Christian Building - by Keith Petersen
It is of great interest to see how the Bible treats of building, and in relation to individual Christians it carries, amongst other considerations, important moral teaching as to our resiliency in the face of the conflict here on this earth. Building when scripture shows it in a positive light involves consolidation and security, and the Bible also places emphasis for the individual Christian in relation to the practical path here of“built inward” and “built up”. All proper building can only be accomplished under the hand of God – “Unless Jehovah build the house, in vain do its builders labour in it”.
The Bible also considers building in a negative light – we see early on in Genesis that man said, “Come on, let us build ourselves a city and a tower, the top of which [may reach] to the heavens”. In this circumstance the city represents the natural intent and desire of man’s mind indifferent to the authority and glory of God, and the tower – much like the cupolas and spires on religious edifices – reflects the thought of man that he can reach heaven on his own terms. Earthly cities represent typically the natural efforts of men to secure their own circumstances apart from God – in an extended way Sodom and Gomorrah are immediate examples of man in the unhindered pursuit of his own desires.
As an adjunct consideration to all the above, most of us live in man-made dwellings in towns and cities and we are to abide by and indeed benefit from city rule and provision. Nevertheless, we are a heavenly people and our commonwealth is said to be in the heavenlies (see Philippians 3:20).
The Holy Spirit never casually uses words – there is always a Divine intent in all the inspired writing of the Bible. As Christians we are looked at as being “a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22) and in Hebrews 3 it says, “Whose house are we.” This language is designed to highlight and reinforce for us God’s thoughts as to what is built according to His intent – a great and elevating subject and filled with blessings.
Building according to God involves practicality, strength and temple conditions. In the tabernacle system under Moses much care is taken by the Holy Spirit to set out the nature and pattern of the tent of meeting – in Exodus 25 it is said, “And they shall make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shall shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the utensils thereof, even so shall ye make [it].” As Christians we tend to be casual in relation to Divine matters; however, God is never casual in all that He intends and implements anywhere in His creation – the beauty and intricacy of Nature alone shows this reality.
What God is building we see as set out in the Bible to be a great subject, and full of detail. In the tabernacle system we see the outer covering was to be of badger skins – a hardy, durable external covering. Next were ram skins died red – the strength and distinctiveness of Christ and of the Cross – and, finally, moving inward, byssus dyed blue representing the heavenly side. This is all instructive for us – showing, as it does in the type, the holiness and beauty in the inner “new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness and holiness” which must then be guarded from undue external influences both by the implementation of the Cross of Christ in our daily path as well as by the strength, power and resiliency (the badger skin) of the Christian overcomer.
In the temple system built under Solomon it was “great stones, costly stones” for the foundation – stones of 12 and 15 feet. Speaking intelligently, this would be a foundation that would never move (see Matthew 16: “on this rock I will build my assembly, and hades' gates shall not prevail against it.”).
The majesty and distinctiveness of Christianity is seen in the temple type in the cedars of Lebanon and the cypress, and the holiness and divinity of God is seen in the overlay of gold within and without. All that God has in mind anywhere in His creation – including Christianity – is always seen to reflect what is balanced, and this is seen in the exactitude of the temple measurements. This temple would have made a profound statement upon the spirit of the Israelite, and for the believing Christian we can read the detail as to it and be impressed with the spiritual and moral glories associated with this Old Testament type of what the Christ has now built – “ minister of the holy places and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord has pitched, [and] not man.” This temple system – including the levels, the chambers, the table with the shewbread, the altar of incense, the great altar, the lavers, bowls, utensils and the golden candlestick – shows in principle and in great detail what God had kept in mystery but which is now revealed – that is, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1). The Old Testament provides principles, patterns and types (“tupo” in the Greek), and the New Testament shows the moral result in the Christian type (or, “antitupo”).
When we come to the individual side, we see that we are “to be strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inner man” and this comports with 2nd Samuel 5 where it says that “David built round about from the Millo and inward. And David became continually greater; and Jehovah the God of hosts was with him.”
