No building can be erected without tools. In fact, quality work depends largely on the right tools being available and in excellent condition. Several years ago I needed to saw some lumber for a drama set we were building. I pulled out my circular saw and went to work. After a few straight cuts I had nearly burned the garage down! The saw blade was so dull that it became extremely hot and left burn marks on the wood. It was time for a new blade! What a difference that simple purchase made in the construction process from that point on.
What if no one built any tools? Suppose there were no hammers, screwdrivers, or saws at the local hardware store. You could have the finest blueprint, the best materials, and the most skilled workers; but without tools, little of value could be constructed. Construction companies invest a great deal of money into good tools and go to great lengths to keep them in tip-top shape. A missing or broken tool can bring the construction process to a standstill.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus announced, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The word church here is the Greek word ekklesia which means “a called out assembly.” The Lord Jesus Christ announces His building program—a local New Testament church. This church is to be made up of saved people who have been baptized since they have been converted. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). What were they added to? “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
If the vision of Jesus Christ was simply to build a local church in the city of Jerusalem, His building project would have had an impact for the first or second century only. Once all of those people died, the purpose of that building would have ended. In reality, when Jesus announced, “I will build my church,” He was telling us that He was building a tool—a tool that would build tools! We understand that Jesus was not talking about brick and mortar when He spoke of building His church. He was speaking of people who would make up this institution called the local church. He knew that we, as saved individuals, would need instruction, fellowship, prayer, and opportunity to serve. The local church is His tool that accomplishes all of this and more. Christ built the church to build us!
Many Christians today have a “consumer” mentality when it comes to the church. They want to be entertained, loved, and pampered, but have no desire to be built up in their faith so that as a tool they can be used to minister to others. When challenged about their sin, or asked to serve in a ministry, or to give in an offering to reach others, they get offended. They are fine with being a “building” but want no part of being a “tool” to build other buildings. They are completely missing the purpose of the Architect.
In Ephesians 4, God mentions some “construction workers” that He has enlisted in the construction process: “And he gave some, apostles, and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (verse 11). Why were these given to the church—His building? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (verses 12–13). The local church is designed to build the saints and enable that body of believers as a whole to do the work of the ministry! God designed a tool (the local church) to build tools (Christians) who can in turn go out and build other tools!
Throughout the Book of Acts we see these believers from the local church at Jerusalem building tools all over the known world just as the Lord had commanded them to do. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). When persecution came in chapter eight, these tools from Jerusalem were scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:3). Barnabas and Saul head to Antioch in Acts 11:22–26. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are sent out as the first missionaries from that church in Antioch.
Yes, Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church.” But that was just the beginning. He was building a tool. The church at Jerusalem would soon be the genesis of churches all over the known world. What a marvelous building program! If God has saved you and has built your life through the ministry of the local church—praise God. But remember, God isn’t building buildings—He’s building tools. “And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). A tool is not built for the display shelf at Home Depot! It’s built for a construction worker’s toolbox.
I’m sure glad that God decided to build the local church. That tool has been used by God to build my life and the life of my family. But the construction process simply cannot end there. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God saved us to be “instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13). We are instruments— tools—that God, the Master Builder, desires to use over and over to build others. Pray that God will make your local church a tool to build tools.