Father, we are grateful for another day, coming out of this season especially as we thank You for the many blessings You’ve given us and I just pray You’ll be with our church today as we seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. So I specifically ask that Your Spirit would be at work today ministering to people, whatever their needs, whatever our individual needs are. We know that the Bible is sufficient and so I just pray that You would use Your Word today to minister to Your people. And I ask that we would leave here fed and encouraged, nourished, loved and also changed and that’s something only You can do and so we lift these things up in Jesus’ name and God’s people said… Amen.
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and verses 16-17 as we continue our study on the doctrine of the church, which is Ecclesiology. I hope you all survived Thanksgiving; if the rapture were to occur today the Lord would have to work harder I guess to pull us off the earth after all that cherry pie, pumpkin pie, cranberry stuff, whatever that’s called, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, what am I omitting here, turkey of course, dressing, and we had ribs at our house also, not in a substitute for turkey, alongside turkey. So praise the Lord. You know it is something living in a country like this; you look around the world and the biggest struggle people have is where they’re going to get their next meal; our biggest struggle is keeping the pounds off. So we are really blessed and we thank the Lord for that.
We started this study a few weeks ago, I think this is our 5th lesson on Ecclesiology, which is the study of the church. We’ve sort of defined the church as the called out ones. That’s what the name ekklesia means. The church, as we looked at from 1 Corinthians 10:32 is the third people group that God added alongside the only two people groups that existed up to that point in time, the Jews and the Gentiles. [1 Corinthians 10:32, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;”] The church basically consists of everybody who has trusted in the Messiah that national Israel rejected. And so as we have believed in the Messiah that Israel rejected we’re part of this “new man” as Paul calls it, the church. And from there we went into the differences between the universal church and the local church. We talked a little bit about that.
And where we find ourselves this morning is an area that we’ve been studying for a few weeks now, called the word pictures of the church because a picture is worth a thousand words. And so the Lord, what He’s done is He’s given us at least seven word pictures of the church. And it’s amazing the things we can learn about the church simply by flushing out these seven word pictures.
The first is the shepherd/sheep analogy which we talked about. The second is the head/body metaphor or analogy which we talked about. And the third, I think we finished this up last time is the bride/groom analogy. And part of the bride/groom analogy is understanding the Hebrew wedding ceremony, which has (by my count) at least ten parts to it. So there’s parts 1-5, [Marriage covenant, Bride set apart, Bridal chamber, Betrothal period, Bride retrieved. There’s parts 6-10, [Bride and groom hidden in Father’s house for seven days,  Bride cleansed,  Wedding ceremony,  Consummation,  Marriage feast.]
And when you understand that Hebrew wedding analogy and how the Lord has a program for the church that’s similar (if not identical) to a Hebrew marriage, you can understand what the church is, why the church exists, what the church is supposed to be doing in the present, and what the future holds for the church. We talked about that. And now we come to word picture number four for the church and that is the temple. So the church is analogized many times in the New Testament to a temple. It’s a metaphor, it’s a figure of speech, and that temple imagery communicates a lot.
So notice, if you will, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, it says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him,” Wow! “for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” Now most Christians are familiar with 1 Corinthians 6, a few chapters later, verse 19, where it says our body is the what? “temple of the Holy Spirit.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?]
But in 1 Corinthians 6:19, I think it’s the pronoun “you” it’s singular. So we individually are the dwelling place of God. Most Christians I think understand that; what I find fewer Christians understanding is the fact that Paul switches the pronoun to singular in chapter 6, verse 19, to plural in verses 16 and 17 of chapter 3, in the verses that I just read.
So here is the whole picture. God indwells us individually, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:19, and what he’s also saying here back in chapter 3 is God indwells us corporately, plural, where the church gathered is also the temple of God, or the presence of God. You might remember the verse that Jesus quoted relative to church discipline in Matthew 18:20. He said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
So this is a picture of the church where the church is literally the dwelling place of God. My body is the dwelling place of God, so is the church. And this is why Paul is very clear that we ought to be careful how we treat the church because he says, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him.” I mean, when you come against the church you’re coming against the place where God has chosen to dwell and to abide in the church age as He’s dwelling in our bodies but He’s also dwelling amongst us corporately.
