“We Are The Temple” (II Corinthians 6:16 message)

II Corinthians 6:16       “We Are The Temple”  

The White House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the United States.  It was finished in the year 1800, when Thomas Jefferson moved in, and every U.S. President since has lived in it. It is one of the great symbols of our country. But the White House itself is NOT the United States. We were a country before there ever was a White House: our first Presidents, Washington and Adams, did not live in the White House. I just finished reading a biography of Harry S. Truman, and while Truman was living there after World War II,part of the second floor came crashing down, so Truman and his family had to move across the street to Blair House. But that didn’t mean that the country stopped functioning because we didn’t have the White House. It’s a great building — but the building itself is not the country.  

And we need to realize that the same thing is true with the church. When many people think of the church, they think of a building: “First Baptist Church is located at 237 E. Locust in Angleton.” But the church is not a building. In fact, the first church in the Book of Acts, existed without a building, and the early church had no dedicated “church buildings” at all. In fact, the earliest archeologically identified Christian church building was built between 233 and 256 A.D. — over 200 years after the time of Christ! For 200 years, the first Christian churches functioned without any kind of “church buildings” at all!  Just as our country existed before there was a White House, so the church existed before there were ever church buildings!  And the church can exist without buildings today too.

We find ourselves in an environment today which many of us would never have anticipated: a national and international crisis with COVID-19 which has led to a ban on large assemblies. No meeting in “church buildings” — at least for a time. So what happens — no “church” for a while? HARDLY!  The Church existed before there were buildings, and the true church of God can continue to exist without meeting together in church buildings!  

I was reminded of that, as I was reading in II Corinthians 6 in my own worship time this week. Wednesday morning I came to II Corinthians 6:16, which says: 

“For we are the temple of the Living God, just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”

Here God reminds us, that it is not any “building” that is the real “Temple” of God, but He says that WE as God’s people are His Temple — with or without any church buildings!

 

I.  The Real “Temple of God”

The word “Temple” here is the Bible word “naos,” It comes from a word which means “to dwell.”  It means: the place where God dwells.  

  This word was used in ancient Greek literature of the room in their temples where the image of the god was placed. 

— For the Jews, it specially refers to the “holy place,” and the “Holy of Holies,” the inner places of the Temple, where the priests would go to minister before the Lord, where the Ark of the Covenant was: the very presence of God Himself.  

But that temple, the pride and joy of the Jewish people, is no more. Within a generation of the time of Jesus, the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, at the very time Christianity began to spread. It was as if God were saying: you don’t need that old “Temple” any more; Now My PEOPLE are the temple, through the Holy Spirit who is in them. This goes back to the very essence of the message of the Gospel.

— Ephesians 2 says in :1 that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins.

— Verse 4 goes on to say but God had mercy on us and loved us and sent Jesus to die on the cross for us.

— Verses 8-9 famously say that “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Through God’s mercy and grace we can be saved when we put our faith in Jesus. That is the Gospel. If you have put your faith in Jesus as your Lord & Savior, then you are saved, and you are one of the people of God. If you have NOT done that, then you are NOT saved — even if you have been in a “church building” perhaps many times. Being a Christian is not a matter of being in a church building; it is a matter of putting your faith in Jesus. If you haven’t done that, you need to do it today.

Many of us are familiar with these basic facts of the Gospel. But at the end of Ephesians 2 it gives us a description of the end purpose of all that, which many of us are perhaps NOT as familiar with. It goes on to say in verse 19: “So then” — this is the RESULT of this salvation — “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens of the saints, and are of God’s household … growing into a HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord …”.

The Bible says WHEN we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, God takes all of us who are saved, and He makes us together into His dwelling place; His “holy temple.”  So all of us together, God’s people who have been saved by Jesus, are now the “Temple of God.” His Temple is not a structure in Jerusalem; His Temple is not a building on Locust Street in Angleton — it’s not even the brand new building that we are putting up at 972 Anchor Road — God’s Temple is US, the Bible says. 

And it really emphasizes that here: this sentence in II Corinthians 6:16 in Greek begins with the word “WE” — it opens the sentence in the emphatic position: we lose some of that emphasis in the English translation — but in Greek it really emphasizes it — “WE” are the Temple of God. Not a building; not a facility; not a structure; WE are His temple!  WE are the place where God now dwells through His Holy Spirit.  “For WE are the temple of the Living God.”  

