Ephesians 2:19-21. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
Every temple in the ancient world had two things in common: 1) the further in you go the closer you get to the god who lived there, and 2) the further in you go, the more restricted the access to that god. Even God’s temple in the Bible, where the glory of God lived, limited access to the priests. No “regular person” could just walk into God’s temple and talk to God.
Because Christ lives in us, we, the church, ARE the temple of God. Paul is using the unique word for the inner sanctuary of the temple – the naos. For the Jews this would have been the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. For Greeks it was the center room where the idol of the deity was set up. In Ephesus that would have been Artemis, the goddess of hunting and fertility. Her temple is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. She was a really big deal.
All ancient temple worship moved from the outer to the inner. Think about this outer to inner movement in God’s temple for a minute. Sacrifices and purification happened in the outer courts. Then moving into the Holy Place, candles were lit, bread was eaten, and incense was burned. Then moving to the most inner Holy of Holies, blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat once a year for the atoning of sins.
But in Christ worship has been reversed. Now, our spiritual worship moves from inner to outer. Everything we trust God for is already IN us. In Christ, and by the indwelling Spirit, God’s love, power, grace, hope, peace, and joy have already been poured into our hearts. No outward ritual supplies these, only faith in what we already have will do. Faith that then produces an outward display of what we possess inwardly by grace.
This new “inside-out” religion is what makes the church so unique and Christianity so different from all other religions:
We have no physical temple – WE ARE the temple. God literally and spiritually lives within us.
We make no holy pilgrimage – WE ARE the meeting place of God and man, taking this sacred space with us wherever we go.
We have no specialized priests – WE ARE God’s kingdom of priests, entering the throne room of God where we boldly make our petitions and our confessions.
We have no idols – WE ARE the image of God through Christ in us.
We bring no sacrifice – WE ARE a living sacrifice. Each moment of our lives is an act of worship.
We make no atonement – WE HAVE the life of Christ in us as the propitiation for our sins. There is no more offering for sin. No more blood to be shed. No bull or lamb to be killed. And no act of contrition on our part. No self-denial. No penance. No forgiveness to plead for. We ARE forgiven by the once for all blood of the Lamb.
Do you see it? Everything God once accomplished through the temple was finally accomplished through the temple of Christ’s body on the cross. Now we are his “inside-out” temple on earth. “To live is Christ” is to be the reality of all that an earthly temple could only shadow. Together in Christ we, the church, are the meeting place of God and man. He is our God and we are his people to the praise of his glory.
Do you think of yourself as God’s temple?
You in Christ
How does knowing that we are God’s holy temple change how you approach God?
Christ in you
Christ in you makes your “religion” an inside-out experience. How can you work out your salvation today, making it known to others?
Playlist: God’s Temple.
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