Copyright © 2003, by John Lankford, Fort Smith, Arkansas

      The NEW Covenant has a different look and character than the OLD Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The OLD had a physical Temple, garbed priesthood, incense, holy days, seasons, the Sabbath, circumcision, infant membership, and an army to literally fight for the Lord. All of these pointed to a time when they would be REPLACED with the true or spiritual. The shadows would give way to the substance (Hebrews 9:10, Colossians 2:16, 17). If something is REPLACED by a BETTER way or design, then what has been replaced is no longer needed and is discarded.

      One major problem of the church in the transition from the OLD to the NEW way was that many were not discarding but continuing in the OLD (e.g., Colossians 2:16, 17; Galatians 5:2,3). And by not letting the symbolical give way to its TRUE counterpart, Christianity would have the character of both. This was something that was clearly not acceptable to the Apostles and other early Christian writers (e.g., The Letter to the Hebrews).

      Yet, it is understandable why a transition from Judaism to Christianity would be a major problem. Since the first converts were Jews (Acts 2), it would be difficult to grasp that what once pleased God did not honor Him any more. And this is because Jesus came to FULFILL and not PERPETUATE the OLD way (Matthew 5:17,18; Luke 24:25ff; Hebrews 7:1-28). A change in the manner of WORSHIP would also follow (John 4:22ff).

      What basic change would occur? First, the OLD was geared toward the senses of man with its physical sounds, smells and activities. Second, by contrast, the NEW would be inward and simple (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:10, 1 Corinthians 2:13). For example, during the transition phase, physical circumcision was being taught in places (Acts 15:1), but it actually had been replaced by a circumcision not made with hands (Colossians 2:11-13). And even Temple--the habitation for God and where sacrifices are made--gave way to the true temple, the body of the Christian which also is a house for God and a place where sacrifices are offered (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:4,5). Both circumcision and the Temple were no longer needed because they had been REPLACED by the better and spiritual.

      Unfortunately, church history shows how Christianity lost its newness and became more and more OLD in character. A priesthood developed that put a man between the worshiper and God, special days and seasons were instituted, infant membership became a practice, and garments and robes, etc., were worn by those officiating the service. And today, many churches still have lingering "shades" of the OLD. For example, while the church must have a place to meet (Hebrews 10:25), over the centuries the meetinghouse evolved into a temple-like structure. It became a sacred place. In its "Sanctuary," God could be met in a special way. Certain parts of the building became "off-limits" because one could "desecrate the building" there. Such a place was termed "the house of God" and was treated with great respect. Instead of the word "Temple" the word "Church" was used to describe these holy edifices. People want to be married "in a Church" and also buried in the "Churchyard." Clearly, idea of a Temple has been resurrected rather than discarded. Buildings do not need to be discarded (Hebrews 10:25; Acts 20:7), but TEMPLE-attitudes about them do.

      Churches of Christ have not been immune to the same folly. While attempting to restore or get back to the original shape of Christianity, what can or cannot be done in the building still seems to be an issue. While denying that there is any such thing as a "sanctified building," attitudes toward what may be done "in there" proves otherwise. Can the building be used as a "polling place"? Can a school use the auditorium for a band concert? Can the meetinghouse have classrooms and a "gym" attached to it? Do we call the assembly room an "auditorium" but treat it as a "Sanctuary"? Is there a pattern for building a meetinghouse as to what goes in and what stays out like for the Temple? Is it OK to put in a kitchen? What about a restroom? The point of all this is to show that the Temple has been replaced by what it pointed to--Christians. Our focus should be on what is done in THIS HUMAN TEMPLE and not in a physical building. (2 Corinthians 7:1.)

      This should be a part of our RESTORATION efforts!

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