Saturday, May 18, 2013

We Must Do Our Part to Build God's Church

The book of Haggai has something to say about building God's Church in our time today.

Haggai teaches certain principles, principles that applied during the time of Haggai and can apply at other times as well. There is a passage in Haggai that seems to describe to a "T" the condition of the scattered Church of God today and how we should respond.

You can read the whole book. I will quote a few parts and comment on it. This has to do with Pentecost, because Pentecost is about the Church of God. The Church started on Pentecost. I believe these verses in Haggai can directly relate to the scattered condition of the Church of God today.

Haggai was written after the Jews had gone into captivity and some of them returned to Jerusalem to build the temple again. The prophecy was given in the days of Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest.

"Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built." ' Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?' Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways!' " (Haggai 1:2-5).

There is a familiar ring to this. Like the temple at the time of this prophecy, the Church of God today might be said, to a degree, to "lie in ruins". Not totally in ruins, but in ruins compared to what we were before. We are scattered. In Worldwide, under Mr. Armstrong's leadership, we once had a magazine circulation over seven million. All the Churches of God together do not have that today. And we are seriously divided among ourselves. In that sense, the Church lies "in ruins" today. And the temple in the prophecy of Haggai can represent the Church, because we are the temple of God. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Now, if the Church is the temple of God today, and if the Church of God is in a sense in ruins because we are scattered and relatively ineffective compared to our power before we became scattered, then in a real sense God's temple today lies in ruins as it did in the days of the prophet Haggai. And the prophecy of Haggai is not just for the people at that time, but for our learning today.

God wanted the people to build the temple, but they were saying, this is not the time to build the temple. Likewise, today some are saying, this is not the time to preach the gospel, to make disciples, to grow the Church of God. Yet in the days of Haggai, people were building their own houses. They had more love for their own houses and lives than for the house of God.

" 'You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord. 'You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' says the Lord of hosts. 'Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands' " (Haggai 1:6-11).

Notice God says, "Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple". Symbolically, mountains can represent nations. This can represent the nations of the world today. God is saying, go to the mountains and get material for building the temple. Going to the mountains and bringing wood can represent going to all nations, preaching the gospel, and making disciples of all nations to build God's spiritual temple today, the Church.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). Notice, the command to make disciples of all nations and teach them God's way of life continues to the end, because Christ says He will be with us in this to the end of the age.

Then, going on in Haggai: "Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, spoke the Lord’s message to the people, saying, 'I am with you, says the Lord' " (Haggai 1:12-13).

So note these parallels:

Haggai: "Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple".

Matthew: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

Haggai: "I am with you, says the Lord".

Matthew: I am with you always, even to the end of the age".

But remember, because the people in Haggai's day at first did not give priority to building the temple, God withheld physical blessings from them. Likewise, if we do not give priority to building the Church of God today, God may withhold blessings from us, both physical and spiritual.

But afterwards, once the people repented and worked to build the temple, God gave this message to Haggai: "Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you" (Haggai 2:19).

I have only quoted a few passages, but I encourage you to read the whole book of Haggai. It is a short book, only two chapters, but it is rich in meaning for the Church of God today.

Christ started the New Testament Church of God on the day of Pentecost by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the building of the Church, the spiritual temple of God, continues today. We have a work to do to do our part to help finish it.

How can we do this? With our prayers, our service, and our tithes and offerings.

The day of Pentecost is one of the opportunities we have to give an offering. Let's show God that we have greater love for building His spiritual temple, His house, than for building our own houses.

"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" (Haggai 1:4).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Frankly, the reason why the Church came apart, is because of the lukewarmness toward the adhereance of John 13:34. Honestly, I cannot recall any minister ever quoting it.

Right off, I can think of three ways that Church hierarchy resisted that Scripture:

Putting way too much emphasis on faith healing: Jesus tells us that we should have faith, but he also says one cannot put new wine into old bottles; we in the west simply haven't had a culture of faith; we are very materialistic. It takes time to submit to the faith of Christ.

The strict faith healing doctrine of WCG is one of the most common complaints I've seen.
I understand some have lost relatives because of the Church's emphasis on faith healing.

Putting way too much emphasis on tithing: I'll just defer to 1 Corinthians 9:12-18 on that one.

Putting way too much emphasis on geneologies: the apostle Saul also warned against that as well, saying directly that it contributes to division (Titus 3:9).

Not to say that British Israelism is not important, but rather that the Church should have focused more on the Israel emphasized in Romans 2:28; it is that scripture that is one of the cornerstones of new testament gospel.