Cleansing the Temple
The Jewish people were looking for a Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression. They saw Jesus as the perfect Messiah; one who could feed and heal the people miraculously and one who could overthrow the Roman Empire and enable them to be free people.
That was not Jesus’ agenda. Instead, He concluded His earthly ministry as He had throughout, by concentrating His attention and efforts on dealing with the perverted worship in the Temple. It would be helpful for you to read the accounts of the cleansing of the Temple as found in Matthew 21:12-16, Luke 19:45-48. This was not the first time Jesus had cleansed the Temple. Three years earlier as Jesus commenced His earthly ministry, He had cleansed the temple, as recorded in John 2:13-17.
THE FOCUS OF JESUS’ MINISTRY
The spiritual relationship of Israel to God was always Jesus’ primary concern. Political and social issues were secondary and incidental. His spiritual concerns for His people are found in His Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7 and in Luke 6. There we find His concerns for His spiritual Kingdom that dealt with heart issues, more than outward conduct issues. In fact, a prophecy of Christ in Psalm 69:9 speaks of Him being “eaten up” or consumed with zeal for the honor and glory of His Father’s House, the Temple.
When Liberalism began to permeate the churches of America in the mid-nineteenth century, they replaced the Gospel of salvation through the shed blood of Christ, with a social gospel which was concerned only with social issues, rather than spiritual issues. There is a place in Biblical missions for social issues: meeting physical needs of food, clothing, education and health needs of people; but we cannot afford to ignore the spiritual needs.
When our lives are centered on social issues and ignore spiritual issues, we become as irrelevant as those who would attempt to arrange the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic. Social issues must always be a means to an end. They must never be the end in themselves, but as opportunities to express love to people that their hearts may be opened to the Word of God. After all, what good is it to feed and clothe and educate lost sinners who will spend eternity in Hell?
If Jesus came back today, where would He focus His attention? Not on political issues and not even moral issues such as abortion and crime and immorality in the world. Rather His concern would be for the purity and blessing of His Church that through His Church the world would be blessed. That’s obvious from reading Revelation 2 and 3. In these two chapters Christ shows His burden for the spiritual condition of His churches of that time, which reflects His concern for churches throughout the past 2000 years known as the Church Age.
WHAT ANGERED JESUS?
The Jerusalem temple and grounds, His Father’s house, had been turned into a crooked money-making business scheme by the priests who took a cut from the profits of the business men who sold the livestock for sacrifices and exchanged money for profit for a special coin needed for the temple tax. As bad as the stench of the animals was, the stench of the moral corruption was even more repulsive.
WHAT DID JESUS DO WITH THESE CORRUPT BUSINESS MEN?
Did He go to them quietly and politely and say, “You know, I really would appreciate it if you would move your businesses out of the temple area? No, that’s not what He did. Instead in righteous indignation and disgust He physically forced those who sold animals and those who exchanged money to flee, threw over their tables and chairs and freed the live stock, knocked over the crates of doves to be sold and broke them open and within a few minutes doves were flying, animals were stampeding and everyone was scrambling to get out of Jesus’ way and money was scattered all over the place. As they fled before this powerful and authoritative Jesus, they heard Him shout, “Is it not written My House shall be called of all nations the House of Prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”
WHY DID JESUS DO THIS?
Not only was Jesus dealing with sacrilege and corruption in the old system, but He was also doing away with the whole animal sacrificial system that would be obsolete in less than a week when He, as the Lamb of God, would be slaughtered on the cross once for all for all the sins of the world.
HIS PHYSICAL POWER AND AUTHORITY
The physical strength and authority He showed that day is just a sampling of the power and authority He will exercise over the whole world when He returns to Jerusalem in His glorified state for His Millennial reign, as prophesied in Psalm 2. There it says He will “break the power of His enemies with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” You can read more about this under the category PROPHECY on this Hidden Treasures web site.
THE TEMPLE DESTROYED
The Temple had become so corrupt that God had Rome destroy it in 70 AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem. The Temple has not been rebuilt in over 2000 years; however, God has plans for it to be rebuilt more glorious than ever when He returns to reign during the Millennium. The prophecy of that Millennial temple is found in Ezekiel 40-48.
