Where is God's House?
copyright © 20011
When you say the word "church," most Christians in the Western world picture a building.
We Christians have used the words "church" and "God's house" in such common ways that the terms have lost their true meaning. We easily give directions to a church down the street. We talk about where we go to church. We think that when we are in the location where we regularly gather with other Christians, we are sitting in God's house. But are we? Where is God's house?
Where DOES God dwell?
"Wheresoever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am also.” the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:20 NIV
"But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory." Hebrews 3:6
"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies". 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27 NIV
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands." Acts 17:24 NIV
I know that most Christians will nod when they see or hear these verses . . . but I’m not always sure the truth they reveal has worked it's way into their understanding.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that the curtain (the barrier inside the temple in Jerusalem that kept the presence of God separate from sinful humanity) was torn in half—top to bottom, by God Himself—because He would thereafter dwell IN the hearts of those who believed.
The Greek word translated "church" (or "churches") in the New Testament is ekklesia (pronounced ek-klay-SEE-ah) appears 115 times in the New Testament. Ekklesia applies: to those who are "called out," to the "gathered meeting," to "those who are a "congregation," who are a "community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both." The word "church" in the New Testament refers to a gathered people, not a place. Other terms which are synonymous with "church" in Scripture are "the Body of Christ," and "the Bride of Christ"—both of which also refer to a living being, not a building.
BEING A WITNESS
If you are a Christian (especially if you are one who labors for the Lord), your witness should matter to you. Can you claim to be preaching, teaching, or living out New Testament truth if you are regularly ignoring one of its foundational teachings? The glory of the gospel message is that Jesus died for us, that if we receive Him, He will make His home IN us, and that wheresoever two or more of us gather in His name, there He is in our midst. Do you recognize what powerful truths these are? Yet we think nothing of stripping all of that away for the ease of referring to an empty shell of a building as a "church." What does that say about what we actually believe?
CHRISTIANS are "THE CHURCH"
God doesn't long for a temple made with human hands, no matter how elegant it may be. He already paid the highest price that can be paid for a place to reside. He gave His only begotten Son for His chosen dwelling place. Jesus died for us, His Bride—His church!
When you are a Christian, YOU are the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. When you gather with other believers in the name of Jesus Christ, wherever you are—be that a shack, a boat at sea, an open field, or a huge palace with chandeliers—YOU (collectively) are the church.
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22
I pray you'll consider this when someone asks you "where" you go to church. It may be a unique opportunity to share the gospel with someone who doesn't know Jesus. The next time a Christian brother or sister calls a mere building "God's house," it may be time to call them to ponder afresh of the wonders of Christ in us!
© 20011 Terry L. Craig
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Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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