(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
The most significant change that took place after the death of Jesus was the change in the mode of worship.
Prior to Jesus dying the only place a person could go and worship the one true God was in the temple at Jerusalem. This was the place where God's law was taught and managed by the Levitical priesthood and was where the holy place and the holy of holies stood.
But when Jesus came and died He became a priest of God, not descended from Levi and thus not entitled to serve in the temple at Jerusalem. Instead Jesus, who was a descendant of David from Judah in the flesh, which was the tribe of the kings, became a priest of the order of Melchizedek as we are told in Hebrews 5:6. And this change in the priesthood changes everything, including the modes, place, methods and forms of worship.
Changes In The Priesthood
One of the key things that took place at the death of Jesus was the change in the law. The Levitical priesthood was established to teach and maintain the law as given by God to Moses. This was their duty and when Joshua led the people into Israel, the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance in the land for God was to be their portion and the service of the temple their inheritance.
The priests of Levi were the keepers and teachers of the Old Covenant. But Jesus came and established a New Covenant that is different from the Old Covenant as we see in the following scriptures.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. – (Hebrews 8:8-13) (my emphasis)
The New Covenant is NOT like the Old Covenant. The old covenant was a covenant built and based upon law. So this begs the question, what is the new covenant all about? We see also that the very law has changed under the priesthood of Melchizedek for when the priesthood changes, what the priesthood administers changes also. Note this scripture.
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. – (Hebrews 7:12) (my emphasis)
Now if these changes have been put in place, the question we need to ask is why was it necessary to change the priesthood and to change the law? The answer is in the following verse.
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? – (Hebrews 7:11)
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. – (Hebrews 7:18-19)
Perfection could not be achieved through the law because it makes nothing perfect. The law only condemns for it only tells you what is right or wrong in the sight of God. It does not change you but it condemns you if you fail to keep it. The law cannot transform the underlying nature of a person but can only deal with the external behaviours and actions.
But God is seeking a PERFECT people. Jesus Himself said that,
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – (Matthew 5:48)
Jesus emphasized that if we are to live with God then we MUST be perfect as God is perfect. We must therefore be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ who bears the perfect image of God the Father if we are to live with God.
Perfection in the sight of God is to be sin free and to NOt sin. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for man because He did not sin. And the law cannot make anyone perfect for it continually shows us up as sinners.
So how is perfection attainable apart from the law and under the new priesthood of Melchizedek?
Perfection by Faith
When Jesus died He provided us the way to life. He gave us the gift of His death so that we could take it on as our own death and His death replaced ours. Death is the payment for the debt of sin. We die because we sin. But Jesus died without sinning and in doing so established a way for us to be set free from sin.
When we go through baptism we die and are buried with Christ by faith and by faith we are raised out of the waters as new creations. When we “die” in this manner and BELIEVE that this is our real death, God in His grace agrees and regards us as having died with Christ and put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ in our baptism. It is baptism in Jesus Christ's death that releases us from sin and also releases us from the laws of Moses for the law is binding on a person only while they are alive in this world as it says in Romans 7:1.
We must now believe that we are dead to sin and alive to God by faith in Jesus Christ as it says in Romans 6:11.
This is the start of the change wrought in the New Covenant. But it is only the beginning. We now believe that we are free from sin and set free from the law, and if we are freed from the law we cannot break it and thus sin is not counted where there is no law as we see in the following two verses.
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. – (Romans 4:15)
for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. – (Romans 5:13)
So what we have here is the start of the perfecting of those who have faith and who believe they are set free from sin and set free from the law. God does not condemn those who have faith in these freedoms that come through faith in Jesus Christ and because we are sin-free we receive perfection through Christ by faith. God declares us righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, and if we are righteous then we are perfect.
But this perfection by faith is only a beginning. It is not the end game for God does not want us to rely on His grace forever. We will still make mistakes and fall down and do wrong things and think wrongly because even though we have been give perfection by faith, as human beings we still suffer the weaknesses of humanity. We still need to be transformed so that the perfection we have by faith is matched by a perfection in who and what we are and all we think and do.
God has also provided the process by which this perfection of the mind and spirit of man can take place also.
