The Gospel and the Beauty of God’s Place

In the Old Covenant the temple was the chosen dwelling of God where he manifested his beauty. With the coming of Christ and the inauguration of the New Covenant the temple continues to be the chosen dwelling where his beauty is made known. The difference is that the temple is no longer a stationary building. The temple in the New Covenant is the person of Jesus Christ, individual believers united to him, and the corporate people of God joined to him.

John says that Jesus “tabernacled” among us (Jn 1:14). He identified himself as the temple that would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days (Jn 2:18-21). He made it clear that true worship would no longer be tied to a physical locale but would take place as people came through him, the true temple, to his Father (Jn 4:20-25). In Jesus, the true temple, the fullness of God’s presence was manifest (Jn 1:14, 18, Col 1:19).

In Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwelt in unique fullness making him a fitting temple (Jn 3:34). In Jesus, the beauty of God was located (2 Cor 4:6, Heb 1:3). As people were united to Jesus by faith the Holy Spirit came to dwell within them thus making them temples of the living God (1 Cor 6:19). This is extended to the church corporately. The people of God are understood to be a temple where God’s Spirit resides and therefore where his beauty is now made manifest (1 Cor 3:16-17, Eph 2:21, 1 Pet 2:5). As we are united to Jesus the true temple we become the temple of God individually and corporately.

Implications   

  • Since Christ is the true temple of God he is also the place where God manifests his presence, beauty, and glory. This is yet another line of evidence that firmly locates the beauty of God in the person of Christ.
  • Since the presence of Christ is the presence of beauty then where he chooses to dwell is where beauty will be found.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ who comes to dwell within us to make us the temple of God. The beauty of God’s dwelling place is therefore closely linked to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The presence or absence of the Spirit is therefore the presence or absence of beauty.
  • The fact that believers are temples of the living God makes them repositories of the beauty of God. The beauty of God manifest in the incarnate Christ is now becoming discernible in regenerate men and women. Since sin still resides within us there is a conglomeration of beauty and deformity in our make up. This beauty is made a reality within us from a force outside of us. It is the presence of God within us manifested through us that makes us beautiful. Beauty is never located in the human being apart from God. It is God’s handiwork, image, or presence that makes a human valuable and beautiful. Our beauty is always and ever contingent upon God.
  • Beauty is a corporate reality within the Triune God and it is also a corporate reality among human beings. The fact that the church is the corporate temple of God points us to another place where beauty is to be known and seen. We are a people bound together by the Spirit and as our interaction is reflective of the Triune community we show forth God’s beauty. Beauty is impossible without others. Beauty exists in the context of relationship. Since the church is a congregation of broken people its reflection of God’s beauty will be fractured until Christ returns and purifies his bride completely.
  • Practically speaking, the presence of God is beautiful among us as he leads is into cruciform obedience and love. It is as we reflect the beauty of Christ in the gospel that we are beautiful. It as we reflect the unity and love of the Triune God that we are beautiful. God’s presence within us empowers us and shapes us in such a way that gospel beauty is progressively a reality in our existence. God’s beauty is his being in action. He works this in us as well. He transforms our being at the deepest level and out of that transformation produces action that is in line with his beauty.

 

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Gospel & Beauty: A Cruciform Majesty

“He has transferred unto himself the filth of my sins, and communicated unto me his purity, and made me a partaker of his beauty.”

Gregory of Nyssa

The cross turns the world upside down. Power is weakness, wisdom is foolishness, greatness is service, humility is glory—this is the logic of Calvary. You cannot speak of love, justice or peace apart from Good Friday. The cross defines reality. Luther was right, “the cross alone is our theology.”

Our task is to bring everything in life into gospel orbit, to create a robust dialogue between all things and the cross. As we do so our thoughts are formed and chastened. Certain ways of thinking and being are put to death while new ones are brought to life. The gospel is a gracious yet painful dialogue partner.

God will use his gospel to challenge, convict, and reshape our vision of reality. Every arena of life must be submitted to the gospel of God. The aim of the Christian is none other than to live “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). God intends that the gospel shape, challenge, and rule our lives in every way.

Beauty is a captivating reality that has always been a driving and shaping force in every culture at every period in history. Our culture and time frame are no different. Whether the magazine rack, a commercial, or the latest movie we are consistently confronted with the question of beauty. It is never far from our mind or desires.

We are called to pull the theme of beauty into the gospel orbit. Even the notion of thinking biblically and theologically about beauty drives us to some very basic questions. What is your starting point for thinking about beauty? How do you define beauty? Who defines beauty? Why do we think of beauty the way we do? In what ways is your perspective on beauty driven by your culture? Do you have a theology of beauty? Where would you start? How does your view and thinking about beauty affect your every day life? How important is the issue of beauty to you?

We are all profoundly influenced by our culture. Beauty in our world is tied to a certain physical appearance. This cultural view of beauty is a standard of judgment we use to assess others and ourselves. It shapes our thoughts, actions and goals in subtle yet profound ways. Beauty is a force.

We need a biblical and theological framework for rightly thinking about such a powerful reality. I suggest three anchor points for building a cross-centered view of beauty: the beauty of God, the beauty of God’s place, and the beauty of God’s people.[1]

We will work through these themes from an Old Testament perspective and then comb back through them again in light of the gospel. As we work the themes we will explore important implications from each section. The next few blog posts will be dedicated to exploring this theme.


[1] A similar three-fold division is used by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2001). He understands God’s kingdom as God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. These are three significant themes of biblical theology and so happen to be important to a theology of beauty.