"KNOW ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
We have been requested to write on the above subject, and though the ground has been covered many times before by the writers of the SIGNS, we feel to add our mite to what has been said upon this subject, though not with the idea of presenting anything new. In the verses preceding the text Paul calls attention to the only foundation upon which the church either as a whole or as individuals rests: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” True, there are many false prophets gone out into the world who do try to lay some other foundation for man's security than Jesus Christ; some try to lay a foundation of creature goodness, others a foundation of creature works, still others foundations of various isms and schemes guaranteed by their authors to rid the world of sin and to usher in a new era of peace and good will. But Paul knew, the Corinthian brethren knew, and every one of God's people to-day knows, that there is no name given under heaven among men whereby the elect must be saved but the name of Jesus; he alone brings salvation. His name was called Jesus because “he shall save his people from their sins.“ It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The reason why the people of God know there is no other foundation than Jesus Christ, and the reason why all other people do not know this, is because God has revealed this to his people and has not revealed it to the world. There was a time in Paul's life when he, as Saul of Tarsus, did not know this foundation, and went about persecuting those who believed and preached Jesus, but the Lord in a very wonderful way (yet not more wonderful than his dealings with all his people) brought Saul of Tarsus to repentance, and to the knowledge of this one foundation, Jesus Christ, and sent him on his way as Paul to preach that which he once hated, and to preach to those he once persecuted. This change in the career of Paul is explainable on no other ground than that it was the work of God's grace revealing Jesus Christ in him. After presenting Christ as this one foundation, Paul in the few verses preceding our text mentions two kinds of ministry: one builds upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones; the other builds wood, hay and stubble. But every man's work, that is, each ministry, will be made manifest. There is bound to come a day of trial which will reveal the ministry of God's servants. If their ministry stands the test of this fiery trial it is proof that they have built gold, silver, precious stones. If their ministry cannot stand the fire, they have built wood, hay and stubble. Now, some say that salvation begins in grace, but is carried on by ourselves; that Jesus quickens the dead sinner, brings him to repentance, starts him on the right road, then leaves him to obey or disobey as he chooses. This kind of preaching or ministry is building up wood, hay and stubble on the foundation, and is sure to fail when the fiery trial comes. When afflictions come to that one who has tried to earn his blessings by his obedience that one finds that no matter how hard he tries to walk obediently he cannot escape suffering, and further, that one finds no satisfaction or comfort in anything he can attain unto by his own efforts. To preach that salvation begins in the Spirit and is carried on by ourselves is to build up wood, hay and stubble. Now, the other ministry which builds up gold, silver and precious stones is the ministry, such as Paul's himself, which declares Jesus first, last and all the way through. This ministry declares him the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the author and the finisher of his people's faith. Salvation by grace and grace alone, first last and all the time, is the ministry, and the only ministry, that will adequately stand the test of the fiery trial, which will be a comfort and support when all else fails. However, if there is any child of God anywhere who is bewitched by the “wood, hay, stubble” ministry, who has been deceived to think he can earn blessings by his obedience, that child will not be lost, but he will “suffer loss,” but he himself shall be saved, “yet so as by fire.” There is salvation to the Lord's people in these fiery trials. The fire consumes their idolatries, but they themselves are preserved. All that the fire did to the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace was to burn off their bands, it did not hurt them. So do the fiery trials sent the Lord's people rid them of earthly and sensual bonds so to bring them a new realization of their liberty in Christ Jesus. The church is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in the church, and in each and every member of the church. In the sixth chapter of this same letter Paul says, “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own!” It seems that in this letter Paul is addressing the Corinthian brethren as a church collectively, and not as individuals. Thus, his saying, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost,” seems to mean in this instance not so much that the mortal body of each believer is the temple of the Holy Ghost (though that is true), but that the church as a “body,” “your body,” is the temple of the Holy Ghost. However, we do not mean to stress this point, because in the connection in the sixth chapter he says, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” and