To members and former members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ): Greetings to all of you!
I Cornelius, a member of the INC for many years, my dear brethren I come to you in peace. May the grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with us.
In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to build a Tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai. Unlike the tabernacle built by the INC which was also pattern after the Old Testament Tabernacle, the original was a moveable tent. The tabernacle was built exactly how God want it to be built with a direct instructions to Moses. Later King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, which was completed in 960 BC. This was destroyed by the Babylonians and rebuilt in 536 BC. Later the second Temple was expanded by King Herod, just before the time of Jesus Christ. This is known as Herod’s Temple, also known as Jerusalem Temple. The second temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 which is the Temple and topics covered in Part 4: The End Of The Age – The Answers.
Why God allowed His Temples to be destroyed? One of the answer could be learned from Stephen, a brilliant and spiritual man in the Book of Acts, had been accused by the Jewish Sanhedrin [a council similar to INC Sangunian or at district level are District Ministers] of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. Stephen went on trial before the Sanhedrin for opposing Moses, Jewish customs and His temple. The Sanhedrin are the most powerful church leaders who are known to be from the “nation of God”. Imagine someone in front of the INC Sangunian facing charges and trying to defend himself. What are the charges against Stephen? In Acts 6:14
The charges leveled against Stephen are “will destroy this [holy] place [Jerusalem Temple]” and the “[Jewish] customs handed down by Moses”. In Acts 7, Stephen appear to be responding to the charges against him. The Jews in Stephen’s day were fiercely loyal to the land of Jerusalem, the temple as the center for worshiping God. Stephen repeatedly shows that God had worked in many places and ways with His servants down through the centuries, and so God is not limited to Jerusalem or to the Temple. In fact he said God does not dwell in the building made by human hands – In comparison to INC today, the Church is so centered to the the offerings and used the building of houses of worship as the reasons. This is contrary to the teachings of the first century Christians like Stephen.
We will go about the responses of Stephen’s accusations in reverse order following the same as recorded in the Acts chapter 7.
Accusation #1: Blasphemy against customs handed down by Moses
The book of Acts chapter 7 started with the high priest asking “Are these things so?“. To review what exactly they are asking we have to go back in Acts 6:11-14
Imagine they are known to be people of God but yet they [Jews in the Temple] produced false witnesses, who testified – do you not see this happening inside the INC now? In verse 17-43, Stephen responds to the charges of blaspheming Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Law by telling the early history of Israel using kind words starting with “brethren and fathers” and using the words “God of glory”. Stephen begins by stressing that their whole history began with the idea of deliverance. From Abraham to Joseph and Moses. From verse 2-8 Stephen quoted Genesis 12:3, Abraham who was at Babylon, making clear by this his view that God speak to men anywhere, even in Babylon which is always synonymous in scripture as people against God. The Hebrew people had some kind of belief that God dwelt within Jerusalem and within the temple. It was a very limiting factor – this is to me is similar to the belief that only inside the INC there is salvation.
In verse 9-16 Stephen used the story of Joseph who was sold by the Patriarch to Egypt. Stephen was trying to point out God had revealed through dreams that Joseph, their brother, was to rule over them. He was a prophet from God. But Joseph was rejected by his brothers [the leaders of the covenant community], because of their jealousy, so that they sold him into Egypt. The jealousy was a pattern of the future – the same can be attributed to the current leaders of the INC, the Sangunian, because of their jealousy to the wealthy, the Church leaders started to embraced a luxurious lifestyle. You can see by the type of cars they are driving, by the things that they are wearing and for some by the houses they live, not to mention other luxurious things (planes, hotels and restaurants).
In verse 17-36, Stephen speaking about Moses, he pointed out Moses was living in a foreign country and trained in all the wisdom of Egypt, had arisen as God’s deliverer, they rejected him also at the beginning. Moses was exalted and established away from Judea in Galilee of the Gentiles with what the Pharisees would see as “foreign” teachings. Stephen seems to continually stress that God’s deliverers were not brought up in the equivalent of mainstream Judaism. In the same way, he wants them to realize, the Prophet Who had come, who was like Moses, was the man of Galilee, not the man of Jerusalem. The Hebrew [Jews] people had a tendency to isolate God’s presence down to one geographical place. Stephen is making the point that the ground is holy wherever God is. You cannot limit Him to one geographical space.
