The Spiritual Temple
November 4th, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
1 Peter 2:1-5
THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 2:1-5
11-4-73 10:50 a.m.
We invite you with gladness and delight, on radio and on television, to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the Pastor bringing the message entitled The Spiritual Temple of God, which is you. It is an exposition on the first verses of the second chapter of 1 Peter. In our preaching through this Epistle, we have come to the second chapter, and it begins like this:
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 living stones, 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 who believe He is precious
[1 Peter 2:1-5]
The passage begins in such a different way from the way that it ends. He starts off speaking of "malice, and guile, and hypocrisy, and envy, and evil speakings" [1 Peter 2:1]. Then he ends in our passage with the holy, heavenly, spiritual temple of the Lord. The contrast is most impressive. He begins in darkness; down, and down, and down, where malice, and guile, and hypocrisy, and envy, and evil speakings are the common, ordinary accepted way of the day. He begins in the darkness; but he ends, after the processes of grace, he ends in the glorious light of the redemptive goodness of God. He begins with the people, estranged, and he ends with the holy community of the Lord. He begins with unpolished stones; he ends with the holy, perfect temple of God. He begins with the scattered units and he ends with the perfect union.
Do you notice also, that our Lord Christ is central and foundational in the passage written by the apostle? "To whom coming, a living stone, chosen of God and precious" [1 Peter 2:4], and we are built up unto God by Jesus Christ, "Unto you therefore who believe He is precious" [1 Peter 2:7]. All through the passage, there is a lifting up of our Lord; foundational, central. For example, could you find a better definition of the Christian faith than this? "To whom coming" [1 Peter 2:4], The Christian religion is that, it is a continuous coming to the Lord. We are coming for forgiveness. We are coming for salvation. We are coming for wisdom, for direction, for blessing, for help, for encouragement, for healing. That’s what it is, "To whom coming" [1 Peter 2:4]; a continuous coming to the blessed Jesus.
He illustrates it in two ways. "As newborn babes" [1 Peter 2:2], as a little child growing up comes to the father or mother and comes again, and again, and again. So we, coming to Jesus; not one time or one day, but all the pilgrimage of our life, "to whom coming" [1 Peter 2:4]. And he illustrates it again in the figure and simile: Like a building, we are "living stones." That is we are quickened in Him, we live in Him, and "we are built up a spiritual house" [1 Peter 2:5]. That is: we’re built up in Him. It is Christ all the way, it is none other than He. Christianity is Christ; the religion is the Lord. That’s what it is, and it is Jesus – in the beginning, and in the middle, and at the end, and all the way the same – yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
Many of you have made journeys abroad. And when you make those journeys, you will find that from place to place your guide will change. You will have a guide in Rome, you will have a guide in Athens, you will have a guide in Israel. You will have a guide, an in-tourist guide, in Moscow and the guide will change from place to place. But it isn’t so in the Christian pilgrimage. We have one guide and one leader, all the way through from the beginning through the ending. In the story of the children of Israel Moses led them through the wilderness, but it was Joshua who led them into the Promised Land. Not so with us. We have one leader to bring us out and to bring us in. In the building of the Temple, David gathered the materials and Solomon erected it. Not so with us; the same blessed Lord that chose us as living stones is the same blessed Lord that builds us into the holy house of God. He is the Alpha, the Omega. He is the A, the Z, the beginning and the ending [Revelation 22:13].
When a man begins with Christ, he has a fine beginning. When a man continues with Christ, he has a fine continuing. And when a man ends with Christ, he has a fine and triumphant ending; it is Jesus all the way. It is our Lord in the morning, in the springtime of life, in the days of strength and energy. It is our Lord in the noonday of life, bearing the burden and the heat of the day. It is our Lord at the eventide of life, leaning upon a cane. It is always He. It is our Lord in every providence, and circumstance, and attendant way of life. It is our Lord, in affluence; that He might crown it. It is our Lord in poverty, that He might console us and cheer us. It is our Lord in dishonor and shame, that He might somehow lead us, and guide us, and help us. It is our Lord in fame and honor, that He might sanctify it. It is our Lord in health and strength, that He might bless it. It is our Lord in sickness and illness, that He might heal us and comfort us. It is our Lord, always. That is why when a man preaches Jesus, he preaches the gospel; that is what it is. When a missionary stands in a darkened land and lifts up the Cross; that’s the light of the world, it is Jesus.