So closing down church buildings for a time, does not “shut down” the REAL church of God. The church of God is US! And we are still His people; still His Church; we are still “the Temple of the Living God”! 

 

II. So what does this mean that “We are the Temple”? How do we apply this during this time?  We can apply it in several ways:

 

A. First, we shouldn’t be devastated when we can’t meet together in a church building. Our church building is not the “temple of God.” It never was; it is not now; and it never will be. The building is not the church. 

— We find ourselves in this “coronavirus crisis,” and we can’t meet together corporately. That’s ok; this building is not the church; WE ARE!  

— AND this a GREAT reminder for us when this crisis is over, and we move into our new church building at 288 & Anchor Road. That facility TOO is not the “temple of God.” We hope and trust and pray that our new building will be a good and effective place for us to meet and worship and serve — but even our new facility is not “the temple.” It is we the people who are.  And if we will really BE the people of God He’s called us to be, then we can have an amazing ministry there; but if we will NOT be the kind of people that He has called us to be while we are there, we will NOT have a good ministry. Because it is not the “building” that’s going to do it; we must BE the temple of God. We must BE the people of God, in whom His Spirit dwells and works.  

 

B. Second, understanding then that “WE are the temple” can give us some direction for what we’re supposed to doing during in this time. While we can’t be in our building, what are we supposed to do as “the temple of God”?  Well, think about it: what is done in a temple or house of worship?

 

1)  First of all, the very nature of a temple is that it is HOLY.

The “naos,” the Temple, means a “holy place.” That is, it is “set apart” from the world and the corruptions of the world, for the purpose and use of God. That is what a temple IS. Well, we should apply that to ourselves, too, if we are God’s temple. The first thing that it means for us when it says that “we are the temple of the Living God” is that we are supposed to be HOLY.

In fact, that’s the very next thing the Bible addresses here in II Corinthians. After it closes Chapter 6 here, Chapter 7 of II Corinthians opens by saying: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

God says here, BECAUSE you are My temple, you need to “cleanse yourself.” You need to be holy. And He defines that means when He says we are to cleanse ourselves from “all defilement of flesh and spirit”:

— First, he says, you need to clean yourself from defilements of the flesh: sinful things you can do with your body: sexual immorality, sensuality; things you should not be putting into your body, substances which abuse your body. God says clean yourself from these things.

— But that is not all. He also says we should cleanse ourselves from all defilements of “spirit” — and as prevalent as the “defilements of the flesh” are, the defilements of the spirit are even more present in our lives: pride, jealousy, lust, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness, self-will instead of God’s will … we can go on and on! All these thoughts and attitudes pollute our spirits, and God says “we are the Temple of the Living God;” we have got to get these things out of our lives, and be holy.

So DO NOT take this time when we can’t meet together in the building, and think of it as a time to “relax your standards” spiritually. Don’t think that it doesn’t matter what you practice personally in this time, separated from the church building. NO: YOU ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD! And as part of the temple of God, you are to be holy. 

— don’t watch things on tv or look at things on the internet that you should not be watching. A lot of people are asking things like: “What’s a new show I can ‘binge watch’ on Amazon or Netflix during this down time?” And it’s not wrong to have some entertainment during some of these long days. But don’t compromise your standards. Don’t watch shows that feature nudity, or language, or ungodly perspectives that will “pollute” you spiritually. You are the Temple of God; be HOLY as that temple. Rededicate yourself to holiness, even as you’re apart from the “church building” during this crisis.

 

2) That “we are the Temple” means worship.

What activity goes on in the Temple? Why, worship, of course. So since “we are the Temple,” and the Temple is US, and not just the building, we need to continue to worship. We can do this in several ways:

— First, of course, we can continue to worship corporately together through the internet. I was delighted last week, at how many people told me that although they remained home Sunday morning, they were able to worship with us through the Live Stream on our website. Duane Franks tells me that our new viewers on our Live Stream on the internet increased over 300%! That is terrific!  And I anticipate it will increase even more this week. Technology certainly can be used for evil purposes, but in this case we can thank God for the technology which allows us to continue to worship together as a church body this way. Be as committed to getting together with us Sunday mornings at 10:15, as you ever have been. And when you come on here, don’t just use it as “background noise” while you are reading, or doing laundry, or whatever. Be “all in”, just like you would if you were present here. Give it your full attention. Worship with the songs; pray along with the prayers; listen to what God is saying to you through the message. Give at the end of the service. 

