“The Church as a spiritual house built as lively stones”
Today’s believers still rejoice to the lyric of Pastor Edward Mote’s hymn, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…” Peter, whose name means “rock”, the original Rocky, said that we have come to Christ “as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” (1 Peter 2:4). Christ is the stone rejected of the religious and political builders of His day. But we rush to Him for safety – “…when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). He sets our feet on solid rock and establishes our ways. All is secure in Him. Christ is both the cornerstone and the capstone of our corporate experience, the Alpha and Omega of the entire plan of redemption.
1. Christ: The Mason
The church is a living Temple, the “habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). Christ is the owner and master of the house. This is “the house that Christ built”. He is the mason who makes every stone fit in its proper place. But He is also the foundation of the house (1 Corinthians 3:11). The first mention of the New Testament ‘ecclesia’ is found in Matthew 16:18 – “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Scripture is clear as to the base rock or footing of the superstructure. There is no “rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2). Paul mentioned the smitten rock in the wilderness, “that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).
A foundation alone does not make a temple. So the Mason adds stones to the foundation – “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood…” (1 Peter 2:5) We shouldn’t picture uniform “one size fits all” bricks in Peter’s metaphor. A gifted mason fits all sizes and shapes of stones into an artistic mosaic. Every believer has a rank or position, and place to serve in this living temple. The tribe of Zebulon was known for its men who were “expert in war” men who “could keep rank: they were not of a double heart” (1 Chronicles 12:33). Maintaining position is our stewardship. Be encouraged that there is a place for you to serve.
As a young man, fresh out of high school, I became skilled in handling a mason’s trowel, cementing one brick to another. In building His church, Jesus took a towel into His hands, not a trowel, and washed the disciples’ feet. The Church, then, is as much built on the love of God as it is on Christ’s character and righteousness. This house of living stones is distinct in that it is chiefly a house of loving stones.
2. Body of Christ: The Mansion
The Mason is constructing a Mansion. Paul pictured the church both as a body and as a building, the Body of Christ and the Building of God.
Peter was the first stone laid because he was the first to grasp the revelation of Christ as being the Son of the living God. It would be fair to say that Peter was the first member of the New Testament church. Similarly, in type, Abraham was the first stone in the Old Testament House – “Look to the rock from which you were hewn…” (Isaiah 51:1) Christ is the cornerstone, Peter was added then another and another. Peter was not a Pope, but a petros in Greek, a fragment of rock cemented in union with the giant ledgestone who is Christ, petra. Both are “rock”, one is larger but both are of the same geological material. Charles Spurgeon further stated that Jesus “and the rest of his apostles make up the first course of stone in the great temple of God”. Once cemented, foundation and frame become one. Dr. Kenneth Wuest makes much of the fact that once petros connects with petra it can never go back to being a mere fragment of rock. As in human marriage, the twain become one.
In my country there is an insurance company that advertises, “own a piece of the rock”. The corporate logo pictures the Rock of Gibraltar. We too own a piece of the Rock. Believers sign with the Company through the same profession as Peter. The building, the Mansion, stands in all nations with tens of millions of stones, not mere pebbles but elect and precious earth-stones all cemented and built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
The architecture is not to be showcased. It is not the abode of doctrines and pews and traditions and religious forms. It is the very dwelling place of God through the Holy Spirit. As to lithosphere we are “lively stones”, as to atmosphere we are a “spiritual house”, the Temple breathes the very life of God.
3. Evangelism: The Mission
What then is the mission of this building? It is error to assume the mission of the Church is to just “have church”. Buildings have doors. As we have come to Christ we invite all to come to Christ. Don’t miss the importance of Peter’s metaphor. The church is not stone alone. The Law was written in tablets of stone, hard, unfeeling, uncaring, crushing everything in its path. What we present to the world is not a bag of rocks. People need love, living epistles not stone-cold orthodoxy.
David’s smooth stones hit their target. The rough edges of his slingshot ammunition were sanded down through years of friction in the streambed. Raw rock must be polished. Every stone individually has a mission and every local congregation or corporate church organization has a mission. To the blind and ignorant we become a stone of stumbling and to the religious and intolerant we are a rock of offense, but to those with ears to hear, the church offers guidance, inclusion and the roadmap to salvation.
Our mission is to reach the nations.
4. Kingdom of Christ: The Dominion
“The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. This building will survive, its true stones will never fall into ruin. Christ the Cornerstone will crown the top course of the building as Capstone. At last “he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it” (Zechariah 4:7). The house is not yet finished but completion date is very near.
Daniel speaks of a stone cut from the mountain without the aid of human hands (Daniel 2:34). That stone will roll down the mountainside and demolish every earthly opposition. For centuries the names of faithful saints have been added to the Book of Martyrs. Some gunned down or burned at the stake, and some stoned. Picture the battery of rocks that pummeled the church’s first martyr Stephen. Time settles the score. He that is without sin among you may cast the first stone. Only Christ holds that right and one day when the Lamb becomes the Judge, He will administer justice. There will be a payback for every stoning down through the ages when the Stone of judgment begins to roll. I am tempted to call this God’s Rock and Roll. At that hour, this chunk of rock, the church, will grow into a mountain, the Kingdom.
Christ will return in power and set up an everlasting Kingdom. Every knee shall bow and every government shall quickly submit to the claims of the Sovereign. “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:44). This is God’s mortar and pestle. When the dust clears Christ and His living stones will be left standing. The vehement flood will have been to no avail, every attack of Satan and his minions will fail, because the house “was built on a rock”. Is your life built on Christ and His word? All other ground is sinking sand.