An Habitation of God

“In whom ye are also builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” —Ephesians 2:22

ONE of the first suggestions of the idea of the Creator’s interest in a house to be provided by his human creatures may have been in the instructions to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. (Exod. 29:43-46) Even earlier, Jacob, fleeing from Esau and in a dream seeing Jehovah looking down from heaven and assuring him of the blessing for which he had risked so much, declared, “Surely the Lord is in this place … this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”—Gen. 28:16,17

Later on, this idea of the house of God was embodied in the Temple built by Solomon in accordance with divine instructions. Both of these buildings, the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and the magnificent Temple in the Promised Land, were recognized as inadequate to furnish a real home or abiding place for Jehovah. Of the Temple, Solomon declares, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (I Kings 8:27) We see, then, that God did not dwell there as in a home, but it was, as he declares, a place where his name would be forever for a representation of himself. He designated it an acceptable house of sacrifice, where prayers might be offered and, if made in accord with his laws and in the proper spirit, forgiveness for sins and God’s blessings might be obtained.—II Chron. 7:16

Certain statements of the Old Testament gave the intimation that the Tabernacle and Temple arrangements were merely typical, and that their true significance was quite unrelated to a material building. Isaiah 57 and Psalm 132 illustrate this. But this thought is corroborated and elaborated on in the New Testament, where the church is called the temple of God.—I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 6:16

We know nothing of the ‘physical’ requirements, if any, of a spirit or divine being’s home. But it is remarkable and inspiring to know what Jehovah will call his home and where he places the emphasis for his comfort, joy, and happiness, and that we can understand through his Word just what his specifications are. It is quite natural for us to know what is required with respect to human habitations. We can appraise and appreciate the utility, convenience, and beauty of a fellow-man’s home since we are of the same human race, have similar needs, and are generally on the same level of Intelligence, etc. But if it were necessary for us to have the wisdom and power represented in the creation of the universe to understand the home God wishes to design for himself, it would be impossible for us with our limited human minds to comprehend or even to reason about it.

However, by God’s design, the church has the great advantage of understanding what is essential to God for an acceptable habitation. Since our only avenue of approach to understanding this comes from his Word, we search the Scriptures to discover what Jehovah emphasizes above all else. We find, just as it is with man, that harmonious, sympathetic companionship is the essential element for a happy home, so it is even with our Creator. And in his high and holy place (Isa. 57:15) God has designed to have a family that has learned by experience the value of acquiring and practicing the principles of his own character.

Hear the message which comes to us through the Prophet Jeremiah: “I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 9:23,24) Likewise, all who are being builded together for an habitation of God will delight in these principles, knowing that they reflect the character of God. They will apply these high standards in their own lives also, thus attaining a counterpart of the divine character for all eternity.

Quite evidently, this superlative degree of development in God’s likeness is possible only under conditions where sin and death reign, where the most extreme tests are possible. Thus we read of Jesus that it pleased God, “in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings,” and that he was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Heb. 2:10; Rev. 13:8) His body members, also “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), must share his experience of suffering for righteousness’ sake even unto death, presenting their bodies, including their human hopes and restitution prospects, a living sacrifice. Thereafter they set their minds and affections upon things above, which are appropriate to their new spirit-begotten condition.—Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:1-3

Thus by God’s infinite wisdom, we have been learning through our earthly experience to appreciate the elements of his character: right, by experience with wrong; justice, by suffering injustice and inequity; humility, by experience with pride and vanity; pity and tenderness, by contact with hardness and cruelty; sympathy for others’ infirmities, because we are conscious of our own; and generous, self-sacrificing love, in contrast to the prevalent selfishness, ambition, and greed.

In contrast to the holy places of natural Israel where our Creator only ‘placed his name’, we find in the New Testament the description of a home in which he can walk and dwell in spirit—a living home. In II Corinthians 6:16 we read, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The full significance of this, and similar statements of Jesus and the apostles, would be not only difficult, but impossible for us to comprehend without divine assistance. With this realization, the Apostle Paul prayed for the brethren at Ephesus, “The eyes of your heart having been enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his invitation, what the glorious wealth of his inheritance among the saints.” (Eph. 1:18, Diaglott) We, too, who entertain the same hope, long for a clear view of our calling, and the inspiration it will furnish us to forget the things that are behind, and to concentrate our thoughts and efforts on reaching forward to the things that are before.

