People see God through believers.

We are not a temple culture. A few churches use the word in their name, but temples are largely of a different world and time. Yet the temple is central to the Biblical story. The Bible starts and ends with temple imagery.

From Genesis to Revelation
Genesis 1:1-2:3 pictures God structuring and populating his creation temple, and then on the seventh day moving into it. God rests in his temple. Solomon’s temple reflected creation’s structure and beauty before God.

The temple plays a major role throughout Israel’s history from Bethel to the Tabernacle, then through the building, destruction and rebuilding of Solomon’s temple. The rededication of the temple by the Maccabees (Hanukkah, 164 B.C.) and its desecration by the Roman general Pompey in 63 B.C. set significant Jewish expectations at Jesus’ time.

The final vision of Revelation depicts the new creation as a temple-like New Jerusalem, but there is no temple in it because the Lord God and the Lamb are fully present. Even now there is a new temple.

John’s Gospel plays into this in the wonderful temple ideas celebrating the Word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us. It was in the temple that God’s glory, his wonderful presence, was to be experienced. In John, after Jesus expresses the joyous abundance of his mission by turning the Jewish cleansing water into wine, the next thing Jesus does is cleanse the temple and speak of the temple of his body.

Luke frames his telling of the Christmas story with the temple. He starts with Zechariah in the temple receiving a message from God. After Jesus’ birth Joseph and Mary bring him to the temple where they meet Simeon and Anna. Then the only childhood story about Jesus is in the temple where Jesus’ first words are to ask his worried parents, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Luke structures the middle of his Gospel along Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem which culminates in his entering the temple to restore it to a house of prayer (Luke 9-19). Luke ends his Gospel with Jesus being the new temple of God revealing the presence of God through Scripture and the sacrament of the meal, but there is more.

The Father sends the Spirit. Paul relays the significance to the Corinthians. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

The gift of the Spirit honors the whole community. Later Paul applies this individually to the way we honour our bodies sexually. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you . . . . Therefore, honour God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

The concept of the temple as a building has taken a personal turn. Not only is Jesus the person in whom heaven and earth meet; through the Holy Spirit, so are all believers. We are to give expression to the presence of God in all our lives. People see God through believers. This leads us to greater respect for each other and the whole Christian community. This elevates our view of our physical presence.

Templing is about God honoring his creation. God enters his creation. God enters our human flesh. God enters his people. God enters each of us. We are the temple of God, the place where earth meets heaven, the people in whom others meet God.

When Solomon, the temple priests, Simeon and Anna met God in the temple, they praised, prayed and proclaimed the presence of God in the world. Be God’s templing in all of life

  • Rev. Tom Wolthuis is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church and the Director of Geneva Campus Ministry at the University of Iowa.

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