IS IT SCRIPTURAL TO SAY THAT A LOCAL CHURCH BUILDING IS “GOD’S HOUSE?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Does God dwell in the local church building? Is the local church building really the “Sanctuary of God?” Is it correct to call the local church building “the Lord’s house?” You may be surprised at the answer God’s Word gives.
Ever since the Dispensation of Grace began with the Apostle Paul, and the doctrines of grace were made known to man, erroneous and heretical ideas have crept into the Church the Body of Christ to pollute those glorious doctrines. Today, it can very difficult to establish what doctrine is God’s pure Word (that is, the Bible rightly divided), and what doctrine is simply man-made religion (unbiblical and/or non-dispensational Bible teaching).
No matter how wrong and false it is, church tradition (denominationalism) can be extremely hard to notice and even more difficult to abandon. Because the common church member takes for granted the “education” of the church leadership, they never bother to check the Scriptures to see if what was said is really what God said to them. They remained captivated by scholarship, simply relying on what the preacher or priest said.
For instance, many Christians refer to their local church building as “the Lord’s house.” At one time, I held to the nonsensical idea that I had to visit a local church building in order to be in “God’s presence.” We hear preachers pray, “Lord, be with us in this place….” Sometimes, you might hear Matthew 18:20 quoted at prayer meetings: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” As one hymn claims, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know it’s the Spirit of the Lord!” Does God really dwell in church buildings? Should we be asking God to “be with us?” Must we go to church to “visit God?”
Many sincere people quote Psalm 145:18: “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Does that mean that God occasionally leaves us, and that we must “call upon Him in truth” in order to have Him return to us? The only what we will make sense of this is if we use God’s Word, God’s way. We must approach the Bible dispensationally (all of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us or about us).
Firstly, there is nothing special about a church building: it is a structure built by men using common materials. According to the Bible, the church building is not the issue; the activity that occurs in the building is the issue. The Apostle Paul told the Athenian intellectuals and philosophers on Mars’ Hill: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24).
The pagans to whom Paul spoke believed their mythological gods and goddesses did live in their temples and shrines (especially on Mount Olympus in Athens, which was close to where Paul spoke that!). Paul educated them: “The LORD God of heaven dwelleth not in temples made with hands!” Why do Christians today claim that God dwells in their church building when the Apostle Paul criticized the pagan Gentiles for holding to the same ridiculous idea? It makes no sense.
According to the Exodus 40:33-35: “ And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.  Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”
The verses above tell us that, in time past, God did manifest Himself in the Old Testament Israel Tabernacle and Temple. They were “the house of God,” “the LORD’s house,” and “the house of the LORD thy God” (Exodus 23:19; Joshua 6:24; 1 Kings 7:12,50,51; 2 Chronicles 7:2; Psalm 116:19; Jeremiah 7:1-4; Jeremiah 27:16; et al.). God was with Israel in the presence of the Shekinah glory (the cloud) hovering over the Tabernacle. Over time, Israel’s Temple grew apostate—Jesus Christ condemned it as a “den of thieves” during His earthly ministry (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). Eventually, God left the Temple.
In Acts 7:47-50, when the prophet Stephen is recalling the nation Israel’s history, he says (being filled with the Holy Ghost): “ But Solomon built him [the LORD] an house.  Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,  Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?  Hath not my hand made all these things?”
Notice how Stephen said that God did manifest Himself in the Temple and Tabernacle of Israel. But, this is not true in our dispensation. In our Dispensation of Grace, God does not dwell in any manmade structure (in fact, the Second [that is, Herod’s] Temple was destroyed by Roman Emperor Titus in A.D. 70). Pagan religions today have shrines, mosques, temples, and cathedrals where you can supposedly “find God,” or some “deity”—anything and everything but the God of the Bible, JEHOVAH, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we call a local church “the Lord’s house,” we are no different from the superstitious pagans around the world who claim their god dwells in their religious building. Today, the Lord dwells in the hearts of genuine Christian believers, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that we Christians, members of the Church the Body of Christ, are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” Our bodies are “the Lord’s house.” Let us read (and most importantly, believe) the following verses:
- 1 Corinthians 3:16,17: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:19: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
- 2 Corinthians 6:16: “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
- 2 Timothy 1:14: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”
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