What is the Church? A building? Can we GO to church? Are There Sacred Buildings? #83 #CharlesSpurgeon
Happy Lord’s Day, dear friends. Today is Shelter in Place day #4 for all of us Californians. Yipee! I want to remind you that if you are also sheltering in place, your flesh may be locked down, so to speak, but we are people of the Spirit of God – we are NOT locked down! The Body of Christ is not stymied by this because the Word of God is not muffled and neither the Head of the Church, Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit are under any sort of restrictions whatsoever. God reigns supreme now, and we are His people. I’d like to invite you to join our church today for its worship, prayer and Word livestream Sunday morning at 11am Pacific time at: https://www.facebook.com/VBCsalinas/
Today’s Bible passages include Exodus 33, Proverbs 9, John 12 and Ephesians 2. Our focus passage is Ephesians 2, and we are talking about what the church is from that passage. As a reminder, our podcasts on Sunday are usually the shortest of all for several reasons. 1, to not take away at all from your local church celebration of the Lord’s Day, and also because I am a pastor, and my focus on Saturday should mostly be on preparing for our own church gathering. So, it’s great for you, if you like a shorter podcast, but don’t worry if you like the long-winded ones – usually Monday’s podcasts are especially lengthy.
The book of Ephesians, though short, has some of the deepest insights into the church -the Body of Christ – in the entire Bible. Yesterday’s Ephesians passage began the discussion about the church in the last few verses:
He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— 21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.Ephesians 1:20-23
So – we learn here that the church is something that is born out of the resurrection of Jesus, and that Jesus Himself is the HEAD of the church. We also learn that the church is, in some way, the Body of Jesus. We learn even more about the church in Ephesians 2:
17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.Ephesians 2:17-22
Now, this is profound. We learn here that the church is NOT a building, not a service, but a PEOPLE – a PEOPLE in which God’s Spirit lives in them. What kind of PEOPLE is the church? Well – we aren’t strangers or foreigners to each other…much more than that! We are, in fact, MEMBERS OF GOD’s HOUSEHOLD – FAMILY MEMBERS! Some of us are lonely. I have good news – if you are in Christ – your loneliness is temporary. You have a beautiful eternal family that you will spend your eternity with. Some of us have had bad families and bad fathers – I have good news…this family has a wonderful Father, and incredible Head in Jesus, and your eternal brothers and sisters are going to be made wonderful, precious, and not the least bit annoying by the sanctification of Jesus.
In many places around the world right now, the church is not able to gather physically because of the current pandemic situation. This is a tragedy in that we miss seeing the church, which is the PEOPLE. The building is nothing more than that – bricks, stones, wood, concrete, desks, chairs, etc. Useful to have, but NOT the church, according to Ephesians 2. I love how Spurgeon expounds on this passage in one of his sermons:
Remember, again, the saying of the apostle Paul at Athens, “God that made the world and all things in the world, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made with hands.”
When men talk of holy places they seem to be ignorant of the use of language. Can holiness dwell in bricks and mortar? Can there be such a thing as a sanctified steeple? Can it possibly happen that there can be such a thing in the world as a moral window or a godly door post? I am lost in amazement, utterly lost, when I think how addled men’s brain, must be when they impute moral virtues to bricks and mortar, and stones, and stained glass.
I wonder how deep does this consecration go, and how high? Is every crow that flies over the edifice at that time in solemn air? Certainly it is as rational to believe that, as to conceive that every worm that is eating the body of an Episcopalian is a consecrated worm, and therefore there must necessarily be a brick wall, or a wide gravel-path to protect the bodies of the sanctified from any unhallowed worms that might creep across from the Dissenters’ side of the cemetery. I say again, such child’s play, such Popery, such Judaism, is a disgrace. And yet, notwithstanding, we all find ourselves at different times and seasons indulging in it. That at which you have just now smiled is but pushing the matter a little further, an error into which we may very readily descend; it is but an extravaganza of an error into which we all of us are likely to fall. We have a reverence for our plain chapels; we feel a kind of comfort when we are sitting down in the place which somehow or other we have got to think must be holy.C. H. Spurgeon, “The Tabernacle of the Most High,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 5 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1859), 337–338.
Now let us if we can, and perhaps it takes a great sturdiness and independence of mind to do it—let us drive away once and for ever, all idea of holiness being connected with anything but with a conscious active agent; let us get rid once and for ever of all superstitions with regard to a place. Depend upon it, one place is as much consecrated as another, and wherever we meet with true hearts reverently to worship God, that place becomes for the time being God’s house. Though it be regarded with the most religious awe, that place which has no devout heart within it, is no house of God; it may be a house of superstition, but a house of God it cannot be. “But, still,” says one, “God hath a habitation; does not your Bible text say so?” Yes, and of that house of God, I am about to speak this morning. There is such a thing as a house of God; but that is not an inanimate structure, but a living and a spiritual temple. “In whom,” that is Christ, “you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” The house of God is built with the living stones of converted men and women, and the church of God, which Christ hath purchased with his blood—this is the divine edifice, and the structure wherein God dwells even to this day.