As believers in Christ, we face many challenges in our walk with Him. One of these challenges is the tendency to drift away from the living person of Christ into the old things of religion. In particular we tend to be unconsciously influenced by elements of Judaism, which is based on things given by God to His people in the Old Testament, including mainly the temple, the law, the priests, and the earthly promises. However, as New Testament believers, we should be clear about the essential differences between Judaism and the church so that we may recognize and reject these religious elements in ourselves and turn back to the living person of Christ. In this post we will consider the temple while future posts in this series will deal with the law, the priests, and the earthly promises.
In Judaism there is a physical temple. In the book of Exodus God brought His people out of Egypt so that they might enter into the land of Canaan, where they would ultimately build the temple in Jerusalem. After it was built, God’s people were required to go to Jerusalem to worship God in the temple (1 Kings 6:1, 38; Exo. 23:17, 19a). Consider the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4. She said to the Lord Jesus, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, yet you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men must worship” (v. 20). In the Old Testament concept the worshipper and the place of worship are two separate things.
In the church there is no physical location required for worship, because the place of worship is the worshipper (Eph. 2:21-22; John 4:20-24; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). The Lord responded to the Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness” (John 4:21, 24).
As New Testament believers in Christ, we should not let the concept of a physical place of worship take root in our minds. Rather, we must pay attention to worshipping the Father in spirit and truthfulness. What does this mean? When we believed into the Lord Jesus, we became children of God by being born of the Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:6). The divine Spirit came into our human spirit to be mingled together as one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). God no longer dwells in a physical temple; now He dwells in our spirit (Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Cor. 3:16)! Therefore, both when we are alone and when we come together, we must exercise our human spirit to contact God who is Spirit. The Father is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:23).
Witness Lee, The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 15 (Print).
Witness Lee, The Conclusion of the New Testament, Message 208 (Print).
Witness Lee, A Simple Way to Touch the Lord (Excerpt – section entitled, “True Worship”).
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)