48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
In verses 48-50, Stephen related the building of the Temple. The Temple was a symbol of God’s presence and not the permanent home of God.
“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands,
Although Solomon built a house for God, that Temple could not contain the God who was everywhere present and Almighty (1 Kgs 8:27; 2 Chr 2:6). “Made with hands” emphasizes the physical nature of the Temple.
as the prophet says:
The prophet here was Isaiah. Stephen quoted Isaiah 66:1 (LXX) in the following two verses, capping the thought of a transcendent God.
‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.
God’s presence spans heaven and earth.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest?
The point of Stephen’s argument about the tabernacle and Temple was that they should not be literally regarded as God’s home (Acts 17:24). God cannot be localized, so no building can confine Him. He is everywhere present. God can make His presence known without a Temple. This issue was the Sanhedrin’s problem; they did not recognize that God had sent the true Temple to them, but they rejected Him. God had sent a new Temple in living flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ. Their charge against Stephen about not respecting the Temple was beside the point. God was in the process of turning from the Temple to the church, the body of Christ. Jesus fulfilled the typology of the Temple.
Has My hand not made all these things?’
God does not need the physical Temple or its ceremonies for people to worship Him. He desires godliness above all—godliness that worships in spirit and truth (Ps 50; Jn 4:21-24).
Stephen concluded his argument to the Sanhedrin with this verse. Creation cannot control the Creator.
Authority and power reside in the transcendent God, not in a holy place.
A church building cannot reduce God to a place for God to dwell. The church building is but a place to worship the transcendent God (1 Kgs 8:27). To reduce the transcendence of God to something less is an insult against the God of the universe. As the Sanhedrin reduced God to a location, people today minimize the greatness of God to something less than the magnificence He holds.
The transitory nature of the tabernacle and Temple was the main point of Stephen’s argument. The destruction of the historical places of worship did not destroy God. The Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple (Ezra 5:12). Zerubbabel rebuilt the Temple (Ezra 5:2), which was also demolished. The Temple of Stephen’s day was later obliterated by the Romans in A.D. 70. God transcends finite representations of Him.