The church is not a building. Or is it?
When God gave instructions for the tabernacle to be built, he was very, very specific. There were to be a certain number of curtains, all of specific cubit lengths, made out of certain colors, with loops and clasps. There were to be poles of a certain length and width, made out of a specific kind of wood, with silver bases and bars overlaid with gold. It was all supposed to be made according to a plan God had given. And it was.
When David gave his son Solomon instructions for the temple to be built, he was very, very specific. There were to be storerooms and courtyards, certain utensils for the priests and Levites to use, tables and lamps with lamp stands built of silver and gold. There was to be an altar of pure gold to hold burning incense. David told his son, “All this he made clear to me in writing from the hand of the LORD, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1 Chronicles 28:11). And it was.
And then something happened. As the generations came and went, the Jewish people stopped being in awe of the beautiful plan that God had given. They started taking the temple for granted. They brought into the temple influences from the surrounding cultures and religions. The temple that had been built to honor God became a place where idol images of abominations decorated the walls and people turned their backs on the Holy of Holies to worship the sun. The people who were supposed to honor what the plan of God had built were now profaning it. (Did you know that profane literally means against the temple?) And so God decided to remove his glory from the temple. Ezekiel 10 describes how he left. It’s a deeply sad chapter, but Ezekiel 11 holds within it a promise for the future:
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
— Ezekiel 11:19—20
Centuries later, Jesus came to make this promise a reality. Sadly, as we know, the majority of the Jewish people rejected him. But God’s plan would not be deterred.
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
— Acts 4:10—12
God allowed anyone who trusted Jesus (Jew and Gentile alike) to become something very special. In Christ, they became living stones, being built into a living temple for God (1 Peter 2:5).
For through him we…have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
— Ephesians 2:15—22
So what does a living temple look like? Well, just as God had very specific plans for the construction of the tabernacle and the temple, so he has a very specific plan for his living temple. Do you want to be a stone that honors God? He tells us in his word how to do it:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
— Colossians 2:6–7
Living stones walk in Jesus, rooted in him and established in the faith, overflowing with gratitude for all he has done, is doing, and will do.
Good buildings don’t just look pretty on the outside. The temple in Jerusalem was made of fine cloth, silver and gold. But inside, it became a place that was defiled by people. Its interior did not match its exterior. In other words, it lacked integrity. As living stones, let’s be people of integrity. Let’s allow God, by his grace, to enable us to walk in Christ consistently. That way, what we say and do will match up with what we believe. We will not be hypocrites; we will be people who model structural integrity. The world desperately needs a building whose living stones are built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ. Let’s be that, inside and out.