2 Peter 3:16 – on this salvation era and Paul’s credibility

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.”
2 Peter 3:15‭-‬16 NLT 

It is truly astounding the way rich Bible truths are anchored at the “3:16” point in nearly every New Testament book. This post continues my long exploration of the Three Sixteens. Today we are looking at the salvation which comes to us through the Lord’s patience, as described in Paul’s teachings. (If you missed the earlier posts, go back to the start and check them out: Matthew 3:16 through to 1 Peter 3:16.)

To understand the significance of these words, it is worth understanding the patience that Peter is referring back to (in verse 9):

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. This actually a response to the criticism mentioned in verses 3-4:
I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?

So what did happen to that promise? More than ever, the idea that Jesus would come and end all the pain and suffering of this Covid world is attractive. We who hope in Christ and the resurrection would probably welcome his return today! But unlike God, we are each so wrapped up in our own interests. The reason for the Lord’s delay is the salvation of souls.

With each day that passes, new believers are made, new children are born to the Kingdom of God. How gracious is the delay of this promise! God’s purposes in calling people to himself are not thwarted by the criticism that Jesus’ return should come right now. For the sake of mortal men and women, our loving heavenly Father is patient. And though he stands outside of time, we can be thankful for the passing moments from where we sit, and wait. More people are coming to put their trust in Him!

Verse 15 leads into 16, where Peter makes the interesting connection between Paul’s teachings and the rest of Scripture – giving weight to Paul’s letters and thereby declaring that they too are indeed God-breathed. Peter’s verse 15 agrees with Paul who wrote in Romans 2:4: “Do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Peter’s agreement with Paul is significant in that it sets the apostles’ teaching apart from that of false teachers, who denied the Second Coming of Christ.

As for Peter’s comment that some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand”, I don’t think he is being critical. Rather, the opposite. He wants us to see the truth in Paul’s hard teachings. Just as Jesus spoke in parables – so that we might seek the meaning and exercise faith to understand the truth – so Paul’s teachings call on us to think!

John Piper offers this comment in a sermon on the passage:

” . . . even though Scripture is inspired, it is not all easy to understand. Verse 16: “There are some things in them hard to understand.” I would love to preach an hour on the implications of that sentence; but since I don’t have time, here is an outline of that sermon.
Point 1: Being inspired, the Scriptures reveal the mind of God.
Point 2: The mind of God is vastly greater than our mind and will often be perceived by us as strange and complex, not familiar and simple.
Point 3: Therefore, the Scriptures will sometimes be strange and complex and hard to understand.
Point 4: The continued selection only of what is simple in the Bible would be a sin in the regular preaching of the church, because Hebrews 5:13 says, “Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a child.”
Point 5: Therefore, preaching which aims to deliver the whole counsel of God in Scripture (and which does not presume to be wiser than the apostles) will sometimes be complex and will demand from God’s people the utmost in humility and mental effort.”

Praise be to our great God – who has revealed himself to us and patiently waits for more to be gathered into the kingdom of His Son.

Here is a song to finish with, reminding us of God’s Mercies which are new every morning. (Recorded by Matt Redman – Thy Kingdom Come Event | London, UK)

Image: Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Back to 3:16 – Your reason for hope (1 Peter)

sunrise for hope1 Peter 3:14-16

1 Peter 3:14-16 (NIV)
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Greetings fellow bloggers,

It is nearly three years since I stalled in my exploration of the Three Sixteens, but today is the day to jump back in. With only four more of these 3:16 verses to go, perhaps I will make it to Revelation by Christmas! (If you missed all the earlier posts, on Matthew 3:16 through to James 3:16, then I’d encourage you to go back to the start and check them out.)

It is truly astounding the way such rich theology is anchored at this point in nearly every New Testament book. Admittedly, the more memorable verse sometimes does fall at 3:15 or 3:17, but this one starts in 15 and carries on.

