When is a house not a house?

This morning Cliff Truelove is preaching about the stoning of Stephen — who is commonly called the first Christian martyr. False witnesses said that Stephen
“never stops speaking against this holy place [the Jerusalem temple] and the law [of Moses]. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
(Acts 6:13-14)

However, Stephen was neither speaking against the temple or the law, and the false witnesses were probably misrepresenting what Jesus said in John 2:19 —

 “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”

Neither Jesus or Stephen wanted to destroy the physical temple during their lives, but both had a much better and deeper understanding of the temple than the Jewish religious leaders. They both knew that the temple was where God had eventually come to dwell in the most personal and physical way during the Old Testament, but that God’s complete and immediate presence could not be contained in a physical building. So Stephen quotes Isaiah 66:1 where God says to his people —

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?”

(of course the implied answer is that no building can properly and completely ‘house’ God).

The temple is where God’s presence is, which ultimately is Jesus, who has the fullness of God in his body (Colossians 1:19). This is why John tells us that “the temple he [Jesus] had spoken of was his body” (John 2:21). Christ’s Spirit dwells in individual believers (1 Cor. 6:19) and individual churches (1 Cor. 3:16-17), so that you and I as individuals, and us as a church, are ‘the house of God’. So, since the coming of Jesus buildings are no longer ‘the house of the Lord’.

Because the house that God is building … is not a house.


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