By Eddie Cloer
"In whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also arc being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21, 22).
The greatest building enterprise in the Old Testament era must have been Solomon's construction of the temple of the Lord. The intention of building a "house for the Lord "was expressed first by David, but God told David through Nathan that the privilege would be given to Solomon because David had been a man of war (2 Samuel 7:5; 1 Chronicles 28:3). Nevertheless, David was permitted to gather materials for the temple's construction before his death.
Under Solomon's leadership, the temple was built of the finest and most expensive materials, with the greatest care and craftsmanship. Though built of stone, it was paneled with cedar and overlaid with gold. It was twice the size of the tabernacle (1 Kings 5:1---9:9; 2 Chronicles 2-7) and took seven and one-half years to complete. Located on Mount Moriah, perhaps it was built near the place where Abraham came to offer Isaac.
Ten thousand1 Israelites were conscripted to work on the temple (1 Kings 5:13, 14) and 150,000 non-Israelites were used as laborers on it (1 Kings 5:15; 2 Chronicles 8:7-10). The non-Israelites were persons taken in war, sold in debt, or homeborn servants. They were divided into two groups--seventy thousand burden bearers and eighty thousand quarry men. The supervisors of all these laborers numbered 3,850 . 2 In other words, a total of 163,850 men worked continuously to construct the temple. This tremendous number of laborers and supervisors indicates how immense this building project was.
1 Thirty thousand were conscripted to serve, but only ten thousand were used each month. Thus, each of those conscripted served one month out of every three (I Kings 5:13).
2 Second Chronicles 2:18 gives the number 3,600 for the Canaanite officers. Second Chronicles 8:10 gives the number 250 for the Israelite officers. This would give a total of 3,850 supervisory officers. First Kings 5:16 gives 3,300 as the number of the subordinate officers, while I Kings 9:23 gives 550 as the number of the superior officers. This would give a total of 3,850 supervisory officers as well. Thus, 2 Chronicles and I Kings harmonize on the number of supervisory officers, but they do look at the supervisors from different viewpoints.
Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:3-42) is one of the most beautiful prayers in the Scriptures. At the close of his prayer, he offered 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep in sacrifice to the Lord (1 Kings 8:62, 63; 2 Chronicles 7:4, 5). The chronicler said, "Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord's house" (2 Chronicles 7:1, 2).
The temple stood as the magnificent house of the Lord for the nation of Israel until Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 586 B.C.
One could easily think that this temple of the Old Testament was the greatest building ever built for God, but this is not the case. A far greater building was built for God by Jesus. It is called by the New Testament writers "the church," and it is the most unique and glorious structure ever built for God in the history of the world.
In Ephesians 2 Paul gave one of the sharpest contrasts in all of the New Testament between being outside of Christ and being a Christian. He described the difference in the form of a "before-and-after" picture. For instance, before one becomes a Christian, Paul said, he is dead. He is walking according to the course of this world, under the power of the devil, living like the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:1-3). After one becomes a Christian, Paul said, he is forgiven. He is in Christ, and he is saved by grace (Ephesians 2:4-10). As Paul concluded this contrast, he referred to the oneness we have in Christ, whether we are Gentiles or Jews. In doing so, He used three figures to refer to the church: a city (2:19), a family (2:19), and a building (2:20, 21). His description of the church as God's building is one of the most beautiful descriptions of the church given to us by the Holy Spirit.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
In picturesque, figurative language, the Holy Spirit called the church God's building. Looking at the church through this imagery, we are reminded of its distinctive nature.
A "HUMAN" BUILDING
Unlike the temple of the Old Testament, the church, God's New Testament building, is made out of people. Each Christian provides the material out of which this building is composed.
Paul said that the Gentiles who had become Christians were no longer strangers and aliens, but were fellow citizens with the saints and were of God's household, a family that had been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. He said that Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, were fitted together into a building of God. Peter made a similar analogy in 1 Peter 2:5: "You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, . . ."
The church is a building, but it is a spiritual building made out of people who have become Christians. Each Christian is a spiritual stone in the building. All Christians, as living stones, are joined or cemented together by God's Spirit into an invisible, dynamic spiritual organism, which is figuratively likened to a building.
Paul's picture is not that of hundreds of little organizations being grouped together to make up one giant building. The New Testament does not describe the universal church as being made up of all the denominations of the world. It rather describes each congregation of Christ's church as complete in and of itself, as a local manifestation of the universal church. 3 The universal church is made up of individual Christians from all over the world, each serving as living stones in this spiritual structure, the church.
