The Super-Eminence of Christ (A Greater than the Temple)
A Greater than the Temple
“But I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple” (Matthew 12:6).
In Matthew 12:6 the Lord speaks of His super-eminence over the temple.
The temple was the place in which God dwelt.
The temple was the plane from which God spoke.
The temple was the place at which God was approached.
But the temple failed because the people who had charge of it failed, it was desecrated and destroyed, it was merely temporary and typical. In Christ we have the antitype and that which abides. It was the shadow, Christ is the substance.
In the temple God dwelt: The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
In the temple God spoke: “God hath. . . spoken to us by (in) His Son” (Heb. 1:2).
In the temple God is approached: “Whom God hath set forth. . . a propitiation (or, meeting place) through faith in His blood” (Rom. 3:25).
GOD DWELLING. In that remarkable, prophetic and pathetic prayer made by King Solomon at the dedication of the temple, in 2 Chronicles 6:18, and 1 Kings 7:27, he exclaimed, “Will God in very deed dwell with men on earth? Behold, the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less the house which I have built!” He could evidently conceive the thought of the Name of Jehovah being connected with the temple (1 Ki. 8:29), and also that His eyes and His heart should be there or toward that house, but it passed his highest thought that Jehovah should deign to dwell with men on earth. The temple nevertheless became His dwelling-place, for we hear the Psalmist speaking of Him thus: “O Thou who dwellest between the cherubims” (Ps. 80:1). Even in the tabernacle in the wilderness He said to Moses:” I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat” (Lev. 16:1).
In Christ we have realized that unique mystery that Solomon, the wisest of men, could not conceive of. Over seven hundred years before Christ was born Isaiah had prophesied of the coming of Christ. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel (God with us)” (Isa. 7:14). Paul wrote to Timothy, sixty-five years after Christ came, “Great is the mystery of piety, God manifest in flesh,” etc. (1 Tim. 3:16). John wrote at a later date (for the Gospel is said to be the last book written), “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory of an only begotten with the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Thus we have in these great Scriptures God in manhood, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hanging on this stupendous fact is the glory of God and our great salvation. Hence we have discovered to us the dark design of the enemy, who seeks to deny this truth, an attempt to rob God of His glory and us of our highest blessing.
How verily greater than the temple is Christ, when He speaks of doing for His own body what the Jews could not do for the temple. Speaking of the material temple, He could say, “Not one stone of it should rest upon another that would not be thrown down,” but speaking of the temple of His body He challenged them, saying, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again.” Let the Unitarian and Modernist tell us if they can, who this wonderful “I” is who was going to raise His own dead body. “I lay down My life that I might take it again; this commandment have I received of My Father. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.” Who is He?
Every whit of the old temple uttered His glory, says Psalm 29:9 (margin). The temple might set forth the attributes or character of God in picture, but it required a greater than the temple to express His nature: that was reserved to the Only-begotten which is in the bosom of the Father, and He hath declared Him. At no time had God ever been fully revealed until He came who
“Dwells in His bosom, knoweth all
That in that bosom lies,
And came to earth to make it known
That we might share His joys.”
The temple might utter His glory, but it was only a glory that was to pass away, and in that sense had really no glory by reason of the glory that excelled, the glory of His person.
GOD SPEAKING. The temple was the place of divine communications. It was the place of the oracle, where God spoke (see Ex. 29:42). “The tabernacle where I will meet you and speak there to thee.” Now He speaks to us by or in the Son. He had spoken in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, but only in a temporary, fragmentary and preparatory way. Now He speaks in His Son, and that completely, permanently and finally, for who could speak after the Son?
God has spoken! Revelation is the opposite to discovery, and it is God who has revealed Himself, and not man that has discovered God. Everyone who believes in God, believes that God can reveal Himself; and when it is remembered that “God is love,” the fact of revelation is assured, since love must of necessity manifest itself. God’s revelation is the outcome of His love. True love could not keep itself to itself, it must reveal itself by look or gesture or words. God loved not in word only, but in deed and in truth.
It is usual for us to judge of God by what we find in ourselves. The danger is present with us of trying to measure God’s love to us by what we find in our own hearts of love to Him. I could no more find the wealth of the love in God’s heart by examining my own, than I could tell how much money there is in the Bank of England by examining the contents of my purse. If someone came from the Bank of England and could tell me exactly how much money there was there, then I could tell you.
When God makes His will known to us we must remember that it is not the will of a despot—that is, one that does what he wishes simply because he has power to do it. God’s will is moved by His heart of love. It is the will of love, and His purpose is the purpose of love; so that to understand the will and purpose of God we must understand His love. Who can make that known? The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.
It is in John’s Gospel we have it made clear to us who it is through whom God speaks, and his testimony leaves us without doubt as to the greatness of the Person of Christ in whom He speaks. In the first chapter of John we have it shown to us that Christ is the Word that makes Him known. There we learn that He had—
1. Eternal existence—“In the beginning was The Word” (v. 1).
2. Distinct personality—“The Word was with God” (v. 1).
3. Essential Deity—“The Word was God” (v. 1).
4. Eternal personality—“In the beginning with God” (v. 2).
5. Creatorial originality—“All made by Him” (v. 3).
6. Essential vitality—“In Him was life” (v. 4). And relatively He assumes—
7. Perfect Manhood.
Where can we find anything in the temple or communication from the temple that could give that revelation of God, or that could speak with that authority? How infinitely greater He was than the temple!
APPROACH. It was only at the temple that man could approach God and God could approach man, but this latter was only for one man on one day in the year, for the “way into the holiest was not yet made manifest.” Only a special class could approach to God, and not without blood.
Holiness barred the way into the presence of God, but approach was made possible by the blood of the sacrifice. Those sacrifices could not put the sin away, but they pointed to a sacrifice that could put sin away; and Christ has once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God. In those times of twilight and shadows God was behind the veil, but now we read in Romans that God has set forth Christ—a propitiation, a mercy seat, through faith in His blood. Now God can come forth to man, not as Judge, but as a pardoning God, so that not only can man approach God, but God can approach man in blessing and not in judgment. Here again, then, we have the Lord Jesus shining in transcendent pre-eminence over the temple. The temple of old had a veil in it that shut man out from His presence. Now in Christ and by virtue of the finished work of Calvary God has come out in the character of a Saviour. Thus a greater than the temple has given us what the temple of old could never give us—liberty of approach to God. All this lays a divine emphasis on the atoning work of Christ. Ignore that and attempt to stand before God in your own merit, and inevitable judgment must overwhelm you. By virtue of that precious blood and a new-made way into the presence of God by the blood of Christ, we are now bidden to draw near to God, and even into the very holiest of all. How infinitely greater than the temple is He!