When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20, NKJV)
We must run away from sexual immorality. Paul used the general term porneia (fornication) that includes all sinful sexual joining of males and females (1 Cor. 6:15-16). Sexual immorality applies to the sins of premarital, extramarital, and multi-marital sex, homosexuality, incest, and unlawful remarriages (1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4; Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (“outside the body,” v. 18), including sexual immorality (Matt. 15:19). Additionally, the sin of fornication violates the purpose of the body (v. 18). Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit necessitates that we use our bodies to glorify God (v. 19). Our bodies are to be living sacrifices to the Lord, offered in holy service to Him instead of being used to indulge the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:3-5). We were redeemed from sin by the lifeblood of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We belong to Him, body, and soul. These are the reasons why Christians must flee sexual immorality: 1) This sin is against the holy purpose given the body, 2) This sin defiles the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, and 3) This sin dishonors God and those who practice it.
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2, NKJV)
This salutation from Paul the apostle and brother Sosthenes gives us a number of insights into the character and purpose of local churches. First, the local church belongs to God, not to us. Culture and consensus do not legitimize rearranging the local church after our image. Next, each local church is identifiable and independent. This church was “at Corinth.” There is no hint of an overarching ecclesiastical and organizational oversight of this (or any other) local church. The centralization of authority over churches is unheard of in the New Testament. Scripture sufficiently organizes local churches to function and fulfill their God-given work. Next, the members of the local church are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and thus, called “saints” (holy ones). Each Christian is a saint, purified from sins by the blood of Christ (Col. 1:20-22). As such, we are called to live holy lives before God and the world (Rom. 12:1). Finally, the Corinthians needed to know they were not alone. There were other saints “who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christians still need the encouragement that comes from knowing others share common faith and fellowship with them in Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).
47 But Solomon built Him a house. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?’ (Acts 7:47–50, NKJV)
Humans have invested untold blood and treasure to build, maintain, and secure temples, cathedrals, and sundry edifices as testimonies to their faith, zeal, and devotion to their deities. Under the guidance and approval of the Lord God, King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem for Israel (1 Chron. 28:6, 11-13; 1 Kings 5-8). Yet, God was not contained by that temple built with hands, nor would that temple timelessly endure (Matt. 24:1-35). As Sovereign over heaven and earth, the Almighty is not defined or confined by structures of human art and design (Acts 17:24-25). Today, His temple is the church His Son built (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22). The church is the “true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man,” over which Jesus Christ serves as High Priest at the right hand of God (Heb. 8:1-2). The church of Christ is not an afterthought of God. It is the fulfillment of His eternal purpose to redeem sinners in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:10-11). Christians serve God as priests in God’s temple (1 Pet. 2:5). As such, we must be holy, as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:9). Praise God for such a habitation of holiness!
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1, NKJV)
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, a celebration of Ireland named for Patrick, a fifth-century cleric from Roman Britain credited with bringing Christianity to the island. March 17 is regarded as the day of his death. Patrick recounted a vision led him to Ireland as a missionary. Legends and tales of shamrocks, snakes, and walking sticks becoming living trees wrap themselves about the imagery of Patrick. Never officially canonized by a Catholic pope, he is venerated by millions. And, herein is just some of the problems with “Saint” Patrick. In the New Testament, every Christian is a “saint” (holy person) as today’s verse indicates (see also, Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 1:2). God does not speak through visions now, but through Jesus Christ and His apostles (Heb. 1:1-2; Matt. 10:40). Patrick’s imaginations ought not be thought of as divine directives. (Many have made that mistake through the centuries!) And, please explain how drinking alcohol to celebrate a “saint” squares with the holiness of a “saint,” when the Bible says do not start the drinking process, much less continue it to inebriation (Eph. 5:18). The Bible does not teach us to have feast days to honor “saints” of the Catholic Church. Celebrate Ireland, but don’t confuse worldly indulgence with honoring a saint of man’s own creation.
34 They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. (Psalm 106:34–39, NKJV)
When Israel entered the land of promise they were under commandment to destroy the nations of that land as the execution of God’s punishment against them (Leviticus 18:24-28). Because Israel was “a holy people to the Lord your God” they were not to marry them lest they learned and followed their terrible, idolatrous ways (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Israel disobeyed the Lord and was influenced to join the nations in sinning against God and against their children. Christians are called out of the world, not to mingle with the world (1 Peter 2:9-10). Therefore, we must “abstain from fleshly lusts” and live differently than those who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). We cannot follow Jesus on Sunday and follow the world the rest of the week without being polluted and defiled by the world. Do not be deceived (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). Instead of mingling with the world let us separate ourselves from its sins, fear God and live holy lives (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common. (Ezekiel 42:20, NKJV)
Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezekiel 40-43) was measured by a man whose appearance was like bronze and who had “a measuring rod in his hand” (Ezekiel 40:3). Ezekiel was to look, listen, and fix his mind on everything God showed him in the vision so he could tell the house of Israel everything he saw (Ezekiel 40:4). This is not a literal temple to be built sometime in our future. It is a figurative, prophetic description of the temple of God that exists today, the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). The description of this temple was to cause Israel to “be ashamed of their iniquities” as they “measured the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10, 11). Notably, Ezekiel’s temple is distinguished by the presence of God’s glory and by its holiness (Ezekiel 43:1-5, 12). The wall surrounding the temple marks a separation between holy places and what is common or profane (Ezekiel 42:20). God, who is holy, demands that His people are also holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Defiled priests could not serve in Israel’s tabernacle and temple (Leviticus 21). Neither can Christians (who are priests in God’s house) serve God with defiled hearts, hands and lives (1 Peter 2:1-12). To dwell with God we must come out of sin and live separately unto Him (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26, NKJV)
Have you ever read Leviticus? It is a detailed record of many of the laws God gave Israel concerning the priesthood, sacrifices and offerings, purification and moral living. The overriding theme of the book is “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). The holiness of God is the compelling reason His people must be holy. Whether we speak of Israel under the Sinai law, or the whole world under the gospel of Christ, we cannot live unholy lives and then somehow demand that God accept us “as we are” and even reward us in our unholiness. Yet, that is the attitude of many toward God. The context of today’s verse commanded Israel to keep all the statutes and judgments of God “that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Today, if God’s people neglect the salvation we have in Jesus Christ we will not escape an even worse punishment (Hebrews 2:1-3). Holiness demands we make a distinction between what is clean and unclean, what is sin and righteous, what is evil and good (Leviticus 20:25). God separated Israel so it would be holy before Him. We must separate ourselves from unholiness or we, like Israel, will be defiled and condemned (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
1 The Lord reigns; Let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; Let the earth be moved! 2 The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. 3 Let them praise Your great and awesome name— He is holy. (Psalm 99:1–3, NKJV)
We are given multiple reasons in this passage to reverently praise and worship God. Let us recognize them and allow them to inform and invigorate our worship. 1) The Lord reigns in glory. His sovereign rule over men, nations, the world, and the universe is reason enough for all the nations of the earth to tremble before Him. 2) The Lord dwells in mercy. Between the cherubim refers to the mercy seat atop the ark in the Most Holy Place, a figure of heaven itself. We worship God both to honor and to seek His mercy. 3) The Lord is great in His kingdom. God is exalted in greatness in Zion, and His kingdom excels all the kingdoms of men (Psalm 2; Hebrews 12:22-23). 4) The Lord is holy. Though we have sinned against God, in Christ we are redeemed and granted the honor of being God’s people. As Moses sang, so we also join the refrain, “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)