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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sacred Space

What is a Temple used for? It's used for worship!

I'll admit it; growing up in my teens & early twenties, I loved 'The Highlander' movies & the resulting hit T.V. series of the same name. The sword-play always fascinated me & even though I now look back at many of those older 80s & 90s shows with some reminiscent fondness, I remember that one of the themes in the movie/show was that you were safe ( from having your head lopped off ) when you were on 'holy ground', whether it was a cathedral or an old Indian burial ground. Looking back on those days, I sometimes wonder why I was so fascinated with that show, but then I realize that I hadn't yet begun my foray into theology yet.

The apostle Paul told the disciples of Christ, the Church, 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit' ( I Corinthians 6:19 ), so, in the apostle's theology, we can see that he taught that WE, not some building or piece of ground, was 'holy ground'! Reading further on in this text & in the greater context of Scripture, we see this theology illuminated more & more by the writings of Paul & the apostles, even foreshadowed in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Many Christians seem to think that the 'Holy Land', or the ground occupied by the nation/state of Israel, is the 'Zion' promised to the People of God throughout these same Hebrew Scriptures, but most are ignorant of the fact that these promises simply pointed to the true Zion, that of Heaven on Earth, the Dwelling of God with His People. When the Creator God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, He wasn't telling him that he would literally be the progenitor of many countries, or plots of ground; the Creator God was saying that through Abraham, many people would become sons & daughters of His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, or Zion. As we can see throughout the ministry & teachings of Jesus, the physical blessings promised under that first covenant, as laid out in the Hebrew Scriptures, simply served to point to fulfillment in the Christ, a deeper spiritual Truth, the Promise of the Spirit!

The Blessings of the Spirit are manifested in the People of God; John saw, in 'the Revelation' ( 21 ), that in the New Jerusalem, which was revealed as the Church in the first century A.D., 'the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple'! Paul & the apostles, as we saw earlier, taught that we, the People of God are this temple, so we should understand that, as we are the New Dwelling-place, or Home of God in the Spirit ( John 14:23 ( I Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:22, I Peter 2:5 ), WE are the 'sacred space', the Zion, that was pictured by those promises of physical blessings given under that first covenant, as read in the Hebrew Scriptures. Though with the Spiritual Fulfillment of the Promises often, or usually ( eventually ) comes a physical representation of the promised blessings, it is the spiritual nature of the promise which shines through!

We ARE the Temple of the Holy Spirit, just like Paul wrote; not only individually, though that in itself is very important, but more importantly, as a corporate Body! Paul wrote, 'we are............. individually members of one another' ( Romans 12:5, I Corinthians 12:27 ). but that we are One Body together, the Body of Christ. As such, the Creator God has decreed that He will Dwell, not in 'temples made with hands' ( Acts 7:48 ), as Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin, but with ( in ) His people ( John 14:23 ); as the apostle Peter told his contemporaries, 'you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.' This too, is a fulfillment of the promise in Exodus 19:6, 'you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'!

The furtherance of my theological education has produced the realization that, while we may meet for corporate worship & fellowship in special buildings or certain specific location, there is nothing sacred about those buildings or locations, except for the fact that we are there! We are, in that sense, traveling 'sacred spaces'; our bodies, as Paul wrote, are temples of the Holy Spirit, so, when biological life ceases to exist for us ( whether it's because our head was removed or whatever ), then we may understand that we are no longer that Temple, but One Spirit with our Creator. This may bring up more interesting conversation or open a can of worms, but if our ( individual ) bodies are no longer temples when our biological life ceases, what implications DOES that carry for us, when we have become pure spirit, or Spirit?! One thing we know for sure is that the Body of Christ ( corporate ) has MANY members & just as Abraham is the Father of Many Nations, so the Creator God is the Father of Many Children; we are not alone in this Temple!

Charles Haddon Shank

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