The biblical concept of the house of God in the Bible is a topic worthy of thoughtful consideration. It is referenced many times in the Scriptures, each one with unique insights into the ways and purposes of God for His people. To understand this principle is to understand and appreciate the care and concern that the Lord has for His own.
The first instance of this vital concept is seen in the life of the patriarch Jacob. After bargaining for the birthright and stealing the blessing from his brother Esau, Jacob made a run for it following the advice of his mother Rebecca. She advised him to go to her brother Laban for a while to avoid suffering the wrath of his brother. On the way, Jacob stayed the night at a place called Luz. Taking a rock for his pillow, symbolic perhaps of the hard way that he had made for himself, he soon fell asleep. In a dream that night, he saw a ladder set up on the earth which reached to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. The voice of God spoke to Jacob reiterating the covenant made to Abraham and his father Isaac with the promise that He would keep Jacob and bring him back to the land. When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!… ‘This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven’” (Gen. 28:16-17). Jacob was not referring to a physical place since he was in a wilderness environment. Rather, he was referring to the unseen sphere of God’s activity on behalf of His people, inaugurated in this instance upon Jacob’s encounter with the living God, an encounter confirmed in Genesis 48:3. It consisted of a relationship with God Himself and the spiritual underpinnings of that relationship, secured by the promises of God Himself. Though these were physical promises to the man Jacob, the principle that God never fails to keep His Word and is faithful and true in all that He says is a tremendous blessing to the New Testament believer, both in salvation and sanctification. His faithfulness to His Word is a prominent characteristic to the concept of the house of God.
Another prominent characteristic of the house of God concerns its people. At Bethel, Jacob acknowledged that the Lord was now part of his life. Previously with the birthright and the blessing, he seemed to have only a scant appreciation for the significance of spiritual realities. But it was not until the dream at Bethel that he realized that God was always present, something he was ignorant of previously. His spiritual experience was lean in the years that immediately followed: raising his family, making his fortune and a name for himself, with very little evidence of altars being built and pillars being established in his walk with the Lord. In this way, he is a lot like many who come to know the Lord, but whose testimony and spiritual vitality are anemic. Later at Peniel, he would have a life-changing experience that would turn things around (Gen. 32), the type of thing that occurs to many Christians. Believers are the occupants of the house of God. Ephesians 2:19 reminds us that we are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Hebrews 3:3 states that Christ is a “…Son over His own house, whose house we are” and Galatians 6:10 exhorts as that “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are in the household of faith.” Believers and only believers are the occupants and inhabitants of the house of God and they should minister to one another.
Just as family members have household responsibilities, so too there are responsibilities and priorities in the house of God. Paul in speaking to Timothy stated in clear terms “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). A favorite verse often quoted no doubt by frustrated parents to tether the activity of their overly busy children during meeting times, this verse actually highlights the spiritual priorities of all of God’s children, no matter what age they are. It is the call of the Lord to engage all believers to be busy doing the Master’s work—the work of proclaiming the gospel as the pillar and teaching the foundations of the faith as the ground of truth. Adorning the doctrine of God in the beauty of holiness should characterize our labor for the Lord. “Holiness becometh thine house O Lord, forever” (Ps. 93:5).
The house of God also has a High Priest—a Great High Priest who stands alone in His service to the people of God. Hebrews 10:21 declares: “having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…” The epistle to the Hebrews highlights the superiority of Christ over the Old Testament sacrificial system with its rituals, routines, and many other aspects that have been superseded by the finished work of Christ. Christ is superior to the fathers, to Moses, and to the Aaronic priesthood. Accordingly, He is not simply one of many high priests but the Great High Priest, and there is no one greater. Old Testament priests had their flaws and failures and eventual end. But this One High Priest lives after the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:16). He is over the house of God, doing His work in bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). This work is seen in Revelation 1 in which a glorified Christ is seen walking among the lampstands, the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3. He is trimming their wicks to make them shine brighter as a testimony to the world. Individually, He intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25); He advocates for us (1 John 2:1); He assures (Heb. 10:22) and strengthens us (2 Tim. 4:17). Because He is a faithful and merciful high priest in things pertaining to God, He can help us in our need because He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses (Heb. 2:17; 4:15).
The house of God is an important concept that needs to be captured by every believer in Christ, who truly desires to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It carries with it the idea of our responsibilities and blessings, our heritage, and the help we have as those who have come into the family of God. As we strive to be vessels unto honor in this great house, we will be sanctified and fit for the Master’s use, prepared for every good work (2 Tim. 2:21). by Mark Kolchin