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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:God Makes His People into Temples of the Holy Spirit
Text:LD 20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-01-01
Updated:2017-01-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 133:1,2                                                                                      

Ps 27:1,2  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – 1 Corinthians 3:1-17; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Ps 99:1,2,3,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 20

Hy 49:1,2

Hy 47:1,2,5 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters, it’s sometimes hard to talk about the Holy Spirit. It’s hard, not because God hasn’t told us about the Spirit—He has. Not because we can’t see the Spirit’s influence and effect on people’s lives—we can definitely see what He’s doing. But it’s difficult to talk about the Holy Spirit because of who He is: He is spirit. A spirit is a living being that doesn’t have a physical form or shape. A spirit doesn’t have anything we can grasp with our hands, or picture with our minds.

I’m going to confuse you now, and say that God the Father is spirit, too. He too has no form. Yet we can talk more easily about God the Father, because He is Father. Quite naturally we can think of him in terms of our earthly dads, and what they should do.

For God the Holy Spirit, there’s no such ready image. The best we have is how in the Bible the Spirit gets compared to certain things. The Spirit is like a blowing wind. The Spirit is like a burning fire, or refreshing waters. Perhaps the most well-known image is this: the Holy Spirit dwells in us, as in a temple. Even the children know that, and they can say, “I’m a temple of the Holy Spirit.” But what does the Spirit do, now that He’s taken up residence in us? And what does the Holy Spirit expect, when He enters a person’s heart?

Turning to Lord’s Day 20 and to what Scripture says about the third person of the Trinity, we’ll look at this image of being temples of the Spirit. And a first thing to notice is that when God calls us temples, He doesn’t just mean that we’re individual temples, that each of us is a miniature home for his Spirit. No, God also intends it as a corporate or collective image: as church, as members all together of this congregation, we are the Spirit’s temple.

It’s important to see both of those aspects. For there can be the idea that as believers, we’re essentially on our own. We’ve got to look out for our own walk with Christ—or our own, together with our immediate family. Yet Scripture teaches that Christians are meant to stand together. Think of how God calls us a nation. Or how He says we’re a household, built out of many stones. And all together we’re a temple of God’s Spirit. This is our theme from Lord’s Day 20,

God has formed us into the temple of his Holy Spirit:

  1. as church all together, and
  2. as individual believers

 

1) We are the temple of the Holy Spirit as church all together: When we speak about a temple, everyone knows what it is. It’s the earthly dwelling place of a god. Today in most cities in our country you can find a temple here and there, where Buddhists or some other religious group will gather. But in the ancient world, pagan cities were filled with temples: large and ornate homes for the gods.

Next to all the nations that surrounded her, Israel was supposed to stand out and be different. So even though it appeared she had a temple like the Philistines or Assyrians or Romans, Israel’s temple at Jerusalem was very unusual. Yes, it was considered to be the earthly home of their God. And just like other temples in other places, the one in Jerusalem was where they gathered for worship. Yet here was a key difference: there was no image within it, no idol nor statue. Because the true God is spirit—He can’t be portrayed in a physical way, and He doesn’t want to be. Besides, a man-made temple of stones and gold can never contain him! Even Solomon knew that after he built the majestic temple on Mount Zion. God is much bigger than anything his people could put together

Still, the invisible God was happy to show his presence there. It was something for the benefit of his people. Because whenever the Israelites saw the temple, they had a reminder that their covenant God dwelled among them.

Sometimes they saw this reality in the overwhelming cloud. But more often, God showed his presence simply by blessing the people when they gathered for worship and sacrifice—He blessed them through the outstretched arms of the priest. He also showed his nearness by answering the prayers they lifted up: prayers for deliverance, for mercy, for wisdom and renewal. The Old Testament church knew, beyond any doubt, that God might be invisible, but He’s not out of reach. You can find him at the temple!

At the same time, the LORD’s temple radiated a fearful holiness; it possessed a splendour that made you hesitate to draw near. Because living within those walls was the God who is “holy, holy, holy!” The further that you went into the temple at Jerusalem, the closer you got to the “throne-room” at the far back—where the ark of the covenant was—the greater the holiness that you experienced.

