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Buildings speak. When we stand at the foot of a skyscraper gazing toward the top, the behemoth shouts its imposing prowess. Cozy mountain cottages whisper charming invitations. Well-loved family homes echo treasured memories. But when God builds a house, He declares His covenant faithfulness to His people.

David wanted to build God a house, a resting place, as a symbol of his gratitude. But God proclaimed, “I will make you a house,” announcing His promise (2 Sam. 7:11). That’s the gospel that God has embedded in architectural metaphors throughout redemptive history, unfolding the plan for Christ to build His church (Matt. 16:18).

Solid Foundations

Any architect will tell you that the most important part of a structure isn’t the facade. It is the foundation, ingloriously hidden from view, which secures the structure as a foothold within the earth. In the ancient world, the foundational piece was the cornerstone, which anchored the walls and tethered all the parts into one.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke to His spiritually unstable and insecure people:

Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
“Whoever believes will not be in haste.” (28:16)

The Lord of Hosts has not rejected them. He cares for the house of Judah. He Himself will send the cornerstone, who is the Shepherd-King, to redeem and gather His house (Zech. 10:3–8).

But the builders rejected the cornerstone (Ps. 118:22). Jesus warned the chief priests who questioned His authority that if they did not believe and took offense at the stone, they would stumble over Him and be crushed by Him (Isa. 8:14; Matt. 21:42–44). When Jesus comes to establish our lives on the only sure foundation, we would be fools to build anywhere else (Matt. 7:26).

Christ calls every single Christian to build himself up in the most holy faith and also to build up one another in good works (Jude 20).
Master Craftsmanship

The Word of God has transformational power. It draws us to Christ, unites us to Him, and recasts us as material in the hands of the carpenter from Galilee. Suddenly, we find that we ourselves are the building blocks of His grand construction project.

When Simon confessed the Christ, Jesus renamed him Peter and commissioned that rock as a builder of the church (Matt. 16:13–20). The transformed disciple began to preach throughout Asia Minor, calling men and women to believe in the living stone and to experience their lives’ being built up by Him into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4–10).

The Apostle Paul undoubtedly had his own conversion in mind when he wrote to the Ephesian church, describing the living stone as a master craftsman who at one and the same time tore down and built up. Christ Jesus demolished the old dividing wall between Jew and gentile while building His new house through the preaching of the gospel (Eph. 2:11–22).

Sustainable Materials

When divisions arose in the Corinthian church between those who preferred the preaching ministry of Apollos to Cephas, Paul reminded them that each were but servants assigned by the Lord to build His church (1 Cor. 3:1–13). They were “fellow workers” building on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

What is important is that each builder take care how he builds. Does his preaching and teaching amount to spiritual gold, silver, and precious stones, or is it the quality of wood, hay, and straw?

Paul doesn’t mean whether the ministry looks impressive. No matter how fine the materials of a ministry appear, the important question is, Will it last? Durability is the key. Paul’s sustainability test was much more an assessment of the worker himself. Does he trust the Master’s means, or is he wise in his own eyes? Ministry built by faithful workers committed to an enduring Word will last for eternity.

Collaborative Project

Ministers aren’t working alone. Christ calls every single Christian to build himself up in the most holy faith and also to build up one another in good works (Jude 20). One word of encouragement spoken to a fellow believer strengthens faith and adorns the church of Christ (1 Thess. 5:11). The strong bolster the weak (Rom. 15:1–2).

Believers also need to be conscious of how their behavior can tear down Christ’s church. “Not all things build up” (1 Cor. 10:23–33). When some indiscriminately indulge in liberties without regard for others, they fail to live as one people in one house. Even seeking spiritual knowledge without seeking to use it for others puffs up rather than builds up.

The Apostle John was given a glimpse of Jesus’ finished building project. The details of his vision are recorded in Revelation 21. John saw “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (v. 2). Glory is all around. “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (v. 23). The dwelling place of God is with man, and the church shouts His praise.

Animal Metaphors for the Christian Life

Athletic Metaphors for the Christian Life

Keep Reading Biblical Metaphors for the Christian Life

From the June 2019 Issue
Jun 2019 Issue