the weblog of Alan Knox

Blueprint for a modern-day temple of God

Posted by on May 15, 2011 in blog links | 41 comments

Blueprint for a modern-day temple of God

Jonathan at “Jon’s Journey” helps us understand how God wants his temple built in his post “Temple Blueprint.”

He begins by reminding us of the details that God spelled out for the temple built by Solomon. The details for the temple (and the earlier tabernacle) were certainly very specific.

Next, Jonathan steps through several of the questions and decisions that seem to be important for the church today. Here are a few of them:

  • Steeple, Cross, icons
  • Sunday or Saturday
  • Children included or separate
  • Priest, Pastor, Minister, Reverend, Brother, Father, Elder, Deacon
  • Pews, chairs, semi-circle

Finally, Jonathan reminds us of what Jesus and the New Testament authors said about building a new temple of God, which would include modern-day temples. These scriptural instructions are just as detailed and specific as the Old Testament instructions.

So, what are these instructions? Well, here’s one example:

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV)

But, there is something different about these instructions… and it’s a very important difference I think.

Read Jonathan’s post and see what you think. Are we taking part in the instructions for the modern-day temple of God?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-15-2011

    While I agree that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, I would hesitate to say that the only way that we can find God is “in us”. That is awfully close to humanism. I also don’t agree that the passage to the Samaritan woman tells us what we no longer need. It simply says that our worship will 1) not be restricted to Mt Gerazim or Jerusalem and 2) will be in Spirit and truth. While it does not mention that we need a special building or rituals, it doesn’t say we no longer need them either. That is using scripture to support your own hermeneutic rather than reading what the words say.

  2. 5-15-2011

    Thanks Alan for encouraging this discussion. I always like how you bring points of view from other blogs into yours.

    Brian, I’m not saying “the only way that we can find God is in us”. The temple in the OT wasn’t the only place to meet with God either.

    The passage with the Samaritan woman says “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” I read this as saying you can worship God anywhere.

    The point is there was a blueprint for a physical temple in the OT. In the NT God’s people are His temple.

    Similarly in the OT there were Priests who worked at the temple doing holy work. In the NT God’s people are the holy priesthood doing spiritual sacrifices.

    I fear when the church went back to the OT model and reinstated the temple worship style (special holy people doing holy tasks in a holy place), something was taken away from our understanding of the New covenant.

  3. 5-15-2011

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree with what you are saying for the most part, however, I don’t see that the church went back to the OT model so much as expanded it and fulfilled it. In other words, you can worship God anywhere as an individual, but as a community there has to be a place in common which is set aside or “holy”, and this place is no longer tied to the Temple in Jerusalem or to any particular place on earth, but to the Temple which is Christ and His Body, the Church. This doesn’t take away from the image of our bodies as temples of the Holy Ghost, it simply takes it to its logical conclusion, which is what I think St. Paul is getting at in the passage you quote from his letter to the Ephesians.

  4. 5-15-2011


    I like linking to and discussing posts from other blogs. I think it’s important to read what others are saying.


    I’m not sure I agree that the church has “expanded… and fulfilled” the OT model. I think Jesus did that. The church had nothing left to expand and fulfill.


  5. 5-15-2011

    The Church and Jesus are intimately connected, n’est-ce pas? You cannot separate the Head from the Body, can you? If Jesus fulfilled the OT, surely His Body participates in that, right?

  6. 5-15-2011

    I would add that I don’t see the Church apart from Jesus and vice versa.

  7. 5-15-2011


    I agree that Jesus and the church are intimately related. However, I don’t think that everything done in Jesus’ name is necessarily what Jesus was or is doing. Thus, those of us among the church can do, decide, think, etc. many things that are not related to Jesus. For example, there’s no reasons for the church to fulfill or expand the temple of God beyond what Jesus had already fulfilled and expanded.


