Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8 illustrates the believers as plants. The Lord’s word in Matthew 15:13 conveys the same illustration.
The believers are planted by God through His servants. This was what the apostles did with all the believers. It is altogether of life illustrated by the plant life. So there is the need of planting and watering and also the need of growth. The planting and watering are done by the apostles, but the growth is given only by God who is the source of life.
The believers, as God’s plants, are planted in the church, which is God’s farm (1 Cor. 3:9). In the farm of the church the believers are not only planted but also watered. It is also in the farm of the church that God gives the growth to the believers.
According to the context of the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians, the life with which the believers grow in the church is the crucified and resurrected Christ. It is to experience and enjoy Him in the church that we grow in the divine life as God’s plants.
According to 1 Corinthians 3:8-12, the believers, as God’s plants, are to be transformed with Christ as their life into precious stones for the building of God—the church. The church is not only God’s farm but also God’s building (v. 9). In the church the believers are not only planted, watered, and growing in the divine life, but also transformed with the divine life into precious materials for the building of God’s house (1 Tim. 3:15).
In the New Testament the believers are also symbolized by stones and are called living stones (1 Pet. 2:5). These living stones are actually transformed sinners. Once we were sinners, but we are now in the process of being transformed into stones.
According to John 1:42, when the Lord Jesus first looked at Peter, He said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas (which translated means a stone).” The significance of a stone is that it denotes a work of transformation to bring forth material for God’s building (1 Cor. 3:12). The stone in John 1:42 signifies the believers in Christ, after being born of God, regenerated by receiving Him (John 1:12-13) to be transformed into living precious stones. This is for the building of the church, the house of God (Matt. 16:18). How wonderful it is to be transformed into living precious stones for the building of the church!
First Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.” We, the believers in Christ, are living stones, like Christ (v. 4), through regeneration and transformation. We were created of clay (Rom. 9:21). But at regeneration we received the seed of the divine life, which by its growth in us transforms us into living stones. At Peter’s conversion the Lord gave him a new name, Peter—a stone. When Peter received the revelation concerning Christ, the Lord revealed further that He also was the rock—a stone (Matt. 16:16-18). Peter was impressed by these two incidents that both Christ and His believers are stones for God’s building.
According to 1 Peter 2:5, as living stones we are being built up a spiritual house. Although the nourishing milk of the word (v. 2) is for the soul through the mind, it eventually nourishes our spirit. It makes us spiritual, suitable for building up a spiritual house for God.
God’s goal in the believers is to have a house built up with living stones. He does not want separated and scattered stones, nor even a pile of stones merely gathered together. He wants stones built up with one another.
The spiritual house into which we are being built is God’s building. Eventually, this building will consummate in the New Jerusalem. In the New Jerusalem there will not be any clay, for all the clay will have been transformed into precious stone. This means that the New Jerusalem is built with precious stones. We are now becoming the precious stones that will be built up into the New Jerusalem.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 099-113), Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)