An Habitation of God

“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
—Ephesians 2:22

THE IDEA OF THE CREATOR’S INTEREST in a house to be provided by his human creatures may have been first suggested in the instructions to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. (Exod. 29:43-46) Still earlier, Jacob, fleeing from Esau and in a dream seeing Jehovah looking down from heaven and assuring him of the blessing for which he had risked so much, declared, “Surely the Lord is in this place; … this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”—Gen. 28:16,17


Later this idea of the house of God was embodied in the Temple built by Solomon in accord with Divine instructions. Both of these buildings, the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the magnificent Temple in the promised land, were recognized as inadequate to furnish a real home, or abiding place, for Jehovah; and, of the Temple, Solomon declares, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (I Kings 8:27) We see then, that God did not dwell there as his home, but it was, as he declares, a place where he would place his “name,” a miraculous representation of himself, and which he designates an acceptable “house of sacrifice” wherein prayers might be offered and, if in accord with his instructions and in proper spirit, forgiveness for sins and God’s blessings be obtained.—II Chron. 7:12-16

In the New Testament we have a clearer idea of God’s thoughts with respect to his house. Certain statements of the Old Testament had given an intimation that the Tabernacle and Temple arrangements were merely typical, and their true significance quite unrelated to a material building. Illustrations are found in Isaiah 57 and Psalm 132. We could know nothing of the physical requirements, if any, of a spirit or Divine being’s home. It is remarkable and inspiring to know where our Creator places the emphasis for his comfort, joy, happiness and what it is that he will call his home. Thus, we can understand his specifications and this would be quite natural with respect to human habitations. We can appraise and appreciate the utility, convenience, and beauty of a fellow man’s home because we are of the same race, needs, and grade of intelligence. If the wisdom and power represented in the universe were necessary for our understanding of the home God has designed for himself, it would be impossible for us to comprehend or even to reason about it.


An essential quality for an earthly dwelling to become a home is that it must have harmony, sympathy, understanding and companionship. So also with our Creator, he that lives in the “high and holy place.” (Isa. 57:15) His family have devoted their lives to acquiring, developing, and practicing all the elements of his own glorious character.

The Prophet Jeremiah says, “I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 9:24) Therefore, it must, and will, be with all who are being ‘builded together for an habitation of God.’ In ‘these [same] things’ will be their delight also; not only to know about them as the character of God, and to proclaim them to others as illustrated in the Divine plan of the ages, but also to delight in the application of them in all their relations, thus gaining a counterpart of the Divine character for their very own, for eternity.


This superlative degree of development in God’s likeness is possible only under sin and death conditions, where the most extreme tests are possible. Thus, even of Jesus, we read that “it became him [God], … in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings,” and that he was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Heb. 2:10; Rev. 13:8) His body members, too, chosen “in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), must share his experience of suffering for righteousness’ sake—even unto death—presenting their bodies, including their human hopes and restitution prospects, “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1); and thereafter setting their minds and affections upon “those things which are above” (Col. 3:1,2)—appropriate to their new spirit-begotten condition.

Thus by infinite wisdom, through experience, we have been learning the elements of God’s character. We are learning right, by experience with wrong; justice, by suffering injustice and inequity; humility, by experience with pride and vanity; pity and tenderness, by contact with hardness and cruelty. We learn sympathy for others’ infirmities, because conscious of our own; and generous self-sacrificing love, in contrast to prevalent selfishness, ambition, and greed.


In contrast to the holy places of natural Israel where our Creator placed his name, we find in the New Testament the detailed description of a home in which he can walk and dwell in spirit—a living home. We read, “Ye are the temple of the living God; 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.” II Cor. 6:16

The full significance of this and similar statements of Jesus and the apostles would be not only difficult, but impossible for us to comprehend without Divine assistance, and with this realization the Apostle Paul prays for the brethren at Ephesus that “the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his invitation, what the glorious wealth of his inheritance among the saints.”—Eph. 1:18, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

We, too, who entertain the same hope, long for a clear view of our calling, and the inspiration it will furnish, “forgetting those things which are behind,” and concentrate thought and effort in reaching “forth unto those things which are before.” (Phil. 3:13) While setting our minds upon these things ‘above,’ as have all our brethren down through the age, many of us today share the conviction that now the completed members of this special class, God’s inheritance in the saints, are gathering with our Lord, and when joined by the last members, yet in the flesh, will be introduced to the Father, and become members of his household for eternity.


