[K:NWTS 1/2 (Sep 1986) 37-43]
I am sure that in the past you have heard many sermons on the opening verses of the Gospel of John. After all, this section contains some of the most familiar verses in the entire New Testament. I am sure you have heard such topics as: the deity of Christ, the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the concept that Jesus Christ is light, and the rejection of Jesus Christ by his own people. But the one topic that we are not accustomed to hearing from these verses is the worship of Jesus Christ and how we are identified with that worship in our everyday life.
In this respect, I would like to focus on verse fourteen. If you look at verse fourteen however; you will notice that it does not even contain the word "worship." Although verse fourteen does not contain the word "worship," I hope to demonstrate that worship underlies or undergirds exactly what John is speaking about in that verse. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that verse fourteen does not give us a step-by-step formula on how to worship Jesus Christ. Rather, in Johannine vocabulary, if you are born again into the new covenant of grace, then your life is (by definition) the worship of Jesus Christ. I am not concerned at this point with "how-to-do" Christianity. One can go down to the local Christian bookstore and purchase all the "how-to-do" books one wants. My concern is the very definition of the believer's existence in Christ. And thus, in this case, my concern is that the believer understand his life as the worship of Jesus Christ. After all, we who are part of the Reformed tradition have constantly demanded that we are to worship our Lord in all that we do; whether it be at work, school or play. All must be done in a worshipful relationship with our God. Is there a biblical basis for understanding that worship is to encompass our everyday lifestyle? I believe there is; and I believe that it has its focal point in John 1:14. However, to understand John 1:14, we must go back into the Old Testament.
Between John 1:14 and the Old Testament, we notice a very important grammatical connection. The Greek word for "dwell" (cf. John 1:14) has a direct relationship with the Hebrew word which means "pitching a tent" or "making a dwelling." More importantly, the Greek verb "to tent" (skenoo = "to dwell" or "to tabernacle"–John 1:14) resembles the Hebrew root skn from which the Hebrew noun shekinah is derived as the technical term for describing God's presence "dwelling" among his people. This grammatical connection is made vivid if we go back to the Israelite construction of the tabernacle in Moses' day.
You recall that the Israelites came out of Egypt by passing through the Red Sea on dry ground. You remember that the Lord had led them into the Sinai peninsula and had brought them to Mt. Sinai where they received the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). In Exodus 24, Moses goes up to the top of Mt. Sinai again. This time God instructs Moses that the people are to build him a tabernacle, i.e., (in the original Hebrew) a "dwelling." It will be the place where he will "dwell" in the midst of his people. Listen to God's instruction to Moses in Exodus 25:8,9: "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle [dwelling place], and the pattern of all the furniture, even so shall you make it." Moses and the Israelites are told, therefore, to make a tent, i.e., a tabernacle so that God can dwell among his people. Thus, the tabernacle becomes the site of God's localized presence here on earth.
But we must not overlook one more aspect of God's instructions to Moses concerning the tabernacle. Notice the concept of the manifestation of God's glory in Exodus 24:15,16: "And Moses went as up into the mount, and the cloud covered the mount. And the glory of God abode upon Mt. Sinai, and Moses entered into the midst of the cloud." It is when Moses is face to face with the glory of God that God instructs him about building the tabernacle. Thus, when the tabernacle was finally erected, the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord filled it. Listen to the word of the Lord from Exodus 40:34: "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of God filled the tabernacle." In the building of the tabernacle, we have the representation of God's presence dwelling with his people in all his glory here on earth! And what are the people to do? They are to come and worship their God in that holy place.
The same thing is true concerning the temple built by Solomon. When the children of Israel had secured the promised land, the Lord instructed Solomon to build a permanent place for the people to come and worship him–a beautiful temple. Just like the tabernacle, the temple represented the dwelling place of God in the midst of his people. It was also the place where the glory of God came to rest.
Listen to I Kings 8:10, 11: "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord."
The tabernacle and temple represent, therefore, God's glory as being present in the midst of his people as God saves them from the bondage of Egypt, provides for them in a desolate wilderness, gives them victory over their enemies and secures for them a land and a nation according to his covenant promise.
But the Old Testament picture is not complete unless we focus upon Ezekiel. Because of the sin of Solomon, God divides the nation of Israel into two nations: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Ezekiel is a prophet to the southern kingdom. He has a vision about the future destruction and captivity of the children of Judah by the Babylonians (Ezk. 10:3-5, 18, 19; 11:23). Why does God's glory depart? I would like to make two suggestions: (1) God, in his glory, cannot be identified any longer with the gross immorality of the Israelite people; and (2) although the Babylonians have been chosen by God to carry out his temporal justice, nevertheless, the Lord's glory is not going to be destroyed or captured by that non-covenantal nation. Since I do not consider myself an Old Testament scholar, the following statement may be an exaggeration. Personally, I cannot think of a sadder event in Israel's history. They stood erect in their self-pride, thinking that nothing could damage their relationship with God. After all, they were God's chosen people; they were the children of the covenant. However, Ezekiel has a vision that God's glory is going to depart from them. In other words, God no longer can be identified with his people; he no longer can be identified with the children of the covenant. Their sin has become too great! How sad; how extremely sad!
