The Lord’s Holy Temple

In whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21).

- Ephesians 2:21

Scripture plainly reveals that our Creator is not an aloof monarch who remains far away from His people; rather, He is pleased to dwell among those for whom He has provided atonement and forgiveness. When the Mosaic law defined the people of God, He manifested His dwelling chiefly in one place — the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem (Deut. 12:1–28). In other words, though God was no less omnipresent back then, He chose to make His presence felt most strongly in the Holy Place.

One of the great benefits of the new covenant is that the Lord no longer limits His special presence to one locale but makes Himself present wherever people gather to worship Him in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24). This does not mean that sacred time and space have no place under the new covenant as we wait for the return of Christ Jesus; nevertheless, God’s gracious presence cannot be limited to one place, for He dwells, by His Spirit, in His body the church. Today we no longer need to make the long trek to a designated city to meet with our holy Creator, but may enjoy Him by the Spirit whenever we gather with other Christians in Jesus’ name (Matt. 18:20).

This is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:21. The household of God, comprised of members from every tribe and nation, and built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, is the new temple, one being fit together according to the eternal plan of the Almighty. In fulfillment of the prophetic hope that all nations would come to God’s temple to pray (Isa. 66:18–20), Jews and Gentiles alike are coming to the new temple — the people of God in Christ Jesus — to fellowship with Yahweh, the one true Creator God.

The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers individually, making us a fit habitation for our holy Lord (1 Cor. 6:19–20). The Spirit joins us together as one structure in whom the fullness of God’s presence is enjoyed (12:12–31). John Calvin says, “When God dwells in each of us, it is his will that we should embrace all in holy unity, and that thus he should form one temple out of many. Each person, when viewed separately, is a temple, but when joined to others, becomes a stone of a temple.”

Coram Deo

Because every believer is a stone in God’s temple, to sin against another Christian is to assault His holy dwelling place and thus a most grievous act. We must therefore strive not to harm other Christians with our words and deeds. Moreover, when we have damaged another brother or sister, we must go to that person, admit our sin, ask for forgiveness, and make restitution, if possible. In so doing, we beautify the place where God lives.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 40
2 Chronicles 7:1–3
Psalm 11
Ephesians 4:1–16

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343