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A Magazine for all Christians · Nº 40 · July - August 2006

 

Without the foundation of God there can be no building-work of God.

The foundation of the work of God

Eliseo Apablaza

I would like us to revise something about this great topic which is the restoration of the testimony of God. I would also desire it if in this first exposition we could have a look at some things which relate to the foundations of every work of God.

Every work of God begins in God

With the seventy-year captivity in Babylon completed, the Word says that God awakened the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, and awakened the spirit of the heads of the paternal homes, so that the Jews would go up to Jerusalem to restore the temple and the city. (Ezra 1:5). Every work of God begins in God.

We read in the prophet Haggai that, after the work of the restoration had been interrupted, God again wakes up the spirit of Zerubbabel, Joshua and the whole town, so that they would return to the work of the restoration. (1:14). There again we find that God takes the initiative. Whether it be commencing or recapturing the work of the restoration, God is the one who begins it and He is the one who restarts His work.

This indicates to us clearly that no man, though he may be intelligent and very gifted, can begin the work of God. It is He who determines the times and the seasons; He chooses the men. He did it this way in the days of the restoration of Jerusalem, and he has done it this way up until today.

And there is a wonderful thing here, something that astonishes us: God is working again today in this work of the restoration, and behold how it is He again who has taken the initiative, choosing the men to carry it out.

Restoration of the altar and worship

When those fifty thousand Jews left Babylon responding to the call of God, and went up to Jerusalem, Ezra says in chapter 3 that the first thing that they did was to restore the altar, and thus they began the sacrifice of burnt offerings, the offerings that should be carried out according to the law of Moses.

The first thing is the altar, and this indicates to us that the first thing that God does when the work of the restoration begins is to restore the fellowship with God that was broken, because without the altar there can be no fellowship with God.

On the altar we see Jesus Christ pouring out His blood for us on the cross. And then, those of us that were in Babylon, rediscover the value of Jesus' blood. It is not that we were ignorant of it; it is a re-discovery, it is an appropriation with greater force of the power, of the efficacy that Jesus' blood has. And together with that, with seeing Jesus on the cross, and His wonderful work in favor of us, hearing His words when He said: "It is accomplished", to recognize that our salvation is accomplished and that our fellowship with God has been restored. Then there arises from the believer's heart, an offering of worship, of adoration, and of thanksgiving.

For that reason, in the 'Queen-Valera' version, it says as a subtitle for chapter 3: "Restoration of the altar and the worship." The two things go together. When we rediscover Jesus' precious work, when we feel forgiven, then the worship and adoration rise up, the worship is renewed.

I believe that our experience in Chile over the last thirty years began there: restoring the fellowship with God. A living fellowship; not a liturgy, not a mere religious tradition. And then came the worship. Not just to have a meeting according to a certain program, but to let the Spirit flow so that the Spirit directs and takes us to the throne of God, to offer up burnt-offerings, spiritual sacrifices that glorify His name.

It is a beautiful day when the altar and the worship are restored in our heart; it is a new dimension of the Christian life. Everything is different. The presence of God among us is real. The Holy Spirit has government; the recovery of God begins. However, that is only the beginning.

Laying the foundations of the temple

In Ezra 3:6 it says: "From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt-offerings to Jehovah, but the foundations of the temple of Jehovah had still not been laid." That sentence is very significant: the altar is restored, the burnt-offerings are ascending to the heavens, but the Holy Spirit makes an observation here: " ...the foundations of the temple of Jehovah had still not been laid. " That is to say, the work of God is not finished, not by any means. This is all very well, but the principle thing is missing. When the altar and the worship are restored, we are the beneficiaries; but while the Lord doesn't have His House, he hasn't gained what He wants.

To such an extent that there is a 'but' here, and in the light of this word we can examine our own walk. We may have the altar, we may have the worship, but does God have His house? Is His temple restored?

Without a doubt, there are many restoration movements in the world today, but some of them are probably still on the plane of the restoration of the altar or the restoration of the worship. It is necessary to take note that, while the house is not restored, then the testimony of the Lord on the earth won't be restored.

For that reason, the preparations begin much later, and in Ezra 3:10 we have the bricklayers of the temple of Jehovah laying the foundations with a 'mixed shout'. They got dressed in beautiful clothes, and they sang for joy, because they were finally seeing what they had missed for seventy years; therefore the voices of joy were mixed with weeping. That was a memorable day.

The foundation of the Church

Now, dear brothers and sisters, I would like to invite you to have a look in the New Testament at what is the equivalent of the laying of the foundations of the temple in the restoration of the testimony of the Lord.

