Last week we looked at the metaphor of the household: God has opened the door through Jesus Christ for all of us to enter into his house and become siblings in his forever family. This week, the metaphor is related but also very different: the church is not just a household but a house, a temple of the Living God. The metaphor shifts here from a familial image to an architectural image. Whereas last week we were siblings in a family, this week we are stones in a building. “You like living stones are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).
This would have been a particularly meaningful metaphor to the new Christians of Jewish background, because the Temple was such a central place in the Jewish religious life. Though the Jewish people believed that God lived everywhere, He dwelt in a special, intensified way in the Temple. The Temple is where sacrifices were made, where priests performed their duties, and where someone would go to encounter the shekinah glory of God.
But all that changes through the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus himself claimed that he fulfilled the temple system, rendering the priestly and sacrificial system irrelevant. All of it pointed to him, thus the Temple is no longer necessary in the light of his death and resurrection. But where now is God’s dwelling place on earth? Where do people meet him and encounter his shekinah glory?
The amazing answer is: the church. Not of course the building of the church, but the people of the Christian community who constitute the “living stones” of this new Temple. We are the Temple of the Spirit of God, which has enormous implications for both our relationships with one another, and also for our wider mission. We’ll explore all of these together on Sunday.
In preparation, read the two passages here and note all the implications of the fact that we are now this new Temple of the Spirit together.
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1 PETER 2:4-10
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,"
“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”[d]
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.