12, is whether my body is presentable. In the life of Jesus everything was infinitely acceptable and presentable, and that raises a challenge with me, do you think?
RMB It is sometimes said, when questions are raised with individuals about their appearance, that the inward is the important thing. Of course, the inward is the important thing. But that does not mean the outward is not important. This scripture would show us that what a believer is outwardly ought to be the reflection of what he is inwardly. The two, in that sense, should be in correspondence.
MRC We can be exercised to seek to conform to things, perhaps in an outward way, and we may be in danger of laying a burden on others. But do you think the apostle here is working on the line of attraction, that in fact we are very precious to divine Persons. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price, the sacrifice for that being the blood of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, do we find that as that becomes attractive to us, things that would naturally engage us become less attractive to us? It does not become onerous if I find that the love of the Christ constrains me.
RMB I would just add this, though, that even as to the practical matters to which you make reference, there is great value in being subject to the brethren. God puts a great value on persons that are subject to the desires and sensibilities of the brethren. But I think at heart that what you say is right, that we want to be impressed with the greatness of God’s thoughts for us. What must be God’s mind about poor sinners like us, that He should make our bodies the temple of His Holy Spirit? It is not a tabernacle here; it is a temple, a dignified dwelling place. And I think that the more we reflect on that, the more it will be carried forward in exercise in all our walk and ways.
8th October 2016
D S Bodman, Dorking; R H Brown, East Finchley; R M Brown, East Finchley; G C Bywater, Buckhurst Hill; M R Cook, Folkestone; S T Eagle, Dorking; D J Roberts, Strood; R A Smith, Strood; J R Walkinshaw, Maidstone; P J Walkinshaw, Strood; A Wraighte, Strood; D J Wright, Tunbridge Wells