Bricks and Stones

Introduction

The Tower of Babel was built with bricks.

The Temple of God, built by King Solomon, was made of stone.

What is the difference between bricks and stones?

Bricks are made by man and mass-produced. They are all the same size and shape and often the same colour. Every brick is exactly like every other.

Stones are made by God. They are all different shapes and sizes. Some are large and some are small and they have many different colours. No two stones are the same.

God-made or Man-made?

Everything that God makes is unique.

The world has many different species of tree, but even trees of the same species are all very different from each other. Each has a different shape and size. Animals have many different species, but no two animals of any species are the same as each other. Every dog and every horse and every cow is unique. Even, I have been told, every snow flake, when viewed under a microscope, is different from every other. We have nearly 8 billion people on this planet, but, amazingly, we’re all different!

God is a God of infinite imagination, variety and creativity.

Man, now in the 21st century, makes almost everything by mass production. Articles made this way are identical to each other. Cars of the same make may have different colours, but otherwise their only visible difference is their number plate. My computer or smart phone could be identical to yours. Almost every shop contains many identical objects.

The Tower of Babel and the Temple of God

The name Babel (בָּבֶל) comes from a Hebrew word meaning confusion. Later in the Bible we meet its Greek name Babylon (Βαβυλων).

What is the spiritual meaning of the Tower of Babel? It was man’s attempt to reach God by his own efforts. You can read the full story in Genesis 11:1-9. It was all based on man’s plans and man’s ideas with no instructions from God and no leading from the Holy Spirit.

When Noah built the ark, God gave him full instructions for its exact dimensions and the materials he should use to build it. When Moses built the tabernacle, it was the same; God gave him full instructions for every detail. The Tower of Babel was entirely based on human planning. No instructions came from God.

Most Bible commentators see Babel-Babylon as a picture of the false, man-made church. Some see Babylon particularly as the Roman Catholic Church. Others see Babylon as much wider and including all false religion. (I have written a separate article on Babylon.)

The Old Testament Temple was very different from the Tower of Babel. Like the Tabernacle of Moses, it was built according to the command of God. For the Jews this temple was the dwelling place of God.

King Solomon originally built the temple about 900 BC. It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. It was rebuilt 70 years later and enlarged and improved by King Herod soon before the time of Jesus. The Romans finally destroyed the temple in AD 70, as predicted by Jesus.

Why did God allow his temple to be destroyed? Stephen and Paul both answer this question. Shortly before his death Stephen said, “The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands” (Acts 7:48). Paul wrote: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:16).

God never intended the temple to be his permanent dwelling on earth. He had a much better and higher plan. His true temple is made of people who are filled with the Holy Spirit – people who are living stones. That means you and me if his spirit lives in us.

The Old Testament

Hebrews Chapter 11 contains a list of the heroes of the Old Testament.

None of these people read the Bible to find out what they should do to serve God, because of course in those days there was no Bible for them to read. None of them copied each other. Each of them did something totally different. They were all stones of different shapes and sizes.

Noah built an ark. Why did he do that? Because God spoke to him and told him to do it and he heard and obeyed. He acted in faith and obedience to God’s word to him.

Abraham did something quite different. He left his comfortable home and forefathers in the ancient city of Ur and spent the rest of his life living in tents.

Joseph became prime minister of Egypt and saved the Egyptians and his own people from famine.

Moses was a mighty stone in the temple of God. After 40 long years in the wilderness he returned to Egypt and led God’s people from there to the Promised Land. He also, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the first five foundation books of the Old Testament.

David was a powerful king and mighty warrior who made his country and his people great.

Solomon built a temple for God.

We find a huge diversity in the saints of the Old Testament. None of them copied their predecessors. They all did very different things for God. But they had some things in common. They all heard the voice of God; they all responded in faith; and they were all led by the Holy Spirit. They were not dead bricks; they were living stones.

The New Testament

We might have expected that the New Testament saints would all be similar to each other. We would be wrong!

Peter, Paul and John, the main writers of the New Testament letters, all had very different messages. Each shared his own unique revelation from the Holy Spirit.

