Building on the Foundation
Many believe that the third temple will be built in Jerusalem before the Messiah appears at the end of this age. A group of Jews has prepared plans and already has a 4.5 tonne marble cornerstone to place on the Temple Mount when the opportunity arises. They believe this will occur in their lifetime and have on occasions paraded their cornerstone around Jerusalem on a flatbed truck. This has created a great deal of tension between Muslims and Jews because the site on which they intend to build their temple is where the Dome of the Rock, the famous Muslim Mosque is situated. What does the Bible say? Will a ‘third’ temple be built? Will their cornerstone be laid on the Temple Mount?
The prophets of ancient Israel did say that a temple will be built. But it is God who will lay the corner stone, not the Jews, “…thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). He has already commissioned someone to build the temple, “Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:” (Zechariah 6:12). The Branch is a descendent of Jesse (Isaiah 1:11) the father of King David. A branch of David’s line is also prophesied to rule the earth, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth… ...and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-7). Christ who is a descendent of David’s (Luke 3:23-31) is that Branch. He is the righteous judge (II Timothy 4:8) who will rule all nations when he returns (Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 25:31-32, and Revelation 19:11-13, 16 and 20:6).
Upon This Rock
The Temple Mount is not the rock on which the temple will be built. It will be built upon the spiritual Rock that made them stumble. That spiritual Rock is Christ himself, “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:4). He is not only the cornerstone of the foundation, but also the spiritual rock, on which the foundation and stones that make up the temple will be assembled.
Christ said that he is the rock on which the church will be built, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Those that claim that this verse confirms Peter as the head of the Church are mistaken! According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary the word 'Peter' (used also as a proper name) is translated from the Greek word ‘petros’ meaning a detached stone, or boulder, as opposed to ‘petra’ which means a mass of rock.
Christ was saying that he is the ‘massive’ Rock on which the church is built and Peter is one of the stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) of the assembly, or church. The church is an assembly of saints that comprises the spiritual temple. On the spiritual Rock that is Christ the foundation for the temple was laid and upon that spiritual stones will be assembled to form the temple.
God has already chosen the cornerstone. Not the 4.5 tonne marble stone some group in Jerusalem have prepared, but the one that caused the Jews to stumble, “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 9:33). A living stone, “…coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” and “…the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.” (I Peter 2:4, 7). Jesus Christ is the corner stone that God has chosen, “… Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone:” (Ephesians 2:20).
It is a holy temple built on the spiritual foundation of the prophets and Apostles, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief 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.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
It will not be built of granite or marble, but with living stones, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5). If you have the Holy Spirit then you are one of the lively stones of the temple, “for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…” (II Corinthians 6:16). And “…know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19). Because God’s Spirit dwells in His people they are individual temples as well as being part of the overall spiritual temple which is being assembled.
The Holy Spirit is not a third person - it is the very essence, the mind and nature of God Himself. God is a morally pure spirit being who is set apart by His righteous nature. That same divine and righteous nature is also found in Christ, “Who being the brightness of his (God's) glory, and the express image of his person,” (Hebrew 1:3). If you receive a portion of that Holy Spirit you receive that same divine righteous nature of God that over time can perfected in you. The fruits of that spirit are the attributes of God's nature, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). And, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Ephesians 5:9). By perfecting these attribute you will be transformed, “…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). We are created in the image of God to be a living stone in the spiritual temple that Christ has been commissioned to build. The Holy Spirit is the mortar that binds the living stones of the temple together.
A labour force has been assembled under God’ supervision to build the temple on the foundation laid by Christ,“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9).
In addition to the Holy Spirit which produces the fruit of the Spirit in each individual the workers are also given spiritual gifts according to the needs of each assembly, or congregation to help co-ordinate the work in perfecting the living stones for the temple, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren… …Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ… …But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” (I Corinthians 12:1, 4-12, 18).
The spiritual gifts are for the edifying (building) of the church (assembly), “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12).
Quality of Workmanship
Those called to participate in building the temple have a responsibility for the quality of their workmanship,“...let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (I Corinthians 3:10-17).
The quality of our workmanship is determined by how we allow the fruits of the Holy Spirit to be perfected in us. Every person will be judged and rewarded accordingly. The Apostle Paul reminded us that we are responsible for our own salvation, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life;” (Philippians 2:12-16).
Building the temple is a vocation at which we are to work together in unity to perfect and edify the saints, “I... ...beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all... ...And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-12). That is the work of God. It is our job to work together with so that each living stone is perfected after the pattern set by Christ, “Till 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 fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13).
Pillars from This Age
Those perfected as living stones from this age will form the pillars in the temple, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,” (Revelation 3:12). The foundation and those pillars will support the rest of the living stones perfected in ages to come.
