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Seven ways in which the local assembly is related to God (2)

H A Barnes, Bromborough

The house of God: 1 Timothy 3.15

Timothy was left at Ephesus by the Apostle Paul to correct certain errors and misconduct. In order to support him in this activity, Paul wrote him this letter saying, "These things I write to thee…in order that thou mayest know how one ought to conduct oneself in God’s house, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth" (1 Tim 3.14-15, JND).

The phrase "house of God" takes us back to the story of Jacob, who, in his flight from his angry brother, arrived at Bethel (a Hebrew word meaning "house of God") and fell asleep. He woke in the morning after a wonderful dream in which he had seen heaven and earth connected and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not…How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel" (Gen 28.16-19).

We can imagine that the pillow-stone that he set for a pillar was supported by other stones, and this is reminiscent of Paul’s words, "the pillar and ground of truth", since the word "ground" has the idea of a support. The local assembly, being the house of God, was then a witness and a support of the truth of God locally.

The Tabernacle, the Temple, and the rebuilt Temple had been called "the house of God" (Judg 18.31; 1 Chr 22.2; 2 Chr 15.18; Ezra 6.16). Now the local assembly has that great distinction. The Psalmist understood that "in his temple everything saith, Glory" (Ps 29.9, RV). The same should be true today, since the local assembly is the pillar and ground of the same truth!

God’s husbandry: 1 Corinthians 3.9

God was looking for fruit, and metaphorically the local assembly is His husbandry, His cultivated field (Strong), where He expects the fruit to grow. He has His workers in His cultivated field, and in the immediate context Paul is the planter and Apollos the waterer, the one following the other historically (the following metaphor is a parallel - the foundation-layer of God’s building and the subsequent builder who built on the foundation).

The field was cultivated, in that the inroads of nature (weeds) were repulsed and replaced by the desired sown crop that was subsequently watered. How can a local assembly bear fruit? Paul spoke of the local assembly as the place of fruit (Rom 1.13; Phil 4.17; Col 1.6) and God is thus glorified (Jn 15.8).

The temple of God: 1 Corinthians 3.16-17; 2 Corinthians 6.16

Paul uses the expression "temple of God" with reference to the local assembly only in his Corinthian epistles. This is obviously of significance, and the connection is with holiness and separation, subjects that needed explanation in the Corinthian assembly.

Even heathens revered their temples and held them as holy (set apart), not ordinary places, let alone the temple in Jerusalem that the Jews certainly held as holy (Ps 5.7; 11.4; 65.4; 138.2). However, the Corinthians did not hold the local assembly in such high esteem. It did not meet in an ornate and imposing building, but it was nevertheless the temple of God. Paul had to remind them of this truth: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor 3.16), and "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor 3.17). Not only will reward be withheld from those who do not build with the appropriate materials, but those who defile or mar God’s temple He will destroy. The words "defile" or "destroy" are the same Greek words. God’s actions will be commensurate, the same as those of the destroyer. This salutary warning comes to believers! Robertson in his New Testament Word Studies gives a very striking comment – "The church-wrecker God will wreck"! The reason for God’s great displeasure is, "for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor 3.17).

In his second epistle, Paul tells them that "ye are the temple of the living God", and, "what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor 6.16). The explanation of this truth follows: "as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people". Dead idols have nothing to do with the living God!


We do well to remember what the local assembly is to God. There are various aspects of this truth, in that it is His building, church, flock, habitation, house, husbandry, and temple. This should control our thoughts as to what the local assembly should do and what it is connected with.

The practical consequences of these truths should be seen in service and behaviour in the assembly. The fact that it belongs to God should be more important to us than our thoughts about what other people think.



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