Firstly, some context. In Chapter 3, Peter has been writing about submission to Christ and to each other, about our witness, and suffering in doing good. Verse 14 says, if we are doing what is right and suffering for it it, we should not fear the threats and slander of mere humans. These should be of no consequence to us (which is much easier said than done, right?). In fact, Peter says we are blessed/rewarded for the suffering we must endure, as we seek to live a holy life. This right behaviour ‘in Christ‘ (done in his strength and for his sake) is further described in verse 16. Other people are going to speak maliciously against us, but Peter says that when we act in good conscience, the slanderers who criticise our good behaviour will ultimately be put to shame. That’s tough for them, but good for us. (However, you certainly wouldn’t want to be doing ‘good things’ with that motivation in your heart – to shame others!)

So, what is the heart of the matter in this 3:16?

As I said before, verse 16 begins in 15, and it starts with a big BUT: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. In the midst of suffering and slander, revere Christ. This is Peter’s solution.

The presence of the BUT tells me that our natural inclination is to do just the opposite. Our natural reaction is NOT to revere Christ as Lord. Instead, we hold the opinions and power of mere humans as being more important than that of Christ. We are naturally afraid of living in a way that brings suffering for following Christ (verse 14). That is the precisely the way the World lives – fearing one another, and the power that others’ have over us, yet constantly seeking the approval of those very people.

That’s why Peter has to say, “But . . “ do this instead! Honour Christ. Fear Christ.

Rather than fearing Man, we Christ-followers are to revere Christ as Lord, to recognise that He is the Lord of this universe and He holds ultimate power. Because He will Judge each of us, He is the right person to fear. And when we fear the right thing, everything else falls into place. When we fear the Lord, the suffering that brings blessing for us also brings hope and peace!

This is what Peter alludes to in verse 14, which is a reference to Isaiah 8:12-15:
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (NLT)

In the fear of the Lord there is refuge and sanctuary. In fearing the Lord we find peace and confidence (we are not frightened), because we revere the true power! Isn’t that astounding?

Perhaps it is only when we patiently suffer for Christ that we find the strength and opportunity to express the HOPE that is in us.

What an encouraging bunch of verses we have here, which remind us that our strength comes from Christ! The meat in the sandwich (verse 15) is honouring or revering Christ, which brings us hope and a readiness to share the hope. This hope allows us to cope with the suffering wrapped around our hope, as we live for Christ in a world that despises him, and us.

Ultimately Peter’s message is this:
As you live for Christ, you will suffer – but you will be blessed and strengthened in your hope as you honour Christ as Lord of your life.

That sounds like a pretty significant message to take away.
Thanks for another great 3:16, Peter!

(Note: If you have ever wondered how we got chapters and verses in the bible, you can read about it here.)

Don’t reject the Voice of truth (Hebrews 3:16)

voice of truth“And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?”
(Hebrews 3:16)

It has been about 5 months since I’ve written a post in the Three Sixteens series. (For my newer readers, this is my exploration of the strangely significant verses that appear in nearly all New Testament books at the point of Chapter 3, verse 16).  This Hebrews 3:16 packs a great punch, bringing a serious warning from Israel’s history, that still challenges us today. Though the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt, saw amazing miracles and plagues, pillars of fire and smoke, a sea that opened, Egyptians destroyed, manna from heaven, the tablets of the law – and though they heard the very voice of God – these people persisted in their desire to rebel. They hardened their hearts to their rescuing God. They turned their back on Him, in unbelief.

How then could we who have heard and understood the immensity of God’s gracious rescue in Jesus Christ – how could we persist in unbelief? How do we avoid falling into unbelief and hardening our hearts? The preceding verses suggest that God uses the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ to sustain us in the faith:
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Every day, today, we need to pray for and encourage one another. Sin is deceitful – the Deceiver works to destroy our faith. We must help one another from falling into unbelief (though might I add to that statement, that God is Sovereign and faithful to us. He is committed to his transformation project, making us like His Son. Consider Philippians 1:6, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”) The consequences of hardening our hearts against the One mighty, true and living God are not pretty (to say the least). Let’s encourage one another, that we might keep our hearts and minds softened to the pure grace of the gospel.
Let’s heed the warning of this 3:16, the warning of history.

One Casting Crowns song, The Voice of Truth, reminds me of the need to hold to the truth of Christ amongst all the competing voices that call to us in this world.  We must choose to listen and believe the voice of our Shepherd.