Peter and John were among the twelve original disciples of Jesus. For three years they listened to his teaching and watched him performing miracles. You would think their letters would be full of quotations of his words and stories of his miracles. Surprisingly, none of their letters contains a single quotation from Jesus or story about him. Instead they both shared their own revelations which they had received directly from God.

Paul had a dramatic meeting with Jesus on the Damascus road. What did he do then? We would have expected him to go to Peter or John or any of the other disciples of Jesus to learn everything he could from them about his new Saviour. But that is not what he did. Instead he went away to Arabia to be alone with God and then returned to Damascus. He didn’t go to Jerusalem to meet Peter for another three years. He then stayed with him for 15 days. You can read his story in his own words in Gal 1:15-19.

He gives his reason for his strange behaviour: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not based on human thought. For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11,12).

The same Holy Spirit inspired Peter and Paul and John and the other writers of the New Testament. But they were very different vessels, and Jesus was manifested differently in each of them.

The rainbow is made of seven different colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Added together these colours make pure white light. The pure, brilliant white light of God’s truth is split up into many different colours as it passes through human vessels that are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus

Jesus was totally unique. He said things and did things that no one before him and no one after him has ever done.

He made no attempt to copy Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. He was completely different from all other religious leaders before or after him.

Even his own life was full of variety. He was born of a virgin; he turned water into wine; he healed the sick; he raised the dead; he walked on the water; he fed 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes; he stilled storms; he died on the cross of Calvary; he rose from the dead! He ascended to the right hand of God.

He had different messages for everyone he met, each perfectly suited to his hearer. He told Nicodemus he must be born again. He told the Woman of Samaria he would give her living water. He said to the Jews, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51). He said to a rich young man, “Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matt 19:21).

How and why was Jesus so different from all other people? And why was there such variety in his own life and in his teaching? There is one simple answer. Jesus was totally and continuously led by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit has the infinite variety and creativity of God. He was the greatest of all living stones. As the Psalm says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone” (Ps 118:22).

The Body of Christ

Paul speaks of believers as the Body of Christ. He wrote to the Corinthians: “You are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it” (1Cor 12:27). Paul emphasises the vast difference between the various members of the body.

A body has eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet and many more parts that are hidden. All these parts are essential for living a normal life. No one part can replace any other. We all know people who are blind or deaf or unable to walk. Maybe we even know people who cannot use their hands. These people have severe limits in what they are able to do and they have big disadvantages in life.

Have we seen eyes, ears, hands and feet all functioning together in the traditional church? Have we seen the living stones of the temple of God, each different from each other, and wonderfully joined together in unity? Or have we mainly seen the dead bricks of the Tower of Babel?

Sadly, we must confess that in the past we have mainly seen the dead bricks of Babel, each one just like every other. But all over the world God is moving in new ways and we are beginning to see the living stones of the Body of Christ appearing. I believe a time will come when its eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet are all functioning fully. I believe the world will gasp in amazement when the full body of Christ becomes manifest in all its diversity. Paul wrote to the Romans: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (See the full passage in Rom 8:19-23.) A time will come when creation’s longing will be satisfied.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians about five ministries which were the gifts of the ascended Christ to his body. These are his words: “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11,12).

Have we seen apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers functioning in our churches? Or have we only known the pastors and priests of Babylonian religion? Have we seen dead bricks or living stones?

Happily, I believe, the future will be different from the past. God is doing a new work. He is restoring these five essential ministries to the Body of Christ.

See Five Ministries.

Conformity

How do we avoid being dead bricks and become living stones?

Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world (or age), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2).

The world demands conformity.

From childhood our minds are moulded by the thinking of our families, our schools and by the societies and religions into which we were born. Our minds are further moulded by newspapers, television and now, especially for younger people, by social media.

All of these things cause us to be “conformed to this world”. They all mould us into bricks of the same shape and size.

Every human organisation, be it religious, educational, political or economic, wants to see conformity in its members.

Sometimes this conformity is mainly external. Many organisations want all their members to dress in the same way. Priests of various religions all wear clothes of the same colour and style. Large numbers of Muslim women dress in black, and cover everything except their eyes. They all look the same as each other. Armies insist that their soldiers all wear the same uniforms. In developed countries, fashion has a powerful grip, especially on younger people.

