Except the Lord Build the House
God dwelleth not in temples made with hands
Israel’s Temple at Jerusalem, in the Holy of Holies of which God was said to dwell and through which He received the worship of the people of Israel, was merely a type or figure of the true and greater Temple. The latter, not made by human hands, is now being built by God for His place of rest in the Heavenly Jerusalem—Christ’s Kingdom. The glory and power of the earthly Kingdom centred in its Temple built with hands. That glory, however, afterwards vanished, and the Temple itself, being merely a figure, came to an end. In contrast, the spiritual Temple which God is now building, not with material stones but with the living stones of the new creation, will be the eternal glory of the New Jerusalem. That glory will never fade or diminish, but on the contrary will increase and abide throughout the countless Ages of eternity.
Before considering the building of this greater Temple, it will be well to have clearly in mind the distinction between the Temple itself, in which the Ark of God’s strength was housed, and the Kingdom at large, the glory of which emanated from the Holy of Holies of the Divine presence. As regards the type, all can appreciate the distinction between the literal city of Jerusalem and its Temple, wherein God in a figure dwelt between the Cherubim. The same distinction must also be recognised in regard to the New Jerusalem—the city of the living God. (Heb.12:22) Its Temple, built of living stones and now almost completed, will be the chosen habitation of God through the Spirit during the countless Ages of glory. Stated otherwise, it means that the Temple class, comprised of the overcoming “little flock” with their glorious Head, will be nearer by far to the Divine presence and have more intimate fellowship with the King of Glory than any others of the whole family of God. Indeed, it is God’s good pleasure (declared the Apostle) “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one (united family) all things in (under) Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” (Eph.1:10)
It is appropriate, therefore, to enquire where and how God’s house is being built. The house mentioned by the Psalmist in our text (Psa.127:1) is undoubtedly the house that the Apostle had in mind when he wrote—Ye “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief (or top) corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph.2:20-22)
These words of the Apostle make clear not only how and where the building operations are performed, but additionally the purpose for which the completed Temple will be used. In the primary sense, God Himself is said to be the Builder—“except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” This can only mean that God, as already mentioned, is its Architect and Designer, hence the vital necessity that all who would be satisfactory “labourers together with God” (1 Cor.3:9) should learn thoroughly this all-important lesson.
Any building done in the service of the Lord along other lines would not be in accordance with His will. It would therefore be rejected because it would not fit into the Divine scheme, as set out in the terms of the specification. The Divine Architect does not do the actual building Himself, but like all human architects, invites labourers who are willing to co-operate in the work of building.
It might, at first, seem paradoxical to suggest that the members of Christ constitute the Temple which God is at present building, while at the same time they are said to be “labourers together with God” as living stones in building the self-same house. Actually, there is no real contradiction, when the matter is seen in the light of the Divine Plan.
The overcoming little flock of the present Age, when completed, will constitute the Temple of the New Jerusalem within which God by His Spirit will in a special sense dwell. Just as the material Temple of the earthly Jerusalem was the only means of approach unto God by the people of Israel, in the days of the typical Kingdom, so the spiritual Temple of the Heavenly Jerusalem will throughout the mediatorial reign of Christ provide the only medium of approach to the One who dwells in light unapproachable. (1 Tim.6:16) God’s house, when completed, will be a house of prayer for all people. (Isa.56:7)
God’s temple soon shall rise
The preparation of the stones for the Temple building has been in progress for almost two thousand years. It began with the Lord Himself. He was the first living stone prepared, and He will occupy the chief corner, as the head stone in the building. That stone has ever since been used by the Architect as a model, or pattern, according to which every other stone forming part of the building must be fashioned. This was clearly indicated by the Apostle when he wrote that God had predestined, or so arranged the specifications of His Plan, that every one of the foreknown Temple class must “be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Rom.8:29)
Like every other material building, a suitable foundation must first of all be prepared, if the house, when built, would prove satisfactory and lasting. The wise architect will provide in his specification that it must be built upon a solid rock foundation because he knows that, if built upon sand, it will not stand the tests of storm and flood.
The foundation for God’s house has been in preparation for several thousand years, even long before the actual stones for the Temple were hewn out of the quarry of the human race. Ye “are built (declared the Apostle) upon the foundation (teachings) of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Eph.2:20) How very important, then, it is that all who would be labourers together with God in the building of His Temple should endeavour clearly to understand the requirements of the Architect, before attempting to join in the building operations.
Our Lord, as chief interpreter of the Architect’s Plan for the building, played the next most important part in the work of building. In Him can be seen a noble example of a true and faithful witness for the Father and for His Plan. His Plan concerns not only the building of His Temple, but all the human family who in due time will participate in the blessings which will flow to all the willing and obedient of the human race.
In reply to Peter’s confession of the truth that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord significantly said “I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter (of a rock disposition), and upon this rock (foundation truth of which you have made confession) I will build my church.” (Matt.16:18) The testimony (confession) of Jesus, as the Christ of God and Saviour of the world, is the spirit of prophecy; all who would eventually become part of the Temple structure of the New Jerusalem must accept Jesus as the true pattern for the entire building and the only means whereby salvation from sin and acceptance with God are possible.
Our Lord claimed no originality or plan of His own regarding the part which He played in the building of the House of God. On the contrary, He took every opportunity of bearing testimony to the fact that neither the words which He spake nor the works which He performed in their midst were His own, but were those of His Father in heaven. (John 14:10) In the truest sense of the term, He could say “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30)—one in purpose as well as one in method regarding the building of God’s House. Thus, while our Lord as the Father’s representative was the active agent in the work of building, yet He could truthfully say that it was God who was the Builder, inasmuch as it was His Spirit dwelling in the Son which was the guiding influence.
Our Lord not merely initiated the work of preparing the living stones for the Temple by example and precept; He also gave to His followers the means whereby the building work could be successfully carried forward to completion. To that end, He gave gifts to His followers in the capacity of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, all to aid in the work of building in order that each living stone in the building might be so shaped and polished as to conform to the instructions and specification of the Architect’s design. (Eph.4:11-13)
The Old Paths No.196