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06 May, 2013

The Church That Christ Builds ─ Part 2

By J.C. Ryle

2. Our text contains not merely a building — but a Builder. The Lord Jesus Christ declares, "I will build My Church." The true Church of Christ is tenderly cared for by all the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. In the plan of salvation revealed in the Bible . . .

God the Father chooses,
God the Son redeems and
God the Holy Spirit sanctifies every member of Christ's mystical body. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three Persons and one God, cooperate for the salvation of every saved soul. This is truth, which ought never to be forgotten. Nevertheless, there is a peculiar sense in which the help of the Church is laid on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is peculiarly and pre-eminently the Redeemer and Savior of the Church. Therefore it is, that we find Him saying in our text, "I will build — the work of building is My special work."
It is Christ who calls the members of the Church in due time.
They are "the called of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:6).
It is Christ who quickens them. "The Son quickens whom He will" (John 5:21).

It is Christ who washes away their sins. He "has loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5).
It is Christ who gives them peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27).

It is Christ who gives them eternal life. "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" (John 10:28).

It is Christ who grants them repentance. "Him has God exalted . . . to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance" (Acts 5:31).
It is Christ who enables them to become God's children. "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12).

It is Christ who carries on the work within them when it is begun. "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19).

In short, it has "pleased the Father that in Christ should all fullness dwell" (Colossians 1:19). He is the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the life. He is the head. From Him every joint and member of the mystical body of Christians is supplied. Through Him they are strengthened for duty. By Him they are kept from falling. He shall preserve them to the end, and present them faultless before the Father's throne with exceeding great joy. He is all things in all believers.

The mighty agent by whom the Lord Jesus Christ carries out this work in the members of His Church, is, without doubt, the Holy Spirit. He it is who applies Christ and His benefits to the soul. He it is who is ever renewing, awakening, convincing, leading to the cross, transforming, taking out of the world stone after stone and adding it to the mystical building. But the great chief Builder, who has undertaken to execute the work of redemption and bring it to completion, is the Son of God, the "Word who was made flesh." 

It is Jesus Christ who "builds."
In building the true Church, the Lord Jesus condescends to use many subordinate instruments:
the ministry of the gospel,
the circulation of the Scriptures,
the friendly rebuke,
the word spoken in season,
the drawing influence of afflictions —
all, all are means and appliances by which His work is carried on, and the Spirit conveys life to souls. But Christ is the great superintending Architect — ordering, guiding, directing all that is done. Paul may plant and Apollos water — but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). Ministers may preach, and writers may write — but the Lord Jesus Christ alone can build. And except He builds — the work stands still.

Great is the wisdom with which the Lord Jesus Christ builds His Church! All is done at the right time, and in the right way. Each stone in its turn is put in its right place. Sometimes He chooses great stones, and sometimes He chooses small stones. Sometimes the work goes on fast, and sometimes it goes on slowly. Man is frequently impatient, and thinks that nothing is happening. But man's time is not God's time. 

A thousand years in His sight, are but as a single day. The great Builder makes no mistakes. He knows what He is doing. He sees the end from the beginning. He works by a perfect, unalterable and certain plan. The mightiest conceptions of architects, like Michelangelo and Wren, are mere trifling and child's play — in comparison with Christ's wise counsels respecting His Church.

Great is the condescension and mercy which Christ exhibits in building His Church! He often chooses the most unlikely and roughest stones, and fits them into a most excellent work. He despises none, and rejects none — on account of former sins and past transgressions. He often makes Pharisees and publicans become pillars of His house. He delights to show mercy. He often takes the most thoughtless and ungodly — and transforms them into polished corners of His spiritual temple.

Great is the power which Christ displays in building His Church! He carries on His work in spite of opposition from the world, the flesh and the devil. In storm, in tempest, through troublous times, silently, quietly, without noise, without stir, without excitement — the building progresses, like Solomon's temple. "I will work," He declares, "and who shall hinder it?" (Isaiah 43:13).

The children of this world take little or no interest in the building of this Church. They care nothing for the conversion of souls. What are broken spirits and penitent hearts to them? What is conviction of sin, or faith in the Lord Jesus to them? It is all "foolishness" in their eyes. But while the children of this world care nothing, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. For the preserving of the true Church — the laws of nature have often times been suspended. For the good of that Church — all the providential dealings of God in this world are ordered and arranged. For the elect's sake — wars are brought to an end, and peace is given to a nation. Statesmen, rulers, emperors, kings, presidents, heads of governments — have their schemes and plans, and think them of vast importance.

 But there is another work going on of infinitely greater moment, for which they are only the "axes and saws" in God's hands (Isaiah 10:15). That work is the erection of Christ's spiritual temple, the gathering in of living stones into the one true Church.

We ought to feel deeply thankful that the building of the true Church is laid on the shoulders of One that is mighty. If the work depended on man — it would soon stand still. But, blessed be God, the work is in the hands of a Builder who never fails to accomplish His designs! Christ is the almighty Builder. He will carry on His work, though nations and visible Churches may not know their duty. Christ will never fail. That which He has undertaken — He will certainly accomplish.