The presence of God is probably one of the most dominant concepts you have in the Bible. The Shekinah glory of God, the manifestation of God, and what we discover here is we’re very unique because God has chosen to dwell amongst His people, the church, the believers gathered to commemorate Him and to worship Him. And a lot of people, you’ll notice, have a very casual attitude about the church. They will miss a church gathering for the slightest inconvenience, whether it be rain or the baseball game or something like that.
And I’m not sure we would have that attitude if we really understood what Paul was revealing here, that the church is something special, the church is something unique. In the church you can find something that you can’t find anywhere else on planet earth and that’s the actual manifestation of God, because as you go through the Old Testament, and Paul a Jew, a Hebrew, is borrowing from this Jewish metaphor, when you go through the Old Testament what you discover is the temple, the Jewish temple, and here I’m not talking about people I’m talking about a physical construction or a building, the temple was a very special place because the temple housed the very presence of God.
You might remember Moses and in the wandering years, and what’s called the tabernacle as described in the Book of Exodus, the tabernacle basically is what I call a mobile temple; it’s something that they took around with them; they had to take it down every night, put it back together as long as they were outside of the land of Israel, entering the land of Israel they had something called a tabernacle, a mobile temple. Which was very, very significant because that structure housed God’s presence.
Now I don’t really recommend you get too much of your theology from the movies but do you remember Raiders of the Lost Ark I think it was, remember what happened when they opened that tabernacle up? The judgment that came? And that’s actually a story that you can find, I believe it’s in 1 Samuel, if I’m not mistaken, it may be 2 Samuel but you can look that up and discover that. And it’s interesting that when workers touched the temple incorrectly in the Old Testament they were immediately killed.
So finally this tabernacle structure became an actual physical site in the land of Israel; it moved from being mobile to being actually stationary once the nation of Israel entered the land. And as you know from the Old Testament David was not allowed to build the temple; because he was a man of war that privilege went to Solomon, his son who was a man of peace. In fact, from the word Solomon you’ll notice the word Shalom in the word Solomon; Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. And so what was mobile then became stationary about 966 B.C. as Solomon built that temple. And when you go through the Kings and Chronicles what you’ll discover is the Shekinah glory of God is entering that structure that Solomon built.
And of course the Shekinah glory of God departed from that structure just prior to the Babylonian captivity and Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of that temple. And the exiles, when they returned from Babylon rebuilt the temple; that temple was destroyed by the Romans, that temple two. And we know that there’s going to be a temple in the future built out of nationalistic pride, that the nation of Israel will build out of nationalistic pride and unbelief, which the antichrist will desecrate; that will be temple three. I sort of agree with Arnold Fruchtenbaum here, that that third temple, which doesn’t exist yet, will probably… and I can’t be dogmatic on it, but it will probably be destroyed in the final bowl judgment in the Book of Revelation, which describes the greatest earthquake in human history.
And then that temple we know from Ezekiel’s prophecies, chapters 40-48, will be replaced one day by the millennial temple in the millennial kingdom and that is the temple that the Shekinah glory of God will reenter. So all of this background shows us that the temple was very significant to Jewish thinking; it was the place where God Himself dwelt. And so if anybody in the Old Testament said where does God live? If it was pre-Solomon they would point to the tabernacle; it is was post-Solomon they would point to the physical structure in the land of Israel.
So Paul, not rehearsing all of this information, and that’s sort of how the New Testament is set up, it’s not going to rehearse all of the information, it’s sort of expecting us to know these things before we approach the New Testament, Paul writes, [1 Corinthians 3:16] “Do you now know that you” plural, “are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” plural.  “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. So here we are in the New Testament age with a privilege that even those in the Old Testament age never experienced, where God has made a decision to dwell, which is what a temple is, where God dwells, God has made a decision not to dwell in a building but He has made a decision to dwell amongst His people in the church age corporately gathered.
So I am a temple of God, as are you, singular, but we together are a temple of God corporately. And so that becomes a very powerful word picture, doesn’t it, to describe the church. It shows us that the church ought to be treated with respect; the church ought to be treated with dignity. You know, a lot of people, and I don’t have some sorry financial plea to give to you today, our church is doing fine financially, I’m just making a generic statement, a lot of people will get down to their last buck, and oh, I guess I’ll give this to the church. You know, the church is sort of last in their thinking financially, rather than first on their thinking.