here, beyond a doubt, he is speaking of the individual body of each believer, and doing so to press the truth that we should keep our bodies clean, that is, we should not join our bodies to harlots, and thus commit fornication. We think there are some of the Lord's people who believe that salvation is by grace, and grace alone, and yet they will sit at meat in the idol's temple; that is, they will commune with those who do not believe in the efficacy of Jesusí blood and who worship the works of their own hands. Is not this joining one's body to a harlot, and committing fornication? Why not come out from among them and be separate, and touch not, taste not, handle not, the unclean thing? However, going back to our text in the third chapter, Paul tells us what the temple of God really is. The temple of God is not anything that man can build. It is not composed of stone or marble or wood beautifully wrought. When Paul stood on Mars Hill in the city of Athens, that city which was then the centre of the world's learning and culture, he could from where he stood survey the magnificent buildings which the Greeks had builded to house their idol gods. Even today these buildings are splendid in their ruins, and tourists travel from all over the world to see them. What must they have been in the days of their entirety and preeminence? Yet Paul looked around upon the spectacle of Athenian splendor, and then boldly declared that the Almighty dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Think of the millions and millions of dollars that have been spent in the erection of magnificent and stupendous structures called “churches” and cathedrals for God to dwell in, yet he does not dwell in one of them, not one of them is really his church. No man or set of men can build a dwelling appropriate for the habitation of Almighty God. We hear from many quarters laments and regrets that so many of the beautiful cathedrals in Europe have been sacrificed to the guns of the warring nations, but those cathedrals are nothing but monuments memorializing error, and are better razed than raised. Vital religion will not suffer a bit from their downfall. David when king of Israel thought he would build a house for God, but God very quickly showed him his inefficiency to do any such thing: “Shalt thou build mean house for me to dwell in? * * * the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house.” David could not be permitted to build God's house, for he was a man of war, but, “When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” We understand the word of the Lord here refers to Jesus, who was to descend after the flesh from David's line. We do not think Solomon is meant here, because God says, “I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever,” and Solomon's kingdom was not stablished forever. Jesus, the son of David, and the Son of God, is the builder of the temple in which dwells God. He builds the temple not of dead things such as stone and marble, but of living material, “lively stones,” men and women of Adam's race born again, born from above, according to the will of God, begotten of his Holy Spirit. In these quickened subjects of God's grace made alive from the dead, and raised up together with Christ to sit together in the heavenlies, in these God dwells, so that they are in him and he in them, even as Christ and the Father are one. The tabernacle of God is with men. We so often are prone to think of God as away off from his people, and it is a blessed and comforting thought when we realize that God is right here on earth with his people, and that they are in him. The surest way to know that God is in you is to know that you love the brethren, for “God is love,” and if this love be in you then God is in you, and you are a temple of God. “The kingdom of God is within you.” How natural it is to look for the kingdom to come from somewhere outside ourselves, but the religion of God is a principle that declares that the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth. This kingdom is in power. The wind blows where it lists, and we hear the sound of it, but we cannot tell whence it comes nor whither it is going, yet so is every one that is born of the Spirit. We cannot conceive of “power,” yet “power” is more real, more vital than things we can imagine. The things we can imagine are the frail, the ineffectual things. Those things which are beyond our conception, but which are constantly swaying us averse to our will, they are the only real things after all. Thus, the kingdom of God is better felt than described. It defies expression, because it is not in word, but in power. God is a Spirit. He is not tangible nor evident to our natural mind or senses. He is Power, he is Love. It is the power of God that makes a sinner believe in him, it is this same power that enables him to hear the gospel or to preach it. The love of God shed abroad in the heart causes us to love the people of God, for surely if we love God we must love that which is begotten of God. There is no such thing as saying we love God, whom we have not seen, when we love not our brother whom we have seen. This Power and this Love are God. It is in this way that God is known: in the manifestation and revelation of himself, not in imaginings or speculations about him. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts, Leeshurg, Va.
Signs of the Times
Vol.84, No.13 July 1, 1916