Maybe you’ve heard of such a thing as a Geiger counter; it’s a hand-held instrument that’s used to measure radiation levels. If you take a Geiger counter around Chernobyl, where there was a nuclear disaster decades back, the dial goes crazy. You just know not to get any closer, or it’s going to harm you. Radiation is powerful, it can be used for a good purpose, but it can also kill you. It was like that in the temple: approaching the holy God was a serious thing. It could actually be deadly—think about what happened to Uzzah.

Not just anyone could enter the actual temple, only the appointed priests. And certainly not just anyone could go through the curtain and enter the most holy place. Only the high priest could, and only once a year, and only with the blood of atonement. If you came near God’s house, you had to have deep reverence for his majesty.

The temple was a powerful symbol of God’s nearness. It was a wonderful reality… but then it was no more. The entire temple, and everything that went with it, was made obsolete with the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son.

Do you remember how at the moment when Christ died, the curtain inside the temple was torn in two? What did that mean? That God was finished with living among humans? No, this meant that God wouldn’t show his presence anymore in just one, physical place: not in one land only, nor among one ethnic people only. God was taking his glory on the road! Because of Christ, God is now at home in the heart of every believer. The church, wherever it is found in this world, is now God’s dwelling-place through the Spirit.

Paul explains this astounding truth in his first letter to the Corinthians. Now, we know that he’s writing this letter with a heavy burden. The Corinthians seem to have forgotten what it means to be Christ’s church. They’ve gone back to thinking and behaving like they did when they were worshippers of idols. So Paul reminds them of who they are.

To begin with, as church they’re not the product of human beings, whether those persons are named Paul, Apollos, or someone else. Paul insists to them: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (3:6). As believers, they’re not an earthly project, but heavenly. It was God who granted faith, who washed and sanctified them.

Paul explains this more in 3:9, “You are God’s field, you are God’s building.” To say that we’re “God’s field” is really a profound truth. It means that God is busy with us as church. God is like a farmer with his land, plowing, planting, cultivating, harvesting. Daily He’s at work among us! To say that we’re God’s building means the same. God has built us, and He’s put us a firm foundation. Because with a foundation that’s firm, a house can endure. And the foundation of the church—God’s new temple—is Jesus Christ! Our whole life as congregation is based on what He did. His blood makes it possible to approach the holy God.

“You are God’s building.” More than anywhere else on this earth, we are the place where Almighty God shows his presence! Yes, right here, as church. Sometimes we think we’re closest to the Lord when we’re up on a peak, overlooking miles of stunning scenery. Or when we’re camping and we stand out under the stars at night. We can see God’s glory there, but the church is God’s building! It’s among his people that God loves to dwell, and show his greatness. Like David sings in Psalm 27, it’s in the house of the LORD that we can gaze on his beauty.

So Paul writes to the church at Corinth—and to this church too—“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (v 16). In the original Greek, the words for “you” there are plural. We could translate it, “You yourselves are the temple of God.” As congregation all together, we are God’s temple. By his Spirit, “the true and eternal God” lives among us!

How amazing this is! It was already a miracle that the invisible and holy and mighty God was pleased to reside in a humble, man-made home in Israel, at Jerusalem. Now this miracle reaches a whole new level: God is pleased to live with his church. Even while we’re a lowly and sinful people, He’s among us by his Spirit.

That’s so striking when you consider what believers are like. Remember the Corinthians. Some in the church were doing perverted things that even pagans wouldn’t do. Church members were taking each other to court; they were fighting at Lord’s Supper; they were bragging about their spiritual gifts. Yet it’s this church—this disaster of a congregation—that Paul calls the temple of God! For that’s what they were, by his grace, and through his Spirit.

That’s what we are, too. This congregation isn’t just a human project, the hobby of the elders and deacons, or a job for the minister. As church, we’re God’s work. We are built on Christ’s foundation, and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit wants to make us into a beautiful home for God, so He furnishes us with gifts that we can use for his glory.