You know, giving has always been an important part of what goes on in the Temple. Luke 21 tells us that when Jesus was in the Temple at Jerusalem, He “looked up” at the people giving into the treasury. They had put an offering box at the entrance there, that people put their offering in — very similar to what we have in our building today. Giving was an important part of what they did in the Temple — and it is an important part of what we do in our worship today too. AND it will be very important for us to keep that up over these next weeks. Our church is pretty healthy financially, but even a few weeks without regular tithes and offerings would bring almost any church to a financial crisis. So the doors of our physical church may be closed, but we need to continue to exercise one of the important functions of the church of God as His temple, by giving. We can do this in a couple of ways:

— First, you can mail your tithes, and other special offerings. Just address it to First Baptist Church at 237 E. Locust in Angleton, and you can keep on giving just like usual.

— OR you can give online. Just like some of us are just discovering our church’s Live Stream broadcast, many of us may discover online giving during this time. On our same church website where you access this Live Stream video, there is a tab you can click on to give electronically as well. It says “Give Online.” Just click on that, and it will give you options to give your regular tithe, New Building Fund, Acts 1:8, Annie Armstrong, ACS — anything you want to give towards.  

So as the temple of God, keep up this temple function of giving during this time. We want to keep paying our employees; we want to keep giving to our missionaries, we want to pay for this internet and live stream, we want to be able to give benevolence help to people in our church or community who may need it — and as you may have seen, they are still working on that new building out there at 972 Anchor Road!  We need to keep paying for that!  So it’s important to keep up your giving during this time, just as you would if you were in this building. In fact, it might be good to make it a part of your worship with this Live Stream. If you were present in our church building today, you would probably slip your envelope into the offering box on your way into, or out of, the worship service this morning. Do the same with this Live Stream. As soon as we are finished here, (I’m speaking to our church members here; not to our guests) make out your offering and put it in an envelope to mail in tomorrow — or when you close this video, click on the “Give Online” tab and give right then —just like you would at church. Giving is an important part of the worship that goes on in a Temple, and it STILL is, while we are apart from our building. So in many ways, we can continue to worship as a church body virtually as we always have, through our online worship and giving.

— But it goes even deeper than that. Because “we are the Temple of the Living God,” we need to worship God PERSONALLY, every day. NOTHING can ever stop that. Maybe our internet connection will have glitches, or electricity will go out, that will interrupt our Live Stream. But nothing can keep you from worshiping God personally, in your own daily worship time. Don’t neglect that. In fact, make this a time to rededicate yourself to your daily time with God. We need that now more than ever.  

Someone was telling me just the other day how they had a pressing issue in their life, but they had their regular morning quiet time that day, and right there in their daily Bible reading, God gave them a special word that spoke right to that issue in their life. GOD WILL SPEAK TO YOU IN HIS WORD! But we have to “be the Temple” and make sure that we continue our daily worship. 

Remember, God created us to worship Him. And nothing can stop you from that: not the closing of church buildings, or being thrown into prison, not even sickness or death. There may be some people, who, in all the shutdowns associated with this crisis, find themselves with a lack of purpose: “What do I do; I can’t do my job; what is my purpose now?” But the Christian person will never feel that way. God created you as His temple for the specific purpose of worshiping Him. And nothing can keep you from that, unless you let it. In fact, many of us may now have the opportunity to spend even MORE time worshiping than ever before. So spend more time in the word. It was while everything was shut down in a snowstorm in Oklahoma in which I spent much of my extra time all week reading my Bible, that I got the call to preach. God may speak to you in some specific way during these days too. Spend more time reading your Bible. Send more time singing and worshiping. Don’t spend all your time watching the news. Keep up with what’s going on; that’s important. But you weren’t “made” to watch the news; you were created to worship. Download some more worship songs on your iPhone. Go to our church website and listen to some of our previous church worship services and sing along. You are the temple of God! He made you His temple to worship Him. Don’t let anything keep you from what He designed you to do, which is to worship Him. 

