God’s Temple

“We are laborers together with God; ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” —I Corinthians 3:9

HERE is an unexpected collection of pictures. We are the workers—the ones who bring the stones and timbers together—and we are the building itself. “Ye are God’s building.” This can only be true in a spiritual sense.

A bricklayer is not a brick! But in the construction of God’s temple, we labor together with him and, at the same time, we are also the blocks that make up the temple. More than that, we help one another to develop the proper characteristics to be useful, good stones, as we are used as tools to chisel, shape, and help one another to construct a temple to God’s honor and glory.

Of course, God does not need any help—he could do everything by himself, accomplishing all in the most perfect fashion. But that is not consistent with his character. He knows if we are permitted to work with him, we will grow in knowledge, understanding, and workmanship. Eventually we will be sufficiently trained that we can be used to do an important and wonderful future work.

The Apostle Paul went on to say, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon.” (vs. 10) The phrase, ‘grace of God’, has as its root meaning, something ‘beautiful’, ‘useful’; something that is ‘good’ in every way. This grace of God is poured out upon us by the Heavenly Father. Paul here credited God’s grace for what he had accomplished.

The Greek word translated “masterbuilder” is architekton, which means ‘a chief constructor’, ‘an architect’. In Paul’s many writings he provided an explanation of so many basic doctrines, the components of the truth of God’s Word. It was Paul who explained many of the prophecies, and the Tabernacle in particular. He did not invent the design of God’s building, but he did communicate its design to others. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (vs. 11) The apostle here identifies the foundation for the whole temple of God.

Wood, Hay, and Straw

“If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”—I Cor. 3:12-14, RSV

Here are two categories of building materials that a man might use to build upon the one foundation, Christ Jesus. Notice first the wood, hay, and straw. These are materials that cost nothing. The wind blows them at your feet. You can pick them up anywhere since they do not have any particular value. If we are inattentive, we may find that we are building with materials that simply drift our way. Such a structure will not stand up under the stress of fire. It has no value nor stability.

David well illustrated the attitude we should have when he went to offer sacrifice at the threshingfloor of Araunah. The owner said he would be happy to give David whatever he needed. But David answered, “Nay, but I will surely buy it of thee at a price, neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” (II Sam. 24:24) If our attempt to build costs us nothing, it is as though we were building a literal structure out of wood, hay, and straw.

Gold, Silver, Precious Stones

These building materials cost a great deal. One does not find these precious elements drifting in on the wind. Gold has been prized all throughout the ages; in the Scriptures it is used as a symbol of things divine, such as God’s promises, his prophecies, rules, and regulations. The street of the New Jerusalem is said to be paved with pure gold. (Rev. 21:21) This is a means of indicating that all the conduct and communication in that city will be on the basis of the divine, or golden, rule.

Gold, as a building material, thus symbolizes a recognition of the divine principles and promises as a basis for our hopes. As we study the Bible we learn to know God’s ways, how he does things, and why he does things.

Silver is a symbol of truth. A truth is simply a fact—whether acknowledged or not. If one knows a truth, one reaps the benefit of that truth. But if unacknowledged, there is no benefit. Such are those who have a Bible, but never read it. In these cases the Bible brings no benefit. Although reading the Bible may bring a blessing, reading is not enough. One must study the Bible to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of truth, to gain a building material called silver.

Precious stones are also in the approved list of building materials. The variety of colors available in such exquisite gems picture the numerous beautiful facets of character becoming to a Christian. If we build our characters in conformity with God’s principles, they will surely be structures which can withstand any tests that might come upon them.

Living Stones

Peter also talks about the stones in God’s temple: “Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer *spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”—I Pet. 2:4,5, RSV

*Although the word “spiritual” is absent from the Sinaitic manuscript, all other Greek manuscripts include it. This is evidently why all English translations of the Bible included the word in this verse.

Our sacrifices were pictured in the Tabernacle arrangement of the Israelites. The antitype of those sacrifices is much grander: “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” (Rom. 12:1) Our sacrificial relationship with God is on a spiritual basis. We could never offer an acceptable earthly gift, just as the Israelites found that the blood of bulls and goats never actually took away their sins.—Heb. 10:4

In I Peter 2:6, Peter quotes Isaiah 28:16, and says, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him [that is, accepts Jesus as the basis of their life] shall not be confounded [disappointed, Jerusalem Bible].” The cornerstone is one of the most important components in a building. A chief cornerstone implies that there are more than one. Normally, all cornerstones are equal, but not so in a pyramid.

A pyramidal structure has five corners. The four at the base are equal, but the chief corner of a pyramid is at the top of the edifice. The top stone is the chief cornerstone. That stone contains all the lines and angles that determine the shape of the remainder of the structure and to which it must conform. The top stone of a pyramid would be in the way of the builders all during the construction of the building. Thus we read, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.”—vs. 7, RSV

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, writes: “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 cornerstone, in whom all the building fitly framed together [that is, properly lined up as a unit, every stone where it belongs] groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. … for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”—Eph. 2:19-22

The church is to be the Heavenly Father’s home throughout all eternity. In them he finds every part of his own nature—desires and delights—reflected and integrated into a complete and harmonious whole.

Solomon’s Temple

David was not permitted to build the Temple, but he was allowed to assemble the materials that would go into it. (See I Chronicles, chapter twenty-two.) God was the architect of the Temple. “All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern [blueprint].”—I Chron. 28:19

The construction of this Temple was so well supervised that we read, “The house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”—I Kings 6:7

This is a picture of the construction of the true temple of God. The preparation of the living stones, the saints, is taking place in the quarry of the world. These stones are, one by one, being shaped and fitted through their present experiences, and when there is nothing more to do, they are placed in the heavenly temple. All this is done so quietly the world knows nothing about it.

No two stones are alike in this temple. That is why each saint has different trials, and peculiar shaping experiences. Each will have a particular part to play in the structure being assembled. So, although we may not know why we are receiving some specific experience now, we will know when we receive our heavenly reward.

The World and the Temple

The Prophet Zechariah also spoke about the building of God’s temple, and particularly the special role the risen Christ will play in it. He says, “Even he [the “branch” of the preceding verse—Jesus Christ] shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon his throne: and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zech. 6:13) Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy, and is also the antitype of Melchisedec, a priest and a king to whom Abram paid tithes. (Gen. 14:18,19) But notice what more Zechariah has to say about who builds God’s temple: “They that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.”—Zech. 6:15

This is a prophecy concerning the world of mankind in Christ’s coming kingdom. They are going to build too! They must build character through their experiences, and develop properly under the direction of the Christ, head and body members. The final words of this verse are: “This shall come to pass if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

As it was with Adam, the test upon the world during the Millennial kingdom is that of obedience. God’s own dear Son learned obedience by the things which he suffered. The church learns that it is a joy to obey their Heavenly Father. Such lessons must also be learned by the world in the kingdom age if they are to attain everlasting life.

So we see God’s temple consists of living stones being prepared in the world in this present Gospel Age, and it will also contain those who, during the thousand-year reign of Christ, learn obedience, coming into conformity with God’s laws. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”—Ps. 27:4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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