And a lot of people sort of have an idea that well, I’ll go to church assuming nothing else works out. So the church is sort of last in their thinking rather than first in their thinking. And when we understand that the church is actually the place where God has chosen to dwell corporately amongst His people in the church age that should completely alter the way we think about the church. The church ought to be treated with respect, dignity; it ought not to be thought of as a last resort, it ought to be thought of first in our minds.
And so just as a physical temple was constructed in the land of Israel that’s what God is doing today. He is constructing us, not with literal bricks but with metaphorical bricks, into a temple structure. And take a look, if you could, over at Ephesians 2:19-22. Paul picks up on this temple imagery as he is describing its construction in the church age. Now remember what Jesus said, “I will build My church,” so that’s what Paul is talking about here, the construction of the church that God is doing in the present age as people are becoming Christians, believers in Christ, and being inducted into the church, this new man.
So if you look at verse 19, it says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,” now the household of God is a concept that relates to the temple, the place where God dwells amongst His people.  “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” now let me ask you a question, those of you in construction or those of you not in construction since it’s kind of a common sense question: how many times do you lay a foundation? You lay a foundation one time. And I think that’s significant because there’s a lot of people today that call themselves apostles and prophets. They introduce themselves as either an apostle or as a prophet.
In fact, when I was teaching at the Bible College one of the things I would do at the beginning of each class is allow the students to just sort of introduce themselves and they would do that publicly, and I did it sneakily because I wanted to figure out what kind of hand I had been dealt, because I want to sort of read people’s theological presuppositions before I start teaching so I can know how to teach, what to emphasize, what not to emphasize. And there were a plethora of students that would introduce themselves as I’m prophet so and so, I’m prophetess so and so, I’m apostle so and so. I don’t know what a female apostle is, someone told me that’s an epistle, a female apostle but the reality of the situation is in the technical sense of the word you don’t have apostles and prophets today. Why? Because they were the foundation of the church, Ephesians 2:20. [Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,”] And you only lay a foundation one time.
If you want to get into the technical definition of an apostle biblically, an apostle, when you go to Acts 1, when they were thinking about replacing Judas (who had committed suicide) with Matthias and they were laying out the criteria for who should be in the inner circle as one of the twelve it’s basically somebody that had to have been with them in the beginning, an eyewitness to the things of Jesus Christ and having witnessed, in an eyewitness sense the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So when someone would introduce themselves to me as apostle so and so, rather than just lay into them, which would just upset them, I always tried to use a little humor, just to get them thinking, I would say “man, you look good for your age.” And they’d say what do you mean? I’d say well, according to the Bible you should be 2,000 years old by now, so what’s your diet tips, what’s your exercise tips, you look really good for your age and that would at least get them thinking a little bit, that maybe they’re not an apostle the way they think they’re an apostle. The closest thing you can have to an apostle today would be a missionary. The word apostle just means sent, a sent one. So when you go through the Scripture what you’ll see is the word “apostle” is used in a very technical way, as it is in Acts 1, and it’s also used as a common missionary. So there are apostles today in the latter sense but there are no apostles today in the former sense. So we need to be very careful how we’re using this word “apostle.”
A prophet is basically somebody who is giving new revelation from God and that’s why the prophets here are called the foundation of the church as well, because when John wrote the Book of Revelation, in A.D. 95, and said, recorded the words of Christ, no one can subtract or add to it, basically John was saying the moment those words were recorded is the moment the Canon of Scripture closed and shut.
Jude 3 tells us truth has been once and for all delivered to the saints. [Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
So therefore for someone to say that they are a prophet is basically to argue that they are giving new revelation from God today, which was very real when the church started, at its foundation because the Books of the Bible were yet to be recorded. But today we have no such office because the canon of Scripture has been shut.
The closest thing, and I asked my professor, Dwight Pentecost about this, the closest thing you could have to a prophet today would be a modern day proclaimer or preacher, or heralder of truth. And Dr. Pentecost believed that the office of prophet once the canon of Scripture sort of gave way to another office, the office of a preacher or a teacher or a proclaimer. And that was his definition, I’m not so sure I buy it but my point is the closest thing you could have to a prophet today is someone who is authoritatively teaching this Book. If they’re giving their own revelations or their own concepts or their own ideas then they’re outside the bounds of biblical authority, in my estimation, and these ideas that I’m sharing you’ll find them clearly communicated in the Sugarland Bible Church statements of faith and position statements.
