In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit—Ephesians 2:21-22
I don’t know about you, but I love old buildings. I love structures that have stood the test of time and remain for us as reminders of a bygone era.
A couple of years ago, Molly and I went on a holiday to Tasmania where we took the opportunity to visit the Port Arthur Historic Site. Some of the sandstone buildings and old homes from the 18th and 19th century convict settlement were simply remarkable. Last year, when I was in the historic U.S. city of Boston, I visited King’s Chapel; a church building constructed in 1754. Considering the First Fleet did not arrive on Australian shores until 1788, that is one old building!
However, though these buildings and others like them are undoubtedly spectacular and intriguing, for sheer historicity they pale in comparison to some European and north African structures. Consider the Colosseum, built around 70 A.D., and still standing in the midst of modern-day Rome. Or the Great Pyramids of Giza, constructed around 2500 B.C., which today still litter the skyline of Cairo. These structures are truly magnificent and truly ancient.
And yet, for all their interest, historicity, and splendour, these buildings are little more than ruins. The Colosseum is magnificent, to be sure. And it undoubtedly reminds us of the might and influence of the Roman Empire. But that’s just it; it ‘reminds’ us. It tells us of what once was, but no longer is. The Roman Empire—that monolithic beast that was once hell-bent on annihilating the Christian Church—is itself annihilated. The Great Pyramids of Giza are undeniably ‘great’, but today they are tourist attractions. They are interesting, but they lack any present day influence.
This is, of course, the inevitable end for all man-made buildings and structures. No matter how sturdy, large, magnificent, or important eventually all buildings will either come crumbling down or will become tourist attractions. History bears this out.
However, there is one ‘building’ that is destined to never meet such an ignominious end: The Church of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2:21-22, the Apostle Paul describes the Church as a “building” whereby all believers are together being built into the place where God dwells. The Christian Church, then, is not man-made but God-breathed. And for this reason, it is the one ‘building’ that will never come crumbling down.
To be sure, the Church, initially birthed by God’s Spirit (Acts 2:1-13) into the fires of misunderstanding and persecution (see Acts 5:17ff), has endured many storms and many attempts to reduce it to ruins. And yet, today, thousands of years later, the Church still stands. It stands not as a monument to a forgotten movement, but as a living structure, spanning the breadth of the globe and growing in strength and splendour.
Sure, the Church may be increasingly marginalised in an increasingly secular Western world, but far afield on the continents of Asia, Africa, and South Americathe church has seen dramatic and explosive growth. The church in China, in particular, has seen a remarkable resurgence, despite the best efforts of the government to obliterate it. In fact, China is on course to have more believers than any other country in the world by 2030.
Why? Because the Church is not man-made but God-breathed.
You see, human culture and man-made structures come and go. The might of the Roman Empire has come and gone. The vastness of Egyptian wealth and magnificence has come and gone. And we can be sure that any powerful country or culture of our time will come and go. But what we can also be sure of is that the ‘building’ where God dwells—the Church—will never fade into obscurity, irrelevance, or ruin. It will continue forever, marching inexorably towards its glorious future (Rev. 21:3-5). And this future is certain because the almighty God is the builder and sustainer of this structure.
So, do not be discouraged. In the midst of all the noise and claims that the Church is irrelevant, waning, or “on the wrong side of history”, remember and take heart from the truth that we “…are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). This means, unlike every other building, the Church will never become ruins or a tourist attraction. Praise be to God.
Grace and peace,