As we discussed last week, Jesus has brought both Jews and Gentiles together as one through His shed blood (Eph. 2:11-18). This was God’s plan from the beginning—that all people, through faith in Christ, could be united and be heirs to the covenant promises God originally gave to Abraham, Moses, and Israel.
Paul, as a Jew, knew that what was decided in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council was the fulfillment of prophecy. In Acts 15:16-17, James refers to Amos 9:11-12 and the restoration of David’s tabernacle—worship yes, but the ingathering of all people.
“I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isa. 56:7 NLT)
God gathers all people as one in Christ through the work of the Spirit… all races, cultures, and socioeconomic positions—a beautiful tapestry! Churches should not be divided along these lines, but rather they should be united.
Jesus is transforming us individually, and His Church corporately, into a dwelling place of His glory. We are becoming a dwelling place consecrated to Him and committed to each other in love and by the power of the Spirit.
We are being fitted together as living stones so that a dwelling of His Spirit could be attained. His Church—His Bride—will be without spot or wrinkle! Let’s discuss this further this week in part two of His Dwelling Place.
A Dwelling Place of God in the Spirit
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22 NIV)
You are no longer a foreigner (a refugee seeking asylum) living in a distant land with no rights as a citizen; now, you are citizens and members of God’s Kingdom with full rights—God’s promise is to care for you in His Kingdom.
Paul now switches metaphors to that of a building, a dwelling place in the Spirit, which is built upon the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone.
The Temple was the heart of the Jewish nation. The primary reason for this was that Israel’s God, Yahweh, had promised to live there. Many believed it was the place where Heaven and Earth met.
But now, Paul is declaring that the living God is constructing a new Temple. It consists not of stones, arches, pillars, and altars, but of human beings. Some Jews had already explored the idea that a community—rather than a building—might be the place where God would really and truly take up His residence, but, until Paul, nobody had said anything quite like this.
God was now seeking to make His home in the hearts, lives, and communities of those that had declared their loyalty to Jesus and were determined to live by the Gospel.
The early apostles and former prophets have laid a foundation. Jesus is the chief cornerstone; a cornerstone on an ancient archway or peak of a building kept all the other stones in place. Jesus is at the center—He is the one who upholds the building, His Church, that He is constructing! It’s all about Jesus!
God is creating in the Church a dwelling place of His presence and glory. We are being fitted together as living stones so that a dwelling of His Spirit could be attained.
Peter explained this dwelling place as constructed of living stones:
“Coming to Him as to a living stone … you also as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…” (1 Pet. 2:4-6 NKJV)
Remember, Paul explained in verse one of Ephesians 2 that we were dead, but now, through Christ, God has made us alive! We are living stones, alive because of Jesus, and being joined together with every other believer as the dwelling place of God!
Paul told the Corinthians that they were temples of the Holy Spirit:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (1 Cor. 6:19 NIV; see also 1 Cor. 3:16)
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit enveloped Gideon, “…The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon…” (Judges 6:34 NKJV). The Hebrew of this passage means “the Spirit of Yahweh Clothed Himself with Gideon…”. We could say, “God put Gideon on like a coat!” If God would do this with Gideon and others before the first advent of Christ, how much more now since His resurrection and Pentecost would He do this?
So, if our individual lives are “the temple of God” filled by the Spirit, how much more should we expect the Church—the community of believers—to be the “temple of God?”
If God would fill a temple with His glory so that the priests couldn’t stand, how much more in our new covenant era would He do this? When we allow God to build us into His dwelling place, people encounter the Living God. They give their lives to Christ, and they find freedom, healing, family, and purpose. The Church arises with Christ’s vision for the world!
Let’s examine this further… What does it mean to be the dwelling place of God?
First, let’s begin with Jacob at Bethel…
In Genesis 28, Jacob is fleeing the anger of his brother, Esau. Jacob has obtained Esau’s firstborn birthright, through deception, from their father, Isaac, and Jacob also received Esau’s prayer of blessing. In the wilderness of Beersheba, God encounters Jacob in a dream. Jacob sees a ladder stretching from Earth to Heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. At the top of the ladder, God is there and He speaks to Jacob. Perhaps this is the first time Jacob recognizes the voice of God. God reaffirms the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob and promises to be with Him. Jacob is astounded.
He exclaims, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Gen. 28:17 NKJV). The word ‘house’ in this verse is from the Hebrew bǎ·yiṯ which can be translated as ‘house, dwelling, temple, or palace’.
This is the first occurrence in the Bible where the house of God is referenced. There is no building—only a rock and Jacob! However, God is there. What is taking place? Charismatic experience. God is revealing Himself to Jacob, communicating to Him through vision and voice. Supernatural activity is occurring, angels ascending and descending. My point: the house of God—or dwelling of God—is a place of His presence, His voice, visions, and supernatural experience.
Second, recognize this is the Father’s desire for us individually and corporately.
Here’s the mystery—God desires not only to dwell with humanity, but He also desires to live in humanity by His Spirit. Isaiah 66:1 tells us that “heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool, where is the house you will build for me?”
The answer? In our hearts and through unity with each other in His church!
