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Volume III- THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
CHAPTER 16-God’s Spiritual House
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)
The church is spoken of under many metaphors or figures. It is compared to many familiar things. It is compared to the human body, (1 Cor. 12:27); a farm, (1 Cor. 3:9); a flock, (1 Pet. 5:2) and a building or house, (1 Cor. 3:9 1 Pet. 2:5).
The church is also considered in a present and a future aspect. In its present aspect it is an institution finding concrete expression in each local assembly, as the church at Corinth, Ephesus, etc. In its future aspect it will be one big church called “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,” (Heb. 12:23). These two aspects must not be confused. The local assemblies are temporary; the general assembly will be eternal. The local assembly may have lost people in it. The general assembly will have only born again people in it. The local assembly is present; the general assembly is future.
When Christ said He would build His church, I believe He had in mind both the present and future aspects of the church: the church as an institution finding concrete expression in the temporary and local assembly, and the church of the future which will be made up of all the saved. There will be a time when all the saints will be in one big, visible church or assembly.
The church is said to be built. It does not build itself. “I will build my church,” (Matt. 16:18).
There are always three parties to consider when you think of building a house; the architect, the contractor, and the occupant. So in thinking of the church as a spiritual house we will follow the work of the architect, the contractor, and the inhabitant. The house is for somebody to live in.
1. The architect designs the building. He makes the plans or blueprints. The plan of the house is in the mind of the architect and he draws the plan or pattern for the contractor to go by. He shows the size or dimension of the building and where every piece of material is to go.
2. The architect prepares the specifications, showing the kind and quality of materials to be used. Nothing is left to chance or to the whims of the workmen. Moses was God’s contractor in building the tabernacle and he was warned to build it according to the pattern shown him in the mount.
3. God is the architect of His own house, “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end,” (Heb. 3:6). God made the plans and specifications back in eternity. Everything about His house was determined and settled upon. He determined the size and the material. He determined the number of stones that should go into His house, when they should be put in, and where they should come from.
When the architect draws plans for a building, the material for that building may be scattered over a large area. The lumber may still be in the forest, the stone may still be in the quarry, and the brick and mortar may still be in the soil. The stones for God’s spiritual house are human beings and they lay in the quarry of human nature, a shapeless mass without life or form or beauty.
Just as there is a divine architect there is also a divine builder, (Matt. 16:18). Christ is the builder of His church. He employs human workmen, but the power is His. When Zerubbabel was commissioned to rebuild the ancient temple at Jerusalem, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts,” (Zech. 4:6). So the church of Christ is built by divine power.
1. Its Nature. It is a spiritual house. It is not made of wood or brick or literal stones. It is built of men who have had a spiritual birth. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house,” (1 Pet. 2:5).
2. Its Foundation. It has a personal and a doctrinal foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.,” (1 Cor. 3:11). Christ is the foundation of our hope and faith.
The doctrinal foundation is laid by the apostles and prophets. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being “the chief corner stone,” (Eph. 2:20). They laid the foundation for our faith by preaching the gospel to us. We have their ministry in the New Testament.
In the foundation, Christ is said to be the chief cornerstone. A cornerstone is to hold two walls together. You cannot have a building without a cornerstone. A building is not just a lot of walls placed indiscriminately here and there. The walls must be tied together that which ties them together is the cornerstone. These two walls may be thought of as Jew and Gentile or as bond and free, or as male and female, or as rich and poor, (Gal. 3:28).
3. Its Structure or the Way It Is Built.
3a) These stones come to Christ. To whom coming, as to a living stone. This is not a physical coming, it is a heart and mental approach to Christ. In coming the sinner leaves himself, that is, he ceases to hope in himself. Before I was saved I depended upon what I had done or expected to do for salvation; now I depend upon what Christ has already done, when he died “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” (1 Pet. 3:18).
3b) These stones come by being drawn to Him. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me,” (John 12:32); “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day,” (John 6:44). This drawing is by the Holy Spirit who is sent both by the Father and Son.
3c) The outward means of drawing is by the Gospel. The gospel is dynamite in the hands of the Spirit. With the Gospel the Holy Spirit blasts these dead stones from the quarry of nature, to shape and polish and fit them for a place in the temple of God. These stones have a heart and mind and will, and all are exercised in coming to Christ.
Who is to live in this house. “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:22). God is a Spirit and builds himself a spiritual house in which to live. “The most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” (Acts 7:48); “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?,” (1 Cor. 6:19).
The tabernacle built by Moses and the temple of Solomon were typical of the church. As soon as they were finished, the shekinah glory, the symbol of God’s presence, took up its abode in these buildings. “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle,” (Ex. 40:34); “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD,” (1 Kings 8:10); “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 2:5).
This present world and its order of things is to the church what the scaffolding is to the building. When the building is completed the scaffolding is taken down. When the church of Christ is completed when all the living stones are placed in this spiritual house, the present order of things will be torn down and taken away, and God shall dwell among His people. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea,” (Rev. 21:1).
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