Bible Reading: 1 John 4:13-17
There is a flip side to the doctrine of the Incarnation. Unfortunately, it is little known and seldom taught. If God lived among men in the man Christ Jesus, then, it must be possible for God to live in men. The doctrine of the Incarnation not only teaches us that God became a man in Christ, but also of the possibility of God living in Christians.
Having once lived in this world in the physical body of Christ, God now lives in this world in the spiritual body of Christ. The spiritual body of Christ is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). The church is comprised of all Spirit indwelt, born again believers. God lives in the world today in the physical bodies of believers, who in turn makeup the spiritual body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
In Ephesians 2:21-22, the Apostle Paul taught that the church is both “an holy temple in the Lord” and “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” God inhabits believers in the person of the Holy Spirit. As a result, the church, which is comprised of all believers, serves as the temple and spiritual habitation of God in the world today.
Where was the temple of God in the days of Jesus? Was it in Jerusalem, as most Christians would be inclined to automatically answer? Well, it was sometimes, but not all of the time. There were times when it was in other places, such as the Galilean city of Capernaum or the Samaritan village of Sychar. You see, the temple of God in the days of Jesus was the physical body of Jesus.
In the days of Jesus Christ, God was not living in the world in a building in Jerusalem. Instead, He was living in a man, the man Christ Jesus. The body of Christ was the temple of God. This explains our Lord’s puzzling answer to the sign-seeking Jews of His day—“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Although Christ’s Jewish contemporaries clearly mistook His words as a reference to their beloved temple in Jerusalem, John is careful to clarify that Christ was speaking “of the temple of His body” (John 2:20-21). All of this became abundantly clear to the Gospel author and his fellow apostles after our Lord rose from the dead on the third day (John 2:22).
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death for echoing the truth that his Savior had previously stated; namely, that “the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). God does not live in a building; instead, He lives in the body of Christ. The only difference between our day and Jesus’ day is that God lives in today’s world in the spiritual body of Christ (the church) rather than in Christ’s physical body.
When you realize that the physical bodies that God lives in today are the physical bodies of believers, you are forced to conclude, at least in a very limited sense, that God came into the world in His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost for the same reason He came into the world in His Son on that silent and starry night in Bethlehem. He came to live in flesh! On the first Christmas, He came into the world to live in the flesh of His only begotten Son. On the Day of Pentecost, He came into the world in the person of the Holy Spirit to live in the flesh of all of His adopted sons and daughters.
This flip-side of the doctrine of the Incarnation should never be misunderstood to ascribe any divinity to us. Divinity is Christ’s possession; humanity is the Christian’s possession. Still, in a limited sense of the word, God has incarnated Himself in us, as He did in Christ. No, we’re not gods living in this world, but the one and only true God is in this world living in us!
A Christian is someone within and through whom Christ lives. Christ thinks through the Christian’s mind, speaks through the Christian’s mouth, loves through the Christian’s heart and touches others through the Christian’s hands.