Christ, the prophets and apostles form the foundation and it is from this foundation that the pillars will rise to support the rest of the building. Those called to salvation in this age will in ages to come, be living proof of what God is doing for mankind, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:20-23).
They will rule with Christ for a thousand years, “...I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them… …and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6).
During this period of one thousand years known as the Millennium the world will witness a truly righteous government in action. Following the Millennium will be the Great White Throne Judgement where the rest of mankind who have never had a chance of salvation are resurrected to physical life, the books of the Bible will be opened to them and they will be judge according to how they live during that time, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works… …And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15). Each of them will receive their chance of salvation.
Literally billions of living stones will be perfected and added to that incredible temple!
Temple in New Jerusalem
Some confusion has arisen because of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in which he saw no temple, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”(Revelation 21:22). John was referring to the sanctuary within the physical temples of ancient Israel called the Holy of Holies where God had a presence and to which access was restricted to the High Priest alone. Those physical temples were mere shadows of the future spiritual temple to come. In the spiritual temple there is no need for the Holy of Holies. Everyone will have direct access to both God the Father and Jesus Christ who will not only dwell forever among their people in the Kingdom of God which is the sancuary, but also through the Holy Spirit that will be present in every living stone that makes up the temple.
Not only was Christ commissioned to build the temple he was also commissioned to bring salvation to mankind, “...behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation;” (Zechariah 9:9). Salvation comes only through Christ and is intricately linked to the building of the temple, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12). Those who are saved will be greatly blessed.
Thousands of years ago God promised Abraham that through one of his descendents all of mankind will be blessed, “…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Jesus Christ is that descendant (Luke 3:23-38). He is the branch of David through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Access to those blessings had been cut off for mankind when Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to reject God and trusted him instead. Their lack of faith that led to sin jeopardised the future of humanity by putting them in Satan’s power. It is from this situation of spiritual captivity that man is to be saved by Christ.
Those whom he saves are to be perfected in God’s likeness as was intended from the beginning when God the Father said to the Word, who later became Christ, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” (Genesis 1:26). Two thousand years ago Christ was sent to lay the foundation for the process that will transform mankind from the physical likeness to spirit likeness, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body… … And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (I Corinthians 15:44, 49). They are the living stones perfected to the fullness of his stature.
Then cometh the end, when Christ shall deliver the finished product to his Father, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians15:24-28).
Two thousand years ago Christ described what the finished temple would be like. He described the characteristics that each living stone will have and the blessings they will receive when they are perfected to the fullness of his stature in all the glory of God. This is the inheritance they will share with Christ as was promised to Abraham over four thousand years ago and was God's intention from the beginning.
Each of these living stones that form the foundation and pillars, and make up the rest of the temple shall see God, experience His mercy and be filled with His righteousness. They shall be his children, heirs of the Kingdom inheriting the earth. This is what Christ was telling his followers in his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ which formed the basis of his teachings throughout his ministry. He defined the attributes in which the living stones are to be perfected and the blessings they will receive. He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12).
With these words Christ created a verbal picture of the temple he had come to build. It will be comprised of living stones that he saved from spiritual captivity, and in whom he perfected God’s divine nature for which they will be greatly blessed, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:15-18).
As God’s sons and daughters they will after the nature of God be righteous, humble, meek, pure of heart, merciful, peacemakers having a sincere concern for the rest of humanity. This is the great blessing God promised Abraham. It will be available to ‘all families of the earth’. In other words all of mankind! Everyone will have the opportunity to be given eternal life.
He was not saying that human attributes some already had would guarantee eternal life as some would have us believe. It must be remembered that in his Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ was talking to an unconverted audience who did not have the Holy Spirit at that time! Some of them may have been of a meek disposition, or even accomplished peacemakers in their existing lives, but that did not automatically qualify them to inherit the earth, or to be called children of God! That was not what Christ was talking about! He was describing what they will be like in the future when they receive the Holy Spirit and the Godly attributes he mentioned have been perfected in them. Then they will be rewarded with the blessings he described.
First they needed to repent and receive the Holy Spirit, which was not made generally available until after his death and ascension, “…Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV). As mentioned earlier the Holy Spirit is the very essence, the mind and nature of God Himself that opens the human mind to spiritual concepts (I Corinthians 2:9-16) and over time come to maturity to produces Godly attributes in the recipient.
These fruit of the Spirit are the same Godly attributes described by Christ in Matthew 5:3-12, when he was painted a futuristic picture of what that temple will be like. At that stage he was only laying the foundations. The apostles had only just begun their training. None of them had received the Holy Spirit from which those attributes would be received developed. It was until much later when they had received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22 and Acts 2:1-4).