So can you have an apostle today? If you define it the right way, as a common missionary. Can you have a prophet today? If you define it the right way, as a common heralder and proclaimer not of new truth but of the sixty-six books that have already been written now that the canon has been closed. And by the way, the Scripture is very clear in 2 Timothy 3:17 that the Scripture is capable of equipping us for how many good works? Every good work. [2 Timothy 3:17, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” So if the Scripture is capable of equipping me for every good work then why do I have to always be listening for some auxiliary voice out there to sort of supplement what God has said.
The reason people are attracted to modern day prophets is they kind of want the updated version. You know, who wants to read the version that’s 2,000 years old? I want the new sequel. So people that give themselves the office of prophet sometimes have an audience but the reality of the situation is the ministry of revelation is over; it’s been over since the first century in A.D. 95. And the ministry that God is actively doing today is not the ministry of inspiration, not the ministry of revelation… watch this carefully, but the ministry of illumination. Revelation is the reception of a brand new truth; inspiration is the recording of that brand new truth. Those two ministries are over.
The ministry that’s active today is illumination where the Holy Spirit is helping us to understand what? What’s already been said, and maybe to apply it to our lives in a fresh way. But the meaning is fixed and stable. You can have one meaning but you can also have multiple applications. And you see, this is all bound up, as I’ve been trying to explain, in the temple imagery where when a temple is built you put the foundation in first and the very first things that were put in were apostles and prophets and you only lay the foundation one time. So the way Paul is using the word here there are no prophets today, or apostles today. I’m only open to the idea of apostles and prophets today if you define it correctly, and a lot of people don’t. They just throw the word apostle around or prophet around.
Back to Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” and look what it says here, “Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,” Now that is a fascinating word study, “corner stone” because the corner stone is the first stone that you put in before laying the foundation. So you put that stone in first, it’s a very special stone, all the builders knew exactly where that stone was in the structure, and you used that stone as a measuring gauge for every other stone that came in. So first goes the corner stone. Who would the corner stone be? Jesus Christ. Then comes the foundation consisting of apostles and prophets. And then what does it say?
You see, the building is only as good as the foundation. Living in the Dallas area we would wake up many times and we would have a giant crack in our wall and it wasn’t because the carpet didn’t look right or the Thanksgiving table hadn’t been set up correctly, or the air conditioner, it’s because of what? The foundation was the problem. And of course we were warned about those foundation problems before we bought the house but we bought the house anyway, but because the foundation was wrong you could have subsequent problems with the building. So a building is only as good as the foundation it’s constructed on. So Paul, when he uses this temple imagery wants us to understand that the foundation was right. The foundation consisted of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, through which all the other stones in the structure are gauged and measured and arranged. And then secondly the foundation of the apostles and prophets was put in.
So now that the foundation is right what has God been doing for the last 2,000 years? He’s been building on that structure. It says, “in whom the whole building being fitted together is growing,” you see, this is not something that boom, it was done in the first century; this is describing an aggressive construction project that God is doing in the present age. That, by the way, is one of the reasons why the church cannot be confused with the kingdom. Everything we know about the kingdom is when the kingdom comes it will be instantaneous and sudden.
You remember the imagery in Daniel 2 of the smiting stone that crushes the feet of the statue, and the smiting stone grows and grows and grows until it fills the whole earth? The crushing of the stature or the antichrist’s empire is cataclysmic. This is why Jesus, many times, analogized the coming of the kingdom to lightening. I mean, it is sudden! But that’s not what’s being described here at all; what’s being described here today as the kingdom is in postponement, because national Israel rejected her Messiah and we’re waiting for that future time when national Israel will accept her Messiah in the tribulation and the kingdom will come because God does not leave the earth without a witness of Himself He is busy in a gradual construction process called the church.
[Ephesians 2:2] “…in whom the whole building is being fitted together into a holy” what? “temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” So we are part of this tremendous project that God has been doing for the last 2,000 years where He is, by His Spirit, by His Word, winning men and women to Christ and baptizing them into the church and we become participants in the church and when we come into the church we don’t come in at the cornerstone, we don’t come in at the foundation stone, that’s already been taken care of. We are part of the building blocks and we all play different roles but we’re gradually being brought into this structure called the church where God Himself dwells. And this is a gradual process that God is engaging in in the church age.