Some organisations want more than just outward conformity. In extreme cases they want total control over the spirits, minds and bodies of their members.

In many countries of the world, people who do not conform can receive severe punishment, persecution and even death.

Transformation

How do we avoid being “conformed to this world”? What were Paul’s words again? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).

Paul’s words agree with the first public words of both John the Baptist and Jesus: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2 and 4:17).

The word repent is a translation of the Greek word μετανοεω (metanoeo), which means to think differently or change one’s mind.

The problem is in our minds. We have believed lies. How can we be free from these lies? Jesus said to his disciples, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Truth destroys lies. Later he explained to his disciples how this would happen. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

What are these lies? There are many different kinds of lies of which we will consider only three: lies about God, lies about ourselves and lies from the devil.

Lies about God

Most of us grew up with many false ideas about God. Whether our background was Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist or, yes, nominal Christian, we had little or no knowledge of the true God.

Some of us thought he did not exist or that he was far away and had no interest in us.

Some of us thought we must perform all kinds of rituals and ceremonies to keep him happy.

Many of us thought he would condemn most of the human race to endless torment in hell, even if they had never heard the gospel or the name of Jesus.

We thought that the day of miracles was over.

When we receive the Holy Spirit, God begins to reveal his true nature to us. He is almighty, all-knowing and all-present. He is full of love for his whole creation. He is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2Pet 3:9). He wants us to have a direct personal relationship with him. This knowledge comes not only into our heads, but deep into our experience.

Lies about ourselves

People grow up with many wrong ideas about themselves. “I am superior to others.” “I am inferior to others.” And, more seriously, “I am not a sinner and I have no need of God or Jesus Christ”.

When we come to Jesus, many lies simply disappear. We have seen that we are sinners in need of a Saviour.

Often, it is then that we begin to experience new lies that come directly from Satan. We will consider these now.

Lies from the devil

Jesus said that Satan was “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

The Hebrew word Satan (שָּׂטָן) means accuser and the equivalent Greek word διαβολος (diabolos - from which we get the English word devil) means slanderer.

The prophet Zechariah saw “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (Zech 3:1).

In Rev 12:10 we read, “The accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God”.

Satan’s main work is to accuse the people of God. He does this through other people in whatever way he can. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt 5:11).

Satan also accuses us directly by injecting negative thoughts and lies into our minds. “God does not really love you.” “He does not listen to your prayers”. “You are not good enough for him.” “You will never get victory over sin.” These accusations are more difficult to handle because we think they are our own thoughts and we do not recognise them as coming from Satan.

The saints in the book of Revelation “conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives even to death” (Rev 12:11). We must learn to do the same.

Other lies

The subject of “being transformed by the renewing of our minds” is vast, and in this writing I can only scratch its surface. Whole books and websites have been written about it.

Everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, learns lies from their families, their contemporaries at school and college, their social groups, their religions, the mass media and many other sources. The Holy Spirit works in many ways to remove the lies from our minds and to “lead us into all the truth” (John 16:13).

The Bible speaks about two different kinds of mind: the mind of an animal (Dan 4:16) and the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16). By nature we have the mind of an animal ; by grace and the working of the Holy Spirit, we receive the mind of Christ. (See 666 and 888.)

Conclusion

For two full days the physical body of Jesus lay buried in the tomb. On the third day he threw aside the grave clothes and rose from the dead. “One day is with the Lord as 1000 years” (2Pet 3:8). Two days are as 2000 years! Just as the physical body of Jesus lay in the tomb covered in grave clothes for two full days, I believe the spiritual body of Christ has spent 2000 (lunar) years in a spiritual tomb covered in grave clothes. But now I believe that its time of death is over and its time of resurrection has come. (See Bible Chronology.)

Hosea prophesied of this double resurrection (of Christ’s physical body and his spiritual body). He said, “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (Hos 6:2).

That third day has now come!

The people of God are ceasing to be conformed to this world, but are being transformed by the renewing of their minds.

The dead bricks of Babel are being replaced by the living stones of the true Temple God.

Amen!

Printable A5 booklet of this writing