Christ Our Temple – Where true worship begins

The Thinker by Rodin – source : Pixabay.com CC0

Philosophers past and present have made it their quest to seek the truth of their existence on this earth. Some said that this visible world is only a figment of our imagination. The famous French philosopher Rene Descartes, surrounded by these doubts of existence, concluded, “I think, therefore I am.” Man’s quest for higher education in all the institutions of learning around the world, secular and religious, is based on this. To modern man, his existence is all about the mind. The importance of a “formal” education is drummed into our heads from an early age. Yet, to this kind of knowledge Paul wrote, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1Cor 8:2, ESV2011). Relying on Bible and theological knowledge can and often does get in the way of our knowing Jesus in an intimate and relational way. We are made up of body, soul and spirit. The mind is part of our souls, but Jesus said, “They who worship God must worship in Spirit and in truth. God is Spirit and He has sent His Spirit into us to lead us into all truth.” (See John 16:13-15).

Two thousand years ago this man, Jesus Christ, came to the center of Jewish learning in Jerusalem, and challenged those scholars and priests who knew that their system of truth was the whole truth and the only way man can please God. To this Jesus said, “I AM the way, the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father but by me.” Needless to say, He became a target of their ire and consternation from the moment He began to present the New Covenant. He did not come to rule and reign in their temple, but to displace their whole religious system, dispensation and all its physical manifestations with a Spiritual man that we might all become “One new man in Christ.” Those who believe into Him become part of the temple of God with Jesus as it only foundation and cornerstone. Isaiah prophesied this event.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ (Isa 28:16, ESV2011)

Isaiah also foretold of this collision between the New Covenant in Christ and the keepers of the Old one founded on Moses’ Law.

And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isa 8:14-15, ESV2011- emphasis added)

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, under the command of Titus, AD 70- by David Roberts

Before His death Jesus cried out:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. (Matt 23:37-38, ESV2011-emphasis added)

And Micah prophesied:

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. (Mic 3:12, ESV2011- emphasis added)

In Hebrews we read this:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near… For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God… He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb 10:1-10, ESV2011)

Often the most important things that Jesus had to say about the New Covenant came from His conversations with individuals, not the crowds. So it is in our lives. After all, He is our Personal Savior. In John chapter four we read the personal exchange that Jesus had with a woman of Samaria.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [at the Samaritan temple on mount Gerizim], but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24, ESV2011)

About the importance to us of this divine encounter with a lowly woman T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

I want to focus your attention upon these contrasting words: “Neither… nor… but”. “Neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem… but in spirit and truth.” Not this, nor that, but… Not here, nor there, but… That is the heart of things here. Now let us analyze this whole statement. “The hour cometh, and now is.” The hour? …All this is very much in keeping with the way in which the Lord used this phrase: “In that day”, when He was speaking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The ‘hour’ and ‘day’ are identical in the Lord’s meaning.

Now, what is this day that had come with the Lord Jesus but the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself? He says it quite emphatically: a new day, or a new hour, has come. We have now entered upon a new period in this world’s history. What is it? Of course, as to the actual period, it is undoubtedly from the first advent of the Lord Jesus to His coming again…

Dear friends, most of the errors, the confusions, the contradictions that abound in Christianity are due largely to the failure to recognize and accept the essential change which has come with this particular dispensation [see Hebrews chapter eight]. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the errors and confusions and contradictions that abound in Christianity. The state of things! Sometimes it appalls us, sometimes it perplexes us, and sometimes it makes us ashamed, this thing called ‘Christianity’ in general, as we know it. And I repeat: A very large proportion of all that which is a contradiction to Christ is due to the failure to recognize and accept the immense change in dispensation that has come about with the advent of the Lord Jesus. That is a statement which we must follow up.

We used the word ‘dispensation’. It is a New Testament word, and is, in itself, illuminating. The Apostle Paul used it four times. It is a Greek word, ‘oikos’, which means ‘the house’, and ‘oikonomia’ is the order of the house, that is, the regime that exists in the house…

That is the meaning of this word ‘dispensation’, or ‘oikonomia’: the order of the house. With the coming of the Lord Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit, which two things are one in effect and meaning, as we shall see, the order of the house has been changed. The order in the Old Testament was one order, and the order in the New Testament is an entirely different order. The house order, or regime, has been completely changed. I have said that if somebody comes in and begins to change the order in your home there is usually trouble, and that is exactly what happened in the New Testament. Tremendous battles and troubles arose because the Old Testament order was being upset and put aside. Look at it – again and again! Paul’s whole life was a battle on this matter. He was the man who used this word ‘house order’, or ‘dispensation’ and because he was now recognizing and accepting the setting aside of the whole Mosaic order, the order of the law, and was pointing to the new order that had come in with the Holy Spirit, what a time he had everywhere! His battle for Galatia, for instance, focused upon this very thing – the change in the order from the old to the new. That wonderful Letter to the Hebrews was written on this very thing. There is an order in the Old Testament of angel messengers, of priests, of sacrifices, of covenants, and so on. The writer says: ‘That order is finished. A new order has come in with Christ’ – “God… hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son” (Hebrews 1:1,2), and this is the new order that has been introduced. A heavenly order, not an earthly one. The old one was earthly, but the new is a heavenly one.