Now, will you notice: "To whom coming, chosen of God, and precious, a living stone" [1 Peter 2:4, 5]. And you, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God. So "coming to Jesus" [1 Peter 2:4], He’s the foundation upon which the spiritual house is built: you. And He is the Holy One of Israel, before whom we are high priests. And He is the great sacrifice, by whom we offer up spiritual sacrifices to God.
So I am taking those three things. First, the spiritual house, the spiritual temple of the Lord; a building of God’s own hands, "a tent that He hath set" [Psalm 19:4]. You know, when we read in the Bible of the Tabernacle and of the Temple? Is that what God means; is for us to build a "Tabernacle" or a "Temple," and this is the residence of the Lord? Nothing could be further from the truth than that. For the tabernacle and the temple were nothing other, but figures. They were parables, they were types of the reality that God would have us know. For the reality is not the brick, or the mortar, or the curtain, but the reality is the spiritual temple that God is building; namely you.
Look, when David said: "I shall build a temple for the Lord, a house of cedar, a house of gold" [1 Chronicles 17:1].
The Lord said to David, He said, "David, in all of the years that I have guided the footsteps of My people Israel, did I dwell in a temple? And in all the years that I’ve taken thee from following the sheep and made thee king over God’s heritage, did I live in a temple? What temple would you build for Me?" [2 Samuel 7:5-9]
In Isaiah, quoted by Stephen in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts:
Thus saith the Lord, heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. What temple would you build for Me and where is the place of My rest?
Have not my hands made all these things?
In the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, as they left, the disciples said to the Lord: "Look at the stones in this temple. Some of you have seen some of them, gigantic stones. Look at the stones in this temple." And the Lord said to His disciples, "Verily, truly, I say unto you, the day is coming where there’ll not be one stone left upon another" [Matthew 24:1-2]. If God wanted a temple, could He not have preserved it? In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, when John sees the heavenly city, he says: "And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord is the temple thereof and the Lamb is the light of it" [Revelation 21:22-23].
What is the real Temple? What are the realities of life? Are they material? Do you find them in curtains? Do you find them in brick, and gold, and stone, and mortar? No! The realities are always spiritual, never material. We turn things around, and seemingly we can not escape it, and we can not get beyond it. When a man speaks of the spiritualities, immediately we think that he is speaking of the ephemeralities – he’s speaking of things that are mystical – ephemeral. But the realities are this: what my eyes see and what my hands can touch. Those are the realities. Actually, it is the opposite. The eternities are the things that are not seen and the real, abiding realities are the spiritual realities, always. The apostle Paul said 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 which are not seen are eternal.
[2 Corinthian 4:18]
The eternities are the spiritual things of life, not the material things; they are transient and pass away. That’s one of the reasons that the world, for centuries now and millennia now, have looked upon Plato as one of the greatest minds and philosophers of all time. Plato could see that. And the heart of Plato’s philosophy is this: that the eternities – the things that abide forever – are the things of the nous, of the mind. They are the ideas.
For example, we say, "That chair is real." That’s the real thing, that chair. Plato would say, "Not so! For the chair is temporal; it will decay, burn up, thrown away, worn out, useless." Plato would say, "The eternity is the idea, the idea of the chair." Through the years, and the centuries, and the forevers, the idea is always there. This is the temporality and the transient. Plato would say, "That house, that’s temporal." You say, "That’s the real thing." Plato would say, "No! For the house will burn up, it will burn down; it will decay, it will become useless. It will fade away, it is transient, it is momentary." But, Plato would say, "Reality is the idea, the idea of a house." The spiritual reality abides forever. You’d say, "This is the real thing, that boat or that ship." Plato would say, "The ship will sink, or grow old, or pass away; but the idea abides forever."
Now, what Plato was teaching in his philosophy is the great spiritual facts that God reveals in His Word. The tabernacle, the temple, the house of brick or gold: these are temporalities, they are transients. They pass away, but the eternities are the spiritual truths that God would have us know. So it is with the temple of God. How would you build a temple in which you could contain omnipresence? How could you put God under a roof? The Lord God, who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, how could you contain Him in a house? These things that we find in the Bible – tabernacle, temple – these are figures. They are types, that we might learn the nomenclature of God, to understand the language of the Almighty, that the Lord might teach us spiritual truths, eternal truths, unseen truths.
