Summary: Do you neglect your soul all week, then come to church, expecting to be filled up? Or do you nourish your soul all week and come to build up others?
The Bible is full of different images to try to explain what the church is like and how it works. For example, the Apostle Paul often talks about the church as a building. But he didn’t mean a building made of wood or brick or stone. He meant a figurative building in which the members of the church come together, real close to each other, and become like stones, living stones, built together to make a temple. And when they are all in place, God’s Holy Spirit comes and lives among them, in his temple.
It may seem like a strange idea. But have you ever had a day when you came to church and you mixed with your brothers and sisters in Christ and it hit you, “God is here”? You experience God’s presence in the love of your brothers and sisters.
Maybe you felt it in some encouraging words from someone. And you appreciated them for saying it. But it felt like more.
Maybe you had been trying to figure out how to deal with some problem and someone said something to you that pointed you to the right thing to do and you just knew that God was helping you know what to do.
Maybe someone in the church offered to help you with some project that needed to be done at home. And you were thankful to them, but deep inside, you took it as a gift from God, too.
Maybe you’ve been under a lot of stress and its getting to you, and you get a thoughtful note or card in the mail. And something inside says, ‘Thank you, Lord, I needed that.”
When God’s people come together, in love and in unity, then we start to see glimpses of God breaking through, or shining out of his temple, the church. I think we have all experienced it.
And what a treasure it is to experience God in our midst. The Bible tells us to expect it, and it tells us to work to make it happen, to build each other up to be a temple from which God can shine. It doesn’t just happen automatically. There are so many things that prevent those stones from coming together. We all need to develop construction skills to be sure that God’s temple, the church alive, made up of all the believers, comes together. How are your church construction skills today?
Our text for this morning is, again, Ephesians 4:11-16. Please stand for the reading of God’s word.
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.
God puts spiritual gifts into every member of the church for the purpose of building one another up. Verse twelve of our text uses a construction term, building up. God’s temple is made up of living stones. In 1 Peter 2:5 we read, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” But we need to be prepared if we will be good building material. We need to be strengthened to hold up the weight of the building. We need to be shaped, to have our rough edges knocked off so that we can come together. We need to be fitted together and fastened securely together in deep relationships. When we do that, God’s love and grace and power shine through us.
How can we build each other up? I’d like to do what we call a topical Bible study and pull out several verses that talk about how we can build each other up, how we can build that spiritual temple where God is pleased to dwell and shine.
In Romans 14:19 we read, “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Peace and upbuilding go together. Every loving relationship we have is a resource for life that makes us stronger. Loving friendships make us more resilient. Loving relationships make it feel safe to ask for help when we need it. Broken relationships cut us off from those blessings. A solidly constructed building may survive most any earthquake. A building with cracks in its walls or foundation will fall with the slightest tremor. So living in peace with one another is an important part of making us strong. And Paul tells us to make every effort to preserve the bonds of peace.