“But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

The mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16)

mystery_of_godlinessAs we arrive at 1 Timothy 3:16 (in the Three Sixteen series) Paul tells Timothy about the importance of godliness in the church, the church being the pillar and foundation of the faith. The church has been entrusted with the Gospel, with proclaiming Christ to the world. Paul lays down guidelines for selecting overseers and deacons in the church, for teaching, for prayer. Then he includes this apparently random summary statement about the great mystery of Christ:

“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs* is great:
He appeared in the flesh,

    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.”

This is a great summary about Jesus, his life and purpose, and makes a great 3:16 verse! But Paul is actually quoting lines from a well known hymn of the early church. This commentary has some good insights about the relevance of Paul’s words:

Now Paul’s citing of part of what was surely a well-known hymn in the course of writing instructions for behavior in the church is to bring his readers to the point of corporate response. The hymn itself, like many in the New Testament, celebrates Christ’s appearance and ministry on earth. The introductory phrase is a call to consider the implications of this grand event, to evaluate our conduct on the basis of what we confess. . . . Consequently, this phrase ‘the mystery of godliness’ forms a connection between the appearance of Christ, which the hymn celebrates, and Christian living: the mystery is the essence of godliness. It was critical for Paul to remind the readers of this principle, for the false teachers were successfully driving a wedge between belief and behavior with damaging results. In our day of institutionalized atheism and the popular heresy of humanism, the church faces the same danger. Even if dangers of this sort seem remote, we easily forget the practical implications of what we believe and profess to be true.” 

So this is a great verse not just because it celebrates Christ’s work, but because it connects his glorious saving work with our behaviour. We are to walk worthy of Christ’s saving work for us.  His work is finished, we don’t have to earn it! But we are called to live godly lives that point to Him as we, the Church, safeguard and pass on the Truth of His Saving work.

(*Note: if you look at other versions of this verse you may find that it simply says “the mystery of godliness” or the “mystery of our faith” – but the newest NIV translation seems to have hit the proverbial nail by phrasing it “the mystery from which true godliness springs”. True godliness will grow in us when we have build our life on Christ!)

The Peace of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Peace-With-God“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16

There is much comfort from the promises of the Bible which tell us that if we are in Christ we have forgiveness, we have peace with God. (Romans 5:1, Romans 14:17, Philippians 4:7, John 14:27, Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:15)
This next verse in the Three Sixteen series points us to Jesus, the Lord of peace, the Prince of Peace. If Peace were a country then Jesus is its royal head of State! And from Jesus this peace flows in every direction, at all times and in many different situations.

But why do we need this peace of Christ? Peace is something you only need when there is a time of war, stress, unrest, anxiety, a lack of peace. And such is our natural unpeaceful state apart from Christ.

The peace He brings works on 3 levels:
1. Peace with God.
When we bow to him as Lord we move from enmity with our Creator to a state of peace. Our sin, that the Holy one cannot look upon, has been dealt with in Christ. God’s wrath is removed. We are at peace with Him. This is the greatest treasure in the whole wide world: peace with God! In Christ it is as though a legal or political declaration has been stamped on us. A peace treaty has been signed for us by Christ. He has made peace for us by His blood shed at the Cross.

2. Peace in ourselves.
We need the peace of Christ not just for forgiveness but for each moment. We must choose to let the peace of Christ reign on the throne of our hearts, rather than our sinful desires. Even if we are in Christ we can still lack a sense of peace, due to the ‘wars’ that rage both around and within us in this fallen world. Sinful desires compete within us. But Jesus offers us peace for the moment, applicable to different times and places. Anxiety about health, the future, our children, a car accident, an exam….all can be met with the soothing balm of peace given by Christ. We can respond with a quiet confidence. He is our peace, and He gives us peace. He gives us purpose and wisdom to deal with our innermost conflicts. Sometimes just remembering the name of Christ is enough to bring peace to anxious hearts. He is an anchor for our souls, a mighty fortress, a refuge.

3. Peace with others.
Christian brothers and sisters still have their troubles and conflicts, despite their best intentions and the fact they are united in Christ. In this area the peace of Christ is also called on, to help us live what we are, to sort out our differences and make peace between us.

2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”

So today whatever troubles are with you, look to the Lord of Peace, and He will give you rest.