  8. 5-15-2011

    That’s not what I am saying. I am saying that the temple in Jerusalem is now irrelevant in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. What connects us to God now is not the temple in Jerusalem, rather the temple of the resurrected Body of Jesus (St. John 2:21). We still have to worship God as a people, just not connected to the temple in Jerusalem. In this respect, I don’t see the Church as ever falling back to the old testament model, rather in worshipping through Jesus, they are giving the old testament model its definitive form.

  9. 5-15-2011


    I agree with what you’ve said until the last sentence. In many ways, the church today (in most of its different flavors) find more connections to the OT temple and priestly systems than to the temple/priesthood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.


  10. 5-15-2011

    In other words, in its worship, the Church participates in what Jesus has fulfilled. It doesn’t take it any further.

  11. 5-15-2011


    I agree again. And, again, when I look at the church today (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.) I see much – way too much – that in no way resembles Jesus. Using Jesus’ name doesn’t not make something actually “in Christ” or worship.


  12. 5-15-2011

    I can only speak for the Catholic understanding of priestly service, and it is not connected to the priesthood of the Levitical order as it was carried out in the temple in Jerusalem.

  13. 5-15-2011

    I beg to differ, Alan. When I attend Mass, I am squarely in the middle of the Letter to the Hebrews. You can’t get more like Jesus than that.

  14. 5-15-2011


    If I can push a little more… where in Christ (and specifically the Letter to the Hebrews) do you find a continuing sacrifice or a priesthood (separate from the priesthood which includes every believer)? By the way, I think those things are demonstrated by the author of Hebrews as being part of the Old Covenant, but specifically not part of the New Covenant.


  15. 5-15-2011

    You may push. :-) First, what the author to the Letter to the Hebrews is doing is showing how the worship of the Old Testament is but a shadow of the worship of heaven, and that Christ has fulfilled in his body the worship of the Old Testament. The worship of the OT has become “obsolete”. It is no longer necessary to have a high priest who offers animals for sacrifice over and over. The last time I checked (and that was today) there were no lambs, goats, oxen, or doves being slaughtered in our churches for God. There is no continuing sacrifice in Christ in this respect. Christ was sacrificed once and for all, but it is not a relic of the past. His one sacrifice is eternal (Rev 5:6. St. John sees Christ in heaven as a lamb who appeared as if slain and Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.) Our priests share or participate in his priesthood by making that one eternal sacrifice present to us so that we may participate in it. You most certainly reject this, but it is something unlike the old worship of the temple because it is a participation in the body and blood of Christ, not in the blood of animals.

    Second, I do not reject the priesthood of all believers. We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and offer our spiritual sacrifices.

  16. 5-15-2011


    So, again, where do you find that “priests share or participate in his priesthood by making that one eternal sacrifice present to us so that we may participate in it” in either the Book of Hebrews or anywhere else in the New Testament?


  17. 5-15-2011

    Aside: you know what’s frustrating? You can’t just plant your thoughts directly on the screen immediately. Typing takes too long. :-)

  18. 5-15-2011

    Remember your post on the etymology of the English word “church”? Well, here is one on the etymology of the English word “priest”. It comes from the Greek word πρεσβύτερος which entered Old English as preost and then ended up as priest.

    Now, as to the role of the apostles and elders and episcopoi of the New Testament Church as priestly versus the role of all Christians as priests:

    First of all, would you agree that the priesthood of believers is a participation in the priesthood of Christ, that it is only in Christ that Christians can be priests?

    Secondly, the word for a Levitical priest in Greek is ἱερεύς (or hiereus). The Catholic priest is not called ἱερεύς, he is πρεσβύτερος. Yet, while the term hiereus is not used for a priest in the New Testament, the verb form of the word is. Romans 15:15-16: But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Greek the word for priestly service is ἱερουργοῦντα (hierougounta).

    Third: 1 Peter 2:9 (But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.) hearkens back to Exodus 19:5-6. (Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.) Yet just a few verses later in Exodus 19:22 you read And also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out upon them. If in the Old Testament there were intended to be a universal priesthood and a ministerial priesthood, could it be possible in the fulfilled New Testament (or New Covenant) there could be both as well?