May I repeat, at the risk of tiring you, that it is failure to recognize and accept that that lies right at the root of most of our troubles. There are many people who are still living on a pre-Pentecost basis, trying to live an Old Testament kind of order in a New Testament day, and it does not fit with the Holy Spirit. There are many people who are living on a sub-New Testament basis, altogether below this, and not coming up to the high standard and level of this new order that has come in. There are some people who are trying to combine both, and the result is terrible confusion.

You can leave that if you don’t understand and cannot follow what I mean, but it is all an emphasis upon this: the necessity for a recognizing and accepting of this tremendous change that has taken place in the dispensation, in the house order, by the coming of the Lord Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.

The Nature of the New Order

There is no doubt, to come back to this fourth chapter of John, that Jesus was speaking to this woman of Samaria about the day or the hour of this new order. He spoke to her about the water which He would give, about the well which would be opened, and the stream within, about the life which He would give – but it is always with a forward glance and a forward look. He is thinking of that hour when the Holy Spirit would come, and this really did take place [on the day of Pentecost]…

But let us note – and this, dear friends, is the foundation of it all – that this new dispensation, this new order of things, is a spiritual dispensation. That is the thing the Lord has been trying to emphasize. That is what He meant with Nathanael. It was a figurative way of speaking: “Hereafter” – that is, when this hour is come – “ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51). What is meant by that? Are we to take it literally? We know what it means – that Jesus Christ is the way of communication between heaven and earth, between us and God. That it is by Him, through Him and in Him that heaven and earth are united. We here are united with heaven, and all the communications of God, by the Holy Spirit, with us are in Christ. We understand something of that, don’t we? But that requires this new order.

Nicodemus: Is this a new spiritual dispensation? Yes, Nicodemus could not understand it. “How can a man be born when he is old? …That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” That is the new order. It is a new spiritual regime that is introduced in this hour, this dispensation. It is the dispensation of the Spirit, and, therefore, it is a spiritual dispensation.

And that is what He is saying to this woman. This hour, this dispensational hour, lasting all these centuries, is a spiritual order of things.

You focus, you see, right down on this: ‘The hourneithernorbut’. ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and they have always said that if you want to meet God you have to come to Mount Gerizim and our Samaritan temple, for that is where you will meet Him. You Jews say: If you want to meet God you must come to the temple in Jerusalem and that is where you will meet Him.’ Jesus said: ‘Neither… nor’ – just wiping out the whole thing. By one sweep of the hand dismissing the whole old order and bringing in an entirely new one and telling you what it is. Yes, it is the new order of the Spirit. And it is not focused locally at all, in the way that you are going to be bound by any localization of this thing, but “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. That is the new order. In John 3:16 it is: “whosoever believeth”, wiping out all racial distinctions, all geographical limitations, all differences here on this earth, with a great ‘whosoever’: throwing that at Nicodemus, who said: ‘No. Israel are the chosen people, the elect, the special people, the spiritual aristocracy. No, no!’ … “Whosoever, Nicodemus!”

That is what came out in Acts 15: “All the nations, upon whom my name is called” – “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name” – “Gathered together in my name”. That is John 3:16 – “Whosoever”.

And in Matthew 18:20 it is ‘wheresoever’. This is not a matter of geography, of certain structures, edifices, places, kinds of meeting-places, or anything temporal at all. It is nothing of this earth. ‘Neither… nor… but in the Spirit.’ This is a spiritual dispensation, and everything that belongs to this dispensation is a spiritual thing.

In the Old Testament it was the old house order. If you are going to have a tabernacle it is going to be a temporal, earthly thing, made with hands. If you are going to have priests with their vestments, their beautiful garments, and Levites, and all the system of sacrifices and feasts and orders down here – well; that has gone forever with the coming of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What is the new house order? Are there going to be people in the Lord’s house who minister, serve? Be very careful of how you use that word ‘office’ – ‘holding office’ [1] – for in this new order there is nothing official. Everything is spiritual, and everyone who ministers, everyone who serves and everyone who has any place and does anything, does so because they are spiritual men and women, and on no other ground at all… [Note; there is no special priest cast in the New Covenant. We who are in Christ are His holy priesthood – see 1Peter 2:5-9]

That is very important, dear friends. What is the Church, and what are the churches? It is just this – nothing less and nothing more than this: the aggregate of those upon whom the Name has been called whether it be two, or three, or more… ‘Where I put My Name, there will I meet you’… “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. That is the Church: nothing less than that and nothing more than that. ‘Neither… nor… but in the Spirit’, and wheresoever that happens, there the Church is, in essence, in principle.

There is nothing legal about this at all. It is a spiritual matter entirely. And so everything else to do with this new order is spiritual. That is what the Lord is saying to this woman. [2]

[1] The word “office” in almost every case was added by the KJV translators in the New Testament and there is no Greek word in the original to justify this. The two exceptions are where it tells of function of the priests in the temple under the old dispensation. The Church is not ruled over by officers in their offices, but by Jesus Christ who is alive in our hearts.

[2] https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001836.html