20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord: 22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.
I sometimes like to watch home renovation shows, especially where a house or apartment is completely transformed from an eye-sore into something beautiful. It turns out that God is in the construction business, too. His building, though, is entirely beyond what we could ever imagine.
I used to live next to an empty field. One day, a backhoe showed up, and for the next few months, I watched as workers constructed a new home. Their first order of business? Digging the foundation.
God’s construction project is the church – not a physical building, but the fellowship of all people who believe in Jesus Christ. His desire is for his followers to become a unified group and not remain a fragmented collection of individuals all doing their own thing.
Let’s look at some of its characteristics. First of all, Jesus is the chief cornerstone, which determines the position of all the other stones in a structure. In other words, Christ is the pillar, anchor, or key element of the church. Without him, it loses its reason for being.
The teachings of the New Testament (apostles) and the Old Testament (prophets) give the church its framework and identity. They are what distinguish it from other groups and set the boundaries of its doctrines and beliefs.
And who are the bricks? We are. People. That is, all those who have trusted in Jesus as their Savior.
Now we come to the most crucial question. What’s the purpose of the church? Why did God decide to put so much effort into building it? Is it so that we can come together on Sunday mornings to sing and listen to a sermon? Is it so that we can help the poor and needy? Is it so that we can be part of a group of believers that encourage us in our faith? All these things are fine and good, but they are only a means to an end and not the end itself.
Paul gives us a clue to the answer by using the expressions “a holy temple” and “a habitation of God,” which in essence are the same thing. These words point to God’s desire for the church to be the place where he is active and visible on earth. All his attributes, such as his love, mercy, justice, and grace, should be on full display in the lives of his people. The church is to be where humanity can come to meet God.
Yes, the church has often failed in this mission, but God knew this would be the case when he started the construction project. After all, he’s dealing with imperfect people. Nonetheless, his love for us kept him moving forward towards his ultimate goal: to reconcile to himself as many people as possible. For this to happen, he needs a group of dedicated followers who will show the world who he is.
May our lives reflect the Lord to the people around us. May our local churches be known as “the place where God lives.” Otherwise, we’re missing the point.