And in my humble opinion what God is putting on today is the roof. He’s not relaying the foundation, and I can’t prove this necessarily, it’s just my leaning on it, most of the structure has been built and as we see the nation of Israel regathered in the Middle East we live with the constant awareness that the age of grace or the age of the church is winding down. And if that’s true God is putting in the final bricks, if you will, into this temple structure, not laying the foundation again but He’s putting on the roof. And as that roof comes together you’ll see a description of it in the Book of Romans. You might want to turn over there just for a minute.
The Book of Romans, chapter 11 and verse 25, Paul says, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—“ what’s a “mystery”? It’s a new truth, never before revealed, “so that you will not be wise in your own estimation– that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until” now the two most important words here (for our purpose) are the word “partial and the word “until.” Israel is in unbelief but her unbelief is partial because God has a future work that He will do through Israel through which the kingdom will come. And so Israel is in that state of spiritual blindness “until.” Israel’s blindness is not forever, so one of these days God is going to pull the veil off the Jewish eyes and they will see exactly who the Messiah is in the events of the tribulation period, which will result in the manifestation of the kingdom at the end of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. But you see, we’re not in that time period yet. Israel has experienced a partial hardening “until.”
In other words, God is finishing up something first. Before He begins His unfinished work with Israel He’s finishing up a project right now and what is that project? It’s “putting on the roof of the temple.” See that? “that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the” what? “Gentiles has come in.” So apparently that very last brick, that very last stone is going to be placed into the structure on the temple; the very last Gentile that’s predestined to come to Christ will come to Christ, will be baptized in the church, the moment that happens God says the building project is complete, the temple is finished.
And I believe, we believe at that point the church will be raptured to heaven and God, who is not forgetful of His promises to Israel, will place His hand back on Israel and bring them to Christ during the final seven years of the tribulation period. But you see, we’re not in that time period yet because the last Gentile evidently has not come in.
Now personal evangelism, this is why personal evangelism is such warfare and it’s so difficult. When the Holy Spirit convicts you to share your faith with somebody, a family member, someone sitting next to you on the bus, a neighbor, a waiter or waitress, I guess they don’t call them waitresses any more, servers or whatever they are, the Holy Spirit is convicting you to share your faith with that person what’s happening in your mind is total spiritual, psychological warfare. Amen! I mean, the first thing you think about is they are going to think I’m crazy, what if they don’t believe, what if they think I’m a nut, it’s all me, me, me. We’re not really worried so much about the person that’s on their way to hell, we’re very selfish we think about ourselves in those situations.
And essentially what’s happening is the devil is throwing all kinds of problems at you. Why is that? Because Satan is not omniscient. Right? When Ezekiel described the fall of Satan, in Ezekiel 28:12-17, he makes a statement there about “on the day you were created.”
[Ezekiel 8:12-17] “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared.  “You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.  You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you.  By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.  Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you.”]
So Satan is a finite being and he doesn’t know everything And Satan, who knows the Scripture, knows that when the last Gentile comes in and the rapture happens then his days are numbered. So what do you think he’s trying to do? He’s trying to prevent that last Gentile from coming in; he’s trying to prevent… he doesn’t know exactly what stone it will be but he’s trying to prevent that last stone from coming on to the roof to prevent the rapture of the church. Do you follow that?
When you experience psychological and spiritual and emotional warfare in personal evangelism it is related to the fact that the devil doesn’t want the rapture to happen. So to prevent the rapture from happening he is working today to prevent the last stone from coming in. He doesn’t know if this person that you’re witnessing to is the last stone or not; maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But he’s not going to take any chances. And so this is a different way of looking at evangelism, isn’t it. God wants that last stone in; that last stone is going to be put in but the devil doesn’t want that stone put in because he knows that when that happens the fullness of the Gentiles will have run its course, the work of the church will be over, we’ll be raptured to heaven. That’s why the very first sign you get of the church in heaven, in Revelation 4 and Revelation 5, is a completed church.
Revelation 4 and Revelation 5 is a beautiful picture of the church worshipping Jesus Christ in heaven before the events of the tribulation period take place. And that’s the first time that the church will be corporately gathered in one place together because at that point the last stone, the roof, will have been put in and the body of Christ or the bride of Christ will have been completed.
