Building... but not as we've known it
by Lynette Woods
"On this rock I will build my Ekklesia, and death itself will not have any power over it. " (Matthew 16:18)
Most of us who read the verse above agree that "this Rock" is not some literal, physical rock seen on this earth but something unseen and invisible: the revelation of Christ which God alone can give ("flesh and blood have not revealed this to you but My Father..."). If seeing and knowing Christ spiritually is the Rock and Foundation upon which He is building His temple, then it follows that what He builds will also be spiritual and invisible; NOT of this earth, but heavenly in nature and in character. However, many have seen only what is earthly and have believed that what Jesus is building is some earthly denomination, church, building, religion or organisation which can be seen and joined. These things are not God's work, but man's work; they are the result of man's desire to build for God which of course sounds like the age-old cry of "Come, let us build ourselves a building with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and be in unity and not scattered over the face of the whole earth." (Gen. 11:4). God is not building on any earthly foundation; flesh and blood cannot reveal this Truth of Who Christ is, only our Father can.
What Did Jesus Do?
I recently watched a BBC documentary about archeological excavations of Sepphoris, the largest city in Judea apart from Jerusalem, and which was only an hour's walk from Nazareth. When Jesus was about nine years old, Herod Antipas initiated a large scale building program in Sepphoris that lasted for twenty years. In this documentary they commented on how all these buildings were made of stone and that it was very likely that Jesus would have helped to build these stone buildings. Clever, religious me thought: "Everybody knows Jesus was a carpenter and not a builder, the Bible says so"! But this documentary said that Jesus may have worked on the buildings because the Greek word "tekton" which has been translated as "carpenter" in our Bibles, doesn't mean carpenter in the sense we think of it (making furniture etc). Instead it means craftsman and builder and applied to stonemasonry work as well as woodwork. I looked up the Greek word to check this out and found that they were correct. Our English word architect means master builder and is made from two Greek words - archi: meaning chief, and tekton: meaning builder.
Then I thought of how Jesus used so many word pictures and parables of things that both He and others were familiar with, and yet He never once gave a parable based on wood and making something from wood. Now that strikes me as rather odd for a carpenter! He could have talked about how a piece of wood is of no practical use (except for being burnt up in a fire!) until and unless the carpenter applies the hammer and chisel and carves something that can be used, but in the process the wood must lose not only the bark that protects it, but also loses its original shape...
Instead we see in the Bible that Jesus used building with stones as examples and images: (Matt 7:24-26, 16:18, 21:33; Mark 15:29; Luke 6:48,49, 12:18, 14:28, John 2:19). It is certainly interesting to think that Jesus would have first been a builder on this earth and that He then applied that experience and knowledge to the spiritual in working with living stones and building HIS Temple/Body! This reference also then has new meaning: "As Jesus was coming out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, Look, Teacher! Notice the sort and quality of these stones and buildings!" (Mark 13:1). If Jesus was a builder and had worked with stones, then this comment makes a lot of sense; the disciples would have thought that He would be interested in the architecture and material of the temple because of His occupation! And the reply Jesus gave is so typical of Him, instead of admiring the architecture and the work of man's hands He instead says "You see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be torn down"! He CAME OUT of the temple made with hands and was not impressed by what was made with human hands.
I asked Father what difference it makes
whether we see Jesus as a carpenter or a builder and
this is what I felt He showed me... Our
established mindsets often prevent us from seeing
the bigger picture, and it is the same in this case.
Another difference between builders and carpenters is that a carpenter can easily make a piece of furniture all on their own, but builders don't usually work by themselves, they almost always work together with at least one other person. As a builder, Jesus would have known how vital each worker is, and that co-operation and joint participation (koinonia) are important. Stones are very heavy and need people working together to fit them into place. All the pictures He gives us of His spiritual Building are images of inter-relatedness - His Body, His Temple, His City, His Bride - all of these are composites.
A Building Made Without Human Hands
We know that Jesus said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again." (John 2:19) and Mark records His accusers as stating that He'd said: "I will destroy this temple which is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, made without hands." (Mark 14:58). A Temple made WITHOUT man's hands... they were correct, this Temple was raised up and is being built by God alone... His work, His do-ing! Anything which is of Him is filled with His Life and death has no power over it! This Temple which Jesus is building is full of His Life and death cannot prevent His building project because He has already conquered death; His Ekklesia (which is the Greek word used in this verse and means "called out ones") are being built and assembled in the heavenlies. This is not something temporal but something eternal and out of this world!