Those who are perfected in the Holy Spirit as living stones for the temple shall see God, experience His mercy and be filled (or clothed) in righteousness and as children of God the Kingdom of heaven will be theirs and they will inherit the earth. That is the reward of the saints. They will have all of the attributes Christ described and receive all of the rewards as we shall see.
Attributes and Blessings
Lets take a closer look at the attributes and blessings that Christ described:
Poor in Spirit “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Greek word translated as ‘poor in spirit’ implies the absolute and abject poverty of one who has nothing.
The 'poor in spirit' are those who realise that the wealth, power and status of this world have no true value and cannot save them from the eternal death. Having seen their own spiritual inadequacies, or poverty, they turn to the only one who can save them - God. Having sincerely repented they seek baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, “…Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV).
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit mankind can be perfected to the fullness of the stature of Christ. It is an assurance, or guarantee of an inheritance of eternal life in God’s Kingdom,“…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Those who are 'poor in spirit' will as Christ said in his Sermon on the Mount, receive that inheritance – the Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs. None of his audience at the time he was speaking had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The process of preparing the apostles for the foundation of the temple had only begun.
By desiring His divine nature and putting the things of God first the 'poor in spirit' fulfill the first great principle of law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38).
Those who Mourn “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
Those who humble themselves before God weeping and mourning because of the suffering of mankind will be comforted,“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up (exalt).” (James 4:8-10).
Concern for others fulfils the second great principle of God’s law, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:39-40also Galatians 5:14).
Isaiah the prophet said that Christ would come, “…to preach good tidings unto the meek… …to comfort all that mourn… …to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3). We are admonished to follow the example of Christ who humbled himself before God and because of his great sacrifice for mankind has been highly exalted, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:” (Philippians 2:5-9).
It is promised that those who have God's Spirit and weep and mourn for humanity will be comforted when they too are exalted.
The Meek “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth”.
Meekness is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It takes great humility and love to put God’s will before your own.
Jesus Christ after whom the living stones are perfected said, “learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart:” (Matthew 11:29). He was prepared to forego his own will to accomplish his Father’s will, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39).
He was unjustly treated and falsely accused by those for whom he sacrificed his life. But he made that sacrifice without resentment, bitterness or complaint. He was prepared to suffer an undignified and painful death so that the will of God would be accomplished, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
Christ's meekness is a trait that God values very highly, “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (I Peter 3:4).
When mankind receives the Spirit that is the essence, mind and nature that is in both the father and Christ (Philippians 2:5). They develop the same meekness that makes them teachable, “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm 25:9). As they learn to put God's will first it brings them further into God’s grace, or favour, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4).
Through the Holy Spirit they are saved and perfected in the stature of Christ so they can among other things inherit the earth. The Holy Spirit is a down payment on that promise.
Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
God is righteousness. Everything He does and says is good, right, just and true. Christ isrighteous like his Father, “… through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:” (II Peter 1:1). But man is not righteous like God by nature, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10). Human nature is a mixture of good and evil (Genesis 3:22).
The only way mankind can become truly righteous like God is by having God’s Spirit in them. The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God’s divine nature and righteousness is fruit of that Spirit, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). It converts the corrupt human nature to become truly righteous like God’s.
It is not something humans can accomplish on their own,“…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior:” (Titus 3:5-6 NKJV).
Keeping God's law can attain a certain level of righteous but that is not the sort of righteousness God wants. Christ addressed this issue when talking to the scribes and Pharisees who went to great lengths to try and keep the law, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20).
This does not negate the law, nor does it remove the requirement to keep the law. It means that it takes a conversion of the mind through the Holy Spirit that comes from God through Christ to keep the spiritual intent of the law that goes beyond the letter of the law. It requires, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Those who receive God's Spirit and hunger and thirst for His righteousness will be filled with His true righteousness.
The Merciful “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”
Because of His love for us God is rich in mercy, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4 ). He is merciful toward humanity and is willing to forgive those who turn to Him, “…shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:6).
We are invited us to seek His mercy, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). And to extend the same mercy to others, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:36-38).
This is an important principle for those currently being perfected by Christ as living stones because in the future they will be helping to bring the rest of mankind to salvation, “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their (Israel's) unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.” (Romans 11:30-31).
Show mercy to others as God has shown mercy to us is exercising the nature of God that is being developed by the Holy Spirit in us.
Pure in Heart “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
To be pure in heart is to have a mind like God’s. To live by every word of God, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6). His word is pure, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” (Proverbs 30:5). His word is the law. His commandments and statutes express His righteous nature, “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8).
Purity comes to those who through His Spirit obey the commandments that express His purity, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” (I Peter 1:22). The result is pure love from a pure heart, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:” (I Timothy 1:5).