To the woman of Samaria, Jesus said, “The hour … now is when … they that worship God must worship in spirit and in truth; for such the Father seeketh to worship him.” (John 4:23,24) The thought is that God seeks intelligent worship, not based upon misconceptions of his character, but upon an accurate knowledge of him. Later Jesus said to his disciples, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him … and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:21,23) This figurative language implies that even here in our trial state, if we meet the conditions, we can enjoy a definite oneness with our Lord and the Father. As their life is rich and full, capable of high emotions and joys, etc., so will ours be. Our joy in this intimate relationship will be full of glory—unspeakable, as Peter says—beyond our ability to fully express in human terms!—I Pet. 1:8

In our study thus far, we have seen that his people, in whose hearts there is room for full fellowship, are God’s habitation, in whom God can manifest his principles, disposition, and power. We are indeed grateful that he has arranged matters so that we can grow and develop in the fruits and graces of Christian character.

In I Peter 2:4-6, Jesus is compared to a living stone, with the ability and willingness to shape and prepare other living stones—his disciples—to be the material or units of which the temple of God is to be built. In its construction, the typical Temple built by Solomon illustrated the development of the members of the spiritual temple during the Gospel Age, and their assembly in glory. We recall that the stones used to construct Solomon’s Temple were all shaped and prepared for their respective positions while still in the quarry, and were completely ready to be placed in the Temple walls.—I Kings 6:7

As we consider the selection of the stones for that Temple, we can imagine that some taken from the quarry were found to be unsuitable, and defects came to light which resulted in their being set aside. Some may have proved too hard or brittle to take the shaping required. And so we find this an apt illustration of the development of the living stones for the true temple. No doubt many living stones have been rejected because they were unresponsive to the Lord’s instructions and discipline. The rough parts of their character could not be trimmed off. Pride, the great heart-hardener, is warned against many times in the Word as a dangerous snare. “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord”; “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall”; “if a man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”—Heb. 12:5; I Cor. 10:12; Gal. 6:3

Jesus gave us the perfect illustration to follow, both in his words and his life, and could say, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” The Apostle Peter, having learned wisdom from personal contact with the Master involving reproof as well as Instruction, exhorts, “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”—I Pet. 5:5

In this, and other expressions of the Apostle Peter, we have the blessed assurance that he was of the right texture as a living stone, and had taken to heart the humbling experiences that God had sent into his life. May it be so with us, too, dear brethren. Let us not fail to throttle pride in ourselves; if we have taken a wrong course, let us confess it; if we have been too hard, or stern, or opinionated in our relationship with the members of our family, the church, or elsewhere, let us hasten to repent and reform and undo the damage our human mind and conduct have caused.

In following the example of his master, the Apostle Paul, in his humble course among the brethren at Corinth, was also deeply impressed with the importance of meekness and gentleness. He beseeched them to recall and consider attentively the “meekness and gentleness of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:1) No qualities are more unnatural to the fallen human nature, and hence need the most careful and persistent cultivation.

Stones chosen for a permanent structure found to be too soft would be rejected on that account. Weakness of will or character may be manifested in the fear of loss, or of suffering which would cause one to refrain from faithful obedience to the Lord’s instructions. Softness may result in being “conformed to this world,” instead of being “transformed by the renewing” of our minds. It may be revealed in our judging self too carelessly or leniently; or in not taking a firm stand in opposition to wrong conduct in the affairs of the church. Many exhortations are given us along this line. We are urged to be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”; to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”; to “be no more children”; to “grow up into him in all things”; to not “faint when we are rebuked of him”; to “fight the good fight of faith.” The Apostle Paul gives us an inspiring illustration of determination to be faithful to God at all costs, saying, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy.”—Acts 20:24

In considering this subject, we are again impressed with Paul’s observation to his spiritual son, Timothy, “Great is the mystery of godliness!” (I Tim. 3:16) It is not impossible for us to comprehend, but it does require all diligence, both in our study of the perfect pattern, and in our efforts to follow in his steps. How we admire one who is prepared for any eventuality! Jesus, our exemplar, was prepared for every test and every opportunity of service. Whether he was called upon to be gentle, tender, meek; or bold, strong, uncompromising, he was ready. So may it be with us, his followers and disciples. Indeed, it is impossible for us to reach that degree of development that our Lord held, for he was perfect. But we can be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son if we are saturated with the Word of God, and the words of Christ dwell in us richly, teaching and admonishing us.

