God is interested in building that which is for His own glory. In this age he has two particular building projects which he is undertaking. He is in the business of building individual believers and building churches. However, these two are not separate projects. Rather we can say God builds Christians so that he can build churches.
Building Christians Jude writes: But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith (Jude 20a). We need to each take personal responsibility for ourselves and our growth in Christ. We are each building projects and we need to make sure progress is being made. The fact that “build” in this verse is in the present tense indicates that this work should be continually be going on in our lives. We will never be too old to be built up.
Paul provides further detail of this project when he says to the Colossians: “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6-7). Pulling together the truth quoted in the verses form Jude and Colossians quoted above we can say that Christian growth involves growth in Christ and that involves growing in the knowledge of the truth, “your most holy faith”, which we have in the Word of God.
Not only do we need to be concerned for ourselves though, but we need to be concerned for one another. If we love our fellows believers we will want them to grow in Christ. Paul says to the Thessalonians: “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). Further, in writing to the Corinthians, Paul emphasizes that in the church meetings the activities should lead to edification. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church (1 Cor.14:12) is what Paul says.
Building Churches As we have looked at Paul’s desire for building up the church we have started to move on in our thoughts to see how Christian growth is not an end in itself. As individual Christians grow, churches grow. Peter develops this imagery when he says you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5). God has provided a place where believers are to grow;that place is the church. And as they grow as part of a church that church comes more and more to be to the honour of His Name.
In the Old Testament God constructed a building to be for His glory; the temple. Accordingly we read that The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it (2 Chron. 7:2). In the New Testament the church is seen as the spiritual continuation of this temple. Paul says to the Corinthian church Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Cor. 3:16). One of the implications of this is that we should be careful what we build into this temple; that is for us, Feltham Evangelical Church. Paul challenges the Corinthians (and us!) by developing the thought as follows: By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any one builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light (1 Cor. 3:10-13).
Specifically the following challenges are implied:
- If the local church is represented as the temple (1 Cor.3:16) and we are all spiritual stones (1 Pet. 2:5) then all Christians should be members of a local church.
- The church is God’s special building project. The raises significant question marks as regards to para-church Christian organisations which exist outside the church. No doubt much good work is done through many of these. But, if possible, should it not be the case that all organisations should be operating in connection with the church and preferably under the authority of a church?
- This temple is made up of living We are all involved in effecting each of the others stones in our church,. If we never attend, never get involved in the lives of other believers then we are a discouraging “wood , hay and stubble” (1 Cor. 3:12) believer. Similarly if we are always criticizingly and discouraging other stones then we are not building up.
- Using our gifts for the benefit of other stones makes us to be gold, silver and precious stone believers (1. Cor. 3:12).
As we move into 2012 let us then be considering the building work that God is involved in. In the light of His building how is our building going?. And how much are we contributing, through our our personal growth and encouraging others to grow, to the growth of Feltham Evangelical Church.
Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of January 2012