The Church Really is a Building

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I keep hearing over and over again people trying to stress that the church is about the people and not about the building. We talk about “going to church” rather than “being the church.” Well, I have to say that the church is the building just like people have said for many, many years…just not in the way they meant.

Peter writes about this in 1 Peter 2:4-5

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you 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.”

The church being a “spiritual house” is a metaphor used to describe who we are as God’s people. The fact is the church is about the people and not about the physical building. It is a “who” rather than a “where.” But there is something valuable to be learned from Peter’s “spiritual house” analogy. The first thing is that the bricks need to actually rub shoulders. Imagine building a brick or stone house where the stones were not tightly fitted together. Not only would it let in the snow, rain and wind but the house would fall. The same is true in the church. We need to rub shoulders with each other. We need to be mortered together in such a way that when the rain and wind comes we will hold firm.

Second, this analogy helps us to see the parts and the whole are important. Peter says that Christians are like “living stones” that are taken and used to build a “spiritual house.” The stones are important. Each one has its place. Each one is alive and integral to the construction of the house as a whole. But the house itself is also important. It cannot be made of only a few stones in order to serve its purpose. Just like a body is not a whole body if it only consists of an arm, a leg and an eye…God’s spiritual house is built of many diverse types of people and backgrounds into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Last, Jesus is a part of this house. He is what makes the house all fit together. Notice the verses that follow, “For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”[a] 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone,”
– 1 Peter 2:6-7

Jesus is the corner stone and the capstone. Without him the whole thing would fall in on itself. He is what brings us together. He is what gives us life. He is what makes this “Spiritual house” what it is. If we leave him out or just be like another social club the house will fall.

So realize who you are as a living stone with value to God. But also realize the communal nature of your existence as an integral part to the “spiritual house” built and fashioned for God. Realize the unifying nature of the Lordship of Christ and understand where you fit into the bigger picture of the kindgom of God.

0 Responses

  1. It’s a good observation that the church is a building — one not made with hands. There are also words written about the holy city, the tabernacle of God, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11), and that dwelling place of God (Rev. 21). Notice that it *is* the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Rev. 21:9-11…)

    Plenty of people are talking about how the church is comprised of people — that it is not a destination involving a geographic site with a construction project of some sort. Now it is time for people to recognize that eternal life is Jesus Christ, and also not a destination of some fabled paradise for which they misappropriate the name “heaven.”

    Jesus told us what eternal life is (John 17:3) and his disciples knew what it is (1 John 5:11, 20). In his time in the flesh, there were many who heard this testimony, but who refused to accept it (John 5:39, John 6:53).

    Today there are still many who talk about dying and going to heaven, despite this contradicting the gospel in every way.

    Jesus said the one who lives and believes in him will never die. (John 11:26)

    Our favorite gospel scripture tells us the same thing: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him SHOULD NOT PERISH, but have everlasting life.

    “Dying and going to heaven” is a doctrine of man that not only contradicts the basic teaching of Christ, it also introduces a load of theological problems. If we “go to heaven” when we die (which we don’t die, but let’s just suppose we do), what happens when heaven passes away? Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away.” Sure enough, John saw as he wrote in Revelation 21:1 — heaven was passed away. Now suppose heaven is a temporary place, and we go there for a little while after we don’t die, to wait for the new heaven (kinda sounds like “purgatory” or something). So what then is the point of the Resurrection? Didn’t Jesus and the apostles preach the resurrection? Why would we need it if we were “already there” so to speak in this heaven place. I understand this dilemma is what led some men of doctrine to preach “soul sleep” followed by a destination of heaven following the resurrection.

    But Jesus didn’t preach that he who believes on him “gets to go to heaven on the last day.” The truth he preached is much better. He said we’d have eternal life. He is eternal life. He said, “I AM the resurrection.”

    “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. I am the bread. I am what satisfies. Heaven and earth will pass away but my word shall not pass away. My word testifies of me, and I am the word. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the ending. There was none before me, and there will be none after me. Besides me, there is no other.”

    So let’s stop looking forward to what Jesus did (the creation of the heavens and the earth), for the former things will pass away and he will make all things new. Let us therefore start beholding the source himself.

    “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!

    Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore [be] full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.

    I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

  2. Interesting use of “living Stone”. I read somewhere that neither Jesus nor Joseph were carpenters but stone masons and that “carpenter” was a mistranslation. That makes a lot of sense to me, when you consider a number of the images in the Bible.

  3. wjcsydney – I don’t believe Jesus’ being a carpenter was a mistranslation. Might want to check up on that.

    Matt – I like this passage too:

    Ephesians 2:19-22
    19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
    20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
    21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
    22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

    And this one speaking of the local church:

    1 Corinthians 3:9-17
    9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
    10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
    11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
    12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
    13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
    14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
    15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
    16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
    17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

  4. The scriptures read that there were persons who asked:

    “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”


    “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?”

    but the Greek reads exactly the same for both:

    esti ou houtos tekton huios
    Is not this carpenter son

    So while the verse in Matthew suggests that Joseph was a carpenter, and the translation of the verse in Mark suggests Jesus was a carpenter, the Greek phrases are identical for both verses. The differences in translation come from the proceeding words about his relatives.

    Regardless of the translation, the scripture here is not declaring Christ to be a carpenter, but telling us what those who rejected him as a prophet said. While we should take what the scriptures tell us as true, we do not take what Christ’s accusers and skeptics said as truth. They also said he was a glutton and a winebibber. The fact that they said this is true, but what they said was a lie.

    Nothing in the scriptures tell us that Jesus was indeed a carpenter. The doubter’s accusations make it somewhat plausbile that Joseph was a carpenter and Jesus may have worked with him, but we do not know what became of him.

  5. Ray Vander Laan has proposed that tekton (Greek for builder or artisan) is more likely to mean stone mason than carpenter in the case of Joseph and Jesus.

    1. BDAG goes with carpenter over stone mason. Stone mason is mentioned in the notes and from examples from extra biblical literature in BDAG but their interpretation is carpenter. I will go with BDAG over Vander Laan.

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