Paul, writing to the Corinthians, views the assembly in seven different ways. We see the assembly as a husbandry, as a building (1 Cor 3:9), as a temple (3:16), as a new lump (5:7), as the body of Christ (12:27), as an epistle (2 Cor 3:2,3), and in 2 Cor 11:2, as a chaste virgin.
We are living in a day when the Lord Jesus is being displaced in the heart, in the home, and sadly, also in the assembly It is important to notice four things: (1)What the assembly is to God: God’s Husbandry, God’s Building, and God’s Temple. (2) What the assembly is to Christ: The Body of Christ, the Epistle of Christ, and a Chaste Virgin to Christ. (3) What the assembly was to Paul: “Ye are our Epistle.” (4) Lastly, what the assembly was to the believers: “Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a New Lump.” An assembly is not something old that has been patched up, but something entirely new. Notice how Christ is presented as we think of the assembly as the cultivated field. Our minds go to Ruth, reminding us that what Boaz was in the field . the Lord Jesus is in the assembly. Boaz was the mighty man of wealth and of valor, the lord, the master of the field. That is what Christ is to the assembly When we think of the building, we are reminded that Christ is the foundation. The temple is the place of the divine presence. God the Father and the Holy Spirit and Christ dwell in the local assembly The new lump reminds us that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. When we consider the body we are reminded that Christ is the Head of the body The epistle is Christ’s epistle, and He is the Bridegroom of the Chaste Virgin. In all things, Christ must have the preeminence.
As we think of the assembly as a temple, we are reminded that the believer’s body is the temple of God (1 Cor 6:13), and as such, the body is not for fornication. That would be misuse of the body The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body In verse 15, we have the union of the body “Know ye not that your body is a member of Christ?” We have the communion of the body inverse 19, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” As we think of all the believers, we are viewed as the temple of God. “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple of God” (Eph 2:21). Then we note the assembly as being the temple of the living God (2 Cor 6:16).
When we read about the true God it is in contrast to that which is false. When we think of Him as the Living God, it is in contrast to that which is dead. In Daniel 6:20, we notice that Daniel is the servant of the Living God. In Hosea 1:10 we see Israel as sons of the Living God. In Matt 16:16, we see Christ as the Son of the Living God. In 2 Cor 3:3, we have the Spirit of the Living God. In 2 Con 6:16, the assembly is viewed as the sanctuary of the Living God. The last mention of the Living God in the Bible is in Rev 7:2, “The seal of the Living God.” As the Living God, we have to turn to Him. The Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God and to wait for His Son from Heaven.” We should say, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the Living God” (Ps 42:2). We should tremble before Him, “That men tremble and fear before God.. .f or He is Living God” (Dan 6:29). We are exhorted, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the Living God” (1 Tim 6:17).
As we think of the temple, the truth that is stressed is the thought of holiness. A holy God demands holiness. “As He which has called you is holy, be ye also holy” in every department of our lives. I well remember listening to the late Hugh Scott from Whitburn, Scotland point out that three times in the Old Testament you read the phrase in dark bold letters, “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD.” In the three places mentioned, he touched the home, the assembly, and the world. If we are going to know in a real way the divine presence, we must keep to divine principles. “Holiness becometh thy house, Oh Lord, forever.” In the Old and New Testament, we are taught that it is holy men and women that handle holy things. The men who pray are those who lift up holy hands in the sanctuary. It is a holy priesthood that offers up spiritual sacrifices. It is a holy nation that shows forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
More purity give me,
More strength to o’ercome.
More freedom from earth stains,
More longings for home.
More fit for the kingdom
More used I would be,
More blessed and holy,
More Savior like Thee.
As we read the Corinthian letter we notice what can mar the temple character of an assembly of God. An assembly can be divided. At Corinth, there was envy, strife, and division because of carnality. The Corinthians were making too much of men. It has been said that some have idols. I have three: Kelly, Bellett, and JND. The assembly can be defiled. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy which temple ye are.”
The assembly can be despised. “What, have ye not houses to eat or to drink in, or despise ye Church of God?”
Then the assembly can be leavened. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” The truth that the saints at Corinth had to be taught was that they did not belong to Paul or Apolos or Cephas. Those men really belonged to them. “For all things are yours; whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas. For ye belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”