This inward building is of all import in our practical Christian circumstances here. We can see that the badger skins provided a protection for the holiest of holies that lay within the tent – in like fashion we have to protect what is provided by God in this new nature in the inner man. We have the panoply of Ephesians involving what is divinely given to ensure our overcoming – an outward armament, as it were – and Paul says, “leading captive every thought into the obedience of the Christ” – illustrating that the immediate outward “fortifications” are to prevent the intrusions and beguilements of Satan from becoming internal defilement.
An immediate question in relation to building – and, more specifically, internal building – is: how is this to be accomplished in the individual Christian path?
To answer this question it is necessary first, that the Christian see and understand what God is setting out on this great subject – as to which is somewhat touched upon in the preceding paragraphs. God’s thoughts as to building in relation to what is of Himself are a cornerstone of scripture and involve considerable emphasis as to the household side. His final thoughts involve what is fully corporate and can be seen in the holy, heavenly city of Revelation 21; however, the individual – and, by extension, the household side – is emphasized beginning with the lineages set out in early Genesis and carried all the way through the Bible into the New Testament. The word “house” is used almost 1900 times in scripture.
Early on in Genesis – chapter 7 – God told Noah to go into the ark with all of his house, and Abram was told that it was to himself and his house that God would make a covenant. Joshua said, “as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah” and David could say, “what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And yet this hath been a small thing in thy sight, Lord Jehovah; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come” – leading, as it does, onto the lineage that would provide for David’s son the Messiah – our Lord Jesus Christ.
The household thought here on earth points towards the family side – and, that in a moral way. Indeed, while each soul has to be brought into salvation in an individual way, the Bible constantly shows that God has families and households in view. In Genesis 18 the Lord says as to Abraham, “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice, in order that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham what he hath spoken of him” and we see that the moral side is prominent. In addition, the language is that Abraham shall command – “he will command” – and then the following language says “they shall keep” – leading, as it does, beautifully into the expansion of God’s thoughts in relation to the household. Thus, the Christian can have full confidence that the desire of God is that all in the household be brought into full salvation. Thus, we can commit our children to God – a wonderful reality – and this we do from the outset in their baptism. There is in Christendom considerable confusion as to God’s intent in the sacrament of baptism; however, it is quite simple as the Bible shows it. It is not, per se, infant baptism, nor is it, per se, adult baptism, nor is it a necessary baptism when a Christian already baptised subsequently decides upon another baptism when older as affirming a conscious Christian decision for Christ; no, it is none of these as such – it is simply household baptism (see Acts 16:31 – “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.”). The recognition of the scriptural principle of household baptism puts to rest in simplicity any confusion for the Christian as to the nature of and the implementation of baptism.
It should be said here that Christianity is entirely a spiritual system – the Lord said in John 4 that “God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth”. God has centered everything in Christ. As has been well said, `Christianity is Christ over again.’ We must take up everything in our Christian path here in light of the moral teachings of Scripture as to God’s intent in our relationship with Divine Persons, and, in reflex, to “the neighbor” – i.e., to other Christians and to man in the world. It is important to say that our Christian estate is a result of endowment; not, attainment. This means that all that is involved in this article must be understood in this light; which is to say, we are to implement what Christ has secured for us in His Cross; not, to try to attain it. Of course, in this respect, the Bible clearly shows there is to be Christian growth – see 1 John 2 and, particularly, Ephesians 4 where Paul writes, “until we all arrive … at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ”. This is indeed a form of building – “being built up” (1 Peter 2:5).
Much more could be said; but, it is hoped that these limited thoughts can be used to stimulate our minds and hearts in relation to what God Himself has in view for us – not just in our Christian path while here but also in a coming eternity in a home greatly different from what is in this earthly sphere – a heavenly home in which we will enjoy the glories of God together in a scene of unhindered light and love.