To the woman of Samaria, Jesus said, “The hour … now is, when … they that worship him [God] must worship him in spirit and in truth. … for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (John 4:23,24) The thought is that God seeks intelligent worship, not based upon misconceptions of his character, but upon an accurate knowledge of it. Later, Jesus said to his disciples, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, … and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”—chap. 14:21,23

This figurative language implies that even here in our trial state, if we meet the conditions, we can enjoy a definite oneness with our Lord and the Father. As their life is richer, fuller, capable of higher emotions and joys, so will ours be; and our joy in this intimate relationship will be “full of glory,” or “unspeakable” joy in human terms.—I Pet. 1:8

God’s habitation is a being in whose heart-character there is room for full fellowship, in whom God can manifest his principles, disposition, and power. Grateful indeed should we be that he has arranged matters so that we can share this course of study and development, and that he seeketh such earnest disciples. In I Peter 2:4-6, Jesus is compared to a “living stone.” Further, he has ability and willingness to shape and prepare other living stones, his disciples, to be the material or units of which the temple of God is to be built. The typical Temple, built by Solomon, illustrated in its construction the development of the members of the spiritual temple during the Gospel Age, and their assembly in glory. We recall that the stones of which Solomon’s Temple was constructed were all shaped and prepared for their respective positions while in the quarry, and were all ready when placed in the Temple walls.


Considering the preparation of the stones for that Temple, we can imagine that some stones taken from the quarry were found not of the right type, or consistency, and defects came to light that resulted in their being set aside. Some of these stones may have proved too hard and brittle to take the shaping required. We so find it in our consideration of the development of the living stones for the true temple.

Many living stones have been rejected because, unresponsive to the Lord’s instructions and discipline, the rough parts of their character could not be trimmed off in time. Pride, the great hardener, is warned against as a dangerous snare in many portions of the Word, “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord”; “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”; “If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself,” etc.—Heb. 12:5; I Cor. 10:12; Gal. 6:3

In contrast, Jesus gave us the perfect illustration both in his words and his life, and could say, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29); and his apostle, having learned wisdom from personal contact involving reproof as well as instruction from the Master, exhorts, “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”—I Pet. 5:5

In this and other expressions of the Apostle Peter, we have the blessed assurance that he was of the right texture as a living stone, and had taken to heart the humbling experiences that God had sent into his life. May it be so with us too. Let us not fail to throttle pride in ourselves; and if we have taken a wrong course, confess it; if we have been too hard, or stern, or opinionated, in our relations with members of our family, in the church, or elsewhere, let us hasten to repent, and reform, and undo the damage our human mind and conduct have caused. Paul, too, deeply impressed with the importance of meekness and gentleness, was following the example of his Master in his humble course among the brethren at Corinth, and besought them to recall and consider attentively the “meekness and gentleness of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:1) No qualities are more unnatural to fallen human nature, and hence need the most careful and persistent cultivation.


Stones for a permanent structure may also be too soft; and so, too, living stones may be too soft, and rejected on that account. Softness of will, or character, may be manifested in the fear of loss or suffering, restraining from faithful obedience to the Lord’s instructions. Softness may result in being “conformed to this world” instead of the reverse (Rom 12:2); it may be revealed in our judging self too tenderly or carelessly; or in not taking a firm stand in opposition to wrong conduct in the affairs of the church. Many exhortations are given us along this line.

We are urged to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Eph. 6:10) We are to “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1) Furthermore, we are to “be no more children,” but to “grow up into him in all things” (Eph. 4:14,15); we are not to faint when we are “rebuked of him” (Heb. 12:5); to “fight the good fight of faith.” (I Tim. 6:12) Paul gives us an inspiring illustration of determination to be faithful to God at all costs, saying, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy.”—Acts 20:24

In considering this subject, we are again impressed with the apostle’s observation to his son Timothy, “Great is the mystery of godliness” (I Tim. 3:16)—not impossible for us to comprehend, but requiring “all diligence” both in our study of the perfect pattern, and in our efforts to follow his steps.—II Pet. 1:5


In the selection of building materials, still other defects may be discovered. Someone has used as an illustration destructive carpenter ants, and termites, which attack timbers in a building, eat out the center, and weaken them so that the structure becomes unusable or collapses. These termites, secretly working unobserved, well illustrate the damage to character resulting from secret faults permitted, or condoned, not dealt with sincerely, honestly, and which in time may eat the heart out of our consecrated relationship to God. The danger would be in practicing a little injustice, trying to hide it, and saying to ourself, “No one knows about it.”

These little deflections would doubtless be accompanied by neglect of the Word of God, and of that, too, perhaps no one but ourself would know. But the effect of these unrestrained and unrepented secret faults would be to leave us unprepared for tests and opportunities. It would make us the reverse of what is said of the Lord in Isaiah 11:1-3, that he would be “of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.”

