This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
The Family and the Temple of God
Dear Lord, we just commit our gathering together here this afternoon into your hands. We trust you for your presence, for your guidance. We submit cheerfully to you and ask that your Holy Spirit shall lead us into all the truth and apply it in a very real and practical way to our lives. Help us to come nearer Lord, to being what thou would have us to be, we pray. For thy glory, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
We’re studying the seven pictures of God’s people found in Ephesians and we’ll just go back very quickly and review, go through the seven pictures. You can do them either from memory or you can do them from the outline. I’d like you to do them, if you can, from memory to check on how much you’ve received.
Picture number one, assembly. Number two, body. Number three, workmanship. Number four, family. Number five, temple. Number six, bride. Number seven, army. We’ll go through them very quickly once more. Number one, assembly. Number two, body. Number three, workmanship. Number four, family. Number five, temple. Number six, bride. Number seven, army.
In each case we’ve asked ourselves the question what the purpose of God does this serve, what does it require in my attitude or relationship to God, what does it require in my attitude or relationship to other believers. So a quick review of the assembly, what purpose of God does it serve? What does it express of God? God’s government or God’s authority. What is required of us in our conduct? Order. And what is required in our relationship to one another? Recognition of each other’s position.
Going on to the second one which was the body, we said the body serves as God’s agent. It required in our attitude toward the head? Availability was the word we chose. And in our attitude toward each other we have to recognize our interdependence.
The third picture was the workmanship. That expresses what? God’s creative genius or manifold wisdom. It requires in us towards God yieldedness, pliability. And toward one another, the word I gave you was mergeability, being willing to flow together and in some sense to lose our individual identity.
Today in this particular study we’re going to do two of the most important pictures and we’re going to have to go quickly to get through both of them. Number four, the family. Number five, the temple. We are not dealing with these in great depth but in outline. We are just depositing seed thoughts which will germinate in your spirit and bring forth abundant fruit.
When we come to the family we ask ourselves the first question, What does it serve? What purpose of God? What does it express? This is an important question. That’s my answer. He said fatherhood which I think is right. The family distinctively expresses God’s nature as a father. In his family, above all else, he reveals himself as father. We’ll see this further unfolded in the scriptures we’re going to be looking at.
As God’s children, what is the particular attitude required toward our father? I would say obedience. It’s the key word. You can apply that in every one of the pictures. But, I think the thing that really matters if you are a father bringing up your family is that you train your family in obedience.
And what is required in our attitude toward each other as God’s children? Love is the word I would use. Love, I believe, is the great thing that we desire in the members of a family, one toward another.
Let’s support these by looking at some passages of scripture. First of all, let’s look in Ephesians 3 which is a very important scripture. Ephesians 3:14-15:
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named...”
Notice the title that Paul uses for God there. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not just a temporal relationship. This is an eternal relationship. It did not begin in time when Jesus was incarnated in the virgin’s womb, this is eternal. God the Father is eternally the father of Jesus Christ the Son. And the next verse lays great emphasis on this. The King James Version says:
“Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named...”
But Phillip’s translation, which is very accurate and very vivid at this point says:
“The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every fatherhood heavenly or earthly derives its name.”
And this is bringing out the play on words in the Greek because the Greek word for father is ?pater?, the Greek word for family used there is ?patriarch? which is directly related to the word ?pater?. So a father expresses himself as ?pater? in his family ?patriarch?. And what Paul is saying is the origin and source of every family is the father. The family is traced back to the father. And every family, every fatherhood, heavenly or earthly has one supreme origin and pattern which is the fatherhood of God in heaven. So every family derives its authority and its sanction and its pattern from the family of God and the fatherhood of God in heaven.
So in a certain sense, the ultimate behind the universe is God the Father. The source of all life is God the Father. When we come to the Father we have come to the ultimate. That, I believe, is where God wants us to be.
Let us look at these truths also in John 14, words that are familiar to most Christians. But lately they’ve taken on new meaning for me. John 14, they are words of comfort. The first verse is:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions [or many rooms]...”
In the Bible wherever we find the word house, its primary meaning is not a building in which a family lives but its primary meaning is the family which lives in the building. So in my Father’s family there are many places. There’s room for everybody inside the family. And you’ll notice now that Jesus again brings out the fact that God is eternally a father and heaven is eternally a family. Family life, fatherhood, did not begin in time, they did not begin in earth. They began in eternity, they began in heaven, they’re eternal in nature, they’re the source and cause behind all else.
One of the things that philosophers are always bothering themselves with is what they call the “prime cause,” the first thoughts of everything. And a lot of different answers have been given by different philosophers. But the Bible has a definite answer to that question. The Bible says behind everything else is our Father. The whole world is the expression of his fatherhood. And particularly his children.
Then Jesus goes on to talk to the disciples about the Father and one of them says, “Lord, show us the Father.” And this grieves Jesus and he says in verse 6:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
We often quote that scripture but we very rarely complete it. Jesus said, “I am the way.” But a way is not an end in itself. A way is meaningless unless it leads us somewhere. Where does the way lead us? To the Father. And we have not fulfilled the purpose of God if we merely find the way. What we’ve got to find is the end of the way. The purpose of Jesus Christ was not to bring us to himself but to bring us to the Father. 1Peter 3:18 says:
“Christ has once also suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”
So the end purpose of Jesus is to bring us to the Father.
