Let us go on

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The Most High does not live in buildings made by human hands. (Acts 7:48 ISV)

What Stephen saw, and what is stated, intimated, and implicit in the New Testament (a monumental document on the matter is “the Letter to the Hebrews”), was that Solomon was – at most – but a figure of a greater “Son,” and his temple, with all its glory, wealth, and beauty, was only a pointer onward to “A house not made with hands”; what Peter – after a difficult and painful transition – called, God’s spiritual house. Stephen concludes with a comprehensive gathering of all this history into “the Prophets,” and virtually says that the spirit of prophecy was related to this ever-future, onward, and ultimate spiritual goal of God.

What again, then, does all this amount to? On the one side, it is a mighty exposure and denunciation of the incorrigible habit and disposition of God’s people to bring what is essentially heavenly down to earth and fasten it there; to make of the spiritual something temporal; to make of the eternal something which will not – and cannot – abide; to make form, means, orders, and technique all-important. In a word, to have things fixed and boxed, so that the Holy Spirit is thwarted and frustrated in His ever-onward and ever-sovereign movement and innovation, if He so choose.

The most dominant note, the most imperative cry of the New Testament is “Let us go on.” But the context of this cry is – “outside the camp.” The writer of those words in the Letter to the Hebrews, who has so much in common with Stephen, makes it abundantly clear that “outside the camp” means outside of all that which in its Judaistic nature systematizes and crystallizes Christianity into a set and settled form: into something earth-bound and final. On the other side, all this is a revelation of how fierce and terrible will be the opposition of such systems to a purely and definitely spiritual testimony. Unless there is a conforming, there will at least be ostracism, and at most martyrdom.

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