Stephen’s audience boasted in the temple as if it gave them special access to God, in spite of their wicked behavior. They thought that having the temple gave them special privileges with God, no matter how corrupt their behavior. Remember Stephen is standing before the Sanhedrin, these men have the power to have him killed – I can imagined this is no different than former INC Ministers during their “captivity”. By the time he is done with his defense, they [Sanhedrin] are the ones on trial being accused of blasphemy. In Acts 7:51-53, he called the Sanhedrin stiff-necked because they desecrated the Temple with Idolatry – this is no difference of the INC today, the chapels are decorated with images of EVM, a form of idolatry [remember idolatry is defined as extreme admiration for some thing, it is not necessarily an image made of wood or other materials] .
In summary for the accusation to Stephen by the high priest, he used the scriptures to depend himself. He blasts them for their sins but it is all biblical preaching!
Accusation #2: Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place [Temple]
It was this spirit of idolatry that would eventually lead to the destruction of the first temple [Solomon’s Temple] and the Babylonian captivity. In the same way, it will be this same spirit of idolatry and the refusal to recognize God’s Righteous One which will result in the destruction of the second temple [Jerusalem Temple] at the hands of the Roman Empire. This is why in Acts 7:48-50, Stephen emphasized this:
It was likely by these words the Jewish high priest finally concluded the sentence to Stephen. In the end, he was stoned to death. It is believe by most preacher it was Saul of Tarsus [a Jewish Pharisee dedicated to the persecution of the early disciples of Jesus in the area of Jerusalem before he became Apostle Paul] who led Stephen’s death. Saul eventually becomes Paul and disciple of Christ.
Applying this to our time, I would not be surprised if someone will die defending for what they believe is corruptions inside the Church. All first century Christians standing for the truth for our Lord Jesus Christ die hard but well by the will of God.
God Does Not Dwell In Building Made of Hands
Today, God does not dwell in a building, He dwells in our hearts. We do not have to meet at a special building or enter a special building to worship God.
Fast forward to Acts chapter 17, Paul became a disciple of Christ already. Paul was in Athens speaking to the pagans [Gentiles]. Paul repeated what was Stephen [during the time Paul was a Christian persecutor] mentioned about the new Temple.
Apostle Paul repeated the same teaching to the Corinthians.
The Corinthians, had gathered in a house not a temple.
Apostle Paul clarified again that we are the temple of God again in the second letter to the Corinthians. In this scenario he was referring to both idols but continue to clarify that we are the new temple of God.
A Samaritan woman asked Christ which temple is the true place to worship, the temple in Jerusalem or the Samaritan’s temple?
We have to understand the scenario in John 4:19-24 is that the promised is still with the Jews at the time when Gentiles had not been called. Jesus foretold that soon, it is no longer required worship in Jerusalem for those who are Jews. He hinted that the true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth and no longer the promise is for Jews only and no longer is necessary to worship God in a physical temple building. The reason is that Jerusalem Temple will be destroyed [history confirms the destruction in A.D. 70]. God allowed Jerusalem Temple to be destroyed because the new temple is no longer physical but spiritual. Stephen and Paul explained the new temples are now his Christian children. God’s people are His temples.
Remember the first dwelling of God is a movable tent called Tabernacle which later replaced by the Solomon’s temple. In Hebrew 9:11, God also replaced that with a heavenly Sanctuary, no longer a physical Tabernacle.
In contrast, the INC made another Tabernacle in Central compound recreating what God already abolished. During the time of the Old Testament people, they are commanded by God to build a Tabernacle which eventually became a Temple. It was God’s way during their time under the Old Covenant and Mosaic law which, incidentally, they failed miserably to uphold and keep the place holy. We are no longer under the Old Covenant, Christ replaced Tabernacle and Temples from a physical building to spiritual being so that no one will boast just like the high priests of the Jewish Temple.
You, brethren who are proud and keep boasting on the number of properties bought, new chapels dedicated under the present Church Administration, has no spiritual merit, for nothing in the New Testament God commanded men to continue building house of worship. In contrast, we are already the temple of God and we are to worship God in truth and in spirit in any place God is present. Possibly what you are boasting is against God’s will for it is not based on scriptures. It is written in 1 Peter 2:5, “5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.“. We are living stones, we are spiritual temple.
This is wisdom, no mystery.