Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 ESV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
How do people talk about church? To many in our culture, church is simply irrelevant or archaic or inadequate or mistaken. To others, who still have a somewhat Christendom view, church is a place that you go to or the building which is the house of God or a social institution for caring for the poor. Sadly, even genuine followers of Christ have wrong ideas of church.
If you have attended here for any length of time, you have heard us continually say something like “church is not a place you go to, but people in Christ whom you share new live with.” Our text for this morning develops this idea, calling those who are learners of Jesus “the temple of the living God”.
I. The progress of God’s story
A. The development of the temple theme
1. In the OTS God lived among the people in the tabernacle (Ex 25:1-9) and the temple (1 Ki 8:1-21). The people of Israel were to keep free from idolatry and reverence God’s sanctuary (Lev 26:1-2).
2. In the NTS God lives in his people (1 Cor 3:16-17; Eph 2:20-22; 1 Pt 2:4-10). This happens in three stages.
a. The incarnation of the Son of God (Jn 1:14; Mt 1:23)
b. The current reality in the church (Eph 3:17)
c. God’s final purpose in eternity (Rev 21:2)
B. The covenant people
1. In the Old Testament scriptures God took a people to himself and promised to be with them (Lev 26:11-12; Ezk 37:14; 26-28; cf. Jer 31:33; 32:38), but their standing rested upon a huge “if” (Ex 19:1-6; Deut 11:26-32). They were a physically redeemed people (from Egypt and then from Babylon) with spiritual opportunities. But the law could not deal with their sin.
2. In the NTS God lives in his people (Jn 14:15-20; Rm 8:11; 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 2:22; 2 Tm 1:14) because of the finished, spiritual redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Our standing does not rest on any “if”, but we are the fulfillment of God’s promises (1 Pt 2:9-10). Christ’s final sacrifice of himself secured our eternal redemption (Heb 9:11-15; 10:10-14).
Apply: By faith, we must act upon what Christ has done and confess, “We are the temple of the living God.” We don’t have to look for something better. We should delight in our gatherings together in the presence of God.
II. Our present life with God
A. God now lives in the assemblies (churches or congregations) of his people. In the world, especially the ancient world, to have a “religion” that lacked a tangible temple, priests, and sacrifices would be thought very strange. This is because humanity boasts in the flesh and what can be seen and touched. Here is where we encounter more of the newness of the new covenant. In Christ we have a new and better temple, high priest and priesthood, and a finished sacrifice that makes other spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (cf. 1 Pt 2:6). This new temple also ends the divisions among people since there is a new humanity (Eph 2:11-22).
1. Individual believers in Jesus Christ are the living stones that make up this new temple (1 Pt 2:4-5). So in one sense each one is God’s temple, because we are members of Christ himself (1 Cor 6:15-20).
2. However, the emphasis in the NTS is on the assembly as God’s temple. Notice the “we” in this verse. The same emphasis holds true in other passages (1 Pt 2:5 – living stones but one house; Eph 2:21 – the whole building is joined together; cf. Rm 12:5 – we who are many form one body). This means that you and I must view ourselves, not in isolation from other believer, but as part of God’s new temple with other believers. This also means that the assumption that a person can worship God apart from other believers, apart from the church, is very wrong. Our identity must always be that in Christ we are joined together to be his temple.
B. We are to enter into the new reality of being God’s temple.
1. Realize his presence among us. This is the fulfillment of the OT idea that God was especially present in the midst of his people (Ex 29:44-46; 33:14-16; Ps 114:2). The OT prophets spoke that by the Spirit God would live in his people in a new way (Joel 2:28-32; Is 44:3-5; Ezk 36:27-28; 37:14). We must see that the living God is present in a special way in the gatherings of Christ’s new covenant people. He is with us to provide true blessedness. He walks among us to turn people toward him (cf. 1 Cor 14:24-25), to forgive the sinner, to comfort the broken-hearted, to encourage those with little hope, to fill us with passion to serve others in love, to instruct the learners, to give direction to the confused, to correct those wandering, to give stability to the troubled, and to strengthen those who are weak. God shows his glory to us in the face of Christ, he fills our hearts with joy, and pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. He tells us that he is here in us; we can know his presence by the Spirit through faith.
2. Be the reality that the OT type pointed to: know God’s glory and show it, and offer prayers to him like incense (Rev 5:8).
3. Remember that we are also God’s people (Rm 9:25-26; 2 Cor 6:16; Ti 2:14). We are the fulfillment of a people that belong to God and with whom we enjoy friendship and partnership.
Apply: We must drink this into our souls by faith. Meditate on this and enjoy!
III. The challenge of being God’s temple
A. Keeping ourselves set apart to God
1. Many pressures are currently seeking to mutate the church into something besides God’s temple. One of these is the drive for earthly success by things that are measurable. Some examples would be money, members, and programs. If you have a lot, you must be a success. When you think of counting people in the NTS, neither largeness nor smallness is a sign of true spirituality, because you can read of both without commendation or criticism. A problem currently active in our country is the collapse of godliness in mega-churches, as they strive to maintain their numbers. Too many have already surrendered to the world concerning gender and sexuality issues.
2. This happens when a church forgets that they are God’s temple, where God dwells with his people. You don’t have a church because you have a crowd—or a lack of one. A church is not a service institution that appeals to people to come so that we can make them feel happy about themselves. Instead, we are a gathering of Christ’s holy or set apart people that come together to celebrate God and to enjoy the beauty of his holiness.
3. Having a consumer-driven church will mutate many areas of faith and practice. For example, prayer in the church that longs for worldly success is a wish list in which a person tells God what they need and tells God how to give them their needs. In the church that knows it is God’s temple, prayer is the sweet smelling incense of conversation with God the Father through Christ by the Spirit, for which he promises to guard our hearts and our minds with his peace. It says, “You have told us to present our situation to you, Father in heaven. We trust you to do what is right for your glory and our good; in fact, we thank you now because you will.”
B. Keeping a proper respect for one another
1. In an assembly of learners of Jesus, we accept one another for Christ’s sake on a person’s profession of faith in Christ according to the gospel. A person proclaims, “By God’s grace, I have had a change of mind and have turned from my sinful way of life to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.” And then we expect that person to live consistent with being in Christ. We expect to see a gospel-formed way of life.
2. At this point we can face several challenges, one of which is keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).Notice that it says “unity” and not “uniformity”. The Spirit loves diversity in his unity. For this reason, all have a different “shape”. And it can be very challenging to allow the Spirit to display this lovely diversity in unity when people are different from us. For example, the Spirit puts people together who have different personalities and experiences and spiritual gifts to help them develop into Christ-likeness together. Notice that is Christ-likeness, not likeness to you or to me.
C. Standing for God amid worldly opposition
1. Since we are the temple of the living God, we come into immediate conflict with manmade religions and their false gods and lifeless temples. They do not like the message of the gospel of Christ that says there is one God and one way to know him and one way to worship him.
2. This leads them to persecute God’s people. As Jesus taught, if they love him, they will love his people; otherwise, there is sure to be opposition.
Illustration: The martyrdom of Ignatius (quoted by Hughes)
Apply: Pray for the persecuted church. Pray for grace to stand boldly for Jesus Christ. In what areas of your life do you need to stand up more boldly for the Lord?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]