WE CHRISTIANS ARE HIS TEMPLE TODAY
I Corinthians 6:19-20 explains that we believers who have been born again are His temple today. As God dwelt in the temple in the Holy of Holies, so today He dwells in the bodies of Christians. We are God’s holy property and must not defile our bodies with sin. When we sin, we must confess our sins to God and seek to gain victory over sin by feeding on God’s Word and surrendering ourselves to the control of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We, who are His temples, meet together weekly in gatherings we call churches. The Church is not really the building, but the Christians who gather in the building or in secret in some lands where Christianity is forbidden.
We worship together; singing praises to God, praying to Him, hearing the teaching and proclaiming of His Word, the Bible, and supporting financially ministries that further the Gospel of Christ.
But even as we attend church, we must never forget that it is our bodies that are the Temple and holy property of God and, therefore, it is essential that we not allow sin to reign in our lives.
The Church. then, is the gathering together of believers, redeemed saints. Christ, not some man, is the Head of each local church and is Head of His Church universal.
Various denominations, having different understandings of Scriptures, organize their churches differently, but most Protestant churches call pastors and elect elders and deacons to lead and set examples of godliness for the church family.
What, then, should the Christian’s relationship be to his church?
1. RESPECT AND REVERENCE IT
As true Americans respect and reverence the Capitol and the White House in Washington DC and Independence Hall in Philadelphia as well as many other historical and sacred landmarks, so we respect and show reverence when we enter our churches. One way we show respect is by dressing appropriately, just as we would dress appropriately to meet with the President or go into a court room before a judge.
At the same time, we need to avoid dressing to make a fashion statement or to show off and call attention to ourselves. One can call attention to himself that way or by purposely coming in dressed as a bum or a tramp. The poor and the wealthy should equally be received without even a hint of partiality. James in James 2 deals with this topic at length. In I Timothy 2:9-10 Paul deals with the topic of women’s hair and dress styles. Ladies, I encourage you to go to the category VIRTUOUS WOMAN for more on this topic.
In either case, one can call attention to himself and away from Christ by trying to look like a movie star going to the Oscars or by trying to appear humble by dressing and smelling like a bum. In either case it show disrespect for Christ.
Now understand that if a genuinely poor person enters our church looking and smelling shabby, let us reach out to him or her in love and do what we can to meet their needs and make them feel genuinely welcomed.
I remember a time when my wife and I used to pick up little children in our car to take them to church. Our two sons were still pre-school age. My wife remembers watching fleas jump from one of the kids we picked up to our own little ones. Of course, when we got home after the service, she gave them a thorough bath, getting rid of the fleas.
Showing reverence does not mean that we have long solemn faces or put on cloaks of false piety. Attending Church should be a happy, joyful occasion. We can smile and even laugh and be light hearted, but there is also a time to be quiet and listen and reflect on the preaching of God’s Word. We respect the preaching of God’s Word and avoid doing anything and we keep our children from doing anything that would distract others from hearing God’s Word.
Certainly church should not be a place where we make connections for business deals and to take advantage of others to make money.
2. CARE FOR IT
The building or sanctuary where we meet is not an end in itself. Therefore, we don’t pour money into it as though the beauty and grandeur of it were an end in itself. Rather we do what we can to make it a comfortable place to sing God’s praises and to hear the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Keeping it clean and serviceable should be the joint effort of each member as well as the custodian.
The buildings and grounds are the first impression for visitors. A messy looking building and grounds will reflect badly on Christ and His Church. But even more important is the atmosphere. All of us, including our youth, are responsible to show genuine love and kindness to one another and to help visitors feel comfortable and welcome.
3. USE IT
Take advantage of the teaching and preaching opportunities to learn God’s Word and grow spiritually. What good is the preaching if there are no listeners?
Every Christian is gifted by the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts to help edify the Body of Christ. Discover your gift and use it; not to make yourself feel important, but to be a blessing to others. I Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4 are good chapters to learn about the spiritual gifts and their use and their abuses.
4. FINALLY, PROTECT YOUR CHURCH
Protect your church from gossip. Refuse to listen to it. Refuse to spread it.
Protect your church from apostasy, If you suspect it, talk with your pastor about it. If he refuses to discuss it, take the matter to your church leaders, which would include elders in some churches and deacons in others. The New Testament is filled with warnings concerning apostasy and how to deal with it. II Timothy 3:1-17, 4:1-8. II John 7-11, Jude 3-13, II Peter 2:1-22, and Romans 16:17-18 as well as warnings from Jesus in Matthew 7:13-23 and Revelation 2-3.
May we be consumed with zeal for the purity of His Church as it consumed Jesus for His Temple.
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