The Spiritual Temple
November 4th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
1 Peter 2:1-5
THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 2:1-5
11-4-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are worshipping with the people of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And when I came I thought, “Oh dear, look at this rain, this is supposed to be a great day for us, and look how God has not cooperated.” But you ought to be here this morning, if you are listening, not coming to the second service; this house is jammed to the last seat. And we praise God for you. This is the pastor delivering the message entitled The Spiritual House of God—The Temple of the Lord. And it is an exposition of the first verses of the second chapter of 1 Peter:
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
Ye also, as lively stones…
[1 Peter 2:1-5]
That is a translation that is just for a euphonic difference in pronunciation; “To whom coming, as unto a living stone…ye also, as lively stones” [1 Peter 2:4-5], they are the same words, lithos, stones, living, singular, speaking of our Lord. Then lithoi plural, stones, lithoi, living stones; the same phrase. Our Lord is a living stone, “Ye also, as living stones,” plural,
…are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.
Unto you therefore which believe He is timē, precious.
[1 Peter 2:5-7]
Now to read the passage, quickly as I have done, is to gain somewhat of an impression of a marvelous word. But when we look at it carefully, it begins to unfold to us in great doctrinal truth. Here is, first of all, here is an increasing gradation of values. “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings” [1 Peter 2:1], here. Then it rises up to, “You are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God” [1 Peter 2:5]. The passage begins in darkness, and then by processes of refining grace, it ends in the light of the redemptive gracious goodness of God. The passage begins with a people who are estranged, and it ends in a holy community. The passage begins with unpolished stones, and it ends with a beautiful holy temple of God. The passage begins with scattered units, but it ends in a perfect whole, a beautiful combination.
Now look again, as you follow the Word. Here is presented the fundamental centrality of our blessed Lord Christ. Look at it: “To whom coming, as unto a living stone. . .we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ [1 Peter 2:4-5]. Unto you therefore who believe He is precious” [1 Peter 2:7]. When you read the passage, you cannot escape that observation that the central heart of all that the apostle is saying is found in Christ; He is the Beginning and the Ending and all in between. Nor could you find a better definition, description, delineation of the Christian faith than this word that the apostle Peter writes: “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4]. What is the Christian faith? It is a continuous coming to the Lord Jesus, a coming for forgiveness, a coming for salvation, a coming for guidance, divine wisdom, help, comfort, encouragement, healing. There’s no better definition of the Christian faith than that: “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4]; a continuous coming to the Lord Jesus. And he illustrates it under two figures. One: as newborn babes [1 Peter 2:2], a child growing up, coming to the father, to the mother, to the parents; coming again and again and again. And he illustrates it as a temple, building up into the likeness of God, a part of the holy tabernacle of the Lord Himself; we are living stones, that is, we live in Him [1 Peter 2:5]. And the temple is a living temple; we are built up in Him. It is no exaggeration for a minister to say that the whole fabric of the Christian faith is Christ; that’s what it is. And that the whole message is Christ, it is nothing else. It is our Lord now, it is our Lord yesterday, it is our Lord tomorrow; “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8].
Some of you have been on journeys abroad. When you make such a pilgrimage you’ll find your guide changed from time to time. In Rome you’ll have a guide, in Athens you’ll have another; maybe in Izmir, in Smyrna you’ll have another; maybe in Israel you’ll have another. But that’s not the way it is with the Christian faith and the Christian pilgrimage: He is always our Guide; He never changes.
In the story of the children of Israel entering into the Promised Land, Moses led them through the wilderness; but it was Joshua who led them into the Promised Land. Not with us: it is the same great Savior who guides us all the way through. In the story of the building of the temple in Jerusalem, it was David who gathered the materials; but it was Solomon who built the temple. Not with us: it is our Lord all the way through. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the A and the Z, the Beginning and the Ending [Revelation 22:13]. It is all of Christ. When a man begins in the Lord, he begins well. When a man continues in the Lord, he continues well. And when a man finishes in the Lord, he finishes well. It is Christ in the morning of life, in the days of youth, in the days of strength; it is Christ at the noon time of life, bearing the burden and the heat of the day as mature men and women; and it is Christ in the eventide of life, leaning on a cane, coming to the sunset days, the end of the way. It is Jesus all the way through; it is ever and always He.
