Building the Church
Jesus said to His disciples‚ “I will build my church” (Matt.16:18). These are encouraging words for the Lord’s people. Knowing that Christ owns and builds the church we may have complete confidence that the project will be successful. But how will Christ build His church?
Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is instructive here. Having told the Corinthians that they, in common with the rest of the church, are “God’s building” (v.9), Paul then goes on to speak of the church’s foundation. He is in no doubt as to what it is: “other foundation can no man lay that that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (v.11). This foundation was laid when Christ gave Himself to the cursed death of the cross to atone for His people’s sins. Yet in between these two statements Paul says this: “as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation” (v.10) .
There is a sense therefore in which Paul built the church at Corinth. He built it as a minister. However Paul was very aware of the difference between his work and God’s work in the building of the church: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” (1Cor.3:5,6)
It is amazing that the Lord, who has all the power necessary to build His church, should choose to employ frail, sinful men as instruments in this great work. What a privilege for those who are “labourers together with God” (v.9) – and what a responsibility! The obvious question now is, What does Christ require His servants to do that His church may be built? What is the ‘planting’ and ‘watering’ which will lead to an increase?
Paul answers that question earlier in the Epistle. Ministers are to proclaim the good news of the Saviour Jesus Christ. “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel... it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe... we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1:17,21,23,24) Recognising that God alone is able to save men’s souls we must plead with the Lord that He would bless the preaching of the gospel to the hearts of those who hear it.
The Christians in Ephesus heard Christ and were taught by Christ to their eternal benefit (Eph.4:21). This took place through the preaching of Paul and other ministers. God has given to His servants the ministry of reconciliation. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Cor.5:20,21). The Bible is the only manual for our preaching and from it we must declare the doctrines which are necessary to be known and believed for salvation.
In a difficult and discouraging day like ours there is a temptation to try other ways of building the church. The result will only be “wood, hay, stubble” (3:12). It is not better methods we need but better men. We need to be less worldly, more prayerful and more like Christ. Then perhaps our preaching will be “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2:4) and the church will be built up again in our land. May the Lord grant it!