A Temple Filled With Unsearchable Riches – Part 2
This grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Eph 3:8)
John’s Vision of a New Temple
This grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Eph 3:8)
Our Lord Jesus fully grasped and embodied this wonderful insight, of a new spiritual temple, and bit by bit this vision was revealed to his disciples also, during the time of his ministry among them.
At the end of his ministry, Jesus sent his followers into the broader world, to Gentiles as well as Jews, with this message—a message of faith and hope and love, of the unsearchable riches of grace, mercy and eternal life now offered to all who believe.
Several passages in the Gospel of John illustrate how Jesus shared with his disciples this great “mystery,” that Gentiles and Jews would be blessed together in the “one body” of Christ (Rom 16:25-26; Eph 1:7-12; 3:6; Col 1:25-27; 4:2-3), and that they would dwell together in God’s spiritual Temple alongside their Lord and Savior.
For the Apostle John, the “Word [which] became flesh” could only be Jesus Christ. In Christ, God “made his dwelling” among men. The Greek word literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” or “pitched his tent” among men. In that tabernacle of his body, John writes, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (v. 14).
This temple—the New Testament temple—is “full of grace and truth,” or perhaps better, “full of true grace,” that is, mercy. Again, that is the Glory of God seen in His new “tabernacle,” Jesus Christ. The Glory of that “tabernacle” is a full grace, absolutely complete and sufficient for all the needs of his brothers and sisters. John emphasizes this again, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” (John 1:16).
“One blessing after another,” that is, abundant blessings, “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” (Luke 6:38). The unsearchable riches of immeasurable grace!
In case his readers still miss the point, John emphasizes the contrast with Moses. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 KJV).
Not that the Law of Moses was bad; it was not. It came from God, and it was good (Rom 7:12). But at the same time, it was incomplete and inadequate, by God’s design—just as the temples of the Old Testament were inadequate in certain ways.
The fullness of grace could come only through the gospel of Christ.
There, in the Law and in the temple, grace was hinted at, but only doled out in small portions, and to no permanent benefit. The fullness of grace—an eternal grace that leads to eternal life—could come only through the gospel of Christ, springing up and flowing out from the temple of his slain and then resurrected body!
The literal temple, Herod’s Temple, had been polluted by those who were supposed to serve God there. The contemplation of divine things was being buried in self-righteousness and greed. So, an indignant young man made a scourge of small ropes and proceeded to drive out the livestock and their keepers, and overturn the tables of the moneychangers (John 2:13-17).
“Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? ‘But you have made it a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17; cp. Matt 21:13; Luke 19:46).
The leaders of that nation would never forgive Jesus for this first public act of his ministry. From that day on, they plotted to get rid of him, while challenging him, demanding a miraculous sign. He replied enigmatically, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19).
At first, the Jews (and even Jesus’ own disciples) did not understand his answer, for all they saw was the great Temple of Herod, in the midst of which Jesus stood. Only several years later, after he was crucified and then raised from the dead, did the disciples finally understand that he was speaking of himself when John clarified, “The temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:21).
He was the “temple.” Even though the rulers “destroyed” that Jesus-temple, he would be raised up in three days (v. 22). The only miracle they would see would be his resurrection—which, as Jesus explained to his disciples, would be the establishment of a new temple! Meanwhile, in one generation, the Romans would destroy Herod’s Temple, which was destined never to be rebuilt.
In John 2, we have set in contrast to one another:
A literal temple—outwardly magnificent and richly furnished, but restricted by barriers and rules, and filled with greed and corruption—destined to be destroyed and never rebuilt! And…
A spiritual temple, outwardly inconspicuous and scarcely noticeable, but free and open to all people, and inwardly filled with the fullness of God’s Spirit and His glorious grace—being built up in its place (“in three days”!) for all eternity!
After his resurrection, Jesus became, forever and absolutely, the temple of the living God. This true temple, of which the earlier ones were just pale imitations, was a living temple through whom all blessings would be dispensed to the world.
