When a Church Building is No Longer Important to God

“But he answered them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’” (Matt. 24:2). The verb “thrown down” is one word in the Greek, katalusethai, from the noun, kataluo, “detach” (Gingrich); “literally, of buildings with their stones destroy, demolish, dismantle (MT 27.40).” (Friberg)  Jesus is saying, “There will be left here no, not one stone upon stone that will not be detached, dismantled, and destroyed.” Not one stone will be left upon a stone. It means that the Temple will be leveled, flattened, and crushed. This is the solemn declaration of Jesus. The Temple, as they know it, will be totally, absolutely, and completely destroyed.

If you were a Jew in Jesus’ time, the destruction of the Temple would be scandalous and unimaginable. The Temple was the center of Jewish life. (Constable) Without the Temple, there is no Jewish life. Consequently, Jesus’ opponents hated Jesus’ prophecy so much that they used this same prophecy against Him during His trial and execution (Matt. 26:61; 27:40). (Chouinard)

But Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled 40 years later. In C. E. 70, the Romans defeated the Jews in Jerusalem and burned the Temple to the ground, only six years after its completion. (Walvoord; Constable) “Ornate gold detail work in the roof melted down in the cracks between the stone walls of the temple, and to retrieve the gold, the Roman commander ordered that the temple be dismantled stone by stone.” (Guzik)

The Temple of Solomon was once devoted to God’s glory. But the Jewish people’s repeated rejection of Christ has caused its devotion to destruction (Matt. 23:37-39; Lk. 19:44). It is possible to dedicate a church building to God at first. But it is equally possible to forget the glory of God and instead, to promote the greed of man in the same building (Matt. 21:12-13).

Several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople. He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church. No one was permitted to see the plans or the inside of the church until it was finished. At its grand opening, the people gathered and marvelled at the beauty of the new church.

Everything had been thought of and included. It was a masterpiece.

But then someone said, “Wait a minute! Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here. How will the church be lighted?” The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship. “Each time you are here'” the nobleman said, “the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to church, some part of God’s house will be dark”[1]

For Jesus, it is not man’s glory but God’s glory that matters. Beautiful church buildings do not impress Jesus. He is more impressed with the beauty of His people, the church–the beauty of the character of Christ in their lives. Further, the devotion of His people is more important to Jesus. The salvation of people is more important to Christ.

A church building is but a tool to glorify God by making more disciples who will become worshipers of God. If we use our church building in ways that do not promote God’s glory, then our church building may no longer be important to God.

I’m not saying that we should not build church buildings. We badly need church buildings, esp. when the rent is rising. God built the beautiful Temple of Solomon for His glory. But God destroyed the Temple because it no longer glorified God. A building is no longer important to God if it no longer gives glory to God.

[1] “Sermon Illustrations,” Sermonsplus.co.uk. Cited June 10, 2017.  Online: http://www.sermonsplus.co.uk/Illustrations.htm

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