*This is an updated post from March 2015*
“The “temple model grants extraordinary power to sacred men in sacred places who determine the meaning of sacred texts.” (sarcasm) Andy Stanley
The megachurch pastor was passionate about taking the Church back to what he feels Jesus called it to be, or better yet forward to what it’s supposed to be, but wasn’t ‘trouncing’ the temple of old, the covenant that made it a necessity, or the possibility of a future one. He was simply saying that temple-ish behavior is not what the church should be doing now. In fact, Stanley said, and rightly so, that like the Galatians, many are attempting to blend the “temple model” with Jesus’ teachings. That clearly did not work ‘back then,’ it is certainly not working now, and it’s future ‘working’ is highly dependent on some very specific eschatological (end times) interpretations.
Some believe that this blending is possible, and that the idea of having certain temple-ish (old covenant) behaviors AND certain new covenant actions or characteristics is a ‘both & and’ deal. Personally, I don’t think that’s possible. The New covenant was an ‘end’ deal. The end of the old. When has JESUS plus _________, ever resulted in any good fruit? What scenario could possibly exist when Jesus’ sacrifice becomes insufficient? What situation could ever take place that would necessitate the reactivation of the priesthood as a special mediatory class within God’s oikos? What events could possible reduce the infinite opening to the access to God that He initiated at the rending of the temple curtain?
Some would answer those questions by saying ‘because God said he would,’ and that ‘it is written in His word.’ I find those interpretations lacking, inconsistent, and at odds with other interpretations from other genuine believers.
It’s not the first time that Jewish Christians tried to hold on to their Old Testament thinking and assimilate Jesus into them even though Jesus, long ago, had initiated a movement that was a complete departure from the temple model and its old covenant Petri dish. This happened when some ‘messianic jews’ called on gentiles who became Jesus followers to get circumcised.
The Apostle Paul, who was always trying his best to ‘be all things to all people,’ who was capitulating, or acquiescing, to the Jews who had received Christ by participating in temple rituals, ‘sacrifices,’ and other templish behaviors, put his foot down and on this issue and ‘withstood Peter to his face’ over the hypocrisy and momentary lunacy towards any inkling of backtracking into the old covenant or its old container. Just because Paul, or any other of those who accompanied him participated in the dying temple’s activities, doesn’t suggest that he was approving them. Likewise, Jesus’ participation in temple activities shouldn’t be used as a permission slip to continue those activities post His death, burial, and resurrection.
Stanley said that “When you blend the old with the new, the result is usually 99 percent temple thinking and 1 percent Jesus.” I think he’s right. There is now, amongst God’s people, zero ‘space’ for templistic thinking. It kills mission momentum and replaces it with ‘monumentum,’ the idea that God still dwells in monuments made by human hands.
The old covenant, to include ten commandments, no longer apply ‘as law’ because in the doctrine of Christ they are completely superseded. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus demands much more of us than the ten commandments. He not only forbids murder and adultery, but also the causes, hate and lust (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28). I know, some of you are about to blow your stack right now, but hear me out.
Paul wrote that the ten commandments have been replaced by something much better:
“But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious” (2 Corinthians 3:7-11).
What was ‘passing away’ has now passed. What was becoming obsolete is now obsolete;
‘By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.’ (Hebrews 8:13)
What was ‘disappearing,’ is likely STILL disappearing because the church is still clutching onto it. “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17) The old law and the commandments engraved on stones, were a ministry of death that had to disappear. Christ brought something better.
Some of you will get all wonky when I say that Christ ‘replaced’ the old covenant with the new. But, and I was told, I need to own it because it’s what I think. You’re free to call me on it in the comment section. Although we can learn much from the Old Testament and its structures (Ebenezers, Tabernacles, and Temples, etc), because the old helps us to understand the new, we now live under the New Testament, a covenant of grace.
The law necessitated the temple. Now that that law is obsolete, so is the need for the temple.”
We are not under the law of Moses, This is stated many times in the New Testament. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:14, 15). “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24, 25). “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14, 15).
Likewise, temple-ish behavior, or containing the church within coordinates, is no longer necessary and works ferociously against living and moving and having our being in Christ. It kills mission.
Is there another temple coming? I can honestly say, “I’m not sure.” Will Christ reign from a physical temple for a literal 1000 years? I don’t think so. Will the temple be rebuilt just so the ‘antichrist’ can come and be the abomination of desolation? I can’t get there hermeneutically or eschatologically. But, what does it matter? I am a believer living under grace in the new covenant. Christ is my mediator (priest) whose sacrifice will never become anything less than it is now to be once again propped up by the blood of bulls and rams (Hebrews 10:4) The Spirit of God does not dwell in temples made by human hands, never did, and never will. Yes, his presence was there in the tabernacle and in the temples, but he was not confined to it, included in it, or circumscribed by it. Any action the church takes to do any of those things is temple-ish behavior. Andy, in his comments, just scratched the surface of this issue. I am glad his voice was heard.