Friday, November 25, 2016

The Church That Rocks

No, I’m not pandering to the seeker-sensitive, culturally-acceptable, contemporarily-appealing, rockin’-n’-holy-rollin’, worldly-mirage of anything-goes Christianity.

Rather, I have a few thoughts about the rock-solid realities of the church Jesus is building, and want to share my encouragement with you. I will share some wonderful reminders of things God’s Book says about Jesus’ church, and invite you to consider what this gives to us who are in Christ Jesus, and also what it calls us to live in Jesus’ name. 

The Three Part Church

The church is made of three parts. Paul describes it like this:

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.[1]

The three parts of the church are its cornerstone, its foundation, and its building. Let’s consider each one, and how we see ourselves in relation to the whole structure.

The Rock-solid Cornerstone of the Church

“Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”

When we think of ourselves as Jesus’ church, we begin with Jesus as the cornerstone of the building. He sets the church true, and everything is built on him, and in connection with him. The Psalm-writers used the imagery of Jesus as our rock in many places, but here is one example to help us consider the absolute dependability, and faithfulness, and unshakable reality of Jesus’ securing his church as “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”[2]

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.[3]

The Psalmists understood the rock-solid faithfulness of God; we now understand that God, our rock, is the cornerstone of the church, and the reason that we will never be shaken.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,[4]

When we think of Jesus as the cornerstone of the church, we are not honoring some fallen hero from the past. Jesus was raised from the dead in victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave, and he is a living cornerstone. Although we use the imagery of rocks and stones to help us understand the security we have in the church, we are to see that everything is alive in Christ Jesus, and there is life in the structure Jesus is building as his everlasting church.

6 For it stands in Scripture:“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,    a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”[5]

God spoke in advance of what he would do to give us Jesus Christ, his Son, as our cornerstone. He was chosen by God as the means of our eternal salvation, and he is precious, not like a common piece of granite dragged out of a quarry, but as a precious gem, the quintessential precious stone, as though every other gem was a mere color in the spectrum of Jesus’ glory.

We now look back on both the prophetic declaration of what God would do for us in his Son, and the eye-witness testimony and breathed-out words of God telling us how Jesus secured our salvation. We lay our faith on this cornerstone knowing that, no matter how bad things look in this world, we are the ones who will not be put to shame at the appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

The Rock-solid Foundation of the Church

“built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”

Jesus himself is the cornerstone of the church, the rock first set in place to make the whole rest of the structure true and strong. The rest of the foundation is found in the men who served the early church as the apostles and prophets. Both what they did at that time, serving the church in their distinctive capacities, and what they give us now through the New Testament letters to the churches, give us the foundation of the church. In what the apostles and prophets did, and what they wrote, we know everything required to build our lives on this rock-solid foundation.

When Jesus told his disciples about the church he was building, he stated,

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.[6]

There have been many arguments about Peter’s place in the building of Jesus’ church, and what is meant by “this rock”. However, since God breathed-out his description of the church as built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, we can get the picture, that Jesus would build his church on the rock of the apostles and prophets. When we, the church, join Jesus in his church building program, we will always find everything we need to know how to live and grow by receiving all the apostles and prophets have left for us in the sacred pages of Scripture.

The Rock-solid Building of the Church

“in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

We who believe in Jesus Christ are “the whole structure”, that which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as our cornerstone. Seeing ourselves in this way gives us a huge measure of direction in how we live as believers in Jesus Christ. Peter added to Paul’s description with these words:

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.[7]

When we consider ourselves as the structure that is built on the foundation and cornerstone, we are to see ourselves as “living stones”. We are not assimilated into a singular piece of rock where we all lose our identities and become some unified divine consciousness. We are each a living stone, a member of the body of Christ, a part of this structure that Jesus calls the church he is building.

If you consider the descriptions given by both Paul and Peter, everything in the church is about coming together in the one building Jesus is making. By that, we do not mean one earthly building, or one earthly location, or one earthly time. We mean that, Jesus is only building one church, and all who believe in him are part of this building, what Peter calls “a spiritual house”.

Paul says that the only way we can live our Christian life is as those who are “being joined together”. He says we are “being built together”, just as Peter says we are “being built up”. We do not see the church as a field full of stones for people to trip over. Rather, we are a structure full of living stones that can only be what we are when built together, and built on Christ and the apostles and prophets.

Our identity as this structure is that we are “a holy temple in the Lord… a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Peter adds that we are “a spiritual house,” synonymous with Paul’s description of the holy temple. Peter also adds that we are “a holy priesthood,” with the specific calling, “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

All of this tells us who we are in Jesus Christ. We are living stones being built together into a holy temple. We understand both our place and our function by seeing ourselves in this structure. We look to the word of God, particularly the New Testament writings, because the apostles and prophets are our foundation, and we grow up as Jesus’ church by following their instructions.

We get all our security from our relationship with Jesus Christ because he is our life, our salvation,  our rock, our cornerstone, and he will keep us safe and secure until the day of his return, at which time he will usher us into a new heavens, and a new earth, where we will be safe and joyful forevermore.

It is no wonder that the writer of Hebrews would exhort us:

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.[8]

When God’s servant exhorts us to be grateful that the kingdom we are receiving “cannot be shaken”, we are to picture this rock-solid structure of the church, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself our unmovable cornerstone.

What this means from us is that we, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”[9] We have the cornerstone and foundation to give us our firm standing, and we have the architect and builder of the church doing the construction work. He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith,”[10] and we can safely and securely build our lives on him.

Even Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”[11] We now join him in this faith, but as those who are part of the church that has a rock solid foundation, with Jesus continuing to build the church he designed. What Jesus is building here on earth is a constant reminder of what is waiting for us in heaven.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.[12]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Ephesians 2:20-22 (the larger context is Ephesians 2:11-22, but my focus here is on Paul’s description of the components of the church structure)
[2] Romans 8:37
[3] Psalm 18:2
[4] I Peter 2:4
[5] I Peter 2:6
[6] Matthew 16:18
[7] I Peter 2:5
[8] Hebrews 12:28-29
[9] I Corinthians 16:13
[10] Hebrews 12:2
[11] Hebrews 11:10
[12] Philippians 2:12-13

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