It is our Lord in affluence that He might crown it. It is our Lord in poverty, that He might comfort us, console us and cheer us. It is our Lord in honor and in fame, that He might sanctify it. It is our Lord in dishonor or in shame, that He might help us and encourage us. It is our Lord in health, that He might bless us. It is our Lord in sickness and illness, that He might heal us. When the apostle speaks of our Lord as being central in all of the life of the saint of God [1 Peter 2:6], he is speaking God’s truth by divine revelation.
Now he speaks of our coming to Jesus, “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4], as, He is our foundation, upon which the spiritual house is built [1 Corinthians 3:11-12]. And He is the Holy One of Israel, in whom we are made priests unto God, a holy priesthood. And He is the great sacrifice Himself, who leads us to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God [1 Peter 2:5].
Now I speak of those three things. First: “To whom coming, as unto a living stone. . .ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house” [1 Peter 2:4-5]. The imagery, of course, is the building of the temple, or the tabernacle. The tabernacle, temple, were intended of God to be types and figures of the spiritual reality. And the tabernacle, temple, had no other purpose but to be figures by which God taught us great spiritual realities. It was never God’s purpose just to have a temple, never. When David said, “It is in my heart to build a house for God,” the Lord God said to David, “David, all through the years that I guided Israel I had no temple, and I took you from following the sheep, and I lived in no temple” [2 Samuel 7:1-8]. In the Book of Isaiah, quoted by Stephen in the seventh chapter of Acts, the Lord says, “Thus saith the Lord, Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; where is the house ye would make for Me, and where is the place of My rest? Are not all these things My hands have made?” [Acts 7:49-50]. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the disciples take our Lord and show Him those enormous stones in the temple [Matthew 24:1]. You’ll see some of them on the Western Wall, gigantic stones. And as they pointed them out to the Lord, the Lord said, “The day is coming when not one of these stones will be left upon the other” [Matthew 24:2]. If God wanted a temple, He could have preserved it and kept it. In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, it says, “And I saw no temple therein,” in the New Jerusalem in heaven, “for the Lord is the temple of it, and the Lamb is the light of it” [Revelation 21:22-23]. Well, wherefore then the tabernacle and the temple? These are figures, they are temporalities of the real and actual and enduring thing: the spiritual house of God [1 Peter 2:4-5].
There is a weakness in us, in our minds, in our thinking, because we are always persuaded that the real thing is the materiality. This is real. This is real. These stones and steel beams, and this brick and mortar, that’s real. But the spiritual somehow, we think, is imaginary, it is ephemeral, it is transient. Actually the opposite is the truth: the temporary is the material, the eternal is the spiritual. Paul would say it like this: “While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal: but the things that are not seen are eternal” [2 Corinthians 4:18]. The great realities are the unseen and the spiritual. That’s one reason why a man like Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, is considered as possibly one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Why? Because he was able to see with the eyes of his mind, the great truths of this life.
Let me give you an illustration. Plato would say it is the idea, the nous, it is the idea, the mind, it is the idea that is eternal. And the materiality is temporal. For example, Plato would say a chair, a chair, a chair is temporal; it’s there, soon decayed, break up, burn up, fall away, get rid of it. But the idea of the chair is eternal. The chair, the idea of a chair, it’s the idea that lives forever; not the actual materiality. He’d say a house, a house, it’s the idea of the house that is eternal; for this house burned down, this house get old, this house get creaky, this house wear out. And it goes away, no matter how fine and how noble, it has a transient existence. It’s the idea that lives. He’d say a boat, a boat, it’s the idea of the boat, of the ship, that is eternal. You see he was a great philosopher, and though a pagan, he was speaking of one of the great revelations of God in the Bible. The materiality is transient. The eternal truth is spiritual. So it is with a temple and with a tabernacle of the Old Testament: God never intended that to be eternal. As I quoted Revelation 21, “And there is no temple in it, for the Lord God is the temple of it, and the Lamb shines in it” [Revelation 21:22-23]; the shekinah glory of God will be the blessed Jesus.
Well then, why the temple, and why the tabernacle? They were figures to teach us great spiritual realities. What are those spiritual realities? The Scriptures, the Scriptures teach us what God had in His mind in building a temple and a tabernacle. One, the temple of God is the soul of the man that lives in this house. This is the temple of God [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Second, and the temple of God is the communion of the saints, the household of the faith [1 Corinthians 3:16]; this is the temple of the Lord. This is the temple of God. Our Lord said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2:19]. And the Jewish people gathered round Him and said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and You would raise it up in three days?” [John 2:20]. Then John delineates, “But He spake of the temple of His body” [John 2:21]. The apostle Paul said, “Know ye not that your body is the holy temple of God? You are not your own, you are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. The house of God, that’s you. This is the temple of God, where the Spirit of God dwells: in your soul, in your mind, in your heart, in your dreams and visions and plans; God in you. That is the temple.
