“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
Among the numerous figures employed in the Scriptures by the Holy Ghost and applied to the church of God, this of the temple of God is of frequent recurrence, and, like all others, is appropriate and full of instruction. The temples in Jerusalem, both the first and the second, were types of the church of the living God, and are applied to her as the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which the fullness of the Godhead dwells. The same apostle who wrote our text has shown in Eph. 2:18-20, that all the election of grace, Jews and Gentiles, are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord, a habitation of God through the Spirit. Peter also uses the same figure. (1 Pet. 2:4-7) The history of the building of the temple by Solomon, and also by Zerubbabel, the selection of the materials, the places where they were found, the manner of their being gathered and brought to the building, their preparation for the places which they were ordained to occupy, the perfect harmony in bringing the parts together, the arrangements, consecration and appropriation of the whole, beautifully illustrate the glory of that house whose maker and builder is God. In his application of this figure in the text on which our views are desired, Paul calls our attention to the foundation on which the temple rests, the sanctity of the building as the temple of God, its consecration as the dwelling of God by his Spirit, and the fearful consequence of a desecration of it. The foundation is Jesus Christ, and no other foundation can any man lay. No other foundation can sustain the building. This foundation is of God, it stands sure, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” He is the foundation and chief corner-stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.
This temple of the Lord is holy, for God has consecrated it and set it apart as a habitation of the Spirit; nothing unclean is allowed to enter it. It is a place for worship, a house of prayer. In it God has placed the ark of the covenant, the mercy-seat, the cherubims of glory, the golden pot of manna, the fruit-bearing rod of the priesthood, the golden candlestick, the shewbread and all the holy furniture belonging to his house. Thither the holy tribes of the Lord go up, and here the God of Israel meets his chosen ones and communes with them over the mercy-seat, between the cherubims. It is no light matter then to defile the temple of the Lord. By reference to the types in the ceremonial law we learn in what manner the sanctuary of the Lord was defiled. See Lev. 15:3 1; 20:3; Num. 19:3; Psalms 79:1; Ezek. 5:11; 7:22; 23:38,39; Zeph. 3:4. Those who defiled the sanctuary of the Lord under the Mosaic law were to be put away from the congregation of the Lord, or put to death, and under the gospel dispensation they are to be destroyed, at least so far as relates to their privileges in the church of God. By a careful reading of the passages referred to above, it will be seen that the Israelites defiled the sanctuary by their own uncleanness, by their contact with things which were unclean, by idolatry, and by a profligate priesthood or ministry. As God’s sanctuary was holy, and the Israelite was required to keep his foot when he went into the house of God, so God’s church, which is his true or antitypical sanctuary, is a holy and consecrated place, and no spiritual Israelite is allowed to defile it by his own inventions, issues, doctrines, plans or works, nor by holding fellowship with things unclean. There must be a coming out from the world, a separation from Antichrist, and a renouncing of false doctrines, ordinances, and of all religious institutions which are not clearly authorized by the law of Christ. The temple of the Lord is not to be used as a place of merchandise or traffic. When the carnal Jews had made void the law of God by their traditions, they were charged with making God’s house of prayer a den of thieves. Their excuses for thus defiling the temple were as plausible as the excuses made by the Pharisees of modern times. The Jews from distant nations were required to bring their offerings to the temple on certain occasions, and as it was inconvenient to bring their oxen, sheep, lambs, kids and doves so great a distance, the pious Jews and accommodating Levites had conceived the idea of having a stock of offerings on hand, which they could supply to the worshipers for a small percentage, and so make the temple-worship more convenient, and the hardship of complying with the divine command more easy; so a market was established in the temple. And as the money to be put into the Lord’s treasury ought not to bear the superscription of a Roman prince, it was a great accommodation to the pilgrim Jew to find money-brokers in the temple ready to exchange, for a small discount, their uncurrent funds, so the tables of the money-changers were allowed a place in the temple also. But all these pious pretenses did not avail them when our Lord entered the temple with a scourge of small cords, and drove the traffickers out, and overturned the tables of the money-changers.
“My Father's house, said he,
was made A place for worship, not for trade;
Then scattering all their gold and brass,
He scourged the merchants from the place.”
Answering well to this figure, in modern times a great amount of religious merchandise is carried on in what is claimed to be the temple or church of God. Almost everything is offered for a price. Salvation, grace, justification and a passport to heaven are offered conditionally to all who are disposed to make a bid, and memberships, directorships and honorary titles and positions are crowded into the market, while a very brisk trade is carried on in Sabbath Schools, Mission, Tract and Bible Societies, Theological Seminaries and other wares of the kind; all of which, if brought into the temple of the Lord, would deffle that holy place. Mystery, Babylon the Great, is described in Revelation 18 as a great market; her merchants drive a heavy and lucrative trade in merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple and silk, and scarlet, and all thyme wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and all manner of vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men, and of fruits which their souls lusted after. But the value of Zion’s commodities is far above rubies; they never were bought nor sold, all are freely given and freely enjoyed by the people of God without money and without price.
But the solemn warning in our text seems to be given to the saints who belong to the building. They are under a solemn charge, lest they should defile the temple or church of the living God; they are not permitted to bring in anything that deffleth; they who bear the vessels of the house of God should have clean hands, and all the members of the church of God are required to put off the shoes from off their feet for the ground on which they stand is holy. They are to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Their hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water. They are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. They put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, and they are called to walk in all the ordinances of the house of God blameless. Such is the high vocation wherewith they are called.
“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” This admonition seems to have reference to their works. Paul says he has laid the foundation, and warns the saints to take heed how they build thereon; for every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire. If any man’s works abide (or stand the fiery ordeal) he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. To attempt then to build on this foundation hay, wood and stubble, is to defile the building; but God will try every man’s works by fire, and all that will not stand the test shall be burned, consumed, destroyed. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” Yea, and the prophet says he shall sit as refiner’s fire and as fuller’s soap, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
We understand then that God will, by his dealings with his children in Zion, in subjecting them to fiery trials, bringing them through the furnace, burn up all their hay, wood and stubble, and if any are found in the Christian profession who have nothing but hay, wood and stubble, they shall be utterly consumed, according to Malachi 4:1. It shall leave them neither root nor branch. But God’s own children, though they suffer loss, so far as their works are concerned, shall themselves be finally saved, yet so as by fire. The discipline of the house of God, the laws of the kingdom of Christ, shall separate from the communion of the saints those who walk disorderly, and their expulsion from the fellowship of the saints and from the privileges of the church of God, will answer to the figures in the ceremonial law, wherein the offenders were put to death, or separated from the congregation of the Lord. “For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” There was no evasion of Moses’ law, neither shall the saints evade the law of Christ. He will visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes; nevertheless his loving-kindness he will not utterly take from him, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail. “My covenant [saith God] will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.” (Psalms 89:34-36)
In conclusion, let us bear in mind the distinguishing grace bestowed on us in assigning to each his place in the house of God, as component parts of the building, as lively stones built up a holy temple in which God has condescended to dwell, and where he has said he will dwell forever, for he has desired it for an habitation. What astonishing dignity has he bestowed on us, how high and holy the calling, how honorable the position! Consecrated and set apart for a habitation of God by his Spirit. With what reverence and godly fear then does it become us to serve him in all things, and let us beware that we defile not the temple of the living God.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 386 – 391