This expression, which occurs at least eight times in the New Testament, refers to things of this creation (see Hebrews 9:11). We live and react to a material world by our five senses, but in Christianity we are brought into a spiritual world, which cannot be received or understood by those five senses. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, the apostle Paul writes, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Sadly, because we are born a natural man, we have a great difficulty in understanding spiritual things and when considering them, we try to reason them out by our natural intelligence and ability. But a true believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling him, so in the previous verse to the one quoted above we read, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God.”
- In Acts 17, we read of Paul left alone at Athens, where he saw all the buildings and sculptures representing man’s imagination of God, his spirit was stirred in him and publicly condemned it all as superstitious. And said, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands.”
The Lord Jesus in John 4:24, says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” which means that true worship is not only by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us, but it is a spiritual thing. Christendom has very largely copied the Old Testament form of ceremonial approach to God by using things that are material, and which appeal to our five senses, in the so-called worship of God, not understanding that these were all terminated in the death of God’s beloved son.
-In Colossians 2:11 Paul says, “In whom also ye have been circumcised with circumcision not done by hand, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Christ.” The Jews were well acquainted with the meaning of circumcision and it was given them by God as a token that they were His people. This act certainly affected them in their bodies but did not alter what they were inwardly, or spiritually. The circumcision, not done by hand, but by God in the death of Christ, cuts off once and for all that old nature, which can neither please Him nor respond to Him.
So Paul continues in verse 12, “Buried with Him in baptism, in which ye have been also raised with Him through faith of the working of God who raised Him from among the dead.”
-The tabernacle of old was set up by Moses according to the pattern that was shewn him in the mount and was a privileged way of ceremonially approaching God that no other nation had. But in Hebrews 9:24,, we read, “For Christ is not entered into holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
-Again, in that same chapter, already referred to in verse 11, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building [creation].”
If we consider for a moment that wonderful tabernacle, divided into three sections: the court, wherein was the brazen alter; then the holy place with the table of shewbread, the pure gold candle stick, and the golden alter of incense; and finally the most holy place where was the ark of the covenant, we have a pattern of what was in the mind of God into which the believer today has entered, through the work of Christ.
The brazen alter represented the holy and righteous claims of God and the burnt sacrifice that was offered upon it, how those holy claims have been settled once and for all for us in the death of Christ. That being true, every believer today is a priest to God and the holy place represents the way that we can serve God as priests. The table of shewbread displayed an order that is sustained by a divine person of saints bound together in the presence of God, in the light of God being revealed, again by a divine person, that is, the candle stick and able “by Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name,” as represented by the golden alter.
-In 2 Corinthians 5:1, the apostle Paul refers to our bodies as our earthly house of this tabernacle: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This verse makes it clear that this expression, not made with hands, relates to things of this present creation as our mortal bodies are, and they are subject to death and corruption.
Verse 8 tells us what is the lot of those, whose bodies have died but whose spirits are now in the presence of Christ, awaiting that moment when they will receive that “house not made with hands” and which is eternal, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
The apostle in verse 17 of this same chapter, makes a clear distinction between the material and the spiritual: “So if anyone be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new: and all things are of the God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus.”