Inspired by Haggai’s message to those rebuilding the temple in 520 B.C., we started a conversation about the state of the church in last week’s post. Via Haggai’s prophecy, God challenged His people about their choice to neglect rebuilding His temple. Sadly, today, there is a similar neglect in building up the individuals in God’s church, who are described as His temple. We talked about that last week, though. This week, we’re going to talk about what to do about it.
Having challenged the people with their lack of productivity, God again asks them to consider their ways.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. (Hag. 1:7-9)
For us in the spiritual temple, we need to be careful to maintain a balance between individual growth and serving the body. Though our lives depend on developing a close, personal relationship with God, He never intended for us to act in isolation. Rather, the more we become like Christ, the more we should want to serve our brethren. Focusing only on building your own house is selfish, and is not pleasing to God.
In the Greek New Testament, every time we’re told to edify one another, it’s related to the idea of building a house. The Greek word for house is oikos (G3624), and it’s the root word for oikodomeo (G3618). This word literally means “to be a house builder,” and is translated “build,” “edify,” and “embolden.” This connection even exists in English – the word “edify” is related to “edifice.”
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted 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. (Eph. 2:20-22)
We know Jesus is ultimately the Builder who is creating His church (Matt. 16:18). He builds the house, has more glory than the house, and rules us “as a son over His own house” (Heb. 3:1-6). He does, however, have people within the house working with Him as He builds us up.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:9-11)
This principle works on an individual as well as a group level. You are a temple of God, and you are part of the House of God. Everything that you build must be founded on Jesus Christ, or it’s not going to last. In contrast, if we commit to building up God’s temple properly, He will be pleased and glorified. As we talked about last week, it’s not just the responsibility of people in leadership positions, either. We’re all to be teaching and building up one another.
Where to Build?
Any good building has to start with a good foundation. With God’s spirit in us and the Son of God as our foundation, we have all the tools we need to build well in the eyes of God. He’s given us the opportunity to build something glorious, if we’ll take it.
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (1 Cor. 3:11-13)
We get out of our walk with God what we put into it. If we give Him the perishable, useless stuff of our lives – the stubble left over after we do what we want – then our house will burn back down to the foundation and we’ll have to start over. But if we give Him our best, we will endure and be rewarded.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:14-16)
God’s glory once filled the tabernacle and the physical temples, and He wants to fill His temple today as well. But He won’t dwell in a defiled, falling-apart temple. It is our responsibility as His temples and as His church to put our best effort into making this building something fit for God’s use.
I don’t want to end this post without actually giving some practical steps we can take to help rebuild God’s temple. Principles are good, but what does it really look like to edify other people and to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
- Don’t shy away from talking about spiritual things. There’s often a tendency when we get together for church to chat, gossip, and just share what’s been going on since we saw each other last. But if we’re there with people who love God to honor God, we should be talking about Him at least a little, right?
- Avoid negativity whenever possible. If you’ve had a terrible week and you need to vent, go ahead and give people the opportunity to comfort and encourage you. But if everything coming out of your mouth is critical, complaining, or pessimistic you’re not helping anyone (including yourself). It takes about 5 positive comments to balance out 1 negative remark. What ratio are you offering God’s temple?
- Stop thinking small in terms of what the church is. The church isn’t United Church of God, or Living Church of God or whatever your local church calls itself. The church is every individual within the Body of Christ, and that’s where we need to be serving and edifying.
- Study the Bible, especially Jesus Christ’s example. Corporate growth starts with individual growth, and individual growth starts with developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the foundation we have to build on, and the One who builds us up.
What would you add to this list? please share in the comments below!
Credits for photos used in blog images:
- “Afghans Clean Up Now Zad Bazaar” by DIVIDSUB, CC BY via Flickr
- “Brick Laying” by Scott Lewis, CC BY via Flickr