Then, as I said, Philip doesn’t understand him and says, “Show us the Father.” And Jesus is grieved. He says:
“Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me? He that has seen me hath seen the Father.”
In other words, “My supreme mission is to reveal the Father, that’s why I came. And if you really understand my mission, it reveals the Father to you.”
So God’s ultimate purpose, in a sense, is to get himself a family and reveal himself as a father. I think it’s significant of the seven pictures, this is the central one. Number four is central. I think this is both original and central and ultimate.
Let’s look also in Romans for a moment. Chapter 8. This fits in very closely with what Brother Ern Baxter was saying this morning, talking about the ultimate purpose of God. God has a purpose which is going to be fulfilled because it’s God’s purpose. And in Romans 8:28–29 Paul says this:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Whose purpose? God’s purpose. We sometimes misquote Romans 8:28 as “all work together for good”. Yes, but “according to his purpose”, that we cannot leave out.
What is his purpose? The next verse states his purpose.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [the Son] might be the firstborn among many brothers.
What was his purpose? To gather in a great family of sons patterned on the pattern Son, Jesus. That is the purpose of God. Everything is working together for good along the line of that purpose, to make us sons conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
And then in Ephesians 1, going back to Ephesians again for a moment, we again find the unfolding of God’s purpose in the opening verses of Ephesians. As Brother Baxter said, it’s difficult when you start reading Ephesians, you keep wanting to go back. But I’ll discipline myself to start at verse 3 of chapter 1.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ: according as he has chosen us in him [it’s God’s choice that matters] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us [this is our destiny] to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
His pleasure, his will, his purpose, our destiny: they all center in our becoming his children through Jesus Christ. Verse 6:
“To the praise of the glory of his grace [the ultimate will work out to the praise of the glory of his grace], wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved.”
And there’s one of the most important statements for modern America. He has made us accepted in the beloved. God has caused every human being born into the world to be born with a blank space inside which has to be filled with one thing, and that is a daddy. Every child needs a daddy. And one out of every four children in the United States today doesn’t find a daddy in any real sense. We are in a society where one of the greatest emotional problems is the problem of rejection. Feeling unloved and unwanted by daddy. Sometimes it’s bitter hatred and rebellion on top of rejection. No one can know real peace and the fulfillment of life’s purpose without being rightly related to a daddy. God has built the human race that way because in the human father, it is his purpose to reveal himself as the divine and eternal father. The supreme function of a father in a family is to reveal God to the family. Not by what he says but by what he is. Most people who’ve studied child problems, sociologists and so on would agree that the average child forms his first impression of God, good or bad, from his father. And the child who has had a good, loving, just, firm father is far ahead in the race to discover God. The child who has had an evil, unloving, capricious, selfish, cruel father starts with a real disadvantage in finding out the truth about God.
One of the deep, deep problems, the problem behind so many other problems is the problem of rejection. It’s my opinion it’s one of the roots of many, many demon problems. I’ve seen this illustrated in various ways in this very camp where we are. About three years ago I was walking rapidly somewhere on the other side of the camp. In fact, I was almost running to get to a lab talk that I was to give. There was a lady going equally fast in the opposite direction and we ran into one another literally. We backed off from one another and she said, “Mr. Prince, I was asking God that if he wanted me to meet you, we’d meet.” So I said, “We’ve met!” I said, “What is your problem? I can give you about two minutes because I have to be there to speak.”
She spend about the first minute beginning to describe the nature of her problem and at the end of one minute I stopped her and said, “You don’t need to say any more. I think I understand what your problem is and I know the solution. Would you say these words after me out loud?” I didn’t give her any explanation because I didn’t have time. I led her in some kind of affirmation of faith that went like this: “God, I thank you that you love me, that you are my Father, that I’m a member of your family, that I belong, that heaven is my home, that God is my Father. I’m not rejected, I’m accepted. God loves me, he doesn’t tolerate me, he really wants me. He’s my Father. I’m his child.” I said that about four different ways and took off for my meeting. I didn’t think anything more about the lady and about a month later I got a letter from her. She described the incident where we had met and she said, “I just want to tell you that saying those words out loud has changed my whole life. For the first time I feel accepted.” And that really taught me a great lesson that God will never leave us fully satisfied until we know we’re accepted by the Father. That we belong.
You see, we never bother God. He’s never too busy for us, he doesn’t mind no matter how many times we come to him each day. He always welcomes us. He never tolerates us.
Then the second great acceptance that we need is into the family of God by our brothers and our sisters. And again, we Christians have got to learn a lot about accepting one another. In the Community Church of the Redeemer in Houston, one of their little slogans is “I accept you the way you are.” That’s important. When God accepts us he doesn’t say change and I’ll accept you. He says I accept you and that will make you change. We’ve got to learn the same towards our brothers and sisters. We say if you change and get the way I want you to be, I’ll accept you. That’s not it. We’ve got to say I accept you and I trust that will change you if you need to be changed.