Matthew 16:15 says: "He said to them: And you, who do you say that I am? In reply Simon Peter said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus replied: Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because neither flesh nor blood revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the doors of Hades won't prevail against it."

This scene at Caesarea Philippi occurs after approximately three years of the Lord Jesus' ministry. He has done miracles, He has preached beautiful messages, He has done many good things; however, he withdraws with the disciples to resolve a fundamental question in their hearts. What kind of men have been following Jesus? Miracle-watchers? Men who have received beautiful teachings? With what kind of men is God going to build His church?

Then, this fundamental matter occurs: the Father reveals Jesus to Peter's heart. And this is shown represented in two ways in the phrases: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", and the Lord clarifies that it is not Pedro's invention, but rather it is the Father's revelation; that that revelation is something wonderful, because Peter is called blessed. Then the Lord says that on this rock His church will be built.

That is to say, this is the basis, this is the foundation of the building-work of God. Therefore, this scene at Caesarea Philippi is in some way equivalent to Ezra chapter 3, when those Jews, with weeping and shouts of joy, laid the foundation of the temple; because the temple represents the church. In the New Testament, the temple of God is the church.

"On this rock I will build my church." This revelation, that isn't of flesh nor blood, but rather is a divine illumination, is so firm, it is so solid in the heart of a man or woman that they are under conditions for being built into this spiritual house that is the church. Now, from this moment on, the cross being six months away, He begins to open up the mystery that was hidden for ages and centuries in the heart of God; this double revelation about Jesus.

In Luke 4:41 we see that this knowledge about Jesus had also been announced to Hades. It says: "Demons also left many, speaking out and saying: You are the Son of God. But he reprehended them, and didn't allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ." You will notice: if we can unite the two sentences: "You are the Son of God", the demons said, and below it says: " ...they knew that he was the Christ." The Son of God, the Christ.

When the Lord Jesus is put on trial before the Sanhedrin, what was the reason for which they judged him? They told him: "You have made yourself out to be God, saying that you are Son of God." And later, when He was on the cross, Matthew and Luke show us that they were reproaching Jesus, saying to Him: "You are the Christ." Others were saying: "You are the Son of God, come down from there." There was the central point of the revelation of God about Jesus, confessed by the disciples, known by the demons, known by the priests, and the cause of His persecution and death.

In Acts chapter 9 we have Paul who is converted, and in verse 20 it says: "Immediately he was preaching Christ in the synagogues, saying that this man was the Son of God." And in verse 22 it says: "But Saul kept increasing in strength, and confounded the Jews that lived in Damascus, demonstrating that Jesus was the Christ." If we unite verse 20 and 22, there we have this double revelation again about Jesus that was the reason for and the centre of the preaching: The Son of God, the Christ.

When Philip shares with the Ethiopian, and later baptizes him, he tells him: "If you believe with all your heart, you can by all means (be baptized)", and the eunuch tells him: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." And the expression Jesus Christ is the union of Jesus + Christ, Jesus the Christ: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.

John's Ministry of restoration

The whole work of God is found summed up in the New Testament in the ministry of three apostles: Peter's ministry, that joins the stones together so that then they can be built up; Paul's ministry, the skilled bricklayer who builds the house; and that of John, the restorer.

These three ministries represent the whole work of God in the New Testament: the preaching of the gospel, the construction of the house of God, and then, when the church has decayed, then the restoration comes about.

As we are speaking of the restoration of the testimony of the Lord, we will concern ourselves with the figure of the apostle John. What was his ministry? John lived until almost the year 100 of our era. When John develops his ministry all the other apostles had already died, and the formerly glorious church of the book of Acts, had come to a state of deterioration. Then John's ministry rises up with much force, and although he was an old man, however he was a vigorous man in his spirit, which God uses to mark out the way of the restoration. In this way John is the apostle of the restoration, and he writes John's gospel, John's three epistles, and Revelation.

When we look at John's gospel, written a long time after the other three gospels, we find astonishing things. In chapter 1, the Jews come up to John the Baptist and ask him: "You, who are you?". He tells them: "I am not the Christ." And below he says: "Another is coming after me." It is as if he said: "I am not the Christ, but later the Christ is coming." When he sees the Lord he says: "This is the Lamb of God." And the expression the Lamb of God has a lot to do with the expression "Jesus is the Christ", as we will see.

When Andrew, in verse 41, finds Simon, he tells him: "We have found the Messiah (which translated is, the Christ)." And in verse 49 Nathanuel says to Jesus: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God."

