How It’s Used
The term “house of God” is commonly used to refer to a church building. Some church organizations incorporate under a name that includes “temple”, i.e. “Main Street Baptist Temple”.
The concept hearkens back to the Old Testament, where both the Ark of the Covenant and “Solomon’s” temple are called “the house of God”.
Where It’s Found
The phrase appears 89 times in the Bible. Only three of these occurrences are used in conjunction with the New Testament church, none of which refer to a physical building:
- I Timothy 3:15
- Hebrews 10:21
- I Peter 4:17
The first occurrence in the Bible is in Genesis, where Jacob awoke from his vision of “Jacob’s Ladder”:
And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. (Genesis 28:16-19).
Note the following:
- The first Biblical reference to ‘the house of God’ labels a nondescript area of rocks;
- The Hebrew word ‘Bethel’ means ‘house of God’. Jacob stood up a rock, poured oil on it, and proclaimed it the house of God.
What It Means
It is common for Christians to call their church building ‘the house of God’. Often, it is an innocent utterance, as this teaching is commonly presented to children in Sunday school curriculum.
The house of God is a synonym for the presence of God. God does not live in buildings (Acts 7:48, 17:24). The presence of God is the house of God. Christians possess the Spirit (and thus the presence) of God. Christians are the church. The church (collective Christians) is the house of God:
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. (I Timothy 3:15)
Scripture also teaches that the Christian is the temple of God:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (I Corinthians 6:19)
Therefore, the New Testament ‘house of God’ is the individual Christian, within whom Christ dwells, and by extension the collective Christian assembly, which is made up of individual temples.