Summary: The church is compared to a house, and we are the individual building blocks.
This morning, I want to talk about a church building. Not the physical building that surrounds us here which is composed of wood and stone, but the building of God, the church of our Lord that is composed of living stones.
The New Testament uses a number of different descriptive images to show us what the church is like. For example, it’s described as a family into which we are born again with God as our Father and many brothers and sisters in the faith. The church is also described as a kingdom wherein we are citizens, with Jesus Christ ruling as our king, to whom we have an obligation to be completely submissive. Other scriptures talk about the church as a body emphasizing both unity and diversity, each of us performing different roles with Jesus Christ as our head.
But this morning, I want us to explore the imagery of the church as a building, with every Christian a stone built into that building. Our text this morning is found in I Peter 2. If you have your Bibles, please turn with me there.
I. We Are God’s Building
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5).
There’s a story about a king of Sparta in ancient Greece who boasted to a visiting monarch about the mighty walls of Sparta. But the guest looked around and didn’t see any walls, and finally he said to his host, "I’d like to see those walls. Show them to me!" The Spartan ruler pointed with great satisfaction to some disciplined and well-trained troops, part of Sparta’s mighty army, and exclaimed, "There they are! Those are the walls of Sparta!"
Just as each Spartan soldier was viewed by the king as a brick in his mighty wall, so we are viewed by God as "living stones... built up a spiritual house"
Paul used this same imagery in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
A. The unity of the building
Here in Ephesians 2, Paul goes from the concept of citizenship in the kingdom to the concept of family to the concept of a building. And that may seem to be somewhat of an anticlimax. After all, a building is rather cold and impersonal compared with the relationship of a family. But if you look carefully, you’ll see what’s in Paul’s mind. He’s actually moving closer, higher, to a more intimate relationship, because he is stressing the closeness of the members of the very house of God -- closeness to one another and to the Lord.
You see, it’s possible for the members of a family to be scattered throughout the face of the earth. Some of you have family members who are thousands of miles away. Sueanne now has a brother in Washington State, a brother in Alabama, a sister and a mother in Utah, and a brother in Kiev, Ukraine. It’s hard to get much more spread out than that. In a family like that, you’re still related, still members of one another, but you’re widely separated and don’t see one another for years at a time.
But in the figure of a building, there’s no separation of stones that make up the wall. Everything is closely joined together, knit together. The KJV says we’re “fitly framed together.” The church of Jesus Christ draws us together and bonds us together in a way that nothing else can.
As you look around you at this physical building, not so very long ago, it was nothing but a bunch of scattered pieces. There was a stack of two-by-fours in a lumberyard. There was a pile of nails in a hardware store. There was a roll of carpet in somebody’s warehouse. There was concrete that hadn’t even been created yet. But now, due to great planning and a lot of hard work and expertise, all those pieces and hundreds more have all come together and been joined into one unit.
The same thing is true of God’s building, the church. Many of us who are now Christians were separated in the past into different pieces. Pieces that had little in common. Different economic situations. Different ethnic backgrounds. Different interests. But Jesus Christ, the master architect and master builder, has taken us and put us together, joined us together in his building.