The prologue to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. This passage contains the famous proof texts for the deity (1-2) and the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed echoes that Jesus Christ is co-eternal with the Father. The ninth verse proclaims Jesus as the Light of the world. Jesus comes to his own, and his own do not receive him (v. 11), but those who do receive him are given the right to become the children of God (v. 12).
One topic in this passage that is less familiar is the worship of Christ and how it is united to us in our everyday life. I will focus on the great incarnation text of the prologue, John 1:14. How do we get worship out of this text? The concept of worship undergirds what John proclaims regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. You won’t get a point-by-point how-to, but in the language of John, by being born into the covenant of grace, your life is the worship of Jesus Christ.
The Reformed tradition accents the corporate worship of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Lord’s Day, but it also accents the fact that all that the believer does should be done in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
The term “dwell” in John 1:14 is connected with God’s dwelling with his people in the Old Testament, and this relates to the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. In Exodus 24, God instructs Moses to build him a Tabernacle—a dwelling, by which God will dwell among his people.
The manifestation of God’s glory is also related to God’s dwelling among his people in Exodus 24, and therefore, also John 1:14. When Moses is face-to-face with the glory of God is when God instructs him to build the Tabernacle. (See also Exodus 40:34). In the building of the Tabernacle we have the emblem of God’s presence dwelling in the midst of his people in all his glory here on earth. What are the people to do with this Tabernacle? They are to come, and they are to worship God at that Tabernacle.
The same is true with the Temple built by Solomon. Now that they dwell in the land and have a king in a time of peace, they have a place where they build the Temple to worship God. They are required to make a pilgrimage once a year to worship God in the Temple.
Notice also that the glory of God fills the Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) as it did the Tabernacle. In these structures we see the representation of God’s glory present in the midst of his people saving them from the bondage of Egypt, providing for them in the wilderness, giving them victory over their enemies, securing for them a land according to his covenant promise.
But the Old Testament promise is incomplete unless we look at Ezekiel. The sin of Solomon leads to Israel being divided into a Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Ezekiel was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Judah concerning the Babylonian Captivity to come. He sees that just before the destruction of the Temple that the glory of God would leave Jerusalem and the Temple. Why did that happen? One reason is that God cannot be identified with the decadent sin that had been going on among the people of Israel. The second is that even though the Babylonians will capture the people of God, they cannot capture the glory of God. So God’s glory departs.
What situation is sadder than the arrogance of the people of God who question Ezekiel’s prophecy of the departure of God’s glory? But the Lord has another vision for Ezekiel in chapters 43:4 and 44:4. Someday the glory of God will return to dwell in the midst of his people. When you read the chapters carefully, you see it is about an everlasting covenant. John 1:14 is the fulfillment of Ezekiel 44:4. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes as the one who now dwells in the midst of his people with the glory of God himself, as evidenced by the Greek term for “dwell” in John 1:14 which term means that the Word became flesh to “tabernacle” among us. So you see God no longer dwells in buildings made with human hands, but in human flesh, so that in his work we can behold his glory, the glory of the signs and wonders he does for the salvation of his people. Three of his disciples even beheld his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17.
What does it mean to do everything for the glory of God? The glory of God is the revelation on the Mount of Transfiguration before the disciples with divine honor, splendor and power. Jesus is the visible divine radiance of God himself. This is the glory of God.
Now you see how the glory of God dwelling among the children of Israel in the Tabernacle and the Temple points forward to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ as he dwelled among us in human flesh as the true Tabernacle. Jesus is now the worshiping Tabernacle and Temple of God. That’s what Jesus’ reference to the destruction of the Temple is about in John 2:19-22. “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days.” In this passage, he tells us Jesus is referring to his own death and resurrection on the third day.
The body of Jesus Christ is the dwelling place of God. He is the worshiping sanctuary of his people. God dwells in all his majestic glory in his Son. The Anointed One of Israel comes to tabernacle among us so that the people of God may now worship in spirit and in truth. Christ dwelling among us gives us the assurance that he will ever be with us to the end of the age. This assurance strengthens our faith. Paul adds that Christ now dwells in us. If Christ dwells inside of us, then believers must define their lives in light of Christ, and therefore, their lives are the worship of Christ. That’s why hate, envy, jealousy, lust–the ways of the flesh–are not characteristics of the Christian life, because the Spirit of Christ dwells in you to will and to do so that your life is the worship of Jesus Christ.
By the Spirit of Christ dwelling in the believer, the body of the believer now becomes the worshiping-house sanctuary of God. Did you ever think of your own body as the worshiping sanctuary of God? This is exactly what Paul tells you in 1 Corinthians 6:19. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. If you read anything about the Temple in the New Testament, it applies to you.
Everywhere we see “dwelling,” we see it joined to the glory of God. Paul likewise includes the glory of God when he calls our bodies the Temple of God. “Therefore glorify God with your bodies.” Our bodies are to be the visible radiance of Jesus Christ. They are to manifest his honor and power. They are to be the splendor of Christ, even right now here on earth.
So we have the pattern: Temple, Tabernacle–Old Testament. God dwells in the midst of his people in all of his glory, pointing us to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment who comes, according to John, to dwell with us in all his glory. His Spirit, therefore, descends on the church, and so, you who are in Christ are the dwelling place, and the glory of Christ in the Spirit.
This is eminently personal, even to the church, to each of you, and should uplift your soul to gratitude to the Lord and what he has done. Indeed, sometimes the church in our age does not seem to understand this. So many ministers want to build visible monuments and churches to themselves to gloat in their own glory.
Let me drive it home. I have the privilege of standing up here this morning. Wow! I am looking at so many tabernacles and temples. That is you. You are the sanctuary of the living Christ, and thus you are the one who is the worshiping temple of the Holy Spirit on the face of this earth. That is who you are in Christ. Latch onto it. That is the privilege. Hold onto it all the days of your life.
Listen to “Your Life is the Worship of Christ” (John 1:1-18) at mcopc.org.