In Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, we read that we are the temple of the living God. Living God is terminology Paul uses for Israel's self-revealed God, Yahweh. As I have said before, you need to become sensitized to the word ‘god.' When Paul says God he is not being vague or amorphous; he is thinking concretely—this is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In Western culture, the use of God terminology is devoid of meaning to most and full of different meanings to the rest. We use the word so casually that it slips off our lips, we read right past it. Not Paul, as a Second Temple Jew he always thinks very concretely.
Hebraic thought has the enormous and wonderful capacity of holding on to specificity at the same time as affirming universality. Because things come to universal fulfilment does not mean the rejection or suppression of particularity. God is the God of the universe and yet he uniquely identifies himself, because of his covenant relationship, as the God of Israel.
Paul continues, quoting the Hebrew scriptures,
As God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)
The God who created and upholds the universe is a humble God. Notice he begins with, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them." The utterly transcendent one who is holy, holy, holy (kadosh, kadosh, kadosh), insistently wants to lower Himself. He wants to come down, he wants to be near those who are humble and contrite.
Peter, also quoting from the Hebrew scriptures, applies this idea, All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)
My friends, this is the paradox of the upside-down kingdom.
You would think that by getting higher and higher you would get closer and closer to the high God when in fact, his kingdom is exactly the opposite. If you want to get close to the high God, make yourself lower, lower, lower. His Spirit is like water which leaves a high place and seeks out the lowest place.
The God of the Bible is indeed the Sovereign One, the highly exalted Creator of heaven and earth. Yet in His particularity, in his covenant relationship, he is specifically the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And he is a God who is insistent on coming down.
The LORD's most extraordinary, unprecedented act of humility is when he came down in a man. The infinite became incarnate in the finite. And what characterized that finite being? When the eternal word became enfleshed, in-dwelt the man, Yeshua ha Natzaret—in space and time—what was he characterized by?
What was Jesus' attitude? His mindset?
Humility. He humbled himself, even to death on the cross. And because he went down to the lowest place, to the grave, on your behalf and mine, God has elevated him now to the highest place, at his right hand forevermore!
But read on in 2 Corinthians 6, not only will the LORD come down, he is a God who will walk with his people. He has for all of us a place of promise. In type, it is the promised land. But in typology, the promised land is not heaven. When you cross over Jordan that is not a metaphor for going to heaven, it is typology for entering into the place of promise in your life, the place he has destined you for, the place where his name will dwell.
For each of us as individuals as well as corporately in our marriages and families and in our communities of faith, God has an appointed place of promise. How do you get to the place of promise in your life? The answer is shockingly simple, you walk there. It is not a magic carpet ride nor getting into some elevated state of consciousness or reaching spiritual dimensions. If you want to get to the promised land, you walk there.
To get from Egypt to the place of promise in your life you have to walk.
And you have to go by way of Sinai, the place where he discloses his wisdom and will—in his Word. Remember the pattern we talk about all the time, our redemption is followed by God's revelation. God's revelation is to bring you to a place of responsibility because in your responsibility—as you walk with God to the place of promise—you will come into fuller restoration.
I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Who is like this God? He is not passive. He is not indifferent. This is no deistic conception of one who sets the cosmos in motion and watches us from a distance. The LORD God is passionate to come near to his beloved and lead them to the place of promise, the place of fruitfulness.
Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing;
Now in the world to come there are no battles, but heading to and even in the promised land there are battles. In our walk to the appointed place of divine promise and prosperity in our lives, we face enemies and we have to fight for our birthright. However, God does not leave us alone! He walked with and fought for Israel in the cloud of his glorious presence. He enables and equips us to get to that appointed place of promise—by his Spirit.
The Hebraic point-of-view of Jesus and his apostles, the New Testament authors, must become our default way of thinking; the move of God's Spirit is always down and into the earth. God is not trying to get you out of the earth. He redeems in order to rule. Why? To restore you. Why? So that together we can create a sanctuary, a dwelling place for him; so that he can come into the earth and fill it with His glory.
All this leads Paul to make this extraordinary statement, "For we are the temple of the living God."
Now this temple, of course, reminds us of the tabernacle (mishkan) in the wilderness. It was a portable tabernacle as are we, on the move to that place of promise. By His Spirit, God reveals to Paul that followers of Jesus are that sanctuary, that temple constructed of living stones.
What makes us alive? What makes us living stones? The Spirit. The Spirit is that which animates. God is Spirit and so God comes down and enters, creates and animates a tabernacle out of living, Spirit-empowered stones.
Now notice what he says in verse 18,
then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.
The God who is sovereign, the creator, the utterly, radically holy, God, has a passion is to come near to you as a father. His desire is to affirm you, to bless you, to instruct you, and to walk with you. How we are to walk with him, in the power of his Spirit, is the theme of this class.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.