There’s a story that I used to illustrate this family relationship which dates back a good many hundred years. There was a period in the history of Scotland when it was not part of Britain before Scotland and England were united under one king. The Anglican Church in England was bitterly persecuting a group of Scottish Presbyterians who were known as the Covenant. They were so called because they united themselves in a very solemn covenant which they signed with their own blood that they would not betray one another, they would not give up their faith, their church order, and they would not submit to the episcopacy of the Anglican Church. They were being literally persecuted unto death.
So the story relates how a Scottish lassie who was a Covenanter slipped out to a secret meeting of her fellow believers and was apprehended by an English soldier and arrested. So the soldier said, “Where are you going?” Being a Christian, she didn’t want to tell a lie but she didn’t want to betray her fellow believers so she prayed a desperate prayer to God and God gave her this answer. The soldier said, “Where are you going?” She said, “My eldest brother died and I’m going to my Father’s house to hear the will read.” That says it really just as well as it can be said. He is our Father, Jesus is our elder brother. We are all members of one family. It’s our Father’s house we’re going to.
We can’t dwell on that any longer, let’s look to the second question which is, What is required in our relationship toward God as our Father? The key word that we chose was obedience. I want you to look at two passages in Hebrews. Hebrews 2:10–12. This is a study in analysis. You can do a little of it here. I’m going to read the 10th verse and then I’m going to ask you who the person is referred to by the pronoun.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
Now, take a deep breath, the answer is not found on my face! Who is “him for whom all things, and by whom are all things”? God the Father. Who is the captain of our salvation? Jesus. And who are the many sons? We are. Okay.
Now, in bringing the captain of our salvation to perfection, he was made perfect through suffering. Was Jesus ever imperfect? Well, how could he have been made perfect? The answer is yes and no. Morally he was never imperfect, but in growth he was imperfect and had to be brought to maturity. This is a whole truth that you need to go into for yourselves. The maturing of Jesus. He grew up as the pattern son under the discipline and discipleship of the Father. The Father brought him to maturity. He becomes the pattern for all sons in the way to maturity. And it was through suffering. What will it for through you and me? We’ll go into that a little further later on.
Now look in verse 11, and again I want your analysis.
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
All right. Now be careful. Who is “he that sanctifies”? Jesus, that’s right. Who is “they who are sanctified”? Us. And who is the one of whom we all proceed? The Father. So both Jesus and we receive our sanctification from the Father. We’re all of one father.
“For which reason he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call us his brothers.”
Why not? Because God calls us his children. If we’re God’s children we must be Jesus’ brothers. There’s tremendous truth in this because Jesus never took the initiative out of the hand of the Father. He didn’t call us brothers until the Father called us children. But because we go through the process here indicated, the process of sanctification and maturity, God calls us sons, Jesus calls us brothers. That gives us the right to our place in the family of God.
And then we read, and this is a quotation from Psalm 22. We won’t turn to it but we’ll read it only in the version in Hebrews.
“...he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
Who’s speaking there? Jesus. Did you notice that he’s going to sing in the midst of the church? That’s rather exciting, isn’t it? How many of us have ever thought of hearing Jesus singing in the church?
But now listen.
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren...”
Who’s my brethren? Us. Who says I will declare? Jesus. Whom is he talking about when he says “thy name”? The Father. What name will he declare? The name of the Father. In other words, there’s to be an unfolding revelation of God the Father to his children through Jesus, his Son, in the church. And this is what will bring us to maturity. It’s the revelation of fatherhood that will bring the children to maturity. This is a very exciting truth.
Let’s go on to Hebrews 5:6-9.
“As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Who is the priest forever? Jesus.
“Who in the days of his flesh [in his humanity], when he had offered up...”
That’s the sacrificial word. The supreme, distinctive function of a priest is to offer sacrifice. Jesus, being a priest had to offer sacrifice. Seeing he was not a Levite he could not offer the sacrifices of the law, so he had to offer his own specific priestly sacrifice which was what? Himself later but not at this point. Prayer, that’s right.
“...he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death [God the Father] and was heard in that he feared...”
Notice it was Jesus’ reverent obedience that caused the Father to hear his prayer.
Now, coming to verse 8:
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things he suffered...”
How did Jesus learn obedience? Through suffering. But was he ever disobedient? Yet he had to learn obedience. Is that right? How do you learn obedience? You and I’ve got to learn it the same way he did. There’s only one way to learn obedience and that’s by obeying. There’s just no other way. You find out what obedience is like by obeying. You don’t find it out by sitting and listening to sermons on obedience. They may help you, they may motivate you but it has to be worked out step by step in obedience.
And obedience will always bring suffering because it demands the denial of self-will. The key phrase in the obedience of Jesus was “not my will but thine be done”. And every step of obedience in the Christian life is a step of self-denial. Jesus said if any man will come after me, let him do what first? Deny himself. That is always painful because the old ego never likes to be denied. The ego says I want, I’m interested, this suits me, I feel good, I don’t want. And the following of the Lord is the continual denial of that ego.
So what God is talking to us about in coming to maturity as sons is obedience. Jesus is the pattern to maturity. God brought him to maturity through obedience. You study the relationship between the Father and the Son, you study the relationship of a father bringing a son into maturity. And he becomes the pattern. This is the pathway for you and me. This is the new and living way. It’s the Jesus way. It’s the Son/Father relationship.
