What is God saying Today?
“A striking feature of our times is that so few of the voices have a distinctive message. There is a painful lack of a clear word of authority for the times. While there are many good preachers of the gospel, and while we are not without champions of the vital verities of the Faith, we are sadly in need of the Prophet with his, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ which he has received in a commission born of a peculiarly chastened fellowship with God.” (T. A.S.)
Someone has said: “If you would know what is the burning issue or present truth which God considers imperative in each generation, just observe where the enemy has concentrated his fire!” Through the past four hundred years since the reformation, many of God’s servants have recognized the progressive recovery of certain vital areas of truth. Each new wave of spiritual awakening has not only had in view the immediate renewal of spiritual life in that generation, but also the progressive unfolding of truth for the Church as she moves toward the glorious realization of His ultimate intention and purpose Even Peter, in his day, seemed to recognize that the young Church needed to be “established in the present truth” (II Peter 1:12).
For the individual or group who walks with God there is always fresh meat according to their need. There have always been those individuals who saw with God and lived beyond their day; yet there is a most sovereign element in God’s working to unfold each new step of present truth.
That which was present truth in the days of Augustine is still truth, but it is not the present truth that God is speaking through His prophetic voice today. That we can be saved simply by faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, and not through the forms and ceremonies of the Church was present truth in the days of Martin Luther, and with this emphasis he shook the world and changed the course of church history. While that is a most essential and foundational truth, it is not the present truth of this hour.
What hinders men from hearing and proclaiming that present truth for this hour? May it not be that many who could be a prophetic voice have become so much involved in a system: a system which puts preachers largely upon a professional basis, the effect of which is to make preaching a matter of demand and supply; of providing for the established religious order and program? We have seen how the old wineskins are usually not stretchable to receive the present truth. Little kings who are fearful for their own security or protective for their own little kingdom will not hear nor proclaim that which might destroy their kingdom.
We must be sure to discern two classes of men whose motives are mixed. There are the “loyalist” who fear anything which will shake their little kingdom, so they become overprotective under the guise of being faithful shepherds of God’s heritage. Then there are the “opportunists” who are really only ambitious to use any new truth or emphasis in carving out a little kingdom for themselves. They are not primarily concerned about how the present truth will build His kingdom, but what it can mean in their own design of opportunism. God must help us who discern the divine course to proclaim the present truth with only one end in view: building His kingdom and not our own.
A Pile of Stones or a Temple
We can rejoice that in the past hundred years there has been an awakening to Church truth and the importance of unity in the Body of Christ. This concerted thrust of gathering together those living stones in a locality to become a testimony of unity was indeed a present truth for that hour.
But a new hour has come! The truth of gathering together living stone into a pile has now been properly focused and a present truth for this hour has emerged. How foolish it was to assume that a mere “gathering together” according to Church truth was sufficient to build up the stones. Without realizing it, Bible churches, fellowships and independent groups tried to hold individualistic stones merely on the principle of unity or Church truth. Even those who most boldly championed the cause of Church truth fell into the snare of making Church truth itself as a gathering point.
It would seem the present truth of this hour includes this three-fold thrust: There is a (1) “gathering together unto Him” but also a (2) “building up” of living stones in Him through the (3) fivefold ministry given by Him.
It is not sufficient to have a pile of stones merely called out of the world or out of a religious system. God must build a spiritual house, often called the temple or body, where there is a functioning together of the living stones.
One look at our present religious system and the almost impossible task of building these living stones into a functioning temple, has caused many to insist: “it can’t be done in this age.” We are well aware there is a widespread doubt as to whether we are to expect anything in the way of a corporate building up or expressive testimony at the end. Some hold strongly that everything at the end is individual—a conviction that rests for the most part upon the use of the phrase, “If any man …” in the message to the Church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:20).
It would seem there are two things which hinder many from receiving what the Scriptures indicate to be God’s way of achieving this glorious purpose. First, they have a wrong conception of the Church. The real failure in grasping God’s end-time working is to assume an organized movement, a sect, a society wholly unified is His goal. But in God’s sight the Church of the New Testament has never been an organized affiliation of believers and workers. It has always been a purely spiritual thing, spontaneous in life, united only by the Holy Spirit in mutual love and reality. So the Church He is now building and the Church which so many are looking for is indeed quite different. Second, let us see how God designs for the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:11 to be the means for building His church.
Fitting the Living Stones into a Corporate Expression
Unfortunately, the word “build” as used in Matthew 16:18 is most often rendered as “edify.” Now the original does not imply (as does the word edify) to improve morally or to benefit spiritually but rather to build up. So it is something which happens to the stone but really not for itself.
Christ has designed that His gifted men—workmen given to the Church after He ascended on high—should perfect each stone “for the work of the ministry.” With his tool in hand the gifted worker begins to shape the stone until it will fit into a certain place—having a gift and ministry to fulfill as a functioning member. Suppose the stone is triangular and the space is rectangular! The stone must be chipped and shaped until it perfectly corresponds to that space allotted by the builder.
What a day when God’s gifted ones (those given to the Body at large) awaken to see they are not to minister instead of the stones, but rather their one calling is to develop the ministry of each living stone to fulfill its own ministry. What a misunderstanding of God’s design for individual members to sit in the church week after week waiting to be ministered unto, when God intends for their own ministries to be developed so that fulfill the work of the ministry. How can we expect any full stature in individuals or in the local church when the pastor does all the ministering? It is no wonder the present-day servants are breaking down in despair and depression. They are in a squeeze and caught in a religious system which cannot develop lives who can minister. They must preach, must share, must perform whether they have a special word from the Lord or not. Because they have not discovered God’s design in a body-ministry where every member waits for directions from the Head, they are forced to speak whether they have “the burden of the Lord” or not. How sad when men cannot say: “the hand of the Lord was upon me.”