Sharing the rich, indwelling Word (Colossians 3:16)

Bible-28“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

I have really been looking forward to this verse in the Three Sixteens series, because it identifies a strong connection between music and grace, my two favourite topics! When we make the effort to speak or sing the ‘Word of Christ’ to one another, we are showing grace because it serves to build others up in their faith. This is such an important yet sometimes overlooked aspect of praising God together. The horizontal encouragement that is gained from enthusiastic congregational praise is priceless! Praising God brings us untold blessings, both individually and together as the growing body of Christ.

But what is the ‘word of Christ’, you may ask?

Put simply, Paul most likely means the ‘teachings of Christ’, the doctrine of grace through faith in Jesus Christ, which at first was passed on as spoken words. This exhortation comes in the context of a letter which emphasises the person and work of Christ, a message that is centred on the Word of Truth, the good news of the gospel of Jesus.

This WORD is to have its gracious and glorious way in our lives, both individually and in community, as Christ shapes us to be more like himself. When we gather to listen and bow to the authority of Christ’s living Word, His word dwells richly in us. This Word indwells us by the Spirit. Such a glorious but unseen mystery this is!

John Piper speaks about the important role God has given each of us, to be speaking in a way that helps others persevere in the faith. In his message on Hebrews 3, Piper focuses on verse 13, where the writer says we must “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

“God has designed his church so that its members endure to the end in faith by means of giving and receiving faith-sustaining words from each other. You and I are the instruments by which God preserves the faith of his children. Perseverance is a community project. Just like God is not going to evangelize the world without human, faith-awakening voices, neither is he going to preserve his church without human faith-sustaining voices. And clearly from the words, “exhort one another” (verse 13), it means all of us, not just preachers. We depend on each other to endure in faith to the end.”  Read more

We Christians are to be tactfully and thoughtfully challenging one another with the Word of Christ. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is but one way to do that… But what a great way to do it! And this is why it is so important to choose songs with lyrics that are true to the Living Word of Christ, rather than just songs that create a warm fuzzy feeling amongst us, or have a catchy rhythm.

How good it is that our times of corporate praise and worship give opportunity to speak the words of Christ to one another in song. Such an encouragement God’s people can be to one another!

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Holding on to what we already have in Christ – Philippians 3:16

walkToday we have arrived at Philippians 3:16 in the Three Sixteens series. Let’s start by looking at the verse in a few different versions:
But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. NLT
Only let us live up to what we have already attained. NIV
In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Holman

At first glance it seems this 3:16 has little content to grab hold of and provides little encouragement. But if you think on it a while, possibly the reverse is true! There is huge encouragement here, as Paul points us to what we already have in Christ, urges us to keep hold of it – and live up to it!
So what have we already attained?
In verses 8-11 we find out what Paul is referring to as he urges us to “hold on” and “live up to” the privileges we have IN Christ:
“. . . I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Knowing Christ surpasses all else. If we are in Christ we are secure, we are united with Him in his sufferings, death and resurrection. We are not self-righteous, but we have the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith! We are right with God, we are holy and acceptable to Him because we are IN Christ. A great analogy for this is being clothed in Christ’s “robes of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation). We are wrapped up in Christ’s perfection, our sins are completely covered. When God the Father looks at us He sees the righteousness of Christ his perfect Son.

What great progress we have made – if we are found IN Christ. Let’s live up to it! We don’t have to attain or achieve anything. This is pure grace! I love what the Holman translators have done with the verse: we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. We should live up to the truth that we have the righteousness that comes from God – so let’s live in a manner worthy of what we have attained. Let’s be “killing sin” as John Piper puts it, by the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word).

Blessings to you as you seek to live up to Christ’s righteousness today. How will you go about that?