We have to move on. What is required in our relationship to one another? The word that I suggested to you was love. A special kind of love. You’re aware, I’m sure, that there are various different Greek words which all tend to get translated love. Let’s look at about four of them very briefly. There is eroswhich is the name of the god and means basically sexual passion, sexual desire. There is ?thorgay? which means family natural affection. There is agapewhich means more or less divine love. All these have some qualifications. And then there is the word philadelphiawhich is the name of the city which means brotherly love. Philos, love or friend. Delphosis a brother.
Love is not a gift. This is one of the errors of people who criticize Charismatics. They say love is the chief gift. Love is never called a gift. You don’t get love that easy. Would it be nice if you did? Love is the outworking of character. And in this passage here in your outline we see seven progressive steps that bring us to love. I’m not going to preach on them in detail because it’s my intention to preach on them tomorrow morning and it would take a full message to do so. Let’s read together the seven steps. They’re taken from 2Peter 1:5–7. You don’t need to turn to them because they’re in your outline. It says “adding to your faith”, and it names seven things that we have to add in succession to our faith. We start with faith, that’s the basis. The first thing we add is virtue, or excellence.
The second thing is knowledge. Knowledge of God’s will.
The third thing is temperance or self-control.
The fourth thing is patience or endurance, what I was speaking about last night.
The fifth thing is Godliness. We’ve gone a long way, we haven’t come to love, isn’t that right? The sloppy attitude that love is just sort of giving somebody an embrace in a meeting is not in line with scripture. Love is something that has to be cultivated and achieved and it’s really high up the ladder. We’ve gone through five steps, we haven’t come to any kind of love.
Step number six is brotherly love which means I love my brothers.
But there’s one higher step which is Christian love which is Greek agape, which means I love whom? Particularly my enemies. When you can love your enemies you’ve got to the top. Many, many religions have martyrs who will die for their faith. Let’s not deceive ourselves. Judaism has many martyrs. Communism has many martyrs. Islam has had many martyrs. But there’s one difference about a real Christian martyr which is what? He loves his enemies. And if he doesn’t, he’s no better than the Communist martyr or Moslem martyr.
Most of us are not qualified to be martyrs, do you know that? God couldn’t give us that privilege. I’m convinced that if you’re going to be a real martyr you’ve got to train for it. I mean that this way, that you’ve got to learn to lay your life down daily. It isn’t a sudden dramatic accident, it’s the result of a process. We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. That’s the denial of self every time.
You know what I’ve learned in ministry? Every time I minister fruitfully it’s out of self-denial. As long as I’m pleasing myself, I’m not ministering the life of Christ. The two are opposites. Christ’s life only flows where self has been denied. Jesus said take up your cross how often? Daily. What is your cross? It’s the place where your will and God’s will cross. It’s the thing on which you can die to the glory of God. And you have to do it daily. You can be very religious, very Charismatic, speak in tongues every day and never die to your own will. In fact, religious people are often the most selfish of all. We could be so self-righteous, so right and so regardless of other people.
I’m talking from personal experience. That’s how I know. The hardest thing for me is to bury my convictions and my programs. When I’ve set aside nine until ten in the morning to do something and the phone rings, that demands self-denial for me to minister to that person. I want to bawl them out. I got so provoked with somebody the other day—he’s probably here right now. He phoned my unlisted phone number and said, “Are you going to be at the Second Georgia/Tennessee Camp?” I said, “I want to know who gave you my phone number? Whoever it is, would you tell them I disapprove! I’m going to be there.”
So, you see, a lot of us haven’t even achieved brotherly love. Let’s be honest. It isn’t easy to love fellow Christians. Let’s not be sentimental. As Bob Mumford said, “God has got some strange kids!” And you’re one of them. I mean that. Really, it’s easier to love a lot of people except Christians because you don’t clash with the people of the world. They don’t care whether you’re baptized by immersion or sprinkling.
I think of a certain incident in my life. I was in some meetings with about 30 other Charismatic leaders. We were to be together with a different leader each night and a different meeting. So there was just one brother there I disagreed with so totally about baptism. I said to myself, “I just hope I don’t get put together with him.” Do you know what happened? I was put together with him three nights. Now he’s a personal friend of mine. I still haven’t shown him the truth about baptism but...
There’s another statement there about Cain and Abel but we’ll leave that until tomorrow morning. So we have to stop at that point on the family and go on to the temple. If you’re still with me like Gideon’s army, faint but pursuing.
We’re going back to our original questions. Question number one, the temple provides God with a dwelling. I say a dwelling place. And it required toward God. Now, before we look at this we’re going to have to bear in mind something that we looked at in the scripture for a moment. As the temple [which is one complete building], each one of us is what in the temple? A stone. A living stone in a living temple. In order that we may become the kind of stones that God wants us to be, what is required in our relationship toward God? Holiness is not precise enough. Obedience we’ve dealt with.