How we admire one who is prepared! Jesus was prepared for every test and opportunity, whether it called for him to be gentle, tender, meek; or bold, strong, uncompromising. So may it be with us, his followers and disciples; it is indeed possible for us to reach that degree of development, “conformed to the image of his [God’s] Son” (Rom. 8:29); but only possible if we are saturated with the Word of God, the “word of Christ” dwelling in us richly and “teaching and admonishing” us.—Col. 3:16


The living stones of which the “holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21) is to be constructed have still further tests. Even as some materials for earthly structures, these must be tested as to their tensile and also their crushing strength. Tensile strength would correspond to longsuffering and patience. In that wonderful description of the Divine character, we are told by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians, chapter thirteen, that love “suffereth long, and is kind” (vs. 4); again, in writing to the church at Rome, he assures them that “tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3); and with the same thought, James exhorts us to “let patience have her perfect [ing] work.” (James 1:4) How reasonable that the God of nature—which takes six months to produce an apple fully developed and mellowed by sun and rain, cold and warmth and wind—would also require time for the development and ripening of the fruit of the spirit in every one of his children! And thus the apostle again urges, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”—Gal. 6:9

Crushing strength—or, rather, unbreakable strength—is also a requisite in these living stones. This does not mean that any of them could bear all the extreme tests which might be applied, for we are assured by the apostle that “God … will not suffer you to be tempted [or tried] above that ye are able [to bear]; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13), or that God will “direct the issue, that you may be able to bear it.” (Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) This was his own experience Paul assures us, saying that in his experiences in Asia he was “pressed out of measure, above strength,” but that God delivered him though he had “despaired even of life.” (II Cor. 1:8) He also says that he and his companions in service and affliction “had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (vs. 9) What an inspiring testimony to the unbreakable determination of Paul and his associates to trust fully in God and his providences for them, inasmuch as they had made a consecration even unto death; and hence having the sentence of death in themselves, we, too, look beyond this human life and trust in him that ‘raiseth the dead.’ In Hebrews, chapter twelve, we are told that God’s purpose is to shake all things in order that the things that can be shaken may be removed. (vs. 27) The clear intimation is that not only is the kingdom we seek one which cannot be shaken, but also that it is to be composed of those living stones which cannot be shaken, because they have sought and received the strength sufficient for their every need and test which, in his wisdom, the Lord has subjected them in order to bring them to completion.


“That thou mayest know how to conduct thyself in God’s house, which is a congregation of the living God,” writes Paul to Timothy. (I Tim. 3:15, WED) Individual Christians are God’s habitation through the Spirit, but he is to have, even in the present time, a more comprehensive representation and means of expression in and through the ecclesia. How important, therefore, is our association with the brethren in the church, and each member we contact: each one another building, another stone; or, to use Paul’s illustration of a human body in I Corinthians, chapter twelve, an “eye,” an “ear,” a “foot”—each furnishing another and different opportunity to provide collectively an atmosphere pleasing to the Father and our Lord. And how much profit we may gain from this association! Through God’s habitation in those other brethren, we may see a demonstration of his Spirit, in some respects better than our own, in many or all of them. Let us note their courage, meekness, patience, zeal, humility, and love; and remember that it is by “that which every joint supplieth” that the body is being built up in our Master’s likeness. (Eph. 4:16) Let us take a builder’s interest in the brethren, exhorting one another, provoking one another to love and good works. Undoubtedly the value of the ecclesia to each of us will depend upon experiences in it with each other.

Not all the value of the ecclesia will be found in the happy, congenial association it affords. In every gathering of the Lord’s people we find occasion for the exercise of godly character, sharing in the joint endeavors of the brethren to maintain “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free”; and, at the same time, “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:2,3) Without doubt, in obeying the exhortation to forget not the assembling of ourselves together we shall find many of our greatest helps and blessings in the narrow way; and at the same time in that blessed fellowship with others of like precious faith, shall experience some of our most searching tests as to our knowledge of, and obedience to, the instructions of the Lord’s Word.


Finally, and we believe very soon, God’s habitation will be complete; and we could well exhaust language in our efforts to describe the grandeur and usefulness of that dwelling place of the Almighty. In Psalm forty-five, the head of the Divine family of sons is pictured, and with him his bride, the church. The bride is said to be “all glorious within”; her “raiment of needlework,” and “her clothing … of wrought gold.” (vss. 13,14) In Ephesians (1:23; 4:13; 5:25-27) the church is described as the bride, and also as the body of the Lord Jesus—the “fulness” or completion of the Christ—that grand company who are to be God’s family and enjoy the most intimate communion with him. We are told in the Book of Revelation that their activity for the first thousand years will be as kings, priests, and judges over this world; and that the result will be the reuniting in loyal obedience to God of all his intelligent Creation alienated through sin, except those who, with full light, reject the opportunity. But one thousand years are only the beginning of their eternal association in the plans of the Creator; and his perfect wisdom, love, and power will have formulated a program, which will be sublime in every respect. The opportunity to become of the immediate family of God is, of course, far beyond our ability to fully appreciate or understand. But as the apostle says, “we hope for [it]”; and, thank God, “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities. … And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit [the Holy Spirit within our hearts], because [that, Marginal Translation] he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. … For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”—Rom. 8:25-29

Dawn Bible Students Association
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