This was by far the best chapter of the book so far and left me feeling a sense of great anticipation to turn the page. Jesus says in the subject verse, Mark 11:22-24, "And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Dr. Sproul recalls a trip to Israel when this saying was brought to a visual reality. I won't spoil the story here. But I never heard it before. Somehow I knew that God would use that picture in my mind later in the week. So I had great anticipation going to Sunday School where our lessons are focused on Jesus. What a wonderful, worthwhile "topic". I was not disappointed. But I was perplexed for about a week as I tried to put together the building blocks that God had put before me.
Just as Jesus described the moving of some pretty big blocks of turf in Mark 11, so God had to move some pretty big blocks of mental dullness in my mind. He wants to do the same in all of us so that we may do one simple thing: believe.
In case you still have any doubts about the composition of the Church, let the following verses and teaching put all aside. God will move a mountain in order to build the "stones" of His Body. But we have to first get out of the way with our belief in our beliefs, and into His Way of faith, believing exactly what He says.
First, some history lesson.
God commands that His place of worship appear thus:
Exodus 20:24-25, "An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it."
Deuteronomy 27:5-6, "And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God:"
This is quite plain and clear. Make the altar of earth. If stone is used, no tool shall touch it. Why? I'll explain later. It's the key. But remember this little hint: what else was formed of the earth besides this altar?
Later on, Solomon builds his temple for God. Look at the subtle change that takes place in I Kings 6:7, "And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building."
This time, tools were used on the stone, just not locally. All the finishing work was done right at the quarry. God didn't mention that back in the Law. Why did Solomon do it then? God was building on something far greater.
God foreshadowed this in Isaiah 28:16, "Therefore 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: he that believeth shall not make haste." This verse is quoted a few times in the New Testament, notably in I Peter 2:6-8, "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." Stumbling over stones is the key here. Perhaps the very stones, the visual appointment we create on our own, stones we call churches, are those we stumble over.
We must therefore examine more closely what God meant by "cornerstone". Look at Hebrews 9:11, 24, "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;...For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:"
Ah, now we see the perfect. But do we? Jesus says in Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, and Luke 21:6, "...See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
And that is exactly what happened to Solomon's temple just 70 years later. But why "not one stone upon another"? As I was putting this post together and sharing it with some friends, one told me this story.
The Jews, knowing the imminent destruction was near, took all the gold and silver of the temple. Rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the enemy, they melted it down and poured it between the cracks in the stones. Later, the enemy, to retrieve the precious metals, removed every stone from upon another to get that gold.
Let the world have its riches. God's purpose is far higher and more glorious. Are you willing to ask Him to move the mountain in your way and allow Him to make you what He promises in I Peter 2:4-5, "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 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."?
There we are back at the altar. But that altar, that Church, that sacrifice, is us. From the earth we come and to the earth we go. But our immortal spirit is forever God's place of worship. And so I say again, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And 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 11:36-12:2)