The Scriptures are very clear: the tabernacle and temple of the Old Testament were a symbol and parable until Christ came. "When God speaks of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether. Now even the first covenant had its own rules and regulations for divine worship and it had a sanctuary, but one of this world... Into the second division of the tabernacle none but the high priest goes... by this the Holy Spirit points out that the way into the true Holy of Holies is not yet thrown open as long as the former tabernacle remains a recognized institution and is still standing. Seeing that that first tabernacle was a parable (a visible symbol or type or picture of the present age)... But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come, then through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not a part of this material creation, He went once for all into the Holy of Holies, not by virtue of the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption (an everlasting release for us). For Christ has not entered into a sanctuary (building) made with human hands, only a copy and pattern and type of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf." (Heb 8:13, 9:1,7-9,11,12,24 Amplified Bible) "It was Solomon who built a house for Him. However, the Most High does not dwell in houses and temples made with hands; as the prophet says, Heaven is My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest? Was it not My hand that made all these things?" (Acts 7:47-50).
The mention of a building "not made with hands" occurs three times in those verses. Our flesh loves having something which WE can make, feel, touch, see, hear and worship here and now on this earth instead of knowing and trusting in the invisible and unseen in the heavenlies. Many continue to believe in and support a Judaistic type of an earthly temple. We typically look at large numbers of people and admire buildings that are large and impressive because those things appeal to our senses and to our image of what we think is worthy of God. But if we learn anything at all from the Scriptures, it is that God does not think the way we do - His ways and thoughts are not our ways! He isn't interested in many things being seen and taken notice of, He is interested in only One Thing: Christ being seen and taken account of, "On THIS Rock I will build My Ekklesia". There is only One Thing which can break through the temptation of the many things which can be seen and heard in the here and now, and that One Thing is simply Christ. Once you have seen and experienced the Real, then earthly substitutes lose their grip because there is no comparison between the two!
Our Architect and Builder
"Faith is the assurance of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality. [Abraham] was waiting expectantly and confidently looking forward to the city which has fixed and firm foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God." (Heb 11:1,10). We have evidence all around us of our Architect's absolutely amazing design and creation! Nature everywhere speaks of breathtaking design and planning. But our Architect and Builder builds and creates very differently to how we do. Even at our most creative and most clever, we cannot make objects live, we simply co-operate with the life that is inherent in them. For instance a vine produces grapes and a fruit tree bears fruit not by striving and working hard to bear fruit or grow, it happens because of the life which is in them and it is the same with us. It is Christ and His Life within us which bears fruit and causes us to grow providing we remain (abide) in Him. He is the Vinedresser and will prune us through circumstances and people as He sees fit. Jesus spoke of this in John 15:1-9 and the Greek word which is translated as "abide" means to remain and to wait. We usually do not like waiting; we would rather try to make something happen NOW (made with hands) so we often take things into our own hands - being god and lord of our own lives.
We must be under the government of Jesus Christ and give up trying to govern ourselves. Often we usurp the role of the Holy Spirit by trying to be in control of everything in our lives, but when we yield to Him and allow Him to be our Head, we find that His yoke is easy and His burden is light! We joyfully follow Him and co-operate with Him in His work.
It is interesting that we are called living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) because stones cannot make themselves into anything or move themselves anywhere; they must rely on the Builder to place them and use them in the same way as precious stones must rely upon the Jeweller to place them securely in a setting. The building cannot design itself; it must wait on the Architect's plans. This building cannot build itself; it must wait for the Master Builder. This City is designed and built by God Himself.
One of the prime functions of both architects and builders is to create something from nothing. This City cannot be physically seen and yet is very real! Hebrews again compares the earthly with the heavenly and the Mosaic law with the new covenant: "Jesus has been considered worthy of much greater honor and glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. For every house is built and furnished by someone, but the Builder of all things is God." (Heb 3:3,4). Until people see this Ekklesia that Jesus is building, they often unknowingly give the former house more honour than the Builder, not realizing that that house was something temporal and not eternal and pointed to something of far greater worth: Jesus as not only the Builder but also the Temple! A house or temple on this earth, whether it is called a church or not, is a dead structure because it is the BUILDER that is full of Life and He is now building His Temple in the heavenlies with living stones/people who are full of His Life and Light!
May our eyes be opened to see Jesus Christ and the Ekklesia which He is building and may we learn to co-operate and work with Him as the Architect and Master Builder of all!
"In Him the whole structure is joined (bound, welded) together harmoniously, and it continues to rise, grow and increase into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you yourselves also are being built up with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit." (Eph 2:19-22 Amplified Bible).