Take a look, if you could, at Acts 15:14, it’s another description of what God is doing today, the gradual process of the construction of the temple. “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.” So that’s another way of saying God is building something today gradually as Gentiles… now of course Jews get saved today but ever since Paul’s first missionary journey the primary people that get saved in the age of the church are Gentiles and they’re gradually being saved, they’re gradually being brought in, they’re gradually being built into this new man called the temple.
Let me just give you one other set of verses. If you don’t mind let’s go over to 1 Peter 2:5-9 where Peter is picking up on this temple imagery. 1 Peter 2:4 says, “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God,” now what is that talking about there? That’s talking about the cornerstone of the temple; the cornerstone is who? Jesus Christ. He was the first stone, the most important stone, put into the temple structure at its foundation. Now how did He qualify to be this chief cornerstone? Because He was rejected by men. Peter is writing to a Jewish audience here. Who were those, who were the men that rejected Christ? First century Israel. God took that tragedy (lemons) and turned it into what? Lemonade. Through that transaction Jesus became qualified in the age of the church to be that most important stone put in, that chief cornerstone.
Verse 5, “you also” so I’m part of it and you’re part of it, “you also, as living stones,” see, we’re not dead stones in a typical temple structure, we’re alive stones because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, “you also, as living stone are being built up” does that describe something that happens in a nanosecond or a process? It’s clearly a process. You “are being built up as a spiritual” what? “house” what would the “house” be? The temple, the whole metaphor; I Jewish mind would recognize this. A Jewish mind, Peter is writing to Hebrew Christians, is immediately thinking back to the temple program that God had for Israel and they’re clearly seeing that God is building today something even more significant than a physical brick and mortar building. He is building His people into a metaphorical temple.
“…are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood,” we’ll talk about priesthood down the road, “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Verse 6, “For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS” what? “CORNER stone” that would be who? Jesus Christ, “AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” I can’t tell you, folks, how tired I am of seeing book titles that read this way: Disappointment with God, it’s like people griping against God because God didn’t do this or do that. I wish we would get our mind off ourselves and start reading His Word because His Word says “He who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” So you either believe the Bible or you can believe the latest best seller.
Verse 7, “This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,”  and, ‘A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.” So depending on what a person does with Jesus Christ he is either a beautiful cornerstone that is put into the temple’s structure foundation first or he becomes a stone that actually crushes them. So do you want Him to be a cornerstone in the temple that you are participating in or do you want Him to be a stone that crushes you? I think I’ll take the former rather than the latter. And whether a person is crushed by Christ or sees Him as this beautiful corner stone completely depends upon whether they trust in His provision for salvation. If you trust in His provision for salvation in the age of the church you are brought into this magnificent structure called the temple, Christ being the cornerstone.
Then he goes on and he says,  “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION,” for what purpose, why are we here doing this, “ so that you may proclaim” now how do you “proclaim” unless you open your mouth in praise, right? “…you proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” why has God put is into this structure? So we can make verbal praise and proclamation to Him who has redeemed us and is building us.
Now you have a lot of people that take the subject of worship very, very lightly. I even see them out there drinking coffee while worship is taking place here in this church, and may I just say to you if that’s your mindset, you’re very casual about worship, today I want to sing, today I don’t want to sing, then you’ve missed your calling because your calling in God is to proclaim the excellencies of His name. Anytime the Lord in His church gives you an opportunity to praise Him, or maybe you’re in the role of a teacher or a counselor where you can proclaim to others the very oracles of God, you should take that privilege of utmost seriousness because that’s why you’re in the temple. You’re in the temple for purposes of proclamation, which means I have to open my mouth and speak. Right.
I run into people and they say this: well, you know, I want to lead my neighbor to Christ. Great, how’s that going? Well, I go over and I mow his lawn every single week. Okay, what else do you do? Well, that’s all I do, I just mow his lawn and I want him to see the love of Jesus in me because I know if he sees the love of Jesus in me then that’s going to win him to Christ. Let me let you in on something; mowing someone’s lawn may create the right climate or the right foundation or the right platform by which you share the gospel with somebody but mowing someone’s law in and of themselves will never lead a person to Christ because, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word Christ.” [Romans 10:17] At some point we have to open our mouths and speak the gospel. That’s how people get saved.