And this is the temple: the convocation of God’s saints. “Ye are living stones, built up into a spiritual house” [1 Peter 2:5]. This is the temple of God: the convocation of God’s people. The Lord is here in the midst when God’s people gather together. And each one is a living stone, a zōnton lithon, a living stone. This is a dead temple, a material one. Empty this house of you and look at it. Those windows are dead, those beams are dead, this cement and brick and building they’re dead. What is the temple of God? It is the convocation of God’s people, whether you were under an arbor, or put your feet on a sawdust floor, or you were in a barn, immaterial. For it’s not the reality of the outward materiality, the reality is you; you are the temple of God [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. And the Lord put you together with living stones [1 Peter 2:4-5]. Just as David prepared for the erection of the physical, material temple [1 Chronicles 28:11-19, 29:2-9]; and when it was put together, there was neither the sound of a hammer or the sound of an axe or the sound of an iron tool [1 Kings 6:7]; for it had been prepared and it was put together beautifully. So the Lord prepares us: He separates us from the mass, and He redeems us and regenerates us and places us into the house of our Lord. We must hasten.
“Ye as living stones are built up a spiritual house” [1 Peter 2:5], that is you, that is we, that is God’s sainted people; the temple of the Lord, built up an holy priesthood. The material priest, the priest that you could see, the priest who presided before a material shrine, that priest is compared with the spiritual priest that you are. In the first chapter of the Revelation, there is a doxology: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto our God. . .to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. Did you see that? “To Him who hath washed us in His own blood, and hath made us priests unto our God” [Revelation 1:5-6]. You, a priest of God, you’re a priest by birth. Aaron’s sons, by birth, were priests [Numbers 3:3]. You are a child of God, born into that priesthood. And not only born into it, but you are sanctified and consecrated into that holy, heavenly priesthood [Revelation 1:6].
In the Old Covenant, when the priest was sanctified, set aside, consecrated, ordained, they took blood of the sacrificial animal and touched his right ear, the lobe of his right ear, and touched his right thumb, and touched his right big toe [Exodus 29:20]. That is, this minister, standing before God, is to listen to the word of the Lord, the blood touches his ear; and he’s to do the work of God, the blood touches his hand; and he is to walk in the way of the Lord, the blood touches his foot. And the priest, standing before God, you, is to make intercession for the people, to represent the people to God, and to represent God to the people. There’s to be prayers for the lost, intercessions that they might be saved, and testimonies that they might know of the blessed Jesus. We are the priests of the great High God [Revelation 1:5-6].
I could not help but think when Dell Rogers was here, in this pulpit a moment ago, and he was saying, “We were going through great crises, and it was a sermon by the pastor that brought us back to God and began that new life with Christ.” I could not help but think, this last week I was preaching in the First Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York City; and they were celebrating their one hundred fiftieth anniversary. And before the service in the sanctuary, the people were called together for a great dinner. They were rejoicing. And as I sat by the illustrious pastor – he has been the president of his convention, his denomination, a most gifted man – as I sat by him, he told me about a young couple that meant so much to them. He said, “There was a young woman who was brilliant, and an atheist. And however she turned, her mind found difficulty and hostility to the gospel of Christ. And she fell in love with a young man, and she led him into a like rejection of the gospel of Christ.” And the pastor said to me, “Upon a day, the young woman, refusing to go to church, looking with disdain upon the gospel of Jesus,” he said, “upon a day, she happened to listen to you on television.” And he said that there was something in the message that brought an answer to a need in her heart that she couldn’t find in books, or in science, or in literature, or in academic learning. And she listened again, and she listened again. And she persuaded her young husband to come to the church, and both of them listened to you in the congregation there in Dallas.
And he said, “Upon a day, the Holy Spirit so moved them they came forward, made a confession of faith in the blessed Jesus, and you baptized them.” And he said, “They’re the finest couple that we have.” Doesn’t that make you want to shout and sing and praise God? That is the office of the priest: pointing to Jesus and praying in their behalf before the throne of grace.
