Are Church Building Biblical?

Church Buildings

The Gospels constantly report Jesus worshipping at and teaching in both local synagogues and the Temple at Jerusalem: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35); “When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach” (Mark 1:21); “He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him” (Luke 4:15); “He kept on preaching in the synagogues” (Luke 4:44); “He was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel” (Luke 20:1); “He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them” (John 8:2).

Even as a child, Jesus was found by his parents “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions,” and he said, “Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:46, 49).

Luke says simply, “On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16), and Jesus himself says, “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple” (John 18:20) (See also Matthew 4:23, 12:9, 13:54, 21:23, 26:55; Mark 1:39, 3:1, 6:2, 11:27, 12:35, 14:49; Luke 4:44, 6:6, 13:10, 19:47, 20:1, 21:14, 21:37-38, 22:53; John 6:59, 7:14, 7:28, 8:2, 8:20, 10:23).

The book of Acts records how the early Christians followed Jesus’ example, gathering together in
houses of worship: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts” (Acts 2:46); “They entered the temple courts and began to teach the people” (Acts 5:21); “As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2) (See also Luke 24:53; Acts 3:1, 5:42, 9:20, 13:5, 13:14, 14:1, 17:10, 17:17, 18:4, 18:19, 18:24-26, 19:8).

So we can see that, even though Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20) and Paul wrote, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), we should nevertheless not disdain the idea of gathering together in houses of worship, and erecting suitable buildings for that purpose.

A Christian church building is much more than a place of learning, like a classroom or lecture hall; it is much more than a place of entertainment, like a theater or auditorium; it is a holy temple, a place of divine worship. In the Old Testament the Lord himself designed the Tabernacle (Exodus 26), upon which also the
Temple built by Solomon was based (1 Kings 5-6). Both of these structures were extremely elaborate and very richly ornamented, constructed of the most costly and precious materials by the very best craftsmen. [The Temple of the New Testament era, which the disciples describe as having “magnificent buildings” with “massive stones” (Mark 13:1; Luke 21:5) was built by King Herod, to replace the Temple of Solomon, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-17; Psalm 79:1), rebuilt after the return from exile (Ezra), and destroyed again by the Romans in 63 B.C.]

Of course, a Christian congregation is free to have whatever kind of church building it decides, or
even to have no building at all, as long as we “do not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). The most important thing to remember about church buildings is Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” That means even the most impressive worship edifice is actually a detestable abomination to the Lord if it is not used to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). But, on the other hand, even the most humble gathering place is truly a blessed temple in which the Lord himself abides, when Christians worship there.