In praise of the builder

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him who appointed him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house. For this one has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who built the house has more honor than the house” (Hebrews 3:1-3, NKJV).

In a city near my home there is a house, designed almost 100 years ago by an architect of national prominence. Though it contains many impressive features, almost no one speaks much of them. Rather, the house is known almost exclusively because of its designer.

As I have traveled in other nations I have visited numerous temples, cathedrals, palaces, and other magnificent structures. Though not always, nevertheless in many cases the builder or sponsor of the structure receives much of the attention.

That is the principle pointed out by the author of Hebrews. As significant as was the tabernacle which Moses built in the wilderness, it paled in comparison to its owner and designer, God. So too, the Church which Jesus established is wonderful and magnificent. Yet it too is far less so than the one who brought it into existence – the risen Savior.

I remember a passionate statement made by an older preacher and educator some years ago. He said simply, “I love the Church.” So do I. Yet as glorious as is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27) and as great a blessing as we have been given to be a part of her, the glory of Christ is far greater.

It is not easy to balance a proper perspective between the two. There are many who feel that they can follow Christ without allegiance to any religious body or any corporate worship or service. Their faith is in a loving Jesus (they might say) and they don’t need rules, rituals, or other people in order to pursue it.

Others are bound up in rituals, traditions, and other accoutrements of “Church” as we see it all around us. They love the architecture, the formal liturgies, and the order of a sacred calendar. Their faith is bolstered by richly attired clergy, whom they feel they can trust to officiate any necessary procedures for their spiritual enhancement.

Listening to the debate on this subject one may feel it is all one or the other. One is either a “Christ-follower” who is independent from others, or is a “Church-member” whose faith is entirely focused on public religious activities.

The fact is that as Christians we must have fellowship with others. We draw strength from them, and they from us (Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 10:24). We bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-4), pray for one another (James 5:13-16), and comfort each other (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

It is also true, as stated earlier, that the Church is the grandest of all human enterprises, not that it was conceived or produced by humans, but that it involves them. It is bought, cleansed, sanctified, and purified by the blood of Jesus, its Bridegroom. Paul described the Church as “The house of God, the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). To the Hebrew writer it is “The city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, . . . the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:22).

The Church is both the household and the Temple of God (Ephesians 2:19-21), as well as the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:18-19). In short it is magnificent to the point of incomprehension.

Yet, recognizing all that, the builder is greater than the house. We worship Jesus as Lord and Christ; God as Father and Creator of all. In the final analysis the Church is an instrument that God and Christ use to bring us into fellowship with them and to enable us to serve them “Acceptably, with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).

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