 

3) That we are the temple means ministry.

Closing a building can’t stop us from ministering to people around us as the church of God. BE the church God has called you to be. Check on people around you, and look for opportunities to minister to them.

This has been a real crisis time for many of us in many ways — you know the old expression “when it rains, it pours.” It has seemed like that for us too. We have this national crisis; and then I broke my ribs, and Cheryl has had a bad cough, both of which  have slowed us down quite a bit; then Kyle was in the hospital earlier this week — and my mom’s husband in Oklahoma was in the hospital this week too. I have been trying to keep up with them this week. One thing mom mentioned when I talked to her is that she needed some more eggs. We actually had a few extra, so I wished we could just send them up there in a vacuum tube or something – but of course we can’t. But she shared this testimony the other day on Facebook:

“My newest next door neighbor came over tonight to ask if he could get me anything while he was at the store. Happens I have been looking for eggs, milk and bread, and couldn’t find. I gave him a $20 and said whatever he could find. He came back with the milk, 2 pkgs of hot dog buns (hey I’ll take them) and a dozen minus one broken egg, all they had. He said my change was in the bag. When I unpacked, there was my original $20 in the bottom.”

I don’t know who that person was, but what a great ministry to their neighbor! Who is YOUR neighbor, like my Mom, who may need some eggs, or milk, or for someone to run to the drugstore and get them some medication?  Our MINISTRY should not “shut down” because the doors of the church building are closed. BE THE CHURCH out in the community.  Call your neighbors and check on them — especially the elderly.  Check on some of the folks from church that you miss: your Sunday School class; your deacon list; some of the senior adults that you love. I was calling some of our senior adults this week, and I talked to James Schneider, and asked him if they needed anything. He said no, that Cecil & Ann Booth had already called, and he gave Ann a list of 5 things they needed from the store — and she had already gotten them for him. I was SO thrilled to hear that! Folks, THAT is being the church, away from the building! So remember Psalm 5:3, “in the morning I will order my prayer to You, and eagerly watch.” PRAY in the morning, and then WATCH for the opportunity God gives you to minister to someone this week.  

And as we minister like that, it will be a strong witness to the watching world. Why do we care like that? What is our motivation? It will give us opportunities to share about the hope that is in us through Christ. Those kinds of ministry actions — as well as sharing our Live Stream and messages online — will give us some of the best opportunities for outreach that many of us have had in a long time. God can really use this time — IF we will understand that “we are the Temple”, and really live this out. 

 

CONCLUSION:

On August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812, British warships sailed up the Potomac River, and captured the White House. President Madison and his wife Dolley had already left. The British troops ate the Madison’s food, ransacked the White House, and then set it on fire. But just because they invaded our capital, and burned the White House, did not mean that the United States ceased to function:

— That didn’t stop Fort McHenry from emerging victorious from the British bombardment, and American troops from holding back the British Invasion of Baltimore. 

— That didn’t stop General Andrew Jackson from winning perhaps the most lopsided victory of the war, at New Orleans, with almost 3000 British casualties, against only 300 Americans!

— It didn’t stop America from going on to win that war. 

Because while it’s important to us, the building which is the White House, is NOT the United States of America.

And in the same way, the “building” which hosts our church meetings, while perhaps an important one to us, is NOT our church. And just like the American people, and the American army and navy, continued to function — and function well — during the War of 1812, with no White House — so our church can continue to function, and function WELL, without meeting in a church building. Because this building is not the Church. This building is not the Temple. As this verse makes so clear: “For WE are the Temple of the Living God.”  

 

INVITATION:

Think back on this week. How have you been handling this time so far?

Some of us might say, I think I can do better: 

— I’ve not been holy; I have compromised on some things I’ve done or watched …

— I’ve not really even tried to “be the church” and minister to anyone … no senior adult got a call from me; no sick person was encouraged by me …

Ask God to help you BE the church this week, apart from the building.

— to be holy

— to be faithful in watching our worship, and SHARING it

— to be faithful in giving online or mailing it in

— to call some people and check on them — church members; neighbors, whoever God brings me to 

And maybe today you’d say, I am not really even a part of the real “Temple of God,” because I’ve never really surrendered my life to Jesus. But you know you need to. Why don’t you ask Him to save you right now …?

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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