In this way, before the first chapter of John's gospel ends, we already have a clear testimony about Jesus as the Christ and as the Son of God.

When the Lord meets with the Samaritan woman, what is the topic about which He shares with the woman and with the Samaritans where that woman lived? In one moment of the conversation, the woman says to the Lord: "I know that the Messiah is to come, who is called the Christ; when He comes He will declare all things to us." Jesus told her: "I am He who is speaking with you."

Then the woman goes to the city and she says: "Come, see a man who has told me all that I have done. Isn't this one the Christ"?. And the men come, and they invite Jesus and they listen to him, and then they gave testimony: "We no longer believe only because of what she told us, but we ourselves have heard and we know that truly this is the Saviour of the world, the Christ." So the central topic of John chapter 4 is the revelation of Jesus as the Christ.

Lets go forward to chapter 9 of this gospel. Jesus heals a man blind from birth. This man was expelled from the synagogue, and when the Lord knew of it, He looked for him and asked him a question: " Do you believe in the Son of God"?. The man tells him: " Who is he Lord, so that I may believe in Him"?. Verse 37: "Jesus told him: you have seen him, and it is He that is speaking with you, he is the One."

To the Samaritan woman and to this man, the Lord reveals Himself as the Christ, as the Son of God. To these two people that were like second class citizens in their society, he grants them the knowledge of His true identity. Nicodemus didn't know it, but they knew it.

On two occasions in John's gospel we find people declaring to the Lord Jesus, face to face, the same confession as Peter. One is Peter, in chapter 6, verses 68 and 69: "Simon Peter replied to him: Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed and we know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And the other one is Martha. Chapter 11: "Jesus told her: I am the resurrection and the life; the one that believes in me, although he may die, he will live. And all who live and believe in me, will never die. Do you believe this?" (v. 27). You notice, the Lord is saying that He is the resurrection and the life, and then He tells the woman: " Do you believe this"?. The woman answers with something completely different to what the Lord is asking her. She doesn't say: "I believe that you are the resurrection and the life." On the other hand, she says: "Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world."

It is very strange. In both cases, Peter and Martha make this declaration to the Lord while passing through a moment of crisis. When Peter makes his declaration, many disciples are turning back, and the Lord says to them: " Will you also leave"?. Peter tells him: "Lord, to whom will we go"?, and there he makes his declaration. Then, Martha's brother Lazarus dies; and her heart is struck by grief.

It is very interesting that this declaration appears in the mouths of two believers in moments like that. Peter was one of the Twelve; Martha was one of the three siblings of the house in Bethany. This indicates to us that at the height of the ministry of the Lord, this revelation was not only a grace granted to the Twelve but also to that intimate circle of Jesus' friends.

In John 20:30-31 it says: "Jesus also performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that believing, you may have life in his name." This is very interesting. The three previous evangelists had already departed, they had left behind their written books, and John tells us here that he wrote his gospel with this sole objective. It is as if John were saying to us: "Brothers and sisters, in order to return to the beginning, so that the church may be restored, we have to return to Matthew 16, to the revelation that the Father gave to Peter."

You know that, if it had been through proximity, Mark's gospel should have been the gospel that is most abundant in this revelation, because Mark was very close to Peter in his ministry. However, it was not this way; the Holy Spirit didn't want it this way. That was not the moment to emphasize this matter; but rather it was at the end, in the days of John, the days of the declension.

When we revise the four gospels and make a small statistic, we realize, for example that the expression 'Son of God', or 'the Son', referring to the Lord Jesus, is used by John 24 times, by Mark only 5 times, and by Luke 7 times. In the same way, the word Father, referring to God, is used by John 115 times, and in the other gospels it is used merely twenty, three and twelve times. And obviously, when the Lord says "my Father", he is implicitly stating His position as the Son, the Son of God.

Let us look at John's first epistle. In it we find the same revelation impregnating everything. The manner most often used to refer to Jesus in this epistle is the expression: 'Jesus Christ' and also the expression 'Son of God'. The words 'Son' or 'Son of God' appear more times in John's epistle than in any other epistle. John is the only writer of the New Testament or of the epistles that includes the combination 'Jesus Christ' + 'the Son'; that is to say 'Jesus' + 'Christ' + 'Son of God'.

When John is finishing his epistle in chapter 5, verse 1, he says: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God." And then, in verse 5, he says: "Who is the one that conquers the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God"?. We join both verses, and we have the complete declaration: "The one that believes that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God; the one that believes that Jesus is the Son of God, conquers to the world."

