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The Temple, an Introduction
Acts 7:44-53  

(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg


44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built the house for him.
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. 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?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” 


Brothers and sisters in Christ:
    Have you ever wondered where the idea of a temple came from?  Where did it start?  Where did the idea start?  Where is it?  Why is it?  Why was it built the way it was and why was its furniture in the Old Testament so important? And why would that be of interest to us?  And where are we in relation to the temple?  We hope to spend the next year answering some of those questions.  This morning I can only introduce the series of sermons in which we will be addressing the temple.  And I want to do that by asking the question - where do you think the temple started?
    If we know our scriptures, most of us would say - when God gave Moses the instructions on how to build the temple.  The idea comes from God and that is where it started.  There is however good evidence that the temple started earlier. 

To see that, please look at Genesis 2:15
    15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
    Notice these words - to work it and take care of it.

     These words are the very same words that are used later in the scriptures to describe the work or service of Israelites who served the Lord and priests who served in the temple and keep is the word that was used to describe guarding the gates of the temple.  That combined with the fact that the Garden of Eden was a place where God walked with Adam.  The very same word for walk was used to describe God’s presence in the tabernacle.  Not only that.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden, they were kicked out and cherubim with flaming swords kept them out of the garden of Eden so that they could no longer get access to the tree of life.  The tabernacle and the temple had the holy of holies separated from the rest of the temple by curtains on which were embroidered cherubim.  The picture that we get from these first passages of Genesis is that the Garden of Eden was like a temple and Adam was the priest serving God’s command and guarding the temple so that nothing unclean would enter it.  And the fall into sin happened because Adam, in his priestly role did not keep the foul snake out of the garden.(p. 87)  The first Adam failed as a priest to God and the consequence was that God restrained the expansion of his presence from the garden throughout the rest of creation, he restrained his presence to particular places like the tabernacle and the temple.  The temple in its design however always looked back to the garden, it contained symbols of fruit bearing trees and a large basin of water called the sea.  The temple always pointed to more than a tent, more than a building built out of carved stones and curtains. 

    So Stephen reminded his hearers who were deeply attached to their temple building 48 the Most High does not live in houses made by men. Stephen was reminding them that the temple had for them become an idol, made by human hands.  Stephen, along with Habakkuk, the  Old Testament prophet, was looking forward to a day when the earth would be filled with the glory of the Lord was waters cover the sea (2:14). 
    Now to wet your taste buds a little further, I invite you to read for your table devotions today Revelation 21.  There John sees the vision of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven incredible in size, cubic in shape, just like the holy of holies in the temple.  Inside the city there is no temple.  Now the new creation is filled with the presence and glory of God, it does not need any sun.  Rivers flow from within this creation - the tree of life giving healing to the nations.  Eden has returned, the temple is no longer necessary because the entire creation has become the temple, the place that holds the presence and glory of God.  And what is doubly amazing is that Revelation tells us that (21:22) God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
    You see, as we study the temple, we will discover in the end, Christ is the temple, not one built with human hands, but one made by God.  When he said to his disciples, destroy this building and I will raise it up in three days (Jn 2:19), he was telling them that in all eternity, he is the presence of God in creation, the glory of God filling creation, and we the community of those who believe are being built into him, a spiritual temple filling all of creation with the glory of God because Christ has given his glory to us (Jn 17).  God’s desire is that his temple spread throughout the world, throughout creation by his image and Spirit bearing people.
    So how does this all apply to us?  These among other themes....

    First, we will look at the nature of the temple because it is a visual display of how we, sinful people can be in relationship with a Holy God.  You see, unless we come the right way, we do not have any access to God.  There is a way into his presence.  The temple teaches us that.
    Second, we will discover that God intends his entire creation to be his temple, the place where he dwells.  That means that how we steward this creation and take care of our environment is part of our worship to God.  Creation is not only the world around us, it includes our very own bodies.
    Third, the temple is a community built be the Word and the Spirit of the living God, it is not a church building built by human hands.  This building that we invest in is and must always remain a servant to community.  People in history tend to build monuments, God builds ministry in community.  And so we will look at our participation in the temple.  We are being built into a spiritual temple, says Peter.  What does that mean?   If we are part of the temple, what is our purpose and function there?

    This morning, we celebrate communion together.  In the temple there was the table of the bread of the presence.  In the ark of the Covenant was a Jar of Manna.  Both of them were there to symbolize God’s presence and provision for our journey through life.  This morning we come to the table, as the temple, we come to eat the bread and drink in remembrance of Jesus, our eternal temple, there receiving from his presence the provision we need for our journey.  This morning, if you believe in Jesus as your Savior and your hearts desire is to serve him as your Lord, failing though you may be, come to our great high priest, take drink, remember and believe that he died for a complete forgiveness of all your sin.


Next Sermons in the Temple Series:

 "Why worry about the Temple?  Can't We live without God?"

"In Pursuit of the Presence of God"

 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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