I think you probably don’t see the picture. You’ve got to bear in mind that in the City of Jerusalem up to the present day, all houses are built of stones. There is no other building material used. The stones are quarried outside the city carried in on trucks. You’re getting the idea. When the stone is first cut out of the quarry it is far from suitable for being put into a building. It has to go through a process which is? Being chiseled, shaped, cut, polished. There’s a lot that has got to be done to that stone.
Some stones don’t make it. I remember years back when we lived north of Jerusalem around about l946, some of you weren’t even thought of at that time but I was alive and living near Jerusalem. I remember when we went into Jerusalem on the bus we would follow the same route that the trucks followed that carried the stones to the building sight. And there was one stone that had obviously been put on the truck and rolled off. It fell beside the road and it was left there, nobody bothered to pick it up. And for many weeks I would see this one stone lying solitary there beside the road. It just pictured to me a certain kind of believer, one who is dug out of the quarry but never finds his place in the building. I thought to myself that stone lies there in its individual egotistic self-will. No chisel will ever be applied to that stone. It’ll stay just the way it is. But, it will never get into the building.
So you’ve really got two choices. You can stay the way you are and lie beside the road or you can be shaped, cut and find your place in the building. But anything that’s not shaped or cut will never get into the building.
I want a word that’s not a metaphor that describes what it is in our relationship toward God that makes us willing to be cut. You know, when you’re cut as a stone you’ll never get any bigger, you’re always getting smaller all the time. Humility is one. Surrender. You’ll never get the word I’m thinking about so I’ll give it to you and when you hear it I think you’ll see. The word I’ve got impressed upon me is correctability. Am I willing to be corrected? You know, the word correct lines up with the word rectify. It means to be made straight on every side. Correct means to be straightened. We’ll go into that word in a few moments. I believe the attitude that’s required towards God distinctively in this context is correctability. Am I willing to be corrected?
Then what is required in our attitude toward one another, to the other stones? Look at the picture. Here’s the wall about halfway high, you’re plunked down there, you’re on top of the half of two stones and then another stone is put on one side and another and you’re squeezed in. And then, just when you’re beginning to get used to that, two other stones come along and they’re placed on top of you. So what has got to be your attitude toward your fellow stones? You’re willing to be? Fitted is a good word. The word that I’ve chosen, and there are many possible ones, is placement. You’ve got to be willing to take your place.
So we’ve answered the three questions. The temple provides God with a dwelling place. It requires in our attitude toward him correctability. It requires in our attitude toward one another placement.
Now let’s look rather quickly at these three statements. Turn to Acts 7 for a moment. Acts 7 and we really only need to read one verse. This is part of the address of Stephen, who was about to become the first martyr, to the Jewish council. Acts 7:48. And really, it was this statement that caused him to be martyred, in effect. And this is still a statement that makes religious people really angry. It says this:
“Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands...”
God does not dwell in any building that men can construct. Neither synagogue, nor a temple, nor a church, nor a cathedral, nor a chapel, nor a Christian center. God does not live in any building. So we have to rule out all types of material buildings.
What is God’s dwelling place? Turn to 1Corinthians 3. Now God’s dwelling place is not heaven, in a sense. In a sense it is but God has got another dwelling place in mind. This is the interesting thing. We’ve got to read from verse 10, we’ve got to read quickly because I’m getting behind here. Paul says:
“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation...”
He’s talking about the church in Corinth. What type of a ministry is described by the word “master builder”? Apostle, that’s right. He said:
“...I’ve laid the foundation, another buildeth upon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble...”
There’s two kinds of things you can build. Things that will stand the test and things that will not. You can build in great quantity in wood, hay and stubble. There’s no difficulty in obtaining those in large quantities but they will not stand the test. Or you can build in much smaller quantity of much more precious material and it will stand the test. But he says everybody is going to have to pass the test.
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
We’re talking about our contribution in the service of God’s house, it’s going to have to stand the test of fire.
“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Keep your finger there, we’re coming back in a second and look also in 2Corinthians 5:10.
“For we must all appear...”
Who’s we? Christians, that’s right.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.”
Every one of us is going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged for our service. This is not a judgment of salvation or condemnation for there is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. It will not be concerning the destiny of our soul but it will be concerning the work that we have done in the house of God. Every man’s work will be tried by fire. If it stands the test he’ll receive a reward. If it’s burned up he’ll lose his reward but his soul will still be saved.
So we need to bear in mind there’s going to be a day of testing of all the service that we’ve offered God in his house. As I said last night, remember, the prize giving hasn’t come yet. It lies ahead. It really behooves every one of us to ask what type of material am I putting in the building. Will it stand the test of fire?
It’s a very significant question. I was in a certain land as a missionary when the British Government moved out and national leadership took over. I would have to say basically the work that missionaries had built for 10, 20 or 30 years in essence, collapsed in one day when they left. It was work that could not stand the test of fire.
So, going back to 1Corinthians 3:16.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple [or the dwelling place] of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
This is plural. “Ye” collectively are the temple, God dwelleth in “ye” collectively.
“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
Always in connection with the temple there’s this warning against defiling it. The collective temple, the individual temple. In each case there’s the warning.
So we’ve looked at the collective temple which is all believers united together. Now let’s look at the individual temple. 1Corinthians 6:19–20.
