We ended part one of this series with the observation that Jesus’ body is now God’s dwelling place on earth, rather than the temple in Jerusalem. This began with Jesus’ conception in Mary. He is the Son of God, the word of God incarnate dwelling in the midst of sinners. Wherever he is, God is.
However, prior to the resurrection, Jesus was in one place at any given time. His body, like the Jerusalem temple, was the single dwelling place on earth chosen by God. A radical change occurs with his resurrection. Jesus is now able to be in more than one place at a time. He can be wherever he needs to be to do his Father’s will. He can be all over creation simultaneously. He does this most obviously when the Church gathers in thousands of places at the same time to receive his body and blood, but also whenever and wherever two or three gather in his name.
We begin to understand what Jesus meant when he told the Samaritan woman “the hour is coming” when no one will worship the Father on any particular mountain, but “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The temple is still the place to worship God, but rather than a physical structure built by men, it is the body of Jesus raised from the dead. Rather than a place to which sinners must travel, the temple is now a person who comes to sinners.
The shift is even more radical when we listen to what Scripture reveals about Jesus’ resurrected body:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit. … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27)
Wherever Jesus is, so are the Father and the Holy Spirit:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. … If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:15-20, 23)
Paul, the apostle, listening carefully to Jesus rightly concludes the body of each believer is God’s temple: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
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.” (2 Corinthians 6:16b)
No church building is a primary structure. All buildings are secondary. The primary “structure” — the new temple — is Jesus’ body and the bodies of His disciples. More about the priests in this new temple, and the implications for mission and discipleship in part three.
*This is the second in a series of articles on temples, priests and church buildings by Pastor Mark Chavez, NALC General Secretary.