David Guion

God Uncontainable

What Kind Of House / Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Photo by Jasmin Ne on Unsplash

God Uncontainable

“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, ‘“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’” Acts 7:48-50 ESV

As Stephen comes near the close of his 52-verse sermon here in Acts 7, he quotes a familiar passage from Isaiah 66:1-2, which is recounted above. By including this text, no doubt his intent would have certainly been clear to his listeners – God is uncontainable! Not only does He not live in structures constructed by human hands, He is not containable at all!

Religious buildings are not able to confine His presence. Neither can a human philosophy or world view. He is transcendent – existing beyond our full perception and comprehension.

He is unique, other, holy.

He is unconfined and uncontained.

He is the Uncontainable One!

Manageable Proportions

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines uncontainable as “not able to be restrained, checked, or controlled : not possible to contain. [1]

How often might we attempt to reduce our perception of God? When suffering comes? How about trials? I suppose we rarely consider such a reduction whenever circumstances in life appear to be going our way.

But there are times, as Donald McCullough states,

“We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions.” [2]

In an effort to bring understanding and context to our daily lives, we can be tempted at times to reduce the nature of God down to our preferences, rather than to willingly accept the reality of His transcendence.

“In the beginning, God created mankind in His image, and after the fall, mankind has been returning the favor ever since.”

I don’t recall where or when I first heard this remark, but it comes to mind from time to time and seems appropriate here.

Sacred Architecture

The Apostle Paul also made reference to the Isaiah 66 passage when he was in Athens speaking with those on Mars’ hill about their statue to the “Unknown God.”

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, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;” (Acts 17:24-25)

There are many valid reasons for why we may want to construct church buildings. They provide a designated place for believers to gather and worship. A church building is a visible presence within the local community.

Perhaps more importantly, structures set aside for the purpose of corporate worship, prayer, and preaching can be helpful in facilitating a deeper connection with the Lord and with other people.

Back in 1998, architect Daniel Lee was interviewed for an article in Regeneration Quarterly. The following is an excerpt taken from that interview that was also published in Volume 1 (now up to Volume 43 at this writing) of the Sacred Architecture Journal,

“Arts and symbolism should help us understand life as it really is, our sin, and the gospel. […] But if they are worshipped, they should be removed. And our teachers and elders bear great responsibility in helping us keep this balance.” [3]

Whenever our religious structures take the place of our relational connection with God and with others, we would do well to heed the questions in Isaiah 66:1-2.

Indescribable, Uncontainable

Well over 20 years ago now, back in 2002, Laura Story wrote the well-known song, “Indescribable.” The song gained massive popularity when Chris Tomlin recorded it for his 2004 album, Arriving.


Indescribable, uncontainable
You placed the stars in the sky
And You know them by name
You are amazing, God

All powerful, untameable
Awestruck, we fall to our knees
As we humbly proclaim
You are amazing, God [4]

What Kind Of House Will You Build For Me?

Recognizing how finite, small, and contained we are, as compared to how Infinite, Huge, and Uncontainable God is, can recenter us during times of suffering, trial, and even when life seems to be going our way.

This recognition may be aided by our being present in a structure called a church or House of Worship. But we do well to remember along with Stephen and Paul the words of Isaiah, “What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?”

Indeed, the very nature of God, God Himself, has chosen a dwelling place. He has chose a “house” or “temple” in which He dwells.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

God has chosen a dwelling place. By the miracle of the redemption through the blood of the resurrected Christ and in the power of His Holy Spirit, the Uncontainable One now indwells “jars of clay.”

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

That is the kind of house He has built for Himself!

David Guion


  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uncontainable (accessed July 17, 2023.)
  2. Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity (Donald W. McCullough, NavPress Publishing Group, 1995) p. 14
  3. https://www.sacredarchitecture.org/articles/christian_architecture_from_a_protestant_perspective (accessed July 17, 2023.)
  4. Laura Story, Jesse Reeves, Indescribable © Copyright 2004 worshiptogether.com Songs (ASCAP)/ sixsteps Music (ASCAP)/ Gleaning Publishing (ASCAP)(admin. by EMI CMG Publishing)
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