“Come as you are and He will cleanse you. You are guilty; your pardon is of God” –Charles H. Spurgeon

Powered by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16)

revival_fire-817x1024Happy to say I am finally back to continue this series on the Three Sixteen (3:16) verses. (If you have recently joined us you might like to check out my posts on Matthew through to Galatians. Click here).
Today we have arrived at Ephesians; verse 16 is the first sentence below:
 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT)

If you ever needed a verse to print out and stick on the fridge, this is the one!
It is just such a mystery the way the Spirit works to deliver this inner strength. Who could ever write anything to adequately describe the work of the Spirit in us? (Probably not me, but I’ll have a go anyway.)
The Spirit’s presence, gifted to us when we receive Christ, brings us peace, union with Christ and power, supernatural power  – inner strength! This power is glorious and unlimited. The Spirit gives us the inner strength to say yes to God and no to sin and selfishness. He gives us the strength to own the name of our Saviour in the face of ridicule and persecution. The Spirit strengthens by leading us to the fullness of grace and strength in Christ. He does not seek glory for Himself. He empowers us so that the glory goes to God.

The Spirit’s work is not about providing a warm fuzzy or sentimental experience of God’s love. His task is to make Christ at home in our hearts, to enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we can KNOW God, making us complete with all the fullness of life and power in Christ.
This is the power of the Spirit of Christ! This inner strength requires and supplies the knowledge of truth in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6 – “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

We should also remember that this gracious gift (of the ‘inner strength of the Spirit’) fulfills the big OT promise that came through Ezekiel, that God would deal with our sin problem once and for us. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Praise be to God for this next great 3:16 reminder of how he has dealt with our sin, in Christ, through Christ and for Christ. We get the present and eternal benefits of His sovereign and merciful plan.
We are powered by the Spirit!
How’s your battery running lately?
(Perhaps we could talk more about recharging at another time.)

The great unveiling (2Corinthians 3:16)

open eyes“But whenever someone turns to the Lord the veil is taken away.” (2 Corinthians 3:16)

For this next verse in the Three Sixteen series I am going to say very little. God/Paul can speak for himself here. He does it so well.

I’ll start from a little way back, at verse 7, to give you a run-up to the standout verse, 16.
“The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! . . . . . 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

What magnificent grace! What privilege has been shown to us in Christ! We have received the grace of the knowledge of God, through the Spirit of Christ. We have had the veil lifted, unlike so many who still are stumbling in the dark. Even the Jews, who were the first recipients of God’s favour, they stumble over Christ. Both back then and now. The veil is not lifted.
Praise be to God! He has turned us around, back to himself, and removed the veil which kept him hidden from us! Now we can reflect His glory to others!

2 Corinthians 4:6 – “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

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Image created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII

Stones or bricks: God lives in us together (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Exploring the Three Sixteens has taken us through some exciting stuff so far. We saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus at His baptism, John the Baptist discussed Jesus’ sandals, the 12 apostles were chosen, God “so loved the world”, the Name healed the lame, and great misery pursued those who refuse to follow Christ.

Moving on to the seventh book in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians, another gem is revealed at 3:16. Here it is:
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (NLT)
The NIV puts it this way: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

The Corinthian church needed Paul to remind them many times about the danger of division amongst God’s people. Paul speaks boldly here, explaining that as a Body of believers, WE ARE the temple of God where He dwells. He lives in us! He no longer chooses to reveal himself and meet with people in an earthly building (as he had done in the past, in Solomon’s temple, God’s house). Now he LIVES in us together. He reveals Himself in us. He has put His Spirit in us, collectively.

This echoes the words of Peter (1 Peter 2:5): “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

How this changes things for us when we think it’s okay to not meet regularly with our fellow believers, or to let petty differences divide. All of us are living bricks, living stones in the new temple made through the new covenant, through Christ. God has poured His spirit into us, giving us a new heart to know, obey and love Him. This is the unifying feature of the bricks of God’s new living temple!

Now some of us may be a bit rough around the edges, a bit off colour, a bit sharp or a bit broken. We have personalities and experiences which are so different from one another. But we are  God’s living temple, together. He is in us and we need to accept each other on the basis that we are all saved by Christ. It is awesome to consider how we sinful people, born as enemies of one another in this fallen world, can actually be at peace with others who are part of this same building! We have been cemented together by the bond of Christ.

Let’s work at seeing ourselves in this way. And if there should ever be some cracks in the cement, if some of the bricks have fallen aside or broken, let’s not give up on restoring and repairing this living building where God lives. Let’s work at reconciling ourselves with other bricks in whom Christ dwells.

All this reminds me of some great words from 1 John 4:11-13
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit”.