Church buildings are great. They keep us warm in the winter, and they keep us cool in the summer. We thank God for running water, lights, and modern sound and video systems. However, God’s house is not built with human hands and with brick and mortar. No, His house—His dwelling place—is in the yielded hearts of those who know Jesus!
Jesus told the disciples in Acts 1:8, “to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power.” Ten days later, during the feast of Pentecost, with many people gathered from various nations, the promised Holy Spirit is poured out:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV)
The building and the believers gathered together became a dwelling place of God, but then the entire city became a dwelling place of God at that moment. Peter began to preach about Jesus and His resurrection. The Holy Spirit convicted people of their sins, and many cried out, “What must we do to be saved?” The entire city of Jerusalem became a dwelling place of God in the Spirit!
Peter responds, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV). 3,000 came to Christ that day!
Church history records times when God’s Spirit, through the faith and intercession of Christians, caused entire cities and villages to be impacted by the presence of God. Their lives and churches became God’s dwelling in the Spirit, which caused their communities to be impacted.
Just recently, missionaries in Peru saw an entire Amazon village (about 150 people) come to Christ. The village was given over to witchcraft and occult practice, but a new Christian, Pilar, heard a cry for help from some of the villagers. Pilar gathered a small team who began to fast and pray for seven days for the village. They then traveled by boat to the village, enduring hardships along the way.
They experienced much spiritual opposition, but after three days of preaching the gospel with continued prayer, a supernatural light filled the village one evening. God’s presence had come tangibly! Witches, witch doctors, and others involved with the occult repented of their sins and gave their lives to Christ. The entire village gave their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!
Third, a commitment to the presence of God is required.
The Holy Spirit is our comforter, guide, and friend. His goal is to mold us into the image of Jesus so that Jesus would radiate through us more and more and so that we would reflect God’s presence more and more. This requires our submission to His Word and the Truth of His Word.
Paul exhorted the Ephesians in chapter 1 that the Holy Spirit was given as a guarantee (arrabōn) or down payment of eternal life… What a promise! The Holy Spirit, now dwelling within, is evidence of our inheritance in Christ and eternal life.
But Paul would later tell the Ephesians in his letter not to “grieve the Holy Spirit, with whom you have been sealed until the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30 NKJV). We can grieve the Spirit by not yielding to God’s Spirit and obeying God’s Word.
Jesus, said “If you love Me, keep my commands!” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “A wise person hears my words and obeys them. Like building a house on the rocks… the house will withstand the storms.” He said that to be His disciple we must pick up our cross daily and follow Him. Yes, we are saved by grace. But His grace leads us to genuine discipleship and transformation. Effort is required, not earning!
James tells us that “pure and undefiled religion is to minister to the orphans and widows AND to keep yourself unspotted from the world” (Jam. 1:27 NKJV). Again, true salvation is demonstrated by consecration to Christ and action.
Therefore, we must stay surrendered and yielded to God for this to occur. If our hearts become hard or rebellious toward God, we grieve the Holy Spirit.
God resists the proud, and He gives grace to the humble. His presence increases with those who obey Him. He requires holiness and true holiness is found in Christ; the way to God’s idea of holiness is a life surrendered to Jesus.
Fourth, a commitment to corporate prayer, purity, and unity in the church body is required.
Jesus said, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.” His house is a house of prayer, purity, and holiness where all are welcome but separated from wrong motives and sin.
As I shared last week, Jesus was inclusive, but not affirmational; He welcomed people, but He did not affirm their sin. He practiced transformational inclusiveness. Come to Him as you are, but allow His Word and the Holy Spirit to transform you into the nature and character of Jesus!
House of prayer with purity of heart. When we commit to being a people of prayer, we stay in contact with God and our lives change. When His Word comes alive in our hearts, obeying Him and following the leading of the Holy Spirit becomes easy. When we have God’s heart for our cities and nation, prayer is effective.
Consider the following verses. When our motives are right, we can be confident in our asking. When we pray for God’s mercy on our cities, for the lost to come to Christ, and for the powers of darkness to be stopped, we can be confident God will answer our prayer for our cities to become dwelling places of God:
“I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’—and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen.” (Mark 11:23 CEB)
“…But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt…” (Jam. 1:6 NIV)
“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” (Psalm 51:13 NKJV)
Our nation is struggling, families are hurting. Our largely anti-biblical culture has brought us to the point of moral bankruptcy which is affecting every area of society. It is time for us to examine our own lives. Commit afresh to God and cry out for our cities and nations. (2 Chr. 7:14)
Unity is also important as we pray:
“I am in them, and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:23 NLT)
The goal of our relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit is to produce Godhead-like disciples who will impact the world, making disciples in the nations.
This kind of unity can only be found in absolute surrender to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Unity is realized when we determine to maintain love and honor in our relationships. It’s realized when we agree to disagree at times, but we maintain open hearts toward each other. Unity comes to be when we refuse to allow walls to rise between us, but instead “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3 NKJV).
The Lord desires to build a dwelling place of His presence and glory in our churches. How desirous are we for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit?
How hungry are we for more of God in our lives, our churches, and our cities? He desires to build a habitation within us and our communities of His presence and glory. Will we respond?
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “His Dwelling Place, Part 2”:
 Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 29-30.