Well, what are these unseen truths that the Lord is teaching us here? Two things: The temple of God, you; the temple of God, the convocation of His people, the household of faith. This is the temple of the Lord: you. God dwells in a holy temple: you. The Lord said to the Jewish nation: "Destroy this temple and in three days, I will build it up" [John 2:19]. And they said, not understanding, "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and You would raise it up in three days?" [John 2:19]
Then John the apostle who writes it, says, quote, "But He spake of the temple of His body" [John 2:20].
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made flesh. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten Son of God" [John 1:1,14]. Now you look at that, "And the Word was made flesh and eskēnōsen." Eskēnōsen, " And, the Word was flesh and "tabernacled among us," templed among us. The Greek word is "tabernacle." And He "tabernacled among us." What is the tabernacle of God, the house of God, the temple of the Lord? You! God dwells in the mind and the soul of an intelligent and spiritually regenerated man. That’s why the apostle Paul will say:
Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Lord,
you’re not your own?
You are bought with a price; therefore glory God in your body,
[1 Corinthians 6:19-20]
The temple of the Lord is you.
One other: and the temple of the Lord is the household of faith – living stones, built up into a spiritual house – you. The temple of God is a spiritual house. Empty this building of you, and it’s dead. Those windows are dead, these great beams are dead, the house is dead. But "we are living stones built up into a living house" [1 Peter 2:5]. The temple of God is the convocation of His people. And He lives among us. He moves among us, a living stone Himself. We are built up into a living temple, a living house of the Lord. As such, He gathers us together, living stones. We are separated from the mass, and we are quickened and made a part of the household of faith, just as David gathered the stones for the Temple. And when it was put together, there was not the sound of a hammer, or the ringing of an ax, or the sound of a instrument of iron [1 Kings 6:7]. It was perfectly made and jointed beautifully, and when it was put together, it was so gloriously done. It was silent as the Temple rose unto God.
So with us: the Lord fits us, and He prepares us, and He makes us. And when we are all together, there are we – the holy communion of the Lord – the heavenly, perfect temple of our blessed Jesus. Second, "Coming unto Him, chosen of God and precious, we are built up a holy priesthood" [1 Peter 2:5], you, the high priests of God. In the figure, in the ancient Tabernacle and Temple, there stood a priest, beautiful robes, embellished, multicolored, just gorgeous! And he ministers before an earthly shrine. The contrast here is so dramatic, not a priest before a shrine like that, nor one dressed up in gorgeous and heavenly robes, but you are the priest chosen of God [1 Peter 2:9], born into it by regeneration. In the first chapter of the Revelation, in the first doxology, John writes:
Unto Him who loved us – and gave Himself for us –
and hath made us kings and priests unto God our Father;
to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look at that.
Unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood
and hath made us priests unto God.
You – we are priests by birth; a priest had to be of the line of Aaron, had to be a son of Aaron [Numbers 3:3]. He was born into it; you are born into it. When you were born again, regenerated, you were born into the high priestly office – you! And when the priest was consecrated for his task, the blood of the sacrificial victim was placed on the lobe of his ear, and on the thumb of his hand, and on the big toe of his foot [Leviticus 14:14]. He was consecrated with that, setting-aside in blood. That is, he is to hear the Word of God; the blood touches his ear. He is to do the work of God; the blood is on his hand. And he is to walk in the way of the Lord; the blood is on his foot. You are the high priest, consecrated to listen, and to do, and to walk. The priest represented God to man and man to God. We’re to do that: witnessing, testifying, pointing to the blessed Jesus.
Why, look around you. All over this sacred congregation there are men and women who love Jesus, who would stand up and say, "I was pointed to Christ by a friend, by my mother, by my father, by a saintly pastor, by a Sunday school teacher, by a godly deacon." A priest pointing to God and a priest representing his people before the throne of grace, praying for them, asking God’s blessings upon them. When I finished the sermon this morning, one of the sweet, dear prayer partners and fellow members of the church gave me a little piece of paper. And when I took it to my study and read it, it was a request for two things. You see, we are priests; we are praying for the people. This request: praying for a family that is going to be here in this sacred service this morning. A holy priesthood, representing God to the people and representing the people to God.