This has great importance for what we do as church. For if we are the temple of God, then God calls us to be a house of worship. Sometimes we can think of being in church as unimportant, a minor moment in your life of faith. Church can be “interesting,” we might say. Sometimes it’s even “enjoyable.” But other times, if we’re honest, the idea of all that singing and praying and listening leaves us bored. But think of what this assembly is. Not the building, but the people: We are Christ’s temple, allowed to meet with the holy God. Where we’re gathered in his name, He himself is present by his Spirit.

Yes, God calls us to be a house of worship! That means we should be here with a mind clear enough of distractions that it can focus, with a body rested enough from last week that it can participate. We should be here with a heart prepared to humbly receive the LORD’s Word.

And as his temple, God calls us to be faithful in worship. Think of how sacrifices at the temple were almost never-ending, morning and evening, day after day—it was unthinkable that they’d stop, because the glorious God was right there! He expected worship, He wanted worship, and He was worthy of worship! Isn’t that even more true today? If we’re the temple of God, then worship must be our chief activity, our top priority.

And even though God needs nothing, not even our worship, He finds delight in what we bring him: our songs, our prayers, our gifts. So when we’re faithful in drawing near to God, He is pleased, and we can expect his grace. He’ll answer our petitions. He’ll teach us and comfort us with his Word. He’ll grant his blessing.

In fact, something wonderful happens when God’s people are together: the work of the Holy Spirit thrives! He gives rich encouragement when we stand together as believers. He gives strength through our communion with others who love the Lord and want to sing his praise. There is also great help that we can give each other in the fight against the devil and his temptations. Together we can be a holy house for God!

The church certainly isn’t perfect. We’ve got our shortcomings. But for all of its failings, notice Paul didn’t give up on that disastrous church of Corinth—and neither did God. Because together, as many and diverse believers, this was still true: they were still God’s temple. By his Spirit, Christ was in them. And Christ still wanted to show himself through them in that city.

Here in this congregation, we’re God’s temple, too. As church we’ve got a firm foundation, immovable in Christ Jesus. As church we’ve received the gift and the power of his Holy Spirit. So let’s see ourselves as God’s holy house. It means that we’re in this life together: to worship our God, to fight the devil, to serve Christ, to share his gospel, and to bring him glory.

           

2) We are the temple of the Holy Spirit as individual believers: When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he also had a personal focus. For any church is made up of many members. And God’s Word says that each believer, regardless of our age or position, is individually a dwelling-place of the Spirit. And what’s the consequence of that? What’s the consequence of the holy God making you his home? It means a whole lot. 

Some of the significance comes across in chapter 6. There Paul challenges those who were claiming they could live however they pleased. For them, there were no rules: Christ set them free from the law! And because they were so permissive, the Corinthians were getting involved in things that were destroying their faith.

It’s clear that sexual sin in particular was infecting a good many of the believers. We know from the history books that Corinth was a notoriously wicked city. It was full of pagan temples. And at the shrines to the gods, sex was always the top item in the liturgy. If you wanted a good time, all you had to do was walk over to the nearest temple. Confronted with this, the Christians found it hard to be holy.

Paul’s response is fascinating. You’d think he wouldn’t want to mention temples, and maybe he would use a different illustration. But instead he tells the believers that they are temples! By the Spirit they were living, breathing, walking temples. And not temples of false gods, those gods who didn’t mind a little sex and promiscuity. Rather, they were temples of the true God, the holy God. Christ was in each of them through his Spirit. Wherever they went, Christ was too.

And that reality has a world of consequences for the Christian life. Here’s just one, when Paul puts it to the Corinthians very sharply, “The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (6:13). Your body is for God’s service, not for doing whatever you please! And then, as he continues his admonition in verse 19, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”

Sure, Paul has a negative reason for talking about believers as temples. He wants to warn against sin! Yet this doesn’t take away from the beauty of what he’s saying. God could’ve abandoned us to our sin, and we could’ve gone the way everyone else in this world is going, but God is so merciful. He sends his Spirit into the hearts of sinful people. As the Catechism powerfully says, the Spirit is “given to me, to make me by true faith share in Christ and all his benefits, to comfort me, and to remain with me forever” (Q&A 53).