    Fourth: what is the purpose of a priest? Why is Jesus called “our High Priest”? Jesus sends the apostles with this command: John 20:21-23 Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. That sounds a lot like the role of priests in the Old Covenant: Leviticus 19:21-22 (He shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the LORD, to the door of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.) St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:10 Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. In Greek the word translated as “presence” is προσώπῳ and in Latin it is persona. In some translations it is translated as “has been for your sake in the person of Christ”. It has the sense of face or outward appearance. In 2 Cor 5:20 St. Paul says, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” and in 2 Cor 2:17 “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” These are words of priestly ministry, of reconciliation between God and man with Christ using St. Paul and the presbuteroi as His representatives.

    And lastly: St. James says “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders (presbyteroi) of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” This is not a practicing of the universal priesthood. It is a sign of the presbuteroi acting in a mediating role between man and God.

    So while the very words that I used in my post above are not found exactly, it is clear that the elders of the New Testament functioned in a priestly fashion for Christ and the gospel which was unique and apart from the universal priesthood of believers.

  19. 5-15-2011


    You’ve shows that all believers are priests and some are elders. However, you haven’t demonstrate that only elders “share or participate in his [Christ’s] priesthood by making that one eternal sacrifice present to us so that we may participate in it.” The act of praying for and offering forgiveness is never presented in the NT as the acts of elders only. Should elders (older people) pray for people? Absolutely. What about other believers? Well, even Paul asked entire churches to pray for him. By the way, who did Jesus intend Matthew 6:14-15 to be for? For elders only? No, I don’t think so. Also, all believers share in Christ’s priesthood, but there is no reason to make “that one eternal sacrifice present to us” since Christ is already present with all of his followers.


  20. 5-15-2011

    Actually, no, I have shown that the apostles functioned in a priestly ministry which was unique to them and apart from the universal priesthood of believers. Although both are a participation in the priesthood of Christ, they are not the same. I certainly can offer myself as a living sacrifice, and I certainly can offer spiritual sacrifices, however, I cannot anoint with oil when someone is sick, and I cannot proclaim in the name of Christ that someone else’s sins are forgiven. Plus you need a priest to offer the Holy Eucharist. That is how we participate in the sacrifice of Calvary. :-)

    Did Jesus intend St. Matthew 6:14-15 for only elders? Of course not! That is an example of the universal priesthood. St. John 20:21-23 is an example of participating in Christ’s priesthood as is St. Matthew 16:19. Binding and loosing is NOT something given to every Christian, but it IS given to those who are in priestly service of the Gospel.

  21. 5-15-2011

    Hi again guys. 17 posts while I was away from the computer. I’m glad to see the friendly discussion on this.

    I should add where I’m at on this. I do not judge others who chose to do things that are not commanded or described in Scripture as either good or bad. It’s not for me to judge. I’m fine counting as brothers many believers who confess Jesus as Lord and have different traditions than myself.

    The issue of special buildings, and paid staff doing special tasks is not spelled out in Scripture. Just like I have no issue with a clerk earning a wage in a Christian bookstore, I shouldn’t have an issue with someone getting paid to do other good works in a designated building.

    That being said, I believe the institutional church system has robbed Christ’s body of some of its rights and responsibilities. Too many believers assume ministry is the job of the paid professionals. Too many believers assume worship should mostly occur at special times in special places lead by special people. I think Scripture is clear this isn’t the case. And this saddens me.

    Personally I need to learn to live a life of sacrificial worship, and be part of Christ’s kingdom work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  22. 5-15-2011

    P.S. (I still attend an institutional church… I love my institutional church brothers and sisters too much to leave.)

  23. 5-15-2011

    You know Jon, I took a gander at your blog, and I really like the things you say.

    When you say too many believers assume ministry is the job of the paid professionals, you are correct. Part of that is the sense of “clericalism” that has arisen over the years. Another part is that people are, to put it bluntly, somewhat lazy. Worship can occur anywhere, but I think most crucially it should be in the home. Making a place in your house set apart for that purpose facilitates this, but people need to be taught what to do, and for that reason we need our church buildings and worship services in common.