Now I get the idea that they are more likely to listen to you if they see the love of Christ demonstrated through you. But this idea where you go out and you do these service projects just for the sake of doing a service project, I mean, what does that do? That sends a guy with a well ordered lawn into hell basically is what it does. And this is the whole problem with what is called social gospel where service projects substitute for personal evangelism. I’m in favor of service projects; I’m in favor of humanitarian works and those kinds of things from the church IF they are used as a platform to preach the gospel. If the whole point of it is just to have a service project for the sake of service projects then count me out because that falls short of our calling of proclaiming, preaching, the excellencies of Jesus Christ.
This is one of the reasons we had to start looking carefully at our supported missionaries at Sugar Land Bible Church, many of them very good but some of them would get up here during the missions moment and they would say things like this: Well, here’s what our missionary activity is; we dig wells, we provide water and they go on and on about all this humanitarian stuff that they do and they typically say we try to bring in the kingdom this way. I don’t think the kingdom has come, I mean Jesus said the poor you will always have with you. Didn’t He say that? [Matthew 26:11, “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.”]
We dig wells and we put blankets on people and we show the love of Christ and if they happen to ask us about the gospel then we’ll say something. Now shoe me that model of evangelism anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, very few times in my life can I remember anybody asking me about the gospel. I think it’s maybe happened once or twice but it is not normative at all. Every evangelistic opportunity that I have had in my life I have to see an opening that God has provided and I have to be the person that is asserting and I have to take the initiative. And many times we don’t do that because we’re thinking about how that person is going to react to us; we’re more worried about ourselves than that this person is on their way to hell. So we shrink back and we come up with these excuses that well, if I just go over and mow his lawn that’s enough. Well it’s not enough. The reality of the situation is a person has to hear the gospel and they have to believe it to be saved and a lawnmower can’t communicate that.
It has to come from the mouth of a redeemed person and that is what your calling is. You are brought into this temple structure for the purpose of proclaiming (which is oral, verbal isn’t it) His excellent mercies. That’s what God wants to do with you; He wants to use your mouth, maybe you’re a teacher, maybe you’re participating in worship, maybe you’re a worship leader, maybe you’re none of the above. God still wants to use your mouth to expand or to declare His excellency. Maybe He wants to use you in personal evangelism. So don’t let fear of self cheat you out of your calling. If you spend your whole Christian life mowing someone’s lawn but you never open your mouth, never declare to them the gospel you’ve missed the purpose for which you were brought into this temple structure. Amen. So look at all of that, I just spoke for almost an hour just on that one metaphor. See all the things God is communicating to us through this temple metaphor.
I just have one more on the list, we’re not going to get to high priest and priesthood today. Galatians 6:10 is one more verse that uses this temple imagery. Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the” what? “household of the faith.” Now household, where did God live in the Old Testament? In the temple; “household” I believe is another way of saying temple.
So you’ll notice that the church, through this temple imagery, is of such a high priority in the mind of God that this should affect the way we think about the church. We ought to be good to all people but especially the church. We ought to be busy doing all kinds of things for God in the world but the priority ought to be the church because that’s where God lives. That is where God has physically, through the Holy Spirit, manifested Himself in the church age. The church should not be a last thought on people’s minds; it should be a first thought. You shouldn’t wake up in the morning and say ah, I gotta go to church today. The attitude should be I can’t wait to get to church; I can’t wait to get amongst God’s people. I can’t wait to be in His presence because that’s where He has told us that He has decided to dwell and I’m not going to sit in the lobby and read literature and drink coffee, I just can’t wait to get in here and verbally praise the Lord.
And I think we’re losing some of that in modern evangelical Christianity. We’re seeing worship as just sort of a routine—I’ve got to through the routine, when does Andy get up and speak, or better yet when is Andy going to be done, one of the two. And we’re missing what the church is. We’re missing our calling, we’re missing this building structure that God is constructing and we’re missing the purpose of why we’re still on the earth during the church age to participate in this massive structure. And you know, we have this situation where some Christians go to war against other Christians. Well, that’s insanity, that would be… using the body example it would be like my right hand and my left hand fighting each other. That would be like two bricks of the building opposing each other. We’re on the same team and the body imagery and the temple imagery help flush that out. Anyway, we’ll do number five next time, on the priesthood. So we’ll close it off here and I actually ended six minutes early which never happens.