The Individual And Corporate Temple
by Michael Barrett
Let's take up the subject of the Temple of God for a few minutes. There has undoubtedly been much teaching over the years regarding the Temple of God. It is not my aim here to look at the various "temples" of God described in the scriptures.
We do, however, clearly find in the Old Testament a physical temple. Whether that temple was found in the form of a tabernacle, or a temporary structure, or an actual temple, which was more permanent. Whether we were to look at the tabernacle of Moses, the tabernacle of David or the temple of Solomon, there is obviously much beautiful and helpful revelation associated with any of these structures.
Again, it is not my aim to have us go in the direction of reviewing the passages that describe those structures. What I do, however, want to pursue in this article is the truth that is contained in the symbolism drawn from all of the Old Testament temples or tabernacles. Each and every example found in the Old Testament, as important as they all are, are all shadows or figures of the real! They each pre-figure the reality of a new temple coming in the new covenant.
The Individual Temple
Now, that's our jumping off place. With that, I want to discuss the reality of two New Testament temples. The first temple we will examine is what we might call "the individual temple."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
As a believer, your body has become a New Testament temple. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In other words, you have become, as a born again believer, a residence for the Holy Spirit. Take the time to review the following scripture passages.
John 16:7--Jesus going away, Holy Spirit coming
John 20:22--Receive the Holy Spirit
John 14:17--Holy Spirit will be in you
Romans 8:9-11--Holy Spirit dwells in you
2 Corinthians 1:22--sealed with the Holy Spirit, in your heart
As these passages clearly indicate, when a person is born again, or receives Christ in a saving way, the Holy Spirit comes into that person. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the spirit of that individual. Thus, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is fulfilled. This person becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. The physical temple, or house, of the Holy Spirit has become a person. The temple of God is no longer a temple built with hands (Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24).
If you are born again, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit!! This is a very basic truth that every believer needs to understand. Christ in you, the hope of Glory! (Colossians 1:27). This is the person of the Holy Spirit, coming into the believer! This is the "individual temple" of God in the new covenant. As a believer, you are the individual new covenant temple of God. What a reality!
The Corporate Temple
Now, the second New Testament temple we need to consider is not an individual temple, but rather a corporate temple. It is the corporate temple of the Body of Christ.
Ephesians 2:19-22 "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
It is important to note several key aspects of the truth of this passage. These are: 1) verse 20 says that we are being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and that Jesus is the chief corner stone of the building. 2) verse 21 says that this building is being framed and fitted together and is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. 3) verse 22 says that these individual parts are being built together and are becoming a "habitation of God through the Spirit."
Already we can see a contrast, or difference between the individual temple and the corporate temple. This individual temple reality is experienced by everyone who has received Christ (in the person of the Holy Spirit) into his or her heart and life. For this person, this reality already exists. In other words, the individual temple is something that the believer "already is." However, the corporate temple reality is altogether different. Firstly, you cannot experience this reality alone! This reality may only be experienced as the Holy Spirit fits, frames and builds you together with other members of the Body of Christ into a Holy Temple.
We can see from the reading of the two passages above that the "two temples" are experienced differently. The individual temple is experienced alone, whereas the corporate temple may only be experienced with other members of Christ's Body. With this thought in mind, let's now consider exactly what this corporate temple is growing to be.
A Habitation Of God Through The Spirit
Can you see the picture in this statement? A habitation of God! A place where the Sovereign God dwells!! Not a place of visitation, but a place of habitation! You see, as the individual members of the Body of Christ come together, that is, are built together by the Holy Spirit, we become the place where God Himself will live. Now I realize that the argument here could be, "I am already the temple of the Holy Spirit", and I couldn't agree more. Every believer has the presence of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, dwelling on the inside. There is, however, another "kind" of God dwelling in people, which is altogether different than the individual kind.
Many today are talking about the "manifest presence of God." That is, that the presence of the Sovereign Lord should come forth in power from His people. May I suggest to you that this level of expression of the presence of God will not come through an individual, but rather through the "built" Body of Christ! The manifestation of the presence of the Lord belongs to the corporate temple! We, together, are that corporate temple. As we yield unselfishly to the inward work of the Holy Spirit, He will build us together into this holy house where God will dwell and from which He will manifest Himself in power to the earth!
Coming Together Or Being Together?
The scripture says in Hebrews 10:25 that we are not to forsake to assemble together, and that we are to give more attention to doing so as we see the nearing of the Lord's return. Think about the word assemble. If you were to buy a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, would it be "together?" The answer to that question depends on your definition of together. All of the pieces are together, in fact, in the box. But is the puzzle together? In this word picture, you can see the experience that we are having at times as members of the Lord's Body. It's not enough to merely be together. We must allow a deep work of the Holy Spirit, in order that we genuinely come together with our hearts before God.
Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. In Acts 1:14, the scripture says that they were not only together in one place, but they were in "one accord." This word means that they were "unanimous." They all had the same mind, purpose and disposition toward the word of the Lord. As a result of their togetherness and unity, the Holy Spirit came and willingly filled them all. The result of their being filled was an outflow that affected the entire country.
1 Corinthians 14:26 says, when we all "come together" every believer will have a contribution to the whole. I want to pose here two possibilities. They are: 1) that you can come together and still not be together, and 2) that there is an experience of unity that is possible which actually creates an atmosphere that is inviting to the Holy Spirit.
An example of this idea is found in Acts, chapter 13. We see in this passage that there were a number of disciples in the church at Antioch. Additionally, there were at least five of those believers who had come together. The "kind" of coming together here is particularly noteworthy. It is apparent that the coming together of these believers was pleasing to the Lord in such a way, that it elicited a response from the Holy Spirit. We should also mention that there was plenty of ground for these particular believers to be divided, and not in unity. A cursory look at Acts 13:1 gives us an immediate sense of some of the issues that could have kept these brethren divided. Diversity of gifting, culture, and ethnicity could have easily divided these believers. They, however, had sufficiently worked through these potential elements of division to the point of unity. It was in this atmosphere of unity that the Holy Spirit responded to these brethren.
Union And Unity
We have an opportunity to experience unity each time we come together as the Body of Christ. Our commonality is Christ! Our union with Him, is also our union with one another. We were "quickened together with Him." We were all reconciled to God in the person and work of the Son of God. You didn't get quickened without me. I didn't get quickened without you. We both came into the family of God by the new and living way. This is our union with Him and with one another.
Ephesians 4:3 says that we are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You can't keep something that isn't available, but you can keep something that is available. The unity of the Spirit is the unity that already exists in Christ. We are the Body of Christ. We all believe that Jesus will get His John 17 prayer answered. We will experientially be one! We have the real opportunity as the Lord's Body to come together in a genuine unity and be built together. We don't have to be fragmented, separated and divided. We are the Body of Christ!!
A Holy Temple In The Lord
We must yield to the work of the Holy Spirit if we are to experience the building together of His Temple. Beautiful Body of Christ, come together! Yield to the higher purpose of the Godhead for the Bride. We have an opportunity to see the greatest manifestation of the power of God than any other generation has ever seen. Can you hear an invitation to be a real part of this incredible last days outpouring and manifestation of the presence of the Sovereign Lord? Answer the call! Yield to the work!! Together, we will become this Holy Temple and the habitation of God in the earth.