The “grace and truth,” or “true grace,” which is described by John in his prologue to the Gospel (John 1:1-18; esp. vv. 14, 16), finds an echo when Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4- 7).
First of all, the woman was surprised that a “good” Jew (as Jesus obviously was) would even speak to her—a Gentile woman!
The writer, John, offers a brief explanation: “For Jews [plural] do not associate with Samaritans.” (v. 9). John is referring to the general assumption of Jews that the Samaritans, like other Gentiles, were unclean, and that their company, as well as their food or drink, was to be avoided.
The living water was available to all who believed.
The Samaritan woman had given to Jesus water to drink from the well. Jesus used this opportunity to tell her about the “water of life,” or “living water” (John 4:10). It was available to all who believed, Gentile as well as Jew, women as well as men.
Now she asked him a question which seems to have troubled her in the past: “Is it right to worship God in this mountain [Mount Gerizim, very near to where they stood], or in Jerusalem?” (v. 20).
Somewhat surprisingly, even to us today who still recognize the Temple Mount as a very special place, Jesus replied:
Jesus’ full answer here considers much of what the woman has said earlier. It also helps us pull together the threads of our previous thoughts:
Jesus had already given hints of this coming rejection of the Jerusalem temple at his first temple cleansing (John 2:13-16), when he assumed the title of “the Temple of God”: “The temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:19, 21).
Later in his ministry, he would make a similar point. When his disciples gazed upon Herod’s temple and marveled at its greatness and its beauty, he told them bluntly: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matt 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 21:5, 6). What an extraordinary event it was. The one who was the Temple of God in human form prophesied the destruction of the other “temple” made of stone—as if it were no longer needed!
You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we [literally “Judeans”] worship what we do know. (John 4:22a, b).
In other words, “You Samaritans actually have a form of religion quite similar to ours, but without the same knowledge. Our Judean worship is the true worship initiated by God, who appointed the Law through Moses.”
Salvation is from [“ek”: out of] the Jews [Judeans] (v. 22c).
Literally, “salvation” has come “out of the people of Judea.” Salvation (“Yeshua” or Jesus: the salvation of the LORD) is not to be found—not truly and permanently—among the Judeans (that is, in the Temple of Jerusalem in Judea), but it will be seen coming out of Judea. And eventually, the offer of salvation would be carried to the ends of the earth.
To paraphrase: “You will see the salvation implied in the “living [or running] water” of which I spoke. In fact, you have seen it today, when a single Jew has come to you. One Judean has come out of Judah and is now speaking to you, a Samaritan. And he has already offered you the “living water” of salvation!”
Jesus was saying, “You, a Gentile, can worship God right now in a ‘true spirit’ when you see me!” (vv. 23, 24). “Your ‘true spirit’ will be seen in a knowledge of your own sins, and a faithful heart to listen and understand and repent. This ‘true spirit’ will not be achieved by animal sacrifices in Gerizim or Jerusalem. It will be achieved by worshiping God through His only Son, who will present the perfect sacrifice of obedience and dedication—a sacrifice for all people—Samaritans as well as Jews.”
The Samaritan woman says, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” (v. 25).
Jesus told her, “I who speak to you am he.” (v. 26 ESV) In effect, he was saying, “Messiah has come, and he is explaining everything to you!”
This woman ran to her neighbors and told them she had met the Messiah—and he had come out of Jerusalem, and was looking for them! They went to meet him, and after they heard him, they said:
The Jews and the Samaritans represented two religions that had much in common. But they also had fierce divisions, which kept them far apart from each other, and kept each group bitter and resentful, and even hateful toward the other.
An argument of long standing between them was, as the woman at the well stated, “Should God be worshipped on Gerizim, and in Jerusalem?”
And, with brilliant insight, Jesus Christ answered: “Soon you will see that neither mountain is an answer to your question. Neither your people nor my people will worship in a particular place; but they will all worship at the true “temple,” not made with men’s hands, but built by Almighty God. And all peoples, indeed, the whole world, no matter where they live, will worship the God who has revealed Himself in His Son!”
(Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX)
1 All Scriptural citations taken from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.