What do we mean? The present order and design of services can never build living stones to fulfill their own ministry. When a man is required to speak at stated times, he must get something—he must sermonize—and this necessity means either God must be offered our program and asked to fit into it (which He will not do), or the preacher must make something for the constantly recurring occasion.
No wonder servants who face people with desperate spiritual needs each Sunday are going down under the pressure. They are trying to fulfill a place God never intended. It is the individual members of the Body who must be prepared to minister to the others in the Body. God’s gifted men (Ephesians 4:11) are given to prepare individuals for their work of ministry. Until we become rightly adjusted to the Head we shall hardly understand how every part must be functioning instead of merely being ministered unto.
J.B. Phillips, Eph.4:16 “For it is from the Head that the whole Body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love.”
Perhaps there is nothing which has so hindered the growth and development of living stones as our wrong conception. How often we have met with delightful individuals whose lives are well-ordered; they are careful about the early morning quiet time and earnest in witness and ministry; they are will-edified individuals who call forth the commendation of others. Yet they remain individuals who cannot be “built”. They are precious stones who love to receive and develop their own stature; but they are so precious they cannot be fitted together with common clay or stone. It would seem they are too beautiful to be built up into one building with others, so they remain individualists—lovely for display but no good for building. They are motivated in their own spirituality than in functioning to build others.
All of this is to emphasize: the full stature which God intends to each living stone cannot be reached apart from a proper relatedness to the corporate stature of the Body of Christ. How this wounds our individualistic yearnings! God is not primarily after a lot of separate stones, however polished and beautiful they may be. He wants a complete spiritual house, as one of our Chinese brothers has illustrated so aptly: “One sister, speaking to me of another said: ‘Oh she’s such a precious sister, so spiritual!’ When I asked more about her, she said: ‘Oh she’s so humble, so quiet, so gentle; we have never known her to be irritated.’ And again she added: ‘She’s so spiritual!’ ‘Who is she spiritual with?’ I asked. ‘Is she an isolated spiritual sister, or has her spirituality related her to others?’ ‘Oh,’ replied the sister, ‘singers who strike such high notes as she, find few who can sing with them.’
“Alas, that sister was so spiritual that no one could be her spiritual companion. Such a sister is all right for display purposes, but she is no use for Church building. The kind of sister needed in the Church is one who can have another placed behind her and another in front, another to her left and another to her right, and one below her and one above. And that is the sort of Christian God is seeking today.”
Let us be honest. Our real problem in the local gathering is that the “most spiritual” cannot work together. They soon find legitimate “reasons” for their own private kind of individualism. Behold, the time has come to rejoice and make way for God’s own moving! Nothing can hinder His design for accomplishing a spiritual building-up. God has been preparing those who have seen the divine method for building the temple where flowing life and flowing reality can meet every desperate need. Weary pilgrims need no longer endure empty meetings out of the mere sense of loyalty. The strain is gone for those servants who understand they must minister only as He gives utterance and shares his burden. There is a Spirit-wrought ministry of life coming forth to build the stones and pillars into their functioning place.
All Creation Awaits the Final Building
At the building of Solomon’s temple there was one thing which amazed the people of Jerusalem. The stones were brought together without noise of hammer or pounding of chisel and mallet. The timbers from the faraway forests of Lebanon fitted into their appointed places until, in silent harmony, the temple arose in all its glory. The noise was in the past. The forests of Lebanon had resounded with the shouts of men and crashing timber, while the quarry walls echoed back the babble of voices and the noise of working men. There had been hours spent in the picking and in the preparation of each stone or each pillar. Now that was all over. And all Jerusalem wondered as stone was fitted to stone and timber to timber in that glorious temple built by Solomon for the glory of God.
What does this temple as a former shadow teach us? Is it not God’s way of unveiling the erection of that Eternal Temple for His habitation? We see both individual stones and pillars moving unto full stature as they become a part of that corporate stature. The Holy Spirit would focus our eye to see those quarries where the living stones have been under pressure and in preparation. Almost without noise or commotion—it is so silent—the Spirit is fitting prepared pillars and stones into their places. Wherever a few are gathered together and build into a spiritual house—the Greater Solomon has built a miniature. But we all with abated breath look for the grand placing when every miniature house will be absorbed into that vast Spiritual House. Who has eyes to see? We can imagine that only those who have learned to dwell “in Jerusalem” can behold the final gathering and building of every part into that glorious Temple. Paul must have seen it when he wrote:
J.B. Phillips, Eph.2:20-22 “… you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you is the foundation, Special Messengers and Prophets, the actual foundation-Stone being Jesus Christ Himself. In Him each separate piece of building properly fitting into its neighbor, GROWS TOGETHER INTO A TEMPLE consecrated to God.. You are all part of this building in which God Himself lives by His Spirit”.
What a picture of God’s ultimate is this! Our individual stature finds its purpose in full corporate stature. Each stone belongs to the whole, yet fulfills its own unique place. But we must be careful to realize this is the work of the Greater Solomon, Himself. There must be no rushing stones out of the quarry before they are ready. This is wholly His work. But it would seem the hour of commencement has come! We have observed in cities across the land how this moment of erection seems to have begun. Local expressions of His life are rising up. Almost overnight the Lord is bringing together those pillars who are prepared to give spiritual strength, character and direction. Then how easy to fit the living stones into their place when the great framework is properly established. Indeed we can rejoice. Things are almost silently slipping into their divinely ordained place. THIS IS THE GLORY OF HIS ERECTION.
(The original title was This is the Hour when Living Stones are Being Built into a Corporate Expression) Copied from: God’s One and Only Purpose: A Study in Biblical Reality compiled by Bhab Musafir.