Fitly Framed Together
When addressing the Church in Corinth, Paul referred to the brethren as 'God’s fellow workers' and himself as a 'wise master builder' who has laid a foundation on which to build (I Corinthians 3: 9-10).
The concept of being fellow workers with God is very exciting. Paul says that the brethren are not only the builders, but also the building itself, which is a temple for God to dwell in (verses 16-17). When God’s Spirit dwells in us we are His temple - His dwelling place. Not only are we a temple on an individual basis, but collectively we are to be joined together to form a greater spiritual body, or temple. God is the architect, and we are not only labourers but also the building, being constructed on a foundation already laid by master builders like Paul.
Paul confirms this when writing to the Ephesians. He said that the foundation he laid, comprises the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, the apostles and the prophets, “Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
We are expected to add to that foundation until “we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). The job overall is not completed until all the individually developed materials to be used are shaped and finished so they can be fitted together to form a magnificent temple that God will call His own.
The analogy of building a temple has its precedent in the Old Testament, when Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. There are some interesting parallels between Solomon’s project and our task today.
Solomon was a royal prince called by God to build the temple. We are a royal priesthood called not to work on a physical temple of stone and timber, but a spiritual temple designed by God (compare I Chronicles 28:5-6, with I Peter 2:9).
As with any building project, the architect provides plans and specifications for the builders to work from. Solomon had the Tabernacle of his forefathers as a model, and written specifications on the design and the type of material he was to use. We have the recorded teachings of Christ, the Apostles and the Prophets as our foundation. The laws, principles and values expounded throughout the whole Bible, are the specifications we build our lives on. Compare the instructions in I Chronicles 28:19, with II Timothy 3:16, I Corinthians 11:1, and I Peter 2:21. If builders ignore the architect’s blueprints or follow a different set of plans they end up with a building that is unacceptable. Similarly, if we choose to abandon our blueprint, the Bible, and adopt the standards, morals and ethics of the world around us we take the risk of being rejected as part of the spiritual temple (I Corinthians 3:17).
Each of us is a temple in our own right, and we are also the materials being prepared for the overall building. That preparation is progressing so we will be ready to be assembled when the architect commands.
The raw materials for Solomon’s project were sourced from various locations. Each type of material was processed according to its composition and use. According to First and Second Chronicles Solomon had stonecutters in the mountains quarrying stones to be cut, squared, and in some cases polished. Others were responsible for transporting the stones to Jerusalem. Timber cutters felled trees in Lebanon while others rafted the logs by sea. Closer to home the carpenters split the logs and shaped the timber ready for use. The gold came from Parvaim for the goldsmiths to refine, weigh and work. Silversmiths worked the silver and weavers prepared the fabrics. Bronze workers were located in the plains of Jordan where they had access to water and clay needed in the process of smelting and casting. Each group of artisans in their various locations using different skills to perform their individual tasks, but all had a common goal – to build the temple!
For the spiritual temple we are the raw material, coming from a multitude of backgrounds and upbringings, a mixture of races, cultures and temperaments. Each with our own life experiences, hang-ups, baggage and problems to overcome, we require different processes and timing sequences to reach our goal. Some need rough edges hewn off so they can be smoothed and polished. Some have hearts of stone that need to be broken and softened, while those that are strict and unbending need to be made pliable. Others not yet pure in doctrine require purifying and refining. Harsh and coarse materials need to be made compatible with others. It may require the heat of fiery trials, harsh pruning, or whatever the architect knows that is best to prepare each of us for a place in His temple.
If the scattered state of the Church of God seems confusing and uncoordinated to you, think of it in terms of a building project. Just as David gathered together a lot of the building material for Solomon, many us were once gathered under one roof in the Worldwide Church of God. At various times we have been separated out into like minded groups, relocated where we could best be worked with by whatever processes and time sequence our architect thought necessary. And as time has progressed more people have been added to the various groups. Each has been placed within the Body where God wants them (I Corinthians 12:18).
Some were destined for the carpenter’s shop others assigned to the stone cutters, goldsmiths, or bronze foundry depending on whether they need to be chipped, chopped, polished, heated, melted, hammered, soaked, dyed, bent or straightened. Some of us have even passed from one workshop to another, just as the timber would have been in Solomon’s day when it was cut and shaped then passed on for the goldsmiths to be covered in gold. Some materials need to be separated out for specialist work or for their own protection. It’s all part of the process – part of the plan.
Jesus Christ is the architect - he has the plans for the temple. He knows exactly what materials are needed and what processes are required to shape each of us to fit into that precise position he has reserved for us (John 14:2).
The Old Testament account of what Solomon achieved is interesting and has lessons for us today. His workers and overseers had the vision of what their new king was building and it was in harmony and with great enthusiasm they worked, each to their own task but united in achieving the same goal.
Imagine what it would have been like if his subjects had not caught the vision, if they had not been prepared to work together, if they had sought their own selfish comforts first. What if the some had taken it upon themselves to criticise the carpenters? And the carpenters had thrown stones at the masons, while the bronze workers had condemned the work of the weavers and the goldsmiths had questioned the credentials of the silversmiths? What if the stonemasons had refused to work with anyone else and the overseers had squabbled over who was to be paid the most or who was to be in charge?
It’s not difficult to imagine the finger pointing and shouting, the accusations and denials that would have been tossed back and forth. Some of the delicately crafted work would probably have been permanently damaged as scuffles broke out. Polished surfaces would have been scratched, cracked and chipped, as things got rough. Much of the work would have been left undone as workers bickered and squabbled. Some may even have walked off the job never to return. When the relationships between the groups of fellow workers turned sour many would have been deeply hurt. Perhaps they may have turned bitter and unforgiving reverting to their former hearts of stone. What a horrendous and shameful fiasco it would have been.
Fortunately that didn’t happen in Solomon’s time - but what about now? Could this imagined scenario take place as we work together with God on the spiritual temple? Could we lose the vision of what Christ is doing? Could we start throwing stones and accusing each other? Squabbling and bickering over whom should be in charge or how much they should be paid? What would happen if we allowed this sort of disgraceful behaviour to take place?
It’s a good thing our architect is a merciful one and so ready to forgive!