Not only that: not only are we built up, the spiritual house, the temple of the Lord, and not only are we chosen to be high priests ministering before God, but we are also chosen, coming to Jesus, "to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to the Lord by Him" [1 Peter 2:5]. Spiritual sacrifices: what kind of sacrifices would be spiritual sacrifices? You see, by the tabernacle and by the temple, I have been taught what a sacrifice is. A sacrifice is an offering unto God brought to the Lord, and holy, given to the Lord. That is what the word "sacrifice" means.
Well, what is a spiritual sacrifice? When I turn to the Word of God, I meet that so beautifully again and again. I have chosen four of those spiritual sacrifices that we offer unto God. Here is one in the fifty-first Psalm, David says:
Lord, Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it:
Thou delightest not in burnt offerings – I’d bring them to Thee forever –
But the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
What are the spiritual sacrifices that we offer unto God? The first one I read in the Bible, "the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart" [Psalm 51:7]. Lord, forgive me if I’m proud. Forgive me, Lord, if I’m selfish and try to place myself first. Forgive me, Lord, if I am self‑seeking. Forgive me, Lord, if I am rebellious. Forgive me, Lord, if I am not submissive and yielded. The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart. Lord, I am nothing, dust and ashes. Thou, O God, are so mighty and so great. What is it that I would take upon myself even to speak unto Thee? Oh, what a beautiful thing to see a man who walks in humility and contrition, "Lord, I’m no better than that man and I’m no better than that one. And just by the grace of God am I what I am. It was the Lord’s goodness that reached unto me and blessed me." Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Offering unto God the sacrifices of a contrite spirit.
I have chosen another one as I read through the Book, this is the sacrifice of a loving heart. Look: one of the scribes came and said to the Lord, "What is the first commandment of all?" And Jesus answered him and said the first commandment of all is this – Hear,shema, hear, O Israel! The Lord, our God, is One" [Deuteronomy 6:4]:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength.
That is the first one. And the second is just like it:
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
And the scribe said to Him, "Lord, you have answered well. For what could there be greater than that a man love God with all of his heart, and his soul, and his mind, and his strength, and his neighbor as himself?" And the scribe said, "That is more than all whole burnt offerings and all of the sacrifices" [Mark 12:32-33]. And Jesus looked at him and said, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God" [Mark 12:34]. The spiritual intuition that could see that means that the man is just right there at the door, more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices is to love God and to love His people.
What are the sacrifices that we offer unto God, spiritual sacrifices? This one: that we love the Lord and love His people. What are these spiritual sacrifices that we offer unto God as I read the blessed Book? Here is another one: In the twelfth chapter of Romans, the apostle writes:
I beseech you, my brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable in God, which is your spiritual service.
What are the spiritual sacrifices we offer unto God? The house in which I live; the tabernacle that God hath set for me to dwell in! That is why it is a sorrow to see a youth take the body God has given him, and he uses it. He fills it with drugs, and he hurts it, and he buffets it, and he wrongs it. Oh, when you see young people defame the body, the house of God, you can’t but hurt on the inside. Here is this bottle, and they pass it around: liquid pot. And the things that follow, in a life and a circle like that, are devastating. They are disintegrating, they are debauching. Offer unto God a living sacrifice, the house in which you live, the temple of God; the dwelling place of the Spirit of the Lord – you!
In this little moment that remains, just one other. As I read through the Book, what are these spiritual sacrifices we offer unto the Lord? Listen to this beautiful word in the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews:
By Him therefore – 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 in His name.
And to do good and to communicate – to give – forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
What are the sacrifices that we offer unto God? The praise of our lips. Bless His name, He is so good to me, just thanking God for every step of the way.
Oh, the Lord has been so good to me.
I feel like traveling on.
Until those mansions I can see,
I feel like traveling on
["I feel Like Travelin’ On"; James D. Vaughn]
Just blessing God for every step of the way; if I am well, bless His name, if I’m not well, bless His name. Offering sacrifices unto God, giving thanks in His name; offering sacrifices of God, doing good; offering sacrifices of God to communicate; that’s a translation from a word meaning "to give." Ah! What a sweet and a blessed way. As the Lord said in Isaiah, "This is the way, walk ye in it."
Would you come and join us? Wouldn’t you? In our glory road to heaven, would you be numbered with the people of the Lord? Wouldn’t you? We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you; down one of these stairways from the balcony, in the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and here to the front. "I make it now, pastor, I’m coming." Do it. God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.