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
What is the temple there? Now we’re not talking about a collective temple, we’re talking about an individual temple. Every believer has the privilege to provide to the Holy Spirit his physical body as a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell in.
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body... which is God’s.”
God, through Jesus Christ, redeemed your body that it might be a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell in. And again we are warned in scripture to be careful that we do not defile or destroy the temple. Whether it be the collective temple or whether it be the individual temple of our body, we are required to take care of our body to preserve it in purity, in health, in holiness because it’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are obligated to provide him with a temple which honors him and which serves his purpose.
I personally believe the care of our physical bodies is much more important in the sight of God than most of us recognize it to be.
Let’s look for a moment in 2Corinthians 6, we cannot dwell on that but we see again the emphasis on how we treat the temple. 2Corinthians 6:14.
“Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness: And what concord has Christ with Belial [Satan]? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel [unbeliever]? What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God.”
Notice again it’s the collective temple we’re talking about.
“...as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
This is the conviction upon which he becomes our God, that he is allowed to dwell in us and walk in us. I like the phrase “to walk in us”. It indicates that God has a mobile temple. It’s not confined to one place. Wherever we are, God is. God goes where we go. As his body we provide him with an instrument, but as a temple we provide him with a dwelling place. And in this sense it is not really accurate to talk about going to church as though there’s a certain place where we meet God. Where we come together, the church is. And where the church is, God is. If we go to the seaside, the church goes to the seaside. If the church goes to the seaside, God goes to the seaside. God goes where he can get asked to go. He dwells in us and walks in us, and on that condition he is our God and we are his people.
Again this emphasizes our obligation for holiness. Verse 17:
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Notice here at this point how close the picture of the family and the picture of the temple are, which again, you find very, very close in Ephesians 2. So the temple and the family are united. God is the Father of his family, he’s the God who dwells in his temple.
And once again, the lesson is pressed home of the requirement of God of holiness. For the next chapter, the first verse—that’s 2Corinthians 7:1—begins with these words:
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
This is something we have to do. We cleanse ourselves. From all filthiness of flesh and spirit. I believe filthiness of the spirit is essentially occult involvement. Filthiness of the flesh is immorality and drunkenness and so on. We are to perfect holiness in the fear of God. The message of the temple is one that emphasizes the need for purity. The need for care in our attitude toward the temple; if any man defile the temple, him will God destroy. It’s a very solemn thought.
My personal attitude is in this regard, that I desire that I shall never be a cause of harm to a family or a church. I think they are the two most sacred things on earth. It is my sincere desire and prayer that I will never offend one or the other. If you touch the work of God, remember, you’re going to have to answer to God.
Now let’s look at our relationship to God as living stones. We’ve got to go quickly. 1Peter 2:4–5.
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious...”
Who’s the living stone chosen of God? Jesus Christ.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house...”
So each one of us is a living stone in this temple, built upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is required of those stones? We’ve already said we have to be shaped, we have to be cut. There’s a passage in the Old Testament which to me is very vivid in Hosea 6. If you know where Hosea lives, he’s the first of the so called minor prophets. After Daniel is Hosea. Hosea 6:4–6 if I’m not mistaken. This is a lament of God concerning the instability of his people’s character. Verse 4:
“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”
What’s God’s complaint? A superficial kind of response to him which is just getting blessed, shall we say, in a conference. Rejoicing, clapping your hands and a few hours later there’s no evidence left in your life that God ever touched you. It’s just like the dew that disappears as soon as the sun rises. Instability. Superficiality. That’s God’s complaint. It is a complaint that could be leveled against many Charismatics, I think.
What’s God’s remedy? Verse 5:
“Therefore I have hewed them by the prophets; I have slain the by the words of my mouth; [verse 6] For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice...”
God says I’m looking for your inward character, not to your outward observances. And he says, “To get you the way I want, I hewed you by the prophets.” The picture there is the stone that’s not the right shape. It has to be brought into the right shape. God hews it. By what? By the prophets, by the words of his mouth.
I think it’s Bob Mumford who said once when it comes to getting the stones the right shape, the teacher marks them, the prophet hews them. It’s quite nice sitting in a chair and having somebody draw nice lines on you. That’s all right. Beautiful teaching, brother. But along comes the prophet with a chisel and chips a chunk off you and you say, “Hey, what are you doing?” That’s lovely to sit in a conference and know what you are to be like. But it doesn’t make you like it. It’s going to take real hard work with a chisel to remove those bulges and lumps, rough places and sharp corners. Are you prepared for that ministering.
This actually is in essence the crisis that is now confronting the Charismatic movement. Do we just go to conferences and listen to teachers or do we submit to discipline? That’s a very decisive issue. In a sense, it is a divisive issue. For myself as a teacher, I’m really not much interested in teaching people who may or may not do what I teach. I think most Charismatics up to this time have had the attitude, “Well, we’ll go and listen to the teacher. If we like what he says, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we won’t.” I don’t think that’s a caricature but I believe God is putting the pressure on now to submit to the chisel. That’s very different, very, very different.
