He said, “It is good to be in the house of God” at the beginning of our time of worship on Sunday morning. It sounds true and has echoes of Biblical theology but misses the New Testament understanding of the Church.
In our modern era, the tendency is to equate the building the Church meets in each week with “a house of God.” Unfortunately, the terminology comes from the Old Testament. On the pages there, we read about the temple as the house of the Lord. That was a very literal understanding for them. When Solomon built the temple and dedicated it to God, the people saw the Spirit of God fall on the building, making it a special place. Each year the people went to that temple to give the priests their sacrifices and worship the Lord. On the day of Atonement, the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies and the very presence of God on behalf of the people.
When Jesus dies, everything changed. The temple veil was torn in two, and humanity was now allowed access to God through the blood of Jesus. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that we can “draw near with confidence.”
Then in Acts chapter two, the Holy Spirit poured out into the hearts of men. The dwelling place of God moved from a building into the human “tent,” and each one of us is now a temple of the Holy Spirit. God now resides in heaven, but his Spirit lives inside of the men and women who follow Jesus. Those people together form this beautiful thing called the Church. Therefore, the Church is not a building but people.
I know all of this seems like an elementary lesson for Christians, but it has been underlined to me through this time of the shutdown. Think of all the things we can do in and for the name of God while we are kept from meeting in the building on Sunday. We can still pray, sing worship songs, read the Bible while studying its contents, contact people through the phone (or text and email), give to various organizations, let your light shine on social media, train up our children in the way of the Lord, and even watch sermons online. These are just a few of the things the people of God can do even when we are not meeting together.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think getting together as a group of believers is vitally important. For now, the followers of Jesus are without a building. He has not left our midst. We are still the Church; just now, we are the Church without walls.