The HOUSE of GOD
Many Scriptures in the Old Testament (Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Psalms in particular) refer to the “House of God” and the context is clear that it is referring to a literal, physical place – after Israel was miraculously delivered from Egypt, it was the Tabernacle; when Israel entered the Promised land of Canaan, it was various places (wherever the Tabernacle resided), such as Shiloh (see Judges 18:31 and 1 Samuel 1:3); later, it became the Temple at Jerusalem. (See Exhibit A for examples of verses in which “house” clearly means a physical structure).
For many “Christians” today, Old Testament (Old Covenant) thinking and practice is imposed on the New Testament (New Covenant) period, which is often incorrect and therefore unwise. Such is the case when Christians refer to their church building as the “House of God”. This is unfortunate for several (primarily two) reasons.
First, there are Scriptures, other than those referred to above, in which the word “house” is used in a manner which clearly does NOT mean the literal physical structure, but rather refers to those persons who belong to a particular family – with not even an implied reference to a physical structure. By connecting the “house of God” with a physical structure in our common usage of our language, we tend to limit and minimize those truths and teachings that are intended to apply to people rather than to place. (See Exhibit B for examples of verses in which “house” clearly does NOT mean a physical structure).
Second, God Himself made it clear that NO structure can contain Him and foolish is the man who attempts to build a house that would contain God. God manifested His presence at the Tabernacle, but the Tabernacle never “housed” God. God used the physical structure to teach that He chose to “tabernacle” with man, but again, no tabernacle could ever contain God. A temple was built in Jerusalem (God’s appointed place for sacrifice) which foretold a significant future event (the sacrifice of His Son at that very place), not to be a “house” as we generally think of it. (See Exhibit C for examples of verses).
In much of Christianity today, great emphasis has been placed on the place. Some people almost seem to worship the place, rather than the God of the place. (“For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God” Hebrews 3:3-4).
Please consider the following enlightening passage from 2 Samuel 7:1-17 "Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.” Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”’ Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David."
We at BibleTruthForToday believe that the intent of God was never to emphasize the “place”. Jesus made that vividly clear in His conversation with the Samaritan woman found in John 4:19-24. Let’s listen in on that conversation:
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus prophesied (foretold) that the "formal" worship at Jerusalem (the center of worship for the Jews) would indeed cease - “And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down”(Mark 13:2). We believe that this historic event occurred (in 70 A.D.), in part, to help usher in the period of time foretold by Jesus in John 4 (see above) in which “place” was no longer significant – the matter of great importance was to be worshipping God in spirit and in truth, the two inseparable components of true worship. That a transition indeed occurred seems to be clearly stated by Peter: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”. (1 Peter 2:5)
Here are some important questions:
Are you part of God’s house?
No one is a member of God’s house/family by birth - that only comes by the “new birth” about which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 3.
Ephesians 1:5 speaks of being adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.
John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”
Are you overly concerned with the “place”?
Do the temporal things mean more to you than the spiritual things?
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 1:1-2).
Are you more concerned with the appearance of the buildings, the programs and the people than you are with the inward beauty of a soul that has been cleansed by God and is walking with Him?
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Do you take pride in your building, your programs, etc. rather than remaining humbly thankful, giving ALL the glory to God (and none to self) and concurring in sincerity and truth with John the Baptist when he declared: " He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30)?
Are you truly worshiping God – as HE wants to be worshiped?
In Mark 7:6-9 we read this rebuke from the Savior - "And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!"
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (John 4:23 )
Please check out our link regarding worship and be sure to read the Scriptures at Exhibit C below.
EXHIBIT A – sampling of “house” verses referring to a physical place
1 Chronicles 22:2: “So David commanded to gather the aliens who were in the land of Israel; and he appointed masons to cut hewn stones to build the house of God.”
2 Chronicles 5:1: “So all the work that Solomon had done for the house of the LORD was finished; and Solomon brought in the things which his father David had dedicated: the silver and the gold and all the furnishings. And he put them in the treasuries of the house of God.”
Ezra 5:15: “And he said to him, ‘Take these articles; go, carry them to the temple site that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its former site.’”
EXHIBIT B – sampling of “house” verses NOT referring to a physical place
Genesis 7:1 “Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your house, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.”
Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”
Hebrews 8:8-10 “Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
EXHIBIT C – God’s perspective on His house
Acts 7:44-50 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built Him a house. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the LORD,
Or what is the place of My rest?
Has My hand not made all these things?"
Hebrews 3:5-6 “And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end”.
1 Timothy 3:15 “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”