Human nature with its mixture of good and evil must, through the Holy Spirit, be converted to the divine nature of God, which is pure in righteousness and goodness.
What may seem pure to man’s way of thinking is not pure to God, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” (Proverbs 30:12).
Man’s thoughts are not like God’s, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Holy Spirit opens the human mind to understand spiritual concepts, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-11).
As God's divine nature develops within an individual the power to separate the good from evil increases - good thoughts can be captured and retained while evil thoughts can be flushed out, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).
Thoughts can be focused on things that are pure, good and pleasing to God, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Those who strive for this purity of thought will see God. They shall also stand before God when they are resurrected to spirit.
Peacemakers “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
The divine nature of God which is peaceable promotes peace, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17).
In this world peace is defined by the absence of war and contention. Man does not know true peace because man does not know the “God of peace” (Romans 15:33). God is the author of peace, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,” (I Corinthians 14:33).
The spirit in man that we know as human nature with its mixture of good and evil is not at peace with God, “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7). It is far from peace, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:1-5).
Humanity does not know peace because they do not seek after God, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God… …And the way of peace have they not known:” (Romans 3:10-11, 17).
True peace which is beyond human understanding is only available through the Holy Spirit that perfects mankind to the fulness of the stature of Christ, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).
Those who have God’s Spirit will experience true peace as a fruit of His Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Having their understanding opened to the spiritual concepts of God gives us peace of mind, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
All this comes to believers from God through Jesus Christ, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (Romans 5:1). Through Christ’s sacrifice, which paid the penalty of the law for man’s sins and gave them access to the Holy Spirit, they can be reconciled to God the Father – he re-established peace between God and man, “For he (Christ) is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2:14-18).
Christ did not abolish the law as many teach – he abolished the enmity that existed between man and God so that reconciliation can take place and man can become the epitome of what God expressed by the law. The law expresses the divine nature of God. Peace on mind comes through a love of the law, “Great peace have they which love thy law:” (Psalm 119:165 and Galatians 5:22).
Every human being has the potential to be a son or daughter of God “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalm 82:6, see also II Corinthians 6:18).
Anyone reconciled to God through the Holy Spirit will have peace of mind knowing that they are His children and in the future will be in His Kingdom.
Foundation of Teaching
The Sermon on the Mount set the foundation for Christ’s teaching throughout his ministry. He preached the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God. The so called ‘beatitudes’ are not just a collection of pleasant sayings as some would have us believe. On the contrary Christ was describing the potential that mankind can attain if they develop and perfect the Godly attributes given to them through God’s Holy Spirit. He defined the Godly attitudes that perfect an individual to the full measure of Christ’s stature and he outlined the rewards that will accrue from doing this. They will be greatly blessed by becoming the very children of God with an inheritance that includes the Kingdom of God and the earth.
But this can only be achieved by having the Holy Spirit that is the essence, mind and nature of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. When Christ presented his Sermon on the Mount his followers had not yet received the Holy Spirit. When they did receive it their desire for God’s righteousness increased and they became more teachable as their minds were purified. Having received God’s mercy they became more merciful toward others and with an increased awareness of the plight of humanity they were motivated to preach of Christ about salvation. When they put God’s will first in their lives and developed the meekness of Christ they went on to do the mighty works that have been recorded in the book of Acts.
When we receive God’s Spirit and become more like Him we can expect persecution from those in the world,“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matthew 5:10-11). But on the other hand we have good reason to rejoice because we will be greatly blessed, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:12). Perfected to the fullness of the stature of Christ we will become living stones in the spiritual temple that Christ is building.
Jesus Christ came to fulfil the law and the prophets. The ancient temple with its priesthood, rituals and ceremonial laws were a shadow that pointed prophetically toward Christ the Messiah and his role in redeeming mankind from spiritual slavery. The prophets said he would bring salvation to all families of this earth and construct a temple. Not a temple built of stone and mortar, but a spiritual temple built with living stones that are cemented into place by the Holy Spirit of God. Christ himself is the corner stone and a foundation of prophets and apostles has already been laid. A workforce has been assembled in this age that has been gifted with spiritual abilities to get the job done and they each have a personal responsibility to perfect the fruits of the Spirit to the fullness of the stature of Christ. They are living stones that will form the pillars to stand upon the foundation and support others who will be perfected in ages to come.
In his Sermon on the Mount Christ described the qualities of those living stones and how they will be rewarded in the Kingdom of God. Their righteousness will show forth God’s glory as a living spiritual temple in the midst of which the Father and Christ will dwell forever. He painted a verbal picture of the temple he had come to build. This is the work in which we now have an active part. With the spiritual tools He has provided we each have a responsibility to prepare ourselves and to help prepare others in the congregations as lively stones for a temple that will glorify God forever.