Privilege and Responsibility in the House of God

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
It has always been the desire of God to dwell among His people, both to enjoy their company and to have them enjoy His. It is true that we do not find the house of God in Genesis, but as soon as redemption was brought in and God’s people Israel were delivered from Egypt, God immediately asked them to build Him a tabernacle, in order that He might dwell among them.
In a similar way in the New Testament we find God wanting to dwell among His people as the house of God and forming this house on the day of Pentecost. However, there is this difference, that the tabernacle was characterized by communications from God which demanded something from man, while the day of Pentecost was characterized by God’s communicating blessing to man. In each case, however, we find that the house of God is connected with both privilege and responsibility.
If the truth of the church as the body of Christ takes our thoughts up to our Head in heaven, the house of God brings before us the place of the church now on earth. Responsibility is certainly prominent when we think of the house of God, but it is noticeable that Scripture brings before us first of all our wonderful privileges in God’s house. There are at least three privileges that characterize the house of God in the New Testament, privileges that were not present previously.
Privilege — Sins Forgiven
First of all, believers in God’s house (at least according to God’s original thoughts about His house) know their sins forgiven, and thus can be completely comfortable in God’s presence. Peter could say, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:1919Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19)). Believers in the Lord Jesus have the assurance that the blood of Christ has put away every sin, for “the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:77The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. (John 1:7)). We are at home in God’s house, for those in that house have “no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:22For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. (Hebrews 10:2)).
The Presence of the Holy Spirit
Second, the house of God today is characterized by the abiding presence of the Spirit of God, for “ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)). Not only are believers indwelt individually by the Spirit, but they are brought into the house of God where the Spirit dwells. This is an inestimable privilege that was not part of any previous dispensation and will not be so after the church is called home.
The Spirit is there for two reasons. First of all, He is there to make God known to man and to minister the glories of Christ to the redeemed. The Lord Jesus could say of the Spirit, “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:1414He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:14)). All the glories of Christ are now revealed by the Spirit, as Paul could say, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard  .  .  .  the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9-10). Second, the Spirit is in the house of God to lead out our hearts in praise and thanksgiving to God, in response to His love. Peter tells us that we are “a spiritual house  .  .  .  to offer up spiritual sacrifices” and to “show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:5,9).
The Privilege of Baptism
Finally, those in the house of God have the privilege of baptism — of taking practically the position of being dead with Christ and bearing His name in this world. We enter the house by faith in the work of Christ, and then by baptism in His name. What a privilege it is to bear His name and to honor Him in the world that has rejected Him!
Responsibility — Holiness
It is a principle with God, however, that privilege always brings with it responsibility. In the house of God, there are serious responsibilities that go with our being there, and these must not be slighted or neglected. First of all, holiness must characterize God’s house. The principle is clearly stated even in the Old Testament: “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, forever” (Psa. 93:55Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever. (Psalm 93:5)). How much more important this becomes in the light of Christianity! Paul wrote to Timothy so that he would know how to behave himself in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15), and as soon as Peter introduces the thought of the house of God in his first epistle, he gives instruction as to our behavior there.
Scripture brings before us the house of God as He builds it, in perfection, but it also shows us the aspect of man’s responsibility in building. In connection with this responsibility, Paul could speak of his having laid the foundation, but then issues the warning, “Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Cor. 3:10). In this case one might be a true believer, but build in such a way as to dishonor the Lord, whose house it is. How much bad doctrine and practice has been introduced into the house of God on earth, and how many have been brought in who were not even true believers! This is far more serious than if one were to do this under the umbrella of a false religion, for it is bringing the evil right into the place where the Spirit of God dwells. God’s holiness must be paramount, whether in our personal walk or in our work for the Lord.
The Lordship of Christ
Another responsibility is connected with holiness, namely, the recognition of the Lordship of Christ. Christ is “Son over His own house” (Heb. 3:66But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:6)), and those in the house are responsible to submit to His authority. We cannot behave in a disorderly way in God’s house any more than we could in a house under man’s authority. “Let every one who names the name of the Lord withdraw from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19 JND).
The Pillar and Base of the Truth
In the early days of the church, Paul could write to Timothy and use the expression, “God’s house, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15 JND). The church, in its character as the house of God, is responsible to be “the pillar and base of the truth.” These words are directly related to the church as a building, for an edifice that will stand must have a proper base and a sound structure on that base. The church itself does not teach, but rather is taught by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and the various gifts that God has given to it. Then it is responsible to use what it has been taught to support the truth committed to it.
The history of the church shows how poorly man has conducted himself in God’s house, and by the time Paul wrote the second epistle to Timothy, the Holy Spirit characterized it as a “great house” (2 Tim. 2:20). If the foundations are not maintained and the structure is not built according to the Word of God, the house will cease to be the house of God and will no longer be the “pillar and base of the truth.” The declension had already begun while Paul was still alive, but the expression “a great house” anticipates the full-blown ruin of God’s testimony in this world and the resultant “great house” called Christendom. What God builds in perfection, of course, can never be spoiled by man, but what God has committed to man in responsibility has been sadly marred in his hand. For this reason, the church as such is not even mentioned in 2 Timothy; instead it has become the “great house” of profession.
Sanctification in the Great House
The great house not only has “vessels of gold and of silver,” but also has those “of wood and of earth” (2 Tim. 2:20). Some vessels are “to honor,” but some “to dishonor.” A true believer is not called to leave the great house, nor can he do so, but now he must be prepared to “purge himself” from vessels to dishonor. Only in this way can he be a “vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). When he has done this, he will find himself in the company of others who have also done so and who “call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
In spite of the house of God having become a “great house,” the privileges and responsibilities connected with it remain the same. The Lord is the same, His Spirit is still here until the Lord comes, and we may still bear His name before the world. We have a responsibility in the house, for the expression “the man of God” (2 Tim. 3:17) is always used in connection with faithfulness when there is a general departure from God. It will always be possible to act in faithfulness in and to enjoy the privileges of God’s house until the Lord comes and calls us home. W. J. Prost
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