I speak of myself because that was one of the things that was just brought to my mind. I could stand here in this place and talk about you. Here is a man, and there is one, and yonder is another brought to Jesus in your loving praying, testimonies, and gracious goodnesses.
Let me just sum up, for the time is spent. “To whom coming,” to our blessed Jesus, “as living stones, we are built up a spiritual house, we are made a holy priesthood,” to witness to the grace of God, to point to Jesus, and “to offer up spiritual sacrifices” [1 Peter 2:4-5]. I have gone through the Scriptures and have picked out some of those spiritual sacrifices. One is in Psalm 51, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou dost delightest not in burnt offerings or I would offer them. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” [Psalm 51:16-17]. What kind of sacrifices does the Christian priest offer to God? He offers the sacrifice of a contrite heart: “Lord, Lord, just thank You for having mercy upon me. Lord, Lord.”
What kind of sacrifices does the Christian priest offer before God? One of the scribes came and said to Jesus, “Which is the great commandment?” And Jesus said, “The great commandment is, Hear, O Israel: hear, The Lord God is one; thou shalt love Him with all the heart and soul and mind” [Mark 12:28-30]. And the scribe said, “Master, You have answered well. To love God is better than all of the burnt sacrifices and offerings that are brought unto Thee in this temple” [Mark 12:32-33]. And Jesus, looking at him, said, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven; you are almost there” [Mark 12:34]. That’s the sacrifices we offer to God: to love God with all the mind and heart and soul.
What are the sacrifices of the Lord God? “I beseech thee therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. . .acceptable unto God, which is your spiritual service” [Romans 12:1]. The offering of this body to the Lord; that’s why, young people, to take your body and to abuse it with drugs or any other of the things that this modern generation is so adept in luring you into, is unspeakable, it is unthinkable. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice” [Romans 12:1]. What are the sacrifices the Christian priest offers to God? This house in which He lives [Romans 12:1].
I have chosen one other. What are the sacrifices we offer to God? Listen to this beautiful one, beautiful one, in Hebrews 13: “By Him, by our blessed Lord, by Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” [Hebrews 13:15]. Bless the name of God. To do good, and to communicate, to give, as Dell Rogers was saying, to give, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased; God is well pleased when a man raises his hands to heaven and says, “Thank You, Lord” [Hebrews 13:15]. God is well pleased when a man gets down on his knees and says, “Thank You, Lord.” God is well pleased when a man praises Jesus. These are the sacrifices, giving, praising, saying words of thanksgiving and gratitude; these are the sacrifices that bless the name of our Lord.
Well, our time is far spent. We’re going to stand now and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, you, you, to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], to praise the Lord with us; a family, all of you; a couple, two of you; a somebody one of you, in the balcony, down one of these stairways; on this lower floor, into the aisle and here to the front, “Pastor, I want God to number me with the household of His people [Hebrews 10:24-25]. I want Him to write my name in the heavenly book; I want to see God’s face some day and live [Revelation 22:4], and here I am, here I come.” While we sing this song and make this appeal, on the first note of this first stanza, answer with your life. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
the rising scale of values
the foundational centrality of Christ in it all(1
“To whom coming” – Christian life begins, continues, perfected in Christ
a. A child growing up,
coming again and again for help
b. A building rising to
His glory – living stones
The whole way it is Christ – one guide, one leader
If we begin, continue and finish with Christ, we begin, continue and finish
II. The spiritual temple
meant the temple, tabernacle, to be typical, figurative(Psalm 19:4)
Reality not brick and mortar, but the spiritual temple God is building(1 Chronicles 17:1, 2 Samuel 7:5-9, Acts 7:-50)
If God wanted a temple, could He not have preserved it? (Matthew 24:1-2, Revelation 21:22)
are spiritual things of life, not material things (2
a. Plato – “ideas”
Could God be contained in a temple of walls?
body(John 1:14, 2:19-21)
God dwells soul of intelligent man(1 Corinthians
household of faith(1 Peter 2:5)
III. The Holy priesthood
contrast to the ancient priest dressed in beautiful adorned robes
true priesthood composed of all born-again children of God(Revelation 1:5-6)
IV. Spiritual sacrifices(1 Peter 2:5)
spirit and contrite heart (Psalm 51:16-17)
Loving God, loving neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:4,
bodies (Romans 12:1)
Praise and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15-16)