Tuesday, November 29, 2011

From Caves to Cathedrals

Matthew 28:19-20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

*Note: When the author renders the word 'Church' as shown here, he is referring to our modern day, traditional Business entity, Institutional 'Church' system of man's design. When he renders the word church in all lower case, he is referring to Christ's authentic, Biblical house church, which He created and continues to build. 

All through the years I was "Churched," I wondered in the back of my mind, "How'd we as church members get from having church in caves to the cathedrals we have today?" It was a curious and passing thought, but nothing more. I didn't desire to open up an encyclopedia, or rush to the library to find out. I figured, "We're here; what does it matter?" Little did I realize that it does matter. So, I bring up the question once more. How'd we get from a cave to a cathedral?

When John the Baptist began to assemble his disciples, they didn't have a central structure to meet in. I know they gathered by the river Jordan in Galilee, but I never heard of them building a building. Later, after John announced Jesus as the Lamb of God, Jesus chose His twelve apostles to accompany Him. He was about to train these men for a mission of great importance.

As our Master served and taught for three and a half years, He finally finished His mission. He died and arose. He gave the Great Commission to His eleven. He charged them to preach the gospel, to baptize and to teach new believers. Basically, He commanded us to reproduce ourselves by His Spirit. We were to duplicate His model of church by adding to it one by one. We became His tabernacles. I don't recall Him ever mentioning building a building. If that was His focus, you'd think He'd have a desire to build some kind of great structure and leave a mark upon man of His ministry. That wasn't His way. That was man's way. All we have to do is look to the Pharaohs of Egypt for that example.

Anyway, Christ used something totally unexpected to help grow His church. Persecution went rampant after Christ's resurrection. The religious establishment that ruled the sector was threatened for the first time in hundreds of years. The status-quot was being challenged in Israel. The elite; (those in power), began to see their grip on the people slip away.

As Christianity spread into Italy, the Roman theocratic society was being informed of a new way to live. It was received well among the common people, but it was despised by the emperor. He had no regard for these up-starts who spread "this gospel of theirs" among his subjects. He thought himself a 'god'. He wouldn't stand for competition. Nero would make sport of the situation to amuse the public by displays of humiliation, tortures and sacrifices. These new disciples of the One called "Christ" would be torn from their limbs by lions and tigers. Their bodies would be tied to stakes to be broken by the force of bulls hitting them at full speed. They would be crucified and set on fire. Their heads would be severed and placed upon posts on each side of the roads leading into the city. But after all of this, the church's growth was just the beginning. They spread even farther into Asia-minor and western Europe. Why? Because of a command; the Great Commission. They were to become God's tabernacles.

At the end of the first century an old group with a new identity emerged. A very ambitious and smart man named Augustine decided to mix his own beliefs with some of the ones displayed by these "Christians." In fact, he build a cult of his own. Rome was filled with court houses. Augy started to convert court houses into cathedrals. Later, when the pope grew in power across Europe, he made plans to build himself a new house and called it a cathedral. It was to be a large stone building to house him and those who followed. It was the centerpiece to the city he was in. Other towns and cities followed his lead and built more of these cathedrals. But, the floor-plan of the old court houses were still used. That's why we have the same basic set-up today. This became nothing more than what the synagogues became in Israel. God never commanded those to be built. As a matter of fact, Solomon's Temple was not commanded to be built by God either! The LORD God commanded the Hebrews to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. It was a portable tent structure that could be moved from place to place. It was mobile, like a man.

We are called the tabernacle of God today. We move and bring the seed of God's Word to others in the same way the Jews brought His Word to others by moving around planting it here and there. When a sower sows his seed, he is mobile as he spreads it. We as Christians have a similar function. We spread God's seed (His Word) as we move about. God didn't want a house to be kept in. His footstool is the Earth. He dwells in the third heaven.

"And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." ~ 1 Kings 9:3.

This seems like a contradiction, but it is not. In 1 Kings 8 we see that after twenty years, Solomon finished his task of building his house and the temple in Jerusalem. He had a dedication for the House of God. God came down for the festivities and His cloud filled the house of the LORD (vss10-11). 

"Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. 13 I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever." - 1 Kings 8:12-13.

