The Assembly in Building
by G.J. Stewart
The Assembly in Building
Christ, the Son of the living God, is the One who builds His assembly, which is God’s house, and He builds with living stones upon the Rock foundation—Himself (Matt. 16, 1 Pet. 2). Let us consider how the work proceeds by the unseen power of the Builder, despite the opposition of the enemy; for the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. IT GROWETH TO A HOLY TEMPLE IN THE LORD.
It is said to be “fitly framed together” (Eph. 2:21), thus indicating that each stone of the building is in exact proportion and fitted together in its place. Christ, the Builder, is accomplishing this work which thus grows into the heavenly Jerusalem; a city which has no temple within, nothing to hide God from the inmates therein, but becomes itself the temple for the earth (see Revelation 21).
This may be illustrated by the building of the temple of old (1 Ki. 5:17-18). The stones were prepared in the quarry before they were put into their places in Jerusalem. Now is the time for getting and preparing the stones. Christ is the Architect and Master-Builder; He quarries the stones; that is, digs men out of nature’s quarry by the gospel; He tools, chisels, faces and bevels them and fits them into their places. Cunning in engraving also, He takes the precious stones and engraves characters in them, hard as they are. Then when the assembly is completed and He comes to rear the temple, the heavenly Jerusalem, the living stones fall each into its place without noise or observation. Wonderfully blessed to be of that temple!
What though many a hard line has been drawn upon the heart, many a rough lump knocked off by that skilled Workman! He knows what He is about! The graving tool does its work in the human heart, every line being drawn by Himself. It is only intended to reach the flesh so that the Spirit may form Christ there, for that which is of Himself alone goes to form the holy temple of the Lord. Blessed Workman! Good to be in His hands, whether just rough hewn from the quarry, or for the last finishing touch! Blessed be God, we shall regret nothing, but rejoice when we see how necessary all was to fit us in our place in that glorious building. Faith even now thus rejoices.
But the house of God is upon earth until that time. 1 Corinthians 3 indicates that the saints of God are the temple of God—God’s building now. And in this building, which is proceeding now, men have their part.
God has His Journeymen Builders
Man has made so many bad attempts to build that God might have set him aside entirely. Yet He still deigns to use men for His work under Himself, although we find a marked contrast between the work of the human builders and the perfection which marks His own work, against which the gates of hades shall not prevail.
Paul says, “We are labourers together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9-17). That is, we are God’s journeymen, His underworkers. There are three kinds of workmen who labour in this building; (1) The good workman who does good work, building in gold, silver, and precious stones: these are the indestructible truths of God—divine righteousness, redemption and the glories of Christ—such a workman will get his reward, for He builds as having the mind of Christ, and by the Holy Ghost. (1) There is the converted man, who is a bad workman, who builds wood, hay and stubble: these set forth what is corruptible—carnal work not of the Spirit. Such a workman will suffer loss, for his work shall be destroyed though he shall be saved. (2) There are men who defile or destroy the temple of God (v. 17). [These are they who have come into the profession of Christianity who know nothing of the power and wisdom of Christ crucified, who are the servants of the enemy and who defile the temple of God. Such builders have brought in all the Christ-dishonouring and faith-destroying doctrines that have overspread Christendom. They have defiled the temple of God by introducing practices that have no warrant in the Holy Scriptures, but have their origin in paganism, in which we should include prayers for and communication with the dead. The result of their work, seen perhaps in its worst character in the Church of Rome, has also spread throughout the whole profession with its almost countless sects, the true idea of the assembly of God is entirely falsified, for that assembly is holy as the sanctuary of God and one in the unity of the Spirit.]
We see the assembly in its essential character (1 Tim. 3:15), as the house of God . . . the assembly of the living God. Here again we come into touch with the living God. Christ, the Son of the living God, said, “I will build My assembly; this is the house where God dwells, the assembly of the living God!” It is awe-inspiring for man to be brought into the presence of God; as Jacob said, “This is a dreadful place! It is the gate of heaven!” Yet for the believer who knows what God’s nature is it is a place of worship and of praise; with the Psalmist he says, I desire “to see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary.” To him the holiness of God creates no repulsion, he has been fitted for it by His grace, so that now, without fear, he can be occupied with Himself and with His praise.
Another truth comes out in Hebrews 3:6, where . . .
Christ is Son over God’s House
All rule and authority in the house is in the hands of the Son. Believers have not to make rules that the house may be conducted in a proper way. God could not trust us to build of ourselves; will He trust us to rule? Impossible! True there cannot be blessing without ruling; but who is to rule? The Son. The Son-Builder is the Son-Ruler also in God’s house. What have we to say to the rules of the house? All that we have to do is to see that we understand and obey them. We must take heed to Paul’s word to Timothy and learn “how to behave ourselves in the house of God”; which is more than to know how to behave ourselves in the world. God dwells in His house.