    Making disciples of Jesus is a role for all Christians, not just those in ordained ministry. As a matter of fact, I think today more than ever the laity are going to have to be more and more active in making disciples. We live in a very secularized world today, and those who don’t know Christ or attend a church have no other way of encountering him.

  24. 5-15-2011

    P.S. The salary of a priest in my Archdiocese is about $15,000. Granted, they have a home and benefits, and they aren’t married, but I would hardly say that for what they do that is overly generous.

  25. 5-15-2011


    Thanks for continuing to be part of this discussion. I still have many friends who are part of institutional churches as well.


    I read back through your comment again. You didn’t mention apostles. You did talk about the elders from James 5 being able to forgive sins. However, as I pointed out, Jesus offers this same opportunity to all of his followers.

    Yes, you can anoint with oil. And, according to Matthew 6, you have as much right to say someone’s sins are forgiven as anyone else. I’m still waiting for examples from Scripture (Hebrews or anywhere else) from something that describes these priest only functions such as “you need a priest to offer the Holy Eucharist.” I’ll just play my hand. You won’t find presbuteroi mentioned in the context of “the Holy Eucharist” in Scripture. This is a development that came along later in the added traditions of the church, and this is one development that ended up denying part of the priesthood to all believers.


  26. 5-15-2011

    Alan, I cannot anoint with oil with the authority of Christ because I haven’t been ordained for that purpose.

    Offering forgiveness for someone who has transgressed against me is one thing, and I am commanded by Christ to do that. However, I cannot forgive someone who has sinned against God for God.

    As to the Holy Eucharist, John 6, the institution narratives of the Lord’s Supper in the Synoptics, and 1 Corinthians 10:16 and following all support the Catholic understanding. Furthermore, the writings of the early fathers and the Didache all support the sacrificial nature of the Holy Eucharist, and if it is a sacrifice, then there must be a priest. The Didache as you well know dates to the first century, some say even as early as 50 A.D. If that is the case, this coexists with the letter of St. Paul and the gospels. Certainly this understanding of the Eucharist is present in the writings of St. Clement, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, and St. Justin Martyr.

    That’s it for me tonight. As usual, it has been a pleasure.


  27. 5-16-2011


    I read through John 6, each of the passages in the Gospels about Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his death, and even other passages in the NT about believers eating together (including 1 Corinthians 11). I didn’t find anything in those passages about the meal being an ongoing sacrifice offered only by the presbyters.” I also looked in the Didache. It read much like the NT. I didn’t see anything in there about presbyters and the Eucharist. In the other (later) writings you mentioned? Yep. It’s in there.

    I also couldn’t find anything about instructing only those “ordained for that purpose” to anoint with oil.

    By the way, I understand that you believe the church (or Church) is always acting on behalf of Christ, and therefore anything the Church adds to the Scriptures is just as binding. I don’t agree with that, and that’s the point of my questions.


  28. 5-16-2011

    I suppose that’s what happens when you take a book that was compiled and given authority by a historical community and then interpret it apart from that community’s life and liturgy.

    By the way, I am not a presbyter, therefore I cannot anoint with oil.

    More later. Work Beckons.

  29. 5-16-2011


    Or perhaps when one group uses a compilation of writings in ways they were not intended, forgetting the original context?


  30. 5-16-2011

    I think the writings of the early church fathers certainly give us a snapshot of the lived reality of the church in the earliest years. They hold no authoritative value for us in doctrinal matters the way the scriptures do, and they are not read and understood by us in that manner. They simply show us how the early church lived and practiced their faith even before the canon of scripture (which was decided by the church, mind you) was even decided upon.

  31. 5-16-2011

    By the way, I could say that you use the scriptures in the same fashion that you accuse me of using the writings of the church fathers. The scriptures were never meant to be a narrative blueprint of the all the day to day practices of the early church. In many cases, the early church father’s writings were meant to be just that.

  32. 5-16-2011


    I would agree with your comment about the early Christians writers if you used the word “snapshots” (plural) instead of “a snapshot”.

