THE CHURCH, THE ENLARGEMENT OF GOD’S BUILDING
In the second chapter of John’s Gospel the Jews asked the Lord Jesus, “What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” The Lord Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews replied, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?” But the Lord spoke of the temple of His body (2:18-21). In the first chapter of John the Lord Jesus is the tabernacle. Now He is revealed as the temple. We may apprehend the meaning of the temple from our previous study of the Old Testament. We should also recall here the struggle over God’s building, for in this chapter the struggle appears again. The enemy, Satan, utilized the Jews to destroy the temple, the Lord Jesus Himself. But the Lord told the Jews that if they destroyed this temple, it would be raised up in three days. The Jews destroyed only one person on the cross, but the Lord raised up millions of people with Him in His resurrection. The more the enemy destroys, the more the Lord enlarges. The enemy destroyed one “little” Jesus, but the Lord raised up millions in His resurrection. Ephesians 2:6 says clearly that we were raised up together with Christ. (See also 1 Peter 1:3.) Since we were resurrected with Christ, we have all become members of His Body, the church, God’s temple. The temple raised up by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus includes the Lord Himself with all the members of His Body, the church. This is really an enlarged temple!
CHRIST, THE MATERIAL FOR GOD’S BUILDING
Another aspect in the New Testament of the Lord Jesus as God’s building is the rock, first mentioned in Matthew 16. Most Christians realize that the Lord Jesus is a rock. The Lord is represented by many different types of stone. He is the cornerstone. In Matthew 21:42, the Lord asked: “Did ye never read in the scriptures. The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner?” Here the Lord refers to God’s building. It is exceedingly clear that this stone is for the building, and the Lord Jesus is this stone. Ephesians 2:20 clearly says that we are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone.” The chief cornerstone is that stone which joins the two walls of a building together. Chapter 2 of Ephesians reveals the Jewish believers as one wall in one direction, and the Gentile believers as another wall in another direction. But the Lord Jesus is at the corner to join these two walls together. He is the cornerstone joining the Jews and Gentiles together into one building for God.
In the Old Testament the Lord Jesus is also portrayed as the foundation stone: “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone of sure foundation” (Isa. 28:16). He is also the topstone, or cap stone, for Zechariah 4:7 says, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it.” Today we need fear no kind of frustration, for the mountain will become a plain. What is the topstone? In Palestine the Jewish buildings have flat roofs. Each building has a foundation stone and a cornerstone; then, when the building is nearly finished, the builders put on the topstone, the roof. That means that the building is done. Christ is the foundation stone, the cornerstone, and the topstone. Every part of the building is Christ!
The Lord Jesus is also the living stone, the precious stone, and the tried stone (1 Pet. 2:4). In Zechariah 3:9, He is spoken of as a stone with seven eyes. Revelation 4:5 indicates that these seven eyes are the seven Spirits of God, or the sevenfold Spirit of God. In Romans 9:33 the Lord is the stone of stumbling, and in Matthew 21:44 (King James Version) He is the grinding stone: “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
Altogether, Christ is a stone of ten aspects: the foundation, the cornerstone, the topstone, the tried stone, the precious stone, the living stone, the stone with seven eyes, the stumbling stone, the grinding stone, and the rock. All these aspects are related to the building of God. Not only is this stone a building, but it will also become a high mountain. Daniel 2:35 says, “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, so that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” The worldly, political powers will be carried away as the chaff by the wind. The mountain in this verse is the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God. As a stone, Christ is good not only for the building up of the temple, God’s house, but also for the building up of the city, the kingdom. Daniel 2:45 continues: “Forasmuch as thou sawest that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter.” This stone, which was cut out of the mountain without hands, is Christ Himself.
Many Christians have never realized how these verses portray God’s building. Christ as all these various types of stone is just for God’s building. First, we must realize that He was the Word of God, God Himself. Then one day He became flesh, being incarnated as a man. That means that the process of God’s actual building had begun. The divine nature was built together with the human nature. Before the incarnation, God was God and man was man; but by the incarnation God was brought into man, and man was brought into God. These two natures mingled as one compose the building. When the “little man” Jesus was on this earth, He was the one Person, the one man, with God within Him. In Jesus, God was built with man as one building. Now God could dwell in man, and man could dwell in God; something was built up. That which was built was the Word of God, who became the Son of man, the One who is the very ladder joining heaven and earth together as the Bethel of God. These things are profound!
This Bethel, this mingling of God with man and man with God, had to be reproduced, and this was accomplished by death and resurrection. Before the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, there was only one Person on the entire earth who constituted God’s building. But by His death and resurrection, millions of parts of God’s building have been reproduced, thus greatly enlarging it. Christ Himself is the foundation of this enlarged building, as well as the cornerstone and the topstone to complete the building. After His resurrection, He became the sure foundation of the enlarged building. And as the cornerstone He is the joining and holding power of the building. Finally, as the topstone, He puts the finishing touch upon the building. He is living and precious, and He has been tried. He is a sure foundation. If you trust in Him, you will be built upon Him as a part of God’s building. But if you are against Him, you will either stumble and be broken upon Him, or He will grind you to powder.
THE APPLICATION OF MATTHEW 16:18
Have you ever thought that since you have believed in Jesus Christ you must be built up? I have seen very few Christians who have ever had this concept. We do not naturally conceive of it. However, the Scriptures clearly show that to believe in Jesus Christ means to be built upon Him. Matthew 16:18 contains the first mention of the church in the New Testament. Simon Peter had told the Lord Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter [a stone], and upon this rock [Christ] I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” I believe that this passage indicates Peter’s salvation, for at that time Peter recognized and believed that the Lord Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. Following this, the Lord told him that he was a stone; he was no longer just a piece of clay. Then the Lord referred to Himself as the very rock upon which He would build His church. Peter was a stone for that building. This matter is almost completely neglected by Christianity today, but the Lord is recovering this reality. All we who have been saved must realize that our salvation means we must be built up. Christ is the rock, and we are the stones. Christ is for God’s building, and we are all for God’s building. If we believe in Him, it means that we will be built up in Him and built up with Him in God’s building. It is the built-up church that all the powers of darkness rise up to attack. Wherever and whenever the church is built up, all hell is stirred in opposition; but against the built-up church the gates of hades will never prevail.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)