We must never confuse the church with a physical building or the place of worship. The New Testament does not contain a single specific line about church buildings. Christians are commanded to assemble together regularly for worship (Hebrews 10:25), and this command would imply a place for assembling; but the place could obviously be, among other things, a house, an open place, or a particular building designed for that purpose. No detailed instructions are given in the New Testament about the place of worship. This is left up to the judgment and discretion of the Christians in each locality. They may choose to build a building in which they can regularly meet for worship, or they may choose to meet in a house or in an open place. We must remember that the church, God's building, is the Christians in a location, and not the place where they worship.
According to Paul, Christians are to see themselves as God's house, and each Christian is to see himself as an important part of that house. As a Christian walks down the street, an onlooker can say of him, "There goes a living stone in God's building, the church."
The world will judge God's church by Christians, not by the building or place where Christians worship. Let us make sure that we live as God's building, that we live in harmony with our position in Christ's church.
3 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming Revell Co., 1961), 58.
A "LIVING" BUILDING
The fact that the church is a "human" building makes it evident that the church is also a "living" building . Solomon's temple of the Old Testament was made of inanimate materials, such as cedar, gold, silver, and ivory, but God's building today is made of living stones.
Paul never referred to the church as an institution. He implied, for instance, in the passage before us that the church is an organism, a spiritual building made of Christians, that is living and growing-a vibrant entity, not simply a group of people drawn together by common interests.
The building of which Paul wrote has no top. It has walls and a foundation, but no roof. Christians form the walls, and the foundation consists of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the cornerstone. Christ, as the cornerstone, bonds all the structure together. As people are converted to the Lord, they are added to the walls of this building; and since this is true, the building continually grows higher and higher every time new Christians are born. The word translated "growing" in Ephesians 2:21 is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Ephesians 4:16, to refer to the bonding together of each part of the body into a living union which results in growth to the overall body.
Luke wrote of the church in Acts 2: "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (v. 41). Two chapters later he said, "But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand" (Acts 4:4). In a short period of time, God's building grew from having in it three thousand living stones to having five thousand. Through the intervening years since that time, God's building has continued to grow. It is bigger now than it was this time last year. It will continue to grow until Jesus returns.
The church is a
but it is a spiritual building
made out of people who
have become Christians.
Peter referred to Christians as "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5), and Paul called them "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1). Assuredly, everything about this building of God is living. God the Father, in the Scriptures, is called the "living God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The Bible is "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus, according to Peter, is the "living stone" (1Peter 2:4). The hope which Christians have is real and authentic; and consequently, it is a "living hope" (1 Peter 1:3). The way into which Christians have entered through their obedience to Christ is "a new and living way" (Hebrews 10:20). Jesus, as the eternal Christ, our mediator, "always lives" to make intercession for us in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). We have been promised that even death cannot take away our life in Christ, for if we believe in Him, though we die yet shall we live (John 11:26).
A Christian is not a part of an organization. He is a living stone in a living, growing, spiritual house. We are making daily contributions to the growth and beauty of God's building. We have been joined together with other Christians to make a house that never stops growing. When we lead a soul to Christ, we add another living brick to the house of God. Conversely, if we were to destroy another Christian in some way, we would remove a living stone from God's house. Every Christian is joined to all other Christians; we live with each other and for each other, that jointly we might provide a building for God.
A "SPIRIT-INDWELT" BUILDING
Houses are made to live in, and God's building is no exception. His spiritual house is indwelt by His Spirit.
Paul said, "....the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21, 22). Paul also told the Corinthians, "Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).
God has a dwelling place upon earth even as He does in heaven. His dwelling place on earth is the church. He meets with and dwells among His family through the Spirit. The church is the visible part of God on earth; God daily lives in and works through His building, the church.
I grew up on a farm six and one-half miles from Springdale, Arkansas, in the Sonora community. Just across from our house, beyond a stream and a field, stood an old house which was empty most of the time while I was growing up. The house had been occupied by an aged couple, one of whom was confined to a wheelchair. I do not remember much about the couple, for I was only a small boy when they lived in the old house. When the couple died, the old house was left empty for some reason until it was torn down many years later. I can remember going into that old house after it had been vacant for a long time. The house had remained as the couple had left it-with furniture, dishes, beds, and other things still in place. It gave me an eerie feeling to walk through it. Having been empty for some time, it smelled of dust, mold, and deterioration. Newspapers and magazines were lying throughout the house as mute voices of the life and activities of the couple who had lived there years before. The obvious reason I had such a spooky feeling as I looked around in the old house was that the house was uninhabited. It was a shell, a furnished house with no life in it. Houses which have been vacant for a while and have been without the laughter and love of life are a pitiful sight. They usually become blots upon the landscape.