    Yes, I know that I sometimes misuse the Scriptures. (Of course, I don’t know when and where I misuse the Scriptures, otherwise I would change it.) The difference is that I don’t hold my interpretations as authoritative for others. Instead, I offer them for others to consider and accept or reject.

    Would you agree that some of the early Christian writers, some of the medieval Christian writers, and even some modern Christian writers (even those who are part of the Church – to use your term) could also be wrong in their interpretations?


  33. 5-16-2011

    You raise an interesting question. Do I think that some writers of Christian antiquity or today could be wrong in their interpretation? Of course. Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and St Augustine are some examples which come to mind of ancient writers. Modern writers? Hans Küng, Is one. :-) So are Hans urs Von Balthasar, even Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger can be wrong.

    “Who are part of the Church?” Did I make a distinction?

    By the way, I don’t hold my interpretations as authoritative for others or even for myself. When I interpret something and that interpretation is at odds with the interpretation as given by the Church as teacher, then I defer to the wisdom of the Church.

  34. 5-16-2011


    I think you just made a distinction when you said “I defer to the wisdom of the Church.” Again, do you think the Church could ever be wrong interpreting Scripture or adding traditions to what is found in Scripture?


  35. 5-16-2011

    The Church as magistra cannot err in its interpretation of scripture because the Church speaks for Christ. That’s the quick answer.

    As to traditions, even St. Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to hold to the traditions he handed on to them whether by word of mouth or letter, so I am not sure why it is even an issue. Even the bible doesn’t ascribe to itself the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice.

  36. 5-16-2011


    This is one of our main disagreements. I do not think the Church is perfect in its understanding and interpretation of Scripture. I also don’t equate the traditions of the Church to the tradition that Paul and Jude discussed.

    No, I do not think the Bible is the ultimate authority. But, then, the Scriptures also don’t say the interpretation and decisions of the Church are the ultimate authority.


  37. 5-16-2011

    I understand that, and I respect your point of view. I have to admit that it was difficult for me to come to the realization that there is a living authority outside of myself to which I had to defer, and that it was one left by Christ to ensure that the truth would be preserved. Nonetheless, it is true.

    Does St. Paul ever mention the traditions by word of mouth to which he is referring?

    By the way, St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15  “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”. Is that not a statement of the authority of the church? (I used the KJV simply because I like the beauty of the Elizabethan tongue.)

  38. 5-16-2011


    Believe it or not, I don’t have any difficult coming “to the realization that there is a living authority outside of myself to which I [must] defer.” The difference is that I see this living authority as Jesus Christ himself, while you see it as the Church.

    The church (or Church) has authority only when they (the church is always people, not an organization) are in Christ. Which, again, leads to our other disagreement.

    I think we can both find plenty of examples in Scripture where individuals (even apostles) and churches act and think in ways that are not in Christ. There is no reason to think that this has changed throughout history.

    Jesus Christ is always our authority.


  39. 5-17-2011


    Great discussion. Both looking to and explaining their understanding of the scriptures.

    And civil. ;-)

    What a concept!!!

    Much agreement with…

    “Jesus Christ is always our authority.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  40. 5-22-2011

    Alan (and vicariously, Jon…)

    I liked Jon’s comparison of the OT temple to the NT one. It was pretty well done. But… many believers are always talking about a “third temple” to be rebuilt in Israel. They point to Ezekiel chapter 37-39 to see the design of that “new” temple. My question is, what can Ezekiel teach us about the NT temple?

  41. 11-10-2011

    I agree that God had very specific instructions for His Tabernacle and His Temple, and I believe He is just as specific in His expectations and instructions for the New Temple of God (His Church) in the New Covenant scriptures.

    Christ is the Head of the Body (the Church) and we are all members of the priesthood of believers offering daily (living) sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2).

    My book (which is free on e-book) covers this starting with the OT and demonstrating the fulfillment in the NT. It’s called “This Is My Body:Ekklesia as God Intended” and you can download the free e-book version at