Two expressions full of meaning

Dear brothers and sisters, what I have been showing until now are merely facts. They are there, in Scripture, they are facts. But, what is the interpretation of these facts? There is another interesting thing, and it is that usually when this double expression appears, 'Jesus is the Christ' appears first, and then in second place it says that he is the 'Son of God'. And here, the expression 'Jesus is the Christ', is associated with the new birth, with being born of God, and the expression 'Jesus is the Son of God', is associated with the victory of the Christian, that is to say, with the walk of the Christian. It has to be in that order.

I don't have the complete answer to the meaning of these two expressions regarding Jesus -Jesus the Christ, the Son of God - and why this revelation is in the foundation of the house of God. I will try to say some things now, but I know that it is not all that this means. There is a very great mystery that we will never completely understand, I believe, while we are here.

The fact that Jesus is the Christ takes us to the human aspect of Jesus. 'Jesus is the Son of God' takes us to Jesus' divine aspect.

When we read the Old Testament, we don't find it stated in any part that the Christ would be at the same time Son of God. The surprising thing is that the Christ of God, the one that was announced in the Old Testament, was to be God Himself incarnate. The Christ could have been a man, born of a man and a woman. But here is the astonishing thing, when we join this double expression about Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, we have God manifested in the flesh.

The word Christ takes us to the cross; the expression Son of God takes us a little beyond the cross, it takes us to the divine life. The cross speaks to us of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of the restoration from the enmity that we had with God. The cross has to do with the atonement; the Christ speaks to us of that. To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe in the sufficiency of the work of the cross. There is nothing to add there; everything has been done. When we see Jesus as the Christ, dying on the cross of Calvary, we find rest from our works, rest and tranquility in our conscience, because our sins really have been forgiven.

And when we see the Son of God, Jesus the divine, Jesus as God, we see him in eternity past, but we also see him inside us. The Jesus who saved us as the Christ, today lives inside us as the Son of God, and His life sustains us. Today we walk with that life inside us. He is the Son of God; we are children of God, participants of His divine nature.

When we see Jesus as the Christ, we are born again. But then, we also need to believe that He is the Son of God, that He lives in us, and that that life is the one that conquers the world.

Jesus, as the Christ, completed a work on the cross. Jesus, as the Son of God, is doing His work today inside us. For that reason, , the Lord speaks to the Samaritan woman about the Christ. She was a woman who was lost; she needed a transformation. But when He finds the man blind from birth, He does not reveal Himself to him as the Christ, but as the Son of God, because he had already done a work in that man, and now he needed this new revelation to live a life in agreement with Christ.

The firm foundation of the Church

The foundation of the restoration of God, of the house of God, of the church, is Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of the living God. We have to be careful, however; this sentence mustn't become a mere slogan, something that we can repeat by heart as if it were a magic phrase.

I believe that in some way this double expression about Jesus is like two titles - if we could put it this way - of two treaties. One called "Jesus is the Christ"; and the other called "Jesus is the Son of God." Those are the titles, but, what is there inside? What is the content of them? That is something very great.

We don't know the complete content of those treaties. We have shared some glimpses. Perhaps when the church is fully restored - the whole church in its entirety - when the union of all the prophets, of all the apostles, of all the teachers, of the whole assembly, then perhaps they will be able to -having the mind of Christ - unveil in all its vastness this wonderful mystery.

Dear brothers and sisters, the restoration should have a firm foundation. The building-work of God cannot be carried out upon sand; it cannot be carried out upon men, as great as they may be; nor upon doctrines, as good as they may be. There is a single foundation: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. May the Lord, in His grace, allow us, in these days and in the days to come, to go on discovering the depth of this knowledge, for the glory of God and for the edification of His church.

One last thing. Peter received this revelation through a miraculous act of God. However, in the book of Acts we find that this revelation came by the preaching of the Word. Paul preached that Jesus was the Christ... Paul preached that Jesus was the Son of God. And on the back of those two sentences comes all that is contained within; in such a way that we must trust, we must believe that while we announce Jesus, the Father will reveal Him to the hearts of the listeners.

While we announce that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Father, once again will come into the heart of each one of those that he has chosen, to seal this truth, and so that this truth - Christ Himself revealed - ends up being the foundation of their lives.

If we have received this revelation, we will know that there is nothing apart from Christ that is worthwhile. In Him we are complete and perfect; we don't need anything else in the least bit, however good it may be, however praiseworthy it may be. All the rest is garbage. Blessed is Jesus, the Son of God! Blessed is Jesus, the Christ of God!

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