This house built for God to dwell in wasn't God's idea. This was David's, Solomon's father. God didn't allow David to build this tribute to the LORD's name because David was a man of war. David stockpiled most of the materials needed so that Solomon would be able to build it in his place. Solomon dedicated himself to the building of this structure. The cloud that engulfed the House during the dedication was to shroud God's true appearance so that He might Protect His people, for to look upon God as He is, was to die. Solomon said God would "dwell in the thick darkness." Sol built a settled place for God to dwell in forever, but is that where God chooses to dwell? The answer is, No. It was to be a tribute for the LORD's NAME, and a focal point for those Hebrews scattered to pray toward. God Promised that His eyes and heart will be upon it perpetually (1 Kings 9:3); but that is not where He chose to dwell. Many times in chapter eight we see Solomon acknowledging that God dwells in heaven.

1 Kings 8:26-27, "And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. 27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?"

The House has already been built, but Sol knows that God will hear from heaven where He dwells. Solomon goes on to speak of God's true dwelling place in this chapter. He also indicates that God will hear from heaven toward this House where His name shall abide. 1 Kings 8:29, "That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place." His attention was toward this temple, but it wasn't His dwelling place. Solomon tells God during his intimate prayer to Him in verses 30, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45 that he knows God will hear from heaven. Verse 49 is the last place in this chapter where this point is established. "Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,"

God never wanted to dwell in a house. He would visit from time to time, but He also said that He would abandon this house if His people turned on Him. 1 Kings 9:6-9a, "But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: 7 Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: 8 And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house? 9 And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God," And He did too! Solomon's Temple was eventually destroyed. Later, Herod's Temple was destroyed. It kind of shows us what God thinks of buildings, doesn't it?

As God and Solomon both Proclaim, the LORD God doesn't need a permanent structure to dwell in. That has always been man's desire. Even today, we see pastors who want to build a shrine to God. They try to out do their predecessors as in the days of old. It started with the pyramids in ancient Egypt. One Pharaoh would try to top all of the other Pharaohs who came before him. None could quite match the pure size and splendor of the Great Pyramid of Giza; but they tried anyway. Even after the Flood, Nimrod tried to build a tower to reach into God's dwelling place, Heaven. Today in Dubai there is a structure called the Burg Dubai which stands a half of a mile tall. But they all failed to reach Heaven. Why? Because God cannot physically be reached (at least not until Jesus comes back). For now, He must be reached in spirit and in truth.

In the early days of Christianity, believers have occupied clay houses. They were then brought to the Coliseum. They soon hid out in the catacombs of their cities. They were driven out to dwell in caves, all the while a false 'Church' emerged to counterfeit the real thing by erecting Cathedrals. These became monuments, not to God as in Israel, but monuments to man's own religion and god; themselves. Humanism was true in the days of the Pyramids, after the flood, in Rome and even today. Like Sol said, "There really isn't anything new under the sun."

God chooses to dwell inside us because He can. We don't need 'Church' buildings and Cathedrals. These are temples to man's arrogance. Steeples are phallic symbols to man. God never would be a part of that. We have all heard that the 'Church' is not a building; it's the people. But we sure don't act that way most of the time in the Institutional 'Church' setting. We build these monuments for our glorification, not God's as Solomon did. I remember when our 'Church' wanted to move outside the city limits to a new location we found an old welding and machine shop to renovate. Prior to that it was a school.

One summer as we were looking for materials to renovate this building to become a 'Church' and we were allowed to cannibalize and older 'Church' building in the area that was being dismantled. We scrounged for pews, shelves, chairs, etc. When I was with the pastor outside the old 'Church' he said, "I sure would like to have that steeple to put on top of our building." I told him of the phallic nature of the centerpiece and how it was derived in history. I explained that it was a symbol that glorified man and not God. He told me that he always wanted a little 'Church' with a steeple. He had become desensitized by man's traditions, as many have. Don't get me wrong; he is a good man, but like a lot of us, he had grown accustomed to tradition. Not only did he get his steeple, but he helped put his congregation in great debt to do it. This was not God's desire. It was the pastor's desire. I guess he forgot that God's church isn't a steeple, but the people.

This happens all over our country. Everyday bank notes are signed to erect or renovate a building when none is needed. None of these buildings were commanded by God to be built. The only two tabernacles that were commanded by God to be built, was when Jesus commanded Aaron to erect a mobile tent, and when He gave us the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 to become His living tabernacles. The large Institutional 'Churches' today are not what He had in mind. We are His tabernacles here on Earth, not some building. His true church needs no building to expand and grow. He doesn't need a glorified dog house to live in either! We are not a building. We are a living organism. We are His church.

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