David wanted to build God a house to dwell in, but God told him that assignment would have await his son Solomon. David set aside gargantuan amounts of resources for the project and commissioned his son to the project. Years later the Temple was completed and Solomon gathered all God’s people to dedicate it to the Lord (1 Kings 8). Solomon prayed, saying “I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever” (v.13). Yet, as awe inspiring as the Temple was, Solomon knew that it really could not contain God. He admitted, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (v.27). As Solomon continued praying he repeatedly asked God, saying, “listen in heaven your dwelling place” (vv.30, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). God chose to manifest His presence in the Temple, but He dwelt in heaven. Indeed, not even “the highest heaven” can contain the infinite God.
Many Christians are still going about the business of building a house for God to dwell in. It may be a physical structure—say a church building. They think they are going to have the corner on the market of God’s presence when they are done. They may rightly ask God to manifest His presence there, just as any Christ-centered, Bible-believing church should, but they won’t contain God there. He is just too big for that. Some are building God a house through their philosophy of ministry. They’ve figured it out. They’ve found the sure fire way to do ministry. They’ve built a house for God to dwell in. Yes, God may condescend to make Himself known in and through their methods and means of doing ministry, but He won’t let Himself be housed there. Others have built God a house to dwell in through their theology. They’ve measured it, described it and reduced it all to sentences made up of verbs and nouns and such. They know where God dwells. They’ve built this house through hard work, much study, bloody sacrifice and valiant warfare. That is a good thing … until they dare conclude that their theology is the only place God dwells.
God demands we hold to “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6; 6:3; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1). Such doctrine—in line with the Word of God—is essential to stability and growth in Christ. This is not a call to abandon good theology. Nor is this a plea to weaken our resolve to establish right theology. It is a call to hold our doctrine with humility. Theology is a compound word made up of theos (God) and logos (word) … theology is words about God. Everyone who has ever thought a thought about God is a theologian. Everyone has a theology. This is the heart of the matter: is that theology correct? It must be! And it only is when it is rightly in line with God’s Word. But, and please hear me rightly, even when it is correct … it is not total. God has revealed Himself wonderfully and sufficiently to us. We see and learn much about Him from His created order around us. He made vastly more known to us when He stepped into time and space in the Person of Jesus Christ. He has given us His written Word as a lasting, sufficient, perfect revelation of Himself. But that does not mean that we have all that is true of God. What He has made known of Himself is true—absolutely and without error. But what He has made known does not encompass all that is true of Him. God is infinite. Finite, redeemed creatures will spend eternity forever learning more about the Person and mind and heart and ways of God. Everything we’ll learn there will be consistent and in line with what He has shown us now, but that doesn’t mean what we know now is all there is to know.
Matthew Arnold, reports A.W. Tozer, said that . . .
“The soul of man is like a mirror suspended on a cord, turning in a every breeze, always reflecting what is before it but never reflecting more than a small part of the whole. The size of the mirror varies from man to man, but no one is able to comprehend the vast panorama that lies before and around us. The mental giant has a larger mirror, to be sure, but even the largest is pathetically small.”
Then listen to Tozer’s conclusion:
“As long as we know that our view of truth is partial we can preserve that humbleness of mind appropriate to the circumstances; but let us once get the notion that our view is total and we become intellectually intolerant. Let us become convinced that ours is the only sensible view and our ability to learn dies instantly. . . . No one knows everything, not saint nor scholar nor reformer nor theologian.”
Our theology must be a true description of who and what God is and does (as revealed in His written Word), but may we never be so arrogant as to think we’ve built a house that God must dwell in, a box in which we have contained Him, that we have captured Him with our sentences and syllogisms. God is too big for that. God delights to manifest Himself to and for His people, but I think He also delights to remind us He is not required to do so where and how and when we’ve concluded He must.
Holy, infinite Father, we ask that You will enable us to hold firmly and with confidence to all that You have revealed of Yourself to us in Your Word. We ask also that You enable us to hold this truth with humility and grace. In the Name of Him who is Truth, amen.