Still further tests are applied to the living stones of which the Lord is constructing his holy temple. They must have their tensile strength and also their breaking strength determined. Tensile strength would correspond to long-suffering and patience. In that wonderful description of the divine attribute of love, we are told by the Apostle Paul that “love suffereth long, and is kind.” (I Cor. 13:4) Again, in writing to the church at Rome, he assures them that “tribulation worketh patience.” And with the same thought, James exhorts us to let patience have her perfecting work.

Breaking strength—or, rather, unbreakable strength—is also a requisite in these living stones. This does not mean that any of them could bear all the extreme tests which might be applied, but we are assured that God will not permit us to be tempted or tried above that which we are able to bear, but will, with the trial, provide the means of escape, that we may bear it. God will “direct the issue that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13, Diaglott) That this was his own experience, Paul assures us, saying that in his travels in Asia he was “pressed out of measure, above strength,” to the extent that he had “despaired even of life,” but God had delivered him. (II Cor. 1:8) Both he and his companions in the Lord’s service had the “sentence of death” in themselves, that they should not trust in themselves, “but in God which raiseth the dead!”

God’s purpose is to shake all things, in order that the things which can be shaken may be removed. The clear intimation here is that not only the kingdom we seek “cannot be shaken,” but also it is to be composed of those living stones which cannot be shaken. They have sought and received the strength sufficient for their every need and every test from him who, in his wisdom, has subjected them to these trials in order to bring them to completion.

“These things I write to thee … that thou mayest know how to conduct thyself in God’s house, which is a congregation of the living God.” (I Tim. 3:14,15, Diaglott) Although individual Christians are God’s habitation through the Spirit, he is pleased in the present time to have an even more comprehensive representation and means of expression in and through the ecclesia. How important, therefore, our association with the brethren In the church becomes. As each member has contact with another, opportunities are furnished to collectively build an atmosphere in which the Father and our Lord will be ‘at home’. How much profit we gain from our association! Since God is working in each of his children, we see demonstrations of his Spirit in them. We note their courage, meekness, patience, zeal, humility, and love. We remember that it is “by that which every joint supplieth” that the body is being built up in our Master’s likeness. We have the opportunity to take a builder’s interest in each other, exhorting one another, provoking one another to love and good works. Undoubtedly, the value of the ecclesia to each of us is dependent upon our service to it, as well as the helpful lessons we learn from one another.

The happy, congenial association the ecclesia affords is not its entire value. In every gathering of the Lord’s people we find occasion for the exercise of godly character, sharing in the joint endeavors of the brethren to maintain the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and at the same time, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1-3) Without doubt we shall find many of our greatest helps and blessings in the narrow way in obeying the exhortation to forget not the assembling of ourselves together. And at the same time we shall experience some of our most searching tests of our knowledge and obedience to the instruction of the Lord’s Word in the blessed fellowship with others of like precious faith.

We believe God’s habitation will be complete very soon. We could well exhaust the powers of language in our efforts to describe the grandeur and usefulness of that dwelling place of the Almighty. A different illustration of the Temple is given in Psalm 45, where the symbol of Christ’s bride is used. Here the head of the divine family of sons is pictured with his bride, the church. The bride is said to be “all glorious within”; “her raiment of needlework,” and “her clothing of wrought gold.” Again in Ephesians, the church is described as the bride, and also as the body of the Lord Jesus. They will be God’s family and will enjoy the most intimate communion with him.—Eph. 1:23; 4:13: 5:25-27

“I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God … and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. They shall be kings and priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”—Rev. 20:4,6; 21:3

The result of the work of the ‘habitation of God’ will result in reuniting in loyal obedience to God all his intelligent creation alienated through sin. But this one thousand-year reign is only the beginning of their eternal association in the plans of the Creator. His perfect wisdom, love, and power will have formulated an endless program which will be sublime in every respect. This wonderful habitation of God, this tabernacle between God and man, this temple of Jehovah, this wonderful divine family of God, will be the light of the beautiful New Jerusalem! “The nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor unto it.” “And the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it!”—Rev. 21:24,22

Dawn Bible Students Association
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