“To remain with me…” That sense of God’s presence in our hearts is there, as a steady comfort, a rock-solid assurance, a faithful guide. Wherever you are, if you’re walking with the LORD, then the invisible God is very near. The God of heaven isn’t unconcerned about our earthly lives, but very involved. We’re his temple, after all! We know He’ll be stay with us, because of the sure foundation we have in Christ. The Spirit gives us a love for Christ, and a desire to do his will.

This same Spirit puts on us a great responsibility. Think of the weight of never being apart from the living God: He remains with us! We can never run from the Spirit’s presence. You can’t throw a wet blanket over his glory. You can’t minimize the LORD to a small corner of our life. You’re his temple, and God says to you, “Be holy, just as I, the LORD your God, am holy. So be holy in all you do.”

This is hard for us. Like in Corinth sexual temptation today is rampant. We don’t have to look too hard, or go too far, to find things that stir up our lust—it’s right there, on your phone, or on your computer, on your radio or television. We also know about how our society regards God’s gift of marriage. This is the immorality that confronts us, this is the corruption that bangs on the door, and seeps through the cracks.

And these are the things that can ruin us. Getting caught up in sexual sin can be so harmful to your walk with Christ. It deadens a person’s joy in the gospel. It keeps you from maturing in the faith. It distracts from service in the midst of your family, or the church. It can lead to an endless chasing after pleasure, that in the end is only empty.

So Paul’s words are still needed: “The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor 6:13). The body we have—these limbs, these members, these eyes and hands and mouth—this body is for the Lord. It’s his temple. So to take part in sexual sin is to defile God’s house!

Can you imagine the Israelites having a pig roast in the temple courts? Can you imagine them treating the tabernacle like a port-a-toilet during the wilderness journey? It’s unthinkable, for that was God’s house! Uncleanness, and defilement, and impurity had no place there. So what if your whole body is God’s temple? What if your spirit is his dwelling place? What does that say for what you wear, or look at, or talk about, or think about, or do?

It’s no wonder that when the Catechism explains the seventh commandment (about adultery), it emphasizes that we’re God’s temple: “Since we, body and soul, are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is God’s will that we keep ourselves pure and holy” (Q&A 109). God wants to walk among us. He’s serious about holiness—so we should be too. Keep yourself pure and holy!

Of course, it’s not only sexual sin that threatens our holiness as temples. Anytime we set up an idol in our life, that’s a great offense to God. There’s so much else that can make us impure too, like lying to our parents, or being lazy, or being jealous, or passing along gossip. God is displeased with all of this impurity! None of it’s fitting for a temple of the Holy Spirit.

This is why Paul gives this sweeping command, “You are not your own. For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (vv 19-20). Whatever we do with this body—or this mind, this heart, this spirit—ought to be done for Christ. Being temples of his Spirit means that at every moment, God expects from us a different kind of life. He expects holiness, because He is holy. He expects purity, because He himself is pure.

God expects it, but the best news is that He also makes it possible! Think of how near God is—He’s living within us. Think of how ready He is to show mercy, and how He delights in our worship and service. His power through the Spirit will equip us, so ask for the Spirit. Seek his strength in prayer. Seek his fullness through Scripture. Be built up through worship and fellowship with other believers. These are the kind of things that will give the Spirit more of a place to live and to work in our hearts. Don’t crowd the Spirit out, but give him room!

What was true for the Corinthians is still true today: we’re works-in-progress. Under construction. You know that some renovation projects around the house never get done. But we’re not like that: one day we will be finished, renovated to perfection. Today we’re like temples that are covered in scaffolding, and there’s a sign out front, Anticipated Completion Date: The Day of Christ’s Return. We’ve got a ways to go. But already now, He’s with us by his Spirit, and He’s working.

God does all this to his praise, as He reveals great strength through our weakness. For his higher honour, He forms us into temples on the foundation of Christ, and by the power of his Holy Spirit! He has made us temples: “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit.”  Amen.                                        

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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