But Ezekiel has another vision recorded in chapters 43 and 44. This time Ezekiel sees that the temple is going to be restored. At that time, the glory of the Lord will fill the temple; the Lord will dwell with his people; and his people will come and worship him. At this time in the future, the Lord will live among his people forever. I wish to proclaim to you that the temple that Ezekiel 44:4 is speaking about is none other than the person and work of our Lord, Jesus Christ! John 1:14 speaks of the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of the future temple. The Lord himself now comes to dwell (to tabernacle) among his people. But he does not come in tabernacles or temples constructed with human hands; rather he comes with our flesh, so that in his work we can behold his glory–the glory of the signs and wonders that he does for the salvation of man. Some of his disciples beheld the revelation of his glory in a very realistic way when Jesus was transfigured before them. Christ appeared before them with "divine honor, divine splendor, divine power, and as the divine radiance of God himself." Indeed, the glory of God is fully revealed in his Son.
Jesus Christ has now come, therefore, as the worshipping temple or tabernacle of God. That is what the destruction of the temple is all about as recorded in John 2:19-22. In that passage, Jesus tells the Jews to "destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews had no idea what Jesus was taking about. But John states that Jesus was referring to his body, or more specifically the resurrection of his body. In other words, the body of Jesus Christ is the dwelling place of God. It is the worshipping sanctuary of his people! This is why his people come and worship at his feet–before and after his resurrection. They now worship in the true sanctuary of God. Yes indeed, God does not dwell in buildings made with human hands; he dwells fully in all his majestic glory in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ!
The Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel, comes indeed "to tabernacle among us" so that the people of God can now truly worship "in Spirit and truth" (John 4:24). The concept that Christ is "among us" gives to us the continual, abiding confidence that Christ is always with us. This is a strength to our faith. In light of Christ's death and resurrection and the sending of his Spirit, the apostle Paul adds another dimension to this truth, i.e., Christ dwells in you, the believer. If Christ dwells inside of you, then you must define your life in terms of Christ. This means, with respect to worship, that your life is the worship of Jesus Christ! This is one reason why the Bible tells us that hate, envy, jealousy, lust and the ways of the flesh are not characteristics of the Christian life. These characteristics are not to be a part of the Christian life because through the Spirit of Christ, the Lord dwells in you both "to will and to do" the things of his kingdom and righteousness. Your life is the worship of Jesus Christ.
The biblical concept is clear. By the Spirit of Christ dwelling in the believer, the body of the believer now becomes the worshipping house of the Lord! Do not miss this point! This is exactly what Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 6:19 when he writes: "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." Paul does not pick the term "temple" out of the air. That word encompasses for Paul the Old Testament concept of the temple (cf. I Cor. 3:16, 17). In other words, your body is the walking tabernacle of God. God dwells in you through the person of the Holy Spirit who focuses your life upon Jesus Christ. But also notice the concept of the glory connected with the body of the believer in I Corinthians 6:20: we are to glorify God with our bodies. Our bodies are to be the visible radiance of Jesus Christ. They are to manifest the honor and power of Jesus Christ; and they are to be the splendor of Jesus Christ right now as we journey on this earth.
As we have seen, the tabernacle and the temple that appeared in the history of Israel represented God's dwelling place with his people in all his glory. Both the tabernacle and the temple pointed us to the fullness of their revelation–Jesus Christ, who being God himself, took on flesh of our flesh and dwelt among us as we beheld his glory. But Christ did not leave himself without witness. He sent his Spirit to dwell in and to glorify the new covenant believer. As we look at the revelation of this truth, do we as New Testament believers truly understand what God has done in the history of redemption? When we listen to and observe some of our Christian brethren on the radio and television, do we find this biblical truth being expressed? In some cases, we do not! Realistically, we notice that some ministers and Christian organizations are building visible monuments and empires to themselves under the title, "to the glory of God." This understanding of the Scripture cuts at the very fabric of God's revelation in the history of redemption. God does not dwell in buildings, monuments and empires made with human hands. Rather the message of the Scripture is clear: through the true and everlasting tabernacle and temple of God, Jesus Christ, God has made his people his sanctuary. You, the believer, are the walking temple of God! By definition, your life is the worship of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ!
Do you understand your body in this way? Do you understand your life is a testimony to what Jesus Christ has done for you in the past (he has crucified your sin to the cross and has been raised from the dead so that you may have victory); what he is doing for you in the present (enabling you to live in the peace of your accomplished redemption); and what he will do for you in the future (he will take you unto himself forever in eternal glory)? By merely being in Christ, that is what your everyday walk–your everyday worship in Christ–is declaring. Live in the joy and assurance that by being a believer in Jesus, your life is defined in terms of Christ. In this case, your life is the worship of Jesus Christ!