If the church were uninhabited, like that old house, it would be as worthless as it was. However, the true church is not a traditional relic from the past that is empty of life and energy; it is inhabited by the Spirit of God! Jesus built it as a place for God to dwell in the world.
Paganism had its temples throughout the Roman Empire. In Ephesus stood the ornate temple of the Asiatic goddess Diana, or Artemis. Judaism had its temple in Jerusalem and its synagogues scattered throughout the Roman world, where its members fought to keep the law of Moses alive long after God had done away with it. The most beautiful and elaborate of the temples of the world, however, is God's temple. His temple is not made with hands, but by God Himself; it shines with a glory and grandeur unequaled by any of man's temples, for God Himself dwells in it. Upon the divine foundation of the apostles and prophets, and Jesus as the cornerstone, God lays each living stone, each newborn Christian, upon another. Each is put into a cherished place in the wall of the building by the gracious hand of God in such a way that all the living stones fit exactly together. He builds on it day by day as people in India, Africa, Austria, America, Ukraine, Russia, and all parts of the world are converted to Christ. Then, in this spiritual, invisible, growing temple, God dwells through His Spirit!
This truth should come to our hearts with a great challenge. We are the temple of God in the world! Let us live with wisdom and holiness, obedience and faith!
A great and glorious truth was declared by Paul in Ephesians 2:19-22: The church is God's building. As this building, it is "human," "living," and "Spirit indwelt."
It is said that a building contractor was hired by a wealthy man to build a mansion for him while he traveled abroad. The contractor was given free use of a large sum of money for the expenses of the building project. He was placed totally in charge of the construction. During the time of building, the contractor substituted shoddy, inexpensive materials for strong, dependable materials and put the difference in the price of the two types of material in his pocket. He managed to hide his secret behind paneling and paint, brick and mortar, floors and walls. When the owner returned, the house had been completed and was ready for occupancy. From the outside, the house gave every appearance that it had been built according to the owner's plans, but unseen to the human eye were inadequate, inexpensive boards and beams, pipes and ducks, tiles and sheetrock. How amazed and disappointed the contractor must have been when the owner handed him the key and said, "You may have this house as your own!" The contractor, in cheating the owner, had actually cheated himself.
We have not been charged to build a house-we have been commissioned to be a house! We are to be not just any house, but the very house of God! If we fail to come into Christ, to be a part of God's building as living stones, we cheat ourselves of the greatest privilege God has given man. If we enter God's house but fail to live as God's house by substituting shoddy, inadequate living for the Christian life designed by God, once again we cheat ourselves, robbing ourselves of the unexcelled opportunity of representing God by living as His dwelling place.
We cannot build a building for God as Solomon did, since the church is built by the Spirit of God through the Word of God. We can, however, be God's building through our submission to the gospel and through the daily squaring of our "living stones," our lives, with Christ as the cornerstone!
Are you part of God's building?
QUESTIONS FOR STUDY
1. Describe the temple built by Solomon. 2. Using Ephesians 2, discuss the contrast between the non-Christian and the Christian. 3. Paul depicts the unity of the church as what three figures in Ephesians 2:20, 21? 4. Discuss how Godís temple today is a "human' building. 5. To what does the expression "living stones" refer-to churches or individual Christians? 6. How much information is given in the New Testament concerning a physical church building? 7. Discuss the place of the church building in our worship and our service to God. 8. How is the church a "living" building? 9. Explain how the church has walls and a foundation but no roof. 10.List the ways in which the church can grow. 11.Explain the meaning of the phrase "indwelt by the Spirit." 12.Compare the church with a pagan temple, accenting the difference that God's Spirit makes. 13. Discuss the difference between being given the charge to build a house and the charge to be a house.
For Preaching and Teaching Purposes: Sermon or Teaching Type: Basic pattern; deductive; expository. Subject: The church. Theme: The church as God's building. Title: God's Building. Preaching or Teaching Portion: Ephesians 2:21, 22. Proposition: (Declarative) The church is a unique building. Interrogative Question or Probing Question: How? Key Word: Ways. Major Points: I. A "Human" Building; II. A "Living" Building; III. A "Spirit-Indwelt" Building. Sermonic Objective: (Motivational) To motivate Christians to live as God's unique building.