Last week, we psychoanalyzed Paul to discover his life-metaphor. We deduced that he is Paul the builder. Paul operated out of this frame of reference. He would intentionally go into a new city and start building. He viewed his life, his purpose, his function, his suffering, his life-metaphor as a temple builder. Paul, perhaps, viewed himself as Solomon building a temple, or better... who is that guy that was filled with the Spirit and built the Tabernacle for Moses?
Exodus 31:2-5 "See, I have called by name Bezalel and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”
Paul is Bez the builder!
Here is what we are going to do this morning. We are going to flip the metaphor. If Paul’s life-metaphor is a builder, then viewing it from the other side, the church is the building. We could view ourselves, as a church, as the temple being built. That would make our church-life-metaphor a temple. Our CLM would be the Temple of God.
I like it. Paul uses this CLM in 1 Corinthians...
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you (plural) not know that you (plural) are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you (plural)? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Then, later, in chapter 6...
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body (singular) is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.
Here is the CLM... individually, we are a brick with the Spirit within. All the bricks go together to make a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell within. We can view ourselves, this morning, right now, here together, as a Temple built for the glory of God; housing the Holy Spirit within.
Bam, our church-life-metaphor, CLM, is a temple of God!
Let’s see how this works with what we have learned, so far...
1) The Christian life, individually, is composed of three essential elements... faith, love and hope. Individually, we are bricks. When you make bricks, you mix in three components... Faith is the sand, love is the mortar, hope is the color. If the formula is correct it makes for a solid brick!
2) We also discovered that... our community is also formed in... faith, love and hope.
--Faith is the structure of our temple... the theology of who we are is the walls of our temple.
--Love is the power in the building to keep us warm! Love is the electricity... the water the power in the temple!
--Our hope is the shine! The glow of beauty from our temple!
Wow, that works.
3) There is nothing as powerful as a sacrificial, authentic, God-glorifying, gentle, life-sharing, blameless, truth-speaking... covenant-community! We can out love the world! Love is the power to draw the world into our home, our building, our temple!
4) Whenever the storm clouds of suffering are gathering in your life, you will need faith; a faith in the word of God, which works within you to produce obedience, forged in a faith-community, transformed into trust, which is victorious! Sometimes it rains on us. We need a place to weather the storm. Jesus said... The wiseman built his house upon the rock. Our house is a haven in the storm. If we truly had this as our CLM, we would share our warm place with the others!
Paul is Bez the builder. We are the temple.
But, it gets even better. “No way!” “Yes way!” Paul did not want to build a shabby temple. Bez the builder was skilled in artistic designs. Bez was an artist! Paul wants beautiful temples.
Here is where we are this morning. Paul has built the wonderful cathedral of the Thessalonian believers. The next 12 verses explain how they should beautify their temple. “You want a beautiful temple? Here’s how you do it.
“You are right that does sound better.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, (be a beautiful temple) just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification:
The beautification of the temple is called... Sanctification. “Remind me again what sanctification means.” The Greek word for sanctification is a`giasmo,j hagiasmos. It means to set apart for the use of God. In Solomon’s temple the different pieces like, the lampstand and altar, were set apart to be used as holy. They were made clean, they were polished, they were made holy to be used by God.
In our CLM each brick is made holy, is sanctified, is set apart for the temple! Here is the beautification part... more and more. Sanctification is an on-going process to be more and more beautiful. More and more Useful.
Paul tells the Thessalonians... You know how you ought to life. You know how to please God. Do it more and more that is the will of God! Wow. When we worry about pleasing God; when we worry about God’s will for our life, it is simple... Do what you know to do...more and more. Live how you ought to live... more and more. Be faith... more and more. Be love... more and more. Have hope... more and more. Be a beautiful brick! More and more!
In the next 10 verses Paul gets specific about more and more; about pleasing God; how to keep the temple beautiful.
What is fascinating is the subject matter Paul brings up to keep our temple beautiful... Sex, and money... “Seriously.” Sex and money, if used improperly can make the temple ugly. “Seriously.” In Thessalonica in 52 AD sex and money could have messed up the temple, just like in 2018 AD sex and money can uglify the temple.
I’m not making this up; listen...
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
There you go. Sexual immorality tarnishes the beauty of the temple.
Paul’s instructions are clear...
1) Abstain from sexual immorality: this concept is sexual practice outside marriage. In Paul’s world this would include sacred prostitution at pagan temples. But the solid principle is to be a beautiful brick in a beautiful temple... no sex outside of marriage.
2) No cheating on spouses. Paul phrases this delicately. “No one transgresses or wrongs a brother in this manner.” No stealing sex from another person’s spouse.
Remember, Paul tells the Thessalonians, that these instructions are not only from God himself, but will be backed up by the judgment of the Lord. Jesus himself will pronounce sentence on those who don’t follow these instructions. Jesus is the avenger of those who uglify his temple.
Paul makes this point strongly... sexually misconduct can destroy the beauty of our temple. Wow. If only we had followed this command. Many a church has been tarnished, to say the minimum, by sexual scandal.
Let me say it this way... If it is stupid, don’t do it... Sexual immorality uglifies the temple!
That is sex. Now, the money.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,
The word here for brotherly love is not agape. Agape is part of the three... Faith, agape and hope. The word Paul uses here is filadelfi,a philadelphia. It is the love that is the love for each other.
This is talking about giving. The Thessalonians had become famous for helping Christians throughout Macedonia. Paul says keep on doing this more and more. The temple is beautified when giving is generous.
This is a pleasant thought. When each of us give, financially... the temple shines! Wow, that’s a mundane, but glorious idea. Your giving, your generosity, your money is sanctified when given in philidelphia!
We could take this more than metaphorically. We could apply this quite literally. It would be nice to make this room more beautiful. Several people have the vision of remodeling this room. Guess what that takes... more money.
Wow, just as Paul told the Thessalonians... you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another... But I urge you, brothers, to do this more and more. Money can be sanctified!
Now, Paul presents the ugly side of money...
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
This is an oxymoron... aspire to be quiet. Ambition is usually aggressive, dissatisfied, hungry, “Aspire to greatness! Winning isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing!” But Paul says, here in the context of money, to be ambitious about living peacefully. Work with your hands... live properly, nobly, before outsiders. The point being, handle your money to the glory of God.
Evidently, there were some who had quit working. The Thessalonians had been so generous that they were attracting moochers. Paul says, “Get a job. Work hard. Mind your own business. Don’t be a moocher!”
The danger of such a command, of course, is that people who are capable of earning their own living might be tempted to sponge off the others, hiding under the rule of love. But if the rule of love is to work, the rule of work itself must also be clear. Christians must learn to live peaceably, that is, without the restless desire always to ‘better themselves’. They must mind their own business, literally and metaphorically, not always prying into what other people are doing under the guise of ‘family’ interest. And they must do their best to find paid employment, which Paul assumes will be manual work.
-- N.T. Wright
From a larger perspective, misuse of money uglifies the temple. Once again, it is easy to point to churches that have been hurt by embezzlement; dishonesty; scams. We must always be completely open, honest, transparent in the use of money.
Let me wrap this up by moving back to the idea of sanctification. Christians, individually and churches, collectively, ought to be committed to more and more... more and more obedience to Jesus; more and more pleasing God; more and more beautified by the Spirit.
We want to be a beautiful temple! We should be... more and more.
Los Alamos Church of Christ
October 21, 2018