God is building His temple. But it’s not a human-made temple; it’s made of humans. And this is the ultimate message of Christmas: God became incarnated so that we could incarnate Him. The implications of this just boggles the mind. This is why Jesus’ birth is just as important as His death and resurrection. Which is also why, if we only see the significance of His sacrifice for our sins, we miss the whole point.
Ponder this for a moment: while David’s one desire was to dwell in God’s house forever (Psalm 27:4), God’s one desire has always been to dwell in our house forever!
But first, God, in Jesus Christ, literally became a living soul and dwelt among us.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV*)
The human soul was formed in Adam when God breathed His life into his body (Gen.2:7). God’s “soul” was formed when the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary.
Jesus was the prototype Temple to come (John 2:19-21), for God’s intent was never to live in a human-made temple, as Stephen told the Sanhedrin:
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’ (Acts 7:48-50*)
Paul tells us that God answers His own question by building His Temple in us (1 Cor.3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor.6:16). However, before He could do that, He had to deal with our problem caused by the Fall. Paul builds this case in Ephesians:
7 Since we are now joined to Christ, we have been given the treasures of redemption by his blood—the total cancellation of our sins—all because of the cascading riches of his grace. (Eph.1:7 TPT*)
All Christians get the sacrifice part, but the cancellation of our sins was only a means to a much more glorious end. We were so fitted by God to be His “Holy of Holies” (see verse 22 below), now, in this life.
So, it not just what God did for us, but what He did to us, as Paul continues:
5 Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace! 6 He raised us up with Christ the exalted One, and we ascended with him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ! (Eph.2:5-6 TPT*)
Paul is saying that we’ve ascended with Christ and now live in Him and He in us. There is nothing separating us from God. And because we’ve been made holy by His blood, God is building His Temple from all of us together:
20 You are rising like the perfectly fitted stones of the temple; and your lives are being built up together upon the ideal foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, and best of all, you are connected to the Head Cornerstone of the building, the Anointed One, Jesus Christ himself! (Eph.2:2o TPT*)
Of course, Peter tells us the same thing; we are being built together as “living stones into a spiritual house” (1 Pet.2:5). And, here, Paul continues explaining God’s Temple building project:
21 This entire building is under construction and is continually growing under his supervision until it rises up completed as the holy temple of the Lord himself. 22 This means that God is transforming each one of you into the Holy of Holies, his dwelling place, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you! (Eph.2:21-22 TPT*)
Notice that God is continuing to build this Temple. Not only is it growing numerically, He’s currently in the business of transforming us, by the power of His Spirit, so that “Throughout the coming ages we will be the visible display of the infinite, limitless riches of his grace and kindness….” (Eph.2:7*)
Do you realize the implications of this reality? “God is transforming each one of you into the Holy of Holies, his dwelling place!” First, this means we need to stop looking for a future rebuilt Temple in the Middle East and start understanding that we are the only Temple God is building. Second, He’s transforming us into His dwelling place by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by ours.
Finally, if this is all true, which it is, then how should we conduct ourselves in this life? How does this inform our worship, our ongoing relationship with God, and our relationship to each other as the Body of Christ? We, together, are literally God’s house.
Beloved, this is the ultimate message of Christmas: “Emmanuel—God with us.” Jesus came to dwell with us, so that God could dwell in us. Selah.