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Into these five points we have gathered vast ranges of Divine truth and purpose and have set the bounds, defined the nature, and indicated the principles and laws of "Christian" service and ministry.
The two last subdivisions go to the heart of Paul's (rather the Holy-Spirit's) designation, of the servant of the Lord as "a wise master builder." They relate to the object - who and what Jesus Christ is - and all the methods and means by which the object is to be arrived at.
Our first emphasis, then, is laid upon the fact that for the work of God a wisdom and a skill, different from and far transcending that of man at his best, is essential. A wisdom which is the gift of God. A wisdom which, however, is very often foolishness to men, and yet which - when the work is done - makes the wisdom of men look foolish.
Wherein, then, does this wisdom lie? What are the features of it? Paul answers the questions for us in various ways.
Firstly, "I have laid a foundation," and "Other foundation can no man lay." The object in view must have the foundation most suited to it. There is only one possible foundation for this spiritual house. It is God's eternally elect and appointed foundation. It is the very bedrock of the universe, deeper than soil, subsoil, and strata. There is no volcanic eruption which can upheave it, and no blast which can shake or split it. There is no other foundation for life and work of which this is true, hence the supreme wisdom of making this the basis of all procedure.
"Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," said the Divine Architect. Upon what rock? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!"
Upon what rock? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!"
Jesus Christ, infinite Son of God, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form, and all-inclusive Son of Man, the federal Head of a new race; the foundation of the universe, but in a special sense the foundation of the Church. The most startling, stunning, upheaving, shattering thing that ever happened to a mortal was the revelation of who Jesus is which came to Saul of Tarsus as he journeyed bent upon doing despite to the name which was so soon to be spoken to him out of high heaven. Humbled as no power on earth could have humbled him he asks: "Who art thou, Lord." (Lord = ruler, principal.) He might not have been surprised if the answer had been in one of the great Hebrew designations of God, such as Jehovah, although he might have been perplexed as to how he was persecuting Him. But when the answer came straight, strong, clear, "I am Jesus!" it was calculated to send a man off food and sleep for days and nights, and then to the back side of a desert - to Arabia - to contemplate the ruin of his enterprise and get the foundation for his new edifice, Jesus! At once persecuted and sovereign; on the throne and persecuted. Jesus, done to death by Saul's circle and in the place of transcendent majesty! Jesus - "the Nazarene impostor" - God! Alas, alas!
Jesus is God! The glorious bands
Of golden angels sing
Songs of adoring praise to Him,
Their Maker and their King.
He was true God in Bethlehem's crib,
On Calvary's cross true God;
He Who in heaven eternal reigned,
In time on earth abode.
Jesus is God! Oh could I now
But compass land and sea,
To teach and tell this single truth,
How happy should I be!
Oh, had I but an angel's voice
I would proclaim so loud!
Jesus, the good, the beautiful,
Is everlasting God!
Was Saul a master-builder of Judaism? Then it was true in his case indeed that "the Stone which the builders rejected, the same had become the Head." "Disallowed indeed of men, but with God elect, precious." Surely also it was true in his case that "Whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it falleth it shall grind him to powder." Paul, by experience, knew something of the impact of Jesus in risen power and that is the crux of the whole matter. Neither Peter nor Paul arrived at their Christology by mental processes, by reasonings, by training, by the schools, by research. In each case it was by revelation.
"Blessed art thou, Simon, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee but my Father."
"It pleased God... to reveal His Son in me."
"Neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ." Here then are the two sides to the basic wisdom of the "wise master-builder." The fact of Jesus - Son of God, and very God; Son of Man, without Whom the universe as a whole and the race in particular must collapse and cease to be, and without Whom that elect instrument without which the universal purpose of God can never be realised - the Church, the House of God - can never be built; for He and He alone is the Foundation. Then on the other side this fact and its nature proclaimed on the ground of a revelation which is an experience, and experience which is a revelation. They who pioneered this "Testimony of Jesus" were neither authorities, experts, or exponents; they were "witnesses." The two things are one, the fact and the fact known by revelation of the Holy Ghost. No one can be a builder and no Divine building can be built without this basis and equipment.
There are many things to which the name of the Lord is being affixed which are being constructed, and which appear fine and great and like "the Church," but the twofold reality is neither in the builders or the buildings. They are destined to collapse when God's hurricane and fire test every man's work. Good works; philanthropy, hospitality, reform, education, religion, relief, etc., may be the products, or by-products of what is called "Christian civilisation," and things for which to be profoundly grateful, but let us not confuse these with "a new creation," regeneration, a being "born from above."
The Church is nothing which man can build by any resource in himself personally or, collectively. The Church is an organism not an organisation. "Behold, I show you a mystery, we are members of His flesh and of His bones." Build that, if you can! Launch that; organise that; "run" that! It cannot be done. It is the spontaneous outworking of spiritual forces released, in the acceptance by faith of tremendous facts concerning Christ; which facts are proclaimed out of experience in the power of the Holy Ghost.
Not the theological Christ; not the doctrinal Christ; not the Christ of the letter; much less the Jesus of history; but the Christ of Eternity in all the meaning of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into the Throne of God; revealed in the heart by the Holy Spirit. This alone is authority to preach, to serve, to occupy position, to "build" in relation to the house of God. It is folly to spend time and strength otherwise. It is wisdom to labour on this foundation.
We shall proceed later to speak of The Gospel of the Wise master-builder.