In-dwelling Holy Spirit
The work of perfecting people into the image of Jesus Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. His task is to take this weak and imperfect state of a person and to help that person learn what is needed to overcome the human state we live in, full of pride, passion, lusts and desires and to change the way we think and behave.
The whole process of how we now worship God and come to Him has changed because we no longer need to go to the temple to learn God's laws for the work of the Holy Spirit is to embed the teachings of Jesus Christ onto our very hearts and minds. The aim is that when we come into situations that might tempt us, we do not think with our emotions, passions and lusts, but rather we think by the application of the word of God. We apply the teachings of Jesus Christ to all situations so that we make right decisions based on God's perfect word and we do what is right.
Now because the dwelling place of the Spirit of God was the temple in Jerusalem under the old covenant, and we can't all live in the temple all of the time, what God in His wisdom has done is to move the temple. He has taken the Holy Spirit from the temple in Jerusalem and given the spirit a new home. The Holy Spirit now resides in the people of God when they receive the Holy Spirit.
We see this mentioned in many places, such as:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – (John 14:15-17)
At this time the Holy Spirit was WITH the disciples but had not come into them, which took place on Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit was not poured out to people until after Jesus had died for the death of Jesus was the beginning of the new covenant and the change in the forms of worship as mentioned above.
One of those key changes was that the Holy Spirit was moved from the temple of God in Jerusalem to in-dwell within Christians. We see this mentioned again in the verses we are looking at today.
16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. – (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
The Holy Spirit dwells within us for the express purpose of training us into the way of perfection. We see the work of the Holy Spirit briefly described by Jesus in the following verses.
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. – (John 16:7-15)
Notice that Jesus said it was to the advantage of the disciples that Jesus went away, that is, that He died. This was because the new covenant could not come into effect until the shedding of His blood took place. The promises of freedom from sin, freedom from law, righteousness by faith and the possibility of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to all mankind could not happen until after Jesus died.
And then we see that the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth would guide us and teach us ALL the truth, for the Holy Spirit has full access to all that Jesus has and Jesus has full access to all that God the Father has to be able to bring us into perfection.
Perfecting mankind who come to Jesus Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit as we see in the following verse.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – (2 Corinthians 3:18)
It is the Holy Spirit who works within us, dwelling within us to cause this gradual change to take place. Our role is to study and learn the words of God and Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit can bring these things to mind as we need them to overcome in times of temptation. We also have the power of the Holy Spirit that we can use when we are being attacked. We can overcome the attacks of the devil by learning how to walk in the spirit to have our problems and issues over to the Lord to bring to a resolution.
Thus we have the same spirit of God who dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem now dwelling inside of us, when we go to God and ask to receive the Holy Spirit and have hands laid on us by the elders of the church for that purpose.
Let me make this point though. Salvation is not based on receiving the Holy Spirit or speaking in tongues as some people believe. But perfection in Jesus Christ cannot be achieved without receiving the Holy Spirit. If you do not receive the spirit of God whose job it is to transform you into the perfect image of Jesus Christ, then how can that transformation take place? In a nutshell, it can't. Only God can make you perfect because only God knows what perfection looks like. No man can make another man perfect and no man can make themself perfect because perfection comes from God alone through they work of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.
You Are God's Temple
Thus we are a temple of God for the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. And thus God takes very seriously any attacks upon His people for they ARE His temple of the Holy Spirit.
As the verse today says, “If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.“
It doesn't get much plainer than that. And it brings to mind what kind of a life we are to lead now that we have received the Holy Spirit and knowing we have the temple of God in our body. How much more should we learn to live right? How much more should we ensure we learn the truth so as to live in accordance with the will and the words of God?
We must be perfect as God is perfect and so we must do our part so as not to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit as he works the transformation within us. We need to learn the truth and apply it in our lives. We need to take the sword of the Spirit and fight against spiritual attacks. We need to take every thought captive to obey Jesus Christ for this is the path to perfection.
Yes we have perfection by faith through grace of God. But God wants His people to BE perfect as He is perfect. Not just by faith, but by word and deed and so become all that is promised by the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com provided by Alex Ringer)
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