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Building up believers and the New Testament church

Built Together a Habitation of God

God's Order In Building

How then does the building take place? Is it automatic? How is man involved? The answers to these and related questions lead us into the order of God for His working today. If God were doing the work separate from man, we would just watch from the sidelines. But I think we know this is not the case. God has chosen for us to be intimately involved in the building process. Not only are we living stones being built into the house of God, but we are also laborers in the building according to the grace and calling of God.

In Ephesians 4:1-15, Paul gives us an outline of God's order in this building. He tells us that grace is given to each one in some measure to contribute to the building. He goes on to emphasize what is commonly known as the "five-fold ministry" of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The purpose of the ministry is that we may all grow up into Christ, no longer unstable "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The order Paul presents here is one of a very close working together. The head (or authority) is Christ. He is the one who is working all things. He has given gifts (men under His control) to the body to minister (serve), so that the whole body may be built up (to a place of maturity). In this process, every member is a living stone, a supply of the grace of God according to the measure of Christ's gift. If love prevails, not only will each member serve Christ to the body, but also each member will receive from Christ through other members. For the one who gives, the source of supply is from Christ, and the one who receives, receives a supply of Christ. What is seen in the process is the character and nature of Christ. The glory goes to God, for He is the one who gives the grace and is working all things to His end purpose: that we may be one as He is one (John 17).

Ministry itself is a vast subject we cannot explore here. But we can all be encouraged in God's order, to know what we are looking for and to pray diligently for God to raise up ministers in our midst who see clearly and can be used by God as a supply of Christ. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he gave some clear instruction concerning those who labor in the house of God and build on the foundation. Let us all take his admonition carefully and let the Holy Spirit apply it to our situation.

"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Corinthians 3:5-17).

Before going on, let us note that all of God's provision is necessary for the building to be built properly to the glory of God. We cannot ignore any provision of God without loss. The pastors (elders) do not take the place of teachers, and the gifts of men do not take the place of the gifts of the Spirit. All of the ministries are essential, but also, ministry cannot do what the body must do. Every function in the body is designed by God for a purpose. We should know what the purpose is and believe God to raise up ministries to meet the needs of the body as He has designed.