The House of God
God has a house upon this earth, where He puts His people into relation one with the other, so that He may dwell among them. We get a typical illustration of this in the tabernacle in the wilderness. The priest in his sanctuary service, the Levite in his Levitical service, and “the common people” as they pitched their tents in order around the tabernacle, all regulated their conduct in relation to what was then the house of God upon the earth.
So it is today. The fact that God sets His people in relation one to another in order to dwell among them gives privileges and imposes responsibilities upon each one of us.
THE NURSERY FOR THE BABE IN CHRIST
What a mercy and privilege it is for the newly converted soul to find himself in the house of God, sheltered and cared for. The Thessalonian converts were but babes in Christ. Paul wrote to them, “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thess. 2:7). And Peter says, “As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).
It has been stated that we have no right to care specially for the young Christian, that we should care for all alike. But did not the Lord say to Peter, “Feed My lambs”? And did not Paul recognize the state of the Corinthian assembly and say to them, “I have fed you with milk and not with meat” (1 Cor. 3:2)?—that is to say, he ministered to them “the first principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12). The babes of the Corinthian epistle were still babes because they were carnal; the babes of the Hebrew epistle were still babes, they were of stunted growth; the babes of Peter’s epistle were normal, healthy babes, ready to take the milk of the word.
But whether the young Christian is normal and healthy, or the older Christian is of stunted growth and has not grown for lack of earnestness and devotedness, or perhaps because of carnality, that is, living for self and the world in some shape or other, there is great need for the babe in Christ to be patiently cared for, fed and nurtured in the things of the Lord.
Often in the nursery an older child will assume an almost parental care of a younger child. So in the things of the Lord it is happy when a Christian sets out to care for one a little younger in grace and advancement than himself, and when the whole atmosphere of the assembly is one of kindly care for the young. Oh! that we had the spirit of Paul, who acted as a nursing mother in his day. May this appeal stimulate saints of God to this godly care. The young need encouragement and help as never before.
THE SCHOOLROOM FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
It is in God’s house that the Christian learns his lessons. In the very lowest class, as it were, at the very beginning of our school-days we learn that grace does not mean licence or carelessness. On the contrary, grace has most positive teaching. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-13).
But the teaching does not stop there. Not only was Peter exhorted by the Lord to “feed My lambs,” but also “feed my sheep.” There are upper classes—there are sheep as well as lambs; there are those who can assimilate “meat” as well as those who can only digest “milk.” Food comes by teaching, and true teaching is spiritual food.
The Holy Ghost is the Teacher in the school, but the ascended Lord has given “teachers,” who, with the other gifts, are for “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
The Old Testament speaks about “a teaching priest” (2 Chr. 15:3) and of “the Levites that taught” (2 Chr. 30:22), whilst the New Testament speaks of “faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2), and again one of the marks of a good bishop is that he should be “apt to teach.” The teaching takes in the whole revelation of God and puts the soul into the full light and blessing of Christianity.
Then there is discipline in connection with the schoolroom. If we fail to learn our lessons it may be that we shall need to come under discipline in order that we may learn them; or it may be that we are learning well but the Lord wants us to learn better, as is plainly stated when the Lord said, “Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2).
There is one searching and unfailing test as to our knowledge. It is truly said that we only know what we practise. Under this test we may well hang our heads. Do we talk about love and not show it? Do we talk about long-suffering and refuse to suffer long? Then our talk is not true knowledge. Our talk in that case would be that of the parrot, imitative, and not real knowledge.
THE BARRACKS FOR THE CHRISTIAN WARRIOR
Paul could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7), and we find him exhorting Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12), and again bidding him to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). It is in the house of God we get the training for all this. Would that our Christianity was of this virile stamp. Surely if Jude in his day had to exhort his fellow-believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (v. 3), it behoves the Lord’s people to do it now, when the apostasy is at our very gates. May we be used to the help and protection and deliverance of God’s beloved people.
THE SANCTUARY FOR THE SAINTS OF GOD
This leads us to the highest aspect of the house of God. It was a great privilege to be “a common person”—common is an expression in contrast to the Levites and priests, who had sacred offices—a greater privilege to be a Levite, but greatest of all to be a priest, for a priest had the privilege of entering the sanctuary and performing offices typical of worship.
Christians sustain all three characters. They are “common people” in regard to their ordinary life; but of old the common people had to regulate all their behaviour in regard to the great fact that God was dwelling in their midst, which imposed holiness upon their manner of life. They answer to Levites when they perform the Lord’s service in ministry to men, but above all they answer to priests, when they minister to God.
All God’s people are priests. The Apostle John’s ascription of praise and worship runs thus, “To Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father: to Him [be] the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6, N.Tr.). Peter, too, speaks of the saints being an “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5), also as “a royal priesthood” (v. 9). Would that we esteemed and carried out our privilege more.
To minister to God, what can be higher? The occupation of heaven itself will yield nothing higher, and it is heaven below to taste its sweetness now.