In essence, the words that are being used—and many others could be used—are submission, authority, discipleship. That means are you prepared to submit to somebody whom you acknowledge to be a minister of God ministering the word of God and let him shape your life? And change your life pattern? Give you different attitudes? Different ways of handling your money and running your family? You don’t have to. But my suggestion is if you don’t, you’ll be a stone left beside the road that never gets into the building. That’s my suggestion.
I’m not talking about joining any particular group of submitting to any particular teaching. But whoever teaches the word of God to whoever may be the taught one, the word of God demands radical changes. None of us is the right shape by nature. The question I’m asking you is: Are you willing to be changed?
My personal conviction is that God will deal with groups and denominations on that basis, are you willing to be changed? In my opinion, as far as I see what lies ahead, any group not willing to make radical changes could be written off now. I have no special group in mind. But any group that says to God, “God, don’t you tell us to change. We’re all right the way we are.” belongs to the past. That’s the way I see things. Now God may not see things the way I do. That’s his prerogative.
What’s the great chisel that shapes us? The word of God. Let’s look in 2Timothy 3:16.
Do you believe that? I do.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable...”
Is useful. All scripture is useful. Never write off the book of Ecclesiastes or the prophet Amos as being unimportant. They’re profitable. All scripture is profitable and has its purpose for four uses. What are they? Doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness.
There’s a progression there. The first thing is doctrine, teaching. That’s lovely. But that’s just being marked out.
The next thing is what? Reproof. What’s that? That’s the chisel. This piece has to go.
Then correction. Being lined up, made rectangular, ready to fit.
Then instruction. What’s instruction? Instruction is not doctrine. Instruction is training. It’s making people live the way doctrine says they should live. We begin by way of doctrine. We go by way of reproof and correction. We arrive at instruction.
The average churchgoer has no concept of being instructed. Most people don’t go to church excepting to have their lives radically changed. If they knew that was going to happen they wouldn’t go to that church, they’d go to another church. Sometimes when they’re confronted with the need for radical change in one church, what do they do? Find another. And on this side of the world there’s no shortage of churches. I think it would be better if there were.
What about reproof? God, when I was preparing this outline, laid on me the thought to look at what the word of God says about reproof. I got gripped by it. I’m going to take you through it and go as quick as I can. It will take a little while. We’ve got a whole series of passages that are from the book of Proverbs in each of which the word reproof is a distinctive concept. The impact of this comes from reading all the passages so I’m going to go through the quickly. The first one is in Proverbs 1:21–31. Wisdom is speaking and wisdom is Christ. Christ is the wisdom of God. It says:
“Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones will ye love simplicity?”
Really, I think that applies to the Charismatic movement. How long do you want to go on being a spiritual baby?
“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you...”
If you turn at his reproof he’ll make his words known to you.
“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye has set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
This is a terrible statement that follows:
“I also will laugh at your calamity: I will mock when your fear cometh...”
It’s not if your fear cometh but when.
“...when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you [and that’s what’s ahead for the world]. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord...”
Let me point out to you you have to choose the fear of the Lord.
“...they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.”
Three times the key word is reproof. Are you willing to accept reproof? You must answer that question, not I.
Let’s look on in Proverbs 5:11–14. We can’t go into the background but this is a word of warning to the young man who is entangled with the strange woman. The strange woman can be literally the strange woman physically or it can be the strange woman spiritually, false doctrine. Or it can be both together as it often is. It just says:
“Thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof...”
This suggests to me somebody who sits in the congregation and outwardly listens but inwardly in his heart he says, “I don’t need that. That doesn’t apply to me. You’ve got no right to tell me that.”
“...and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers...”
I heard them but I didn’t obey them. I got all their tapes!
“...nor inclined mine ear to then that instructed me!”
It wasn’t the teaching, it was the instruction he didn’t like.
“I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.”
Isn’t that a startling statement! Right there in the conference that my heart was not receiving reproof and instruction. Inwardly I was despising what I was hearing and I was right on the brink of the precipice of destruction in the midst of the congregation. You can be in church and in great spiritual danger.
“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: to keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.”
Basically you’ll find people that will not accept sound Biblical teaching and instruction and correction will end up in error. It’s the reproofs of instruction that keep you from the way of the strange woman.
Proverbs 9:8–9. This is the place where you sort them out.
“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
You can tell whether you’re dealing with a wise man or with a scorner by how he responds to reproof. That’s the decisive issue.
“He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.”
Strays, goes off.
Proverbs 12:1 says this:
“Who so loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.”
Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t say that. Proverbs 13:18. Now this I saw happen in the life of a young married couple. I saw exactly this.
“Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honored.”
I saw a young couple get married, refuse instruction and end up in poverty and shame. And that scripture became so vivid to me. “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction. But he that regardeth reproof shall be honored.”
And then finally Proverbs 15:10, 31 and 32. Verse 10:
“Correction if grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.”
These are very, very solemn statements. The reproof is what brings out rebellion or submission. It’s the parting of the ways. When it comes to reproof you’re going to react one way or the other. Verse 31, 32:
“The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.”
Well, there you are. Reproof is the chisel that shapes you. It’s one thing to listen to doctrine, it’s another thing to accept reproof. Reproof will probably not be given in the large congregation, it will be given one to one. That’s where you meet with the one who is responsible for your life and allow him to use the chisel on you.
Finally, our attitude towards one another as stones. Am I willing to be built into the midst of other stones? That’s the question. Am I willing to be squeezed on one side and the other side and then just when I’ve just settled down, have two great heavy stones put on top of me? What is the attitude that’s required? We called it placement.
Let’s look very quickly at these scriptures. We don’t need to dwell on them, I think the principles are obvious. Philippians 2:3–5.
“Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
What is required is an attitude of appreciating others where you can see the good in others, the beauty in others, the contributions that others make. Where they seem to you better than you are yourself. This is an attitude which is found very little amongst us at the present time, it has to be cultivated. The chisel will do it.
Going on quickly and we don’t need to dwell on this now. What’s the next one? The servant spirit. You can find the reference and look at if for yourself, Luke 22:24–27. Jesus said:
“Which is greater? He that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am amongst you as he that serveth.”
And he said, “Whosoever will be chief, let him become servant of all.” I am deeply convinced that we Protestants have neglected to cultivate the servant spirit. I met it a couple of years ago in a community that had been founded by Catholics but had become ecumenical. There was such a spirit of “Brother Prince, how can we serve you?” that it brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t need any arguments, I was convinced when I walked into that place. I just felt no matter what it would cost, they were going to serve me.
When persecution comes, brothers, I don’t care much about the groceries I have stored away because I’m inclined to think they may not provide me with very much permanent security. I want to know the people that I can trust who will lay down their lives for me. And that’s a servant spirit.
See, the way to promotion is service. That’s not the Protestant way. I’m brought up in a Protestant background completely. But let me just point out that our ministers are trained basically by getting knowledge. And what does knowledge do? It puffs up. So we have puffed up theologians who have never learned to serve. But the New Testament way to promotion is service. It’s completely different. All the problems we had with our ministers and our theologians we’ve asked for because we’ve gone contrary to the very basic principle of training which is faithful in little, faithful in much. Faithful in another’s, then you’ll receive your own.
I am a person who can get along pretty well on my own. Basically you’ll not see many more self-sufficient persons than I am. But I have learned that I have no right to deny to younger men the opportunity to serve me. Not primarily because I need them but because they need to serve me. And I’ve realized it’s selfishness and independence on my part if I go it alone and do not provide to younger men and ministers the opportunity to serve me. That’s their training. Not so much what I teach then as what they do for me.
Since I’ve moved into this area I’ve seen God do the most beautiful things in the lives of young men. I’m proud of them. I was talking to a man at the news desk of the New York Times, a friend of mine. He was doing an article on discipleship, the crisis in the Charismatic movement. Bless God, he did a previous article on exorcism which I was one of the persons mentioned. In order to do that article he came to about three or four of my meetings and in those meetings I had about ten young men working with me. I was so happy I was able to say to him, “Brother So and So, you saw those young men that were with me. I’m proud of them. They’re the result of discipleship. I’ve got nothing to apologize for those men, I just wish I’d done it more often.” See? We’ve got to learn the privilege of serving one another.
The Spirit of Service, when I meet it, it brings tears to my eyes. I just respond to it immediately. I’m not used to it. I have made my way through the wild west of the Charismatic movement. I mean, I’ve been quick on the draw and I’ve survived. The idea of somebody else wanting to help me takes my breath away.
Let’s look at a couple of other scriptures. What about apostles? Let’s look at two scriptures about apostles which is just illustrating this principle. Ephesians 2:20:
“And you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets...”
Where are the apostles and prophets? In the foundation. Where’s the foundation, the top or the bottom? The bottom.
And what about Revelation 21:14, it says:
“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them were the names of the twelve apostles of the land.”
See, I know a brother who grew up in what’s called the Apostolic Church of Britain where the great emphasis has been on apostles and prophets. It’s a Pentecostal movement, it has its good points. It’s been extremely legalistic. And there’s been extreme emphasis on the apostle and the prophet in each local assembly. This brother, who is now a well known minister of the word, as a young man revolted against this. The legalism and the imposition of authority, and the self-aggrandizement of the ministry. He turned his back on it all but he said to me and to some of us brothers two or three years ago, “My attitude changed when I learned this: That apostles are not someone at the top holding you down. They’re people at the bottom holding you up.”
The greater you are, the lower down you go. That’s the principle. It’s not getting to the top, it’s getting to the bottom.
The last scripture, Romans 15:1. On that we really close.
“We then that are strong ought to [rule the weak, is that right?] bear the infirmities of the weak...”
More and more I see this is the test of strength. It’s how much can you bear of the weak? This is, I think, a beautiful example. With this I promise to close. The principle of discipleship. God showed it to me in a mental vision in the branches of the vine. He said, “The longer you’ve been grafted into the vine, the more important it is not that you bear grapes but that you bear branches.” Your strength is not in the number of grapes that you bear, it’s in the number of branches you can bear. And anybody that’s been a Christian 10 or 15 years should have branches growing out of him. And the fruit that he bears then is not the fruit that’s at the end of his branch but it’s the fruit at the end of the branches that he’s bearing as a branch.
In other words, strength is bearing. The more you can hold up, the stronger you are. It’s not keeping people down, it’s holding people up.