“So He brought me there; and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway” (Ezek. 40:3). The judgments of God are determined. The days of Ezekiel saw the judgments of God upon the sons of Israel. The measuring of the temple and everything in it became a sign of things to come. The sin of Israel has caused the appearance of a man in the likeness of bronze. Neglecting God’s house by Israel has made him appear with a line of flax and a measuring rod. The temple that was once perfectly built by Solomon with the measurements from God has again required another measuring. Such an act of God demands serious consideration. The reason for building a temple for God is already known to us. Since God allowed men to build a temple for Him in those days, He designed it in such a way that it should be perfect not only in its appearance, but also in its working manner. Every detail of the temple was perfectly designed. From the things that were done outside the temple to the things performed in the most holy place, all have been planned by God for His glory. God has even chosen a certain tribe of Israel, Levi, to perform the work of the temple. Again, different families of Levi were chosen and were assigned different works of the temple. Some were chosen for works done outside the temple, some for the altar and others to work in different areas of the temple.
The structure of the temple itself was magnificent. It contained many sections. In it were entrances, exits, many designs, statutes and laws. It was designed in such a way that every entity or section of the temple had to be used for the welfare of the people and the glorification of God. When Solomon finished building the temple, he dedicated it to God in the presence of Israel to the glory of God. As long as Israel carried in them the righteousness of God by faith the Law was upheld, the temple was kept holy and God was glorified. However, there came a time when God had to choose prophets like Ezekiel to warn Israel of their sin toward His temple. When their sin has excelled to the point of shamelessness, God had to measure His house again. He measured it again, since His people had changed its order. He measured it, since Israel exchanged the works to be performed in it for works of sin. They brought into His house strange deities, eccentric works and detestable things. Everything in His house was designed by God for a purpose and they altered them. Those who had the right to enter God’s house and perform works turned their backs to God when they brought defiled things into His house. This was because what the fathers were at the beginning to God, i.e. holy, their children and the generations that followed were not. They broke away from the path of God and carved for themselves another standard.
Therefore, by measuring the temple again God instructed the prophet to teach Israel that they may be ashamed of their iniquities and understand His plan for it. However, Israel was not ashamed of his iniquities. Furthermore, “because he did not remember to show loving kindness, but persecuted the afflicted and needy man, and the despondent in heart, to put them to death” (Ps. 109:16), he had to be punished. If sin is not contained after having known the Lord, it leads to more sin. When Israel sinned against the house of God, they not only turned against Him, but also lost the tender heart and the goodness needed toward one another. This is the effect of sinning against God: people cannot work for the one another’s welfare. Therefore, sin escalates and draws consequences. What had been the case of Israel has now again been the case with the churches of Christ and of God. Everything for or in the house of God was designed by God through Christ for a purpose, and they have altered them. The entities or sections that God has in His temple, the church, are many. Every member of the church is assigned a demonstration according to His will for the common good. It would be excessive for me to write again of the varieties of gifts, ministries and effects to the church. The manner in which God through Christ has begun building His house will have to continue until it has been completely built, unless it has been completed. If it has been completely built, what then is the need to preach the gospel? Why is the earth still with its form? Our hope for Christ Jesus is indeed vain. However, the church is still being built. But, many churches have exchanged that which God has put in the church for her welfare and His glory for their doctrines and works. If these churches that conduct themselves exactly like Israel continue in this manner, the consequence will also be the same.
On the contrary, if these churches with their leaders and preachers come forward with a heart like that of our predecessors, they shall be revived. “For we are slaves; yet in our bondage our God has not forsaken us, but has extended loving kindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9). There is perhaps no better parallelism for the church than can be drawn from this Scripture. It should remind us of Paul’s iteration “while we were still helpless….” Yet, if a church has not believed in everything that God has designed through Christ for her, how can she boast of the loving kindness of God toward her in the sight of the world? Because she has not believed, she has not even known of His loving kindness in the first place. This is shameful in the sight of those who have known His loving kindness. O, the loving kindness of God and the untold works it holds! The present day churches are in desperate need of reviving just as God sought reviving for Israel by once again measuring His temple. They are in ruins and must be restored. The alterations they have made to the substance to match their doctrines, teachings and life styles must be reversed to the point of being able to walk in the path of God. And if a wall in Judah and Jerusalem has satisfied them, the fullness of Christ in us must alone satisfy us. If there is anything beyond this, it is sinning against God that draws severe consequence.
God has known beforehand each man He creates to live on this earth. He has known the prophet just as He knew the priest and the king. All the men who altered the design of God for His church are not the appointed of God for His work. They have not been sanctified by Him. These do not know the manner in which God calls and appoints. Yet, they have become ministers of congregations by the power that exists in this world. God foreknew every man and woman that believed in Him, not because they happened to believe in Him, but because He knew they would believe in Him. For such is the power in the wisdom of God. Therefore, He is also able to set them apart for Himself before their birth. Similarly, God also foreknew His apostles, prophets, teachers, preachers, evangelists, administrators and workers of gifts. He foreknew these, because He knew they would believe in Him. Now, those who happen to believe and those who are foreknown by God to believe in Him are made to differ, since the latter become a part of God’s design for His house through Christ. They have understood the purpose of His plan. You too can know His plan and be a man of God, if you are willing to become a part of His design. For He says, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Yet, consider that God even foreknew your thoughts as He alone knows in His wisdom.
Nonetheless, an attempt can be made to understand His foreknowledge. If you become a part of God’s design for His house, you were foreknown by God to believe in Him. On the other hand, if you are not willing to be a part of His design, you still were foreknown by God, but as one who will not believe. And, if those who do not believe happen to be preaching Christ, they are referred to as those “who drink wine from sacrificial bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:6). Evidently, they do not have the mind of Christ. They happened to believe in Him. What are they really concerned about? To make their life merry and gather for themselves the goods of the earth; they are not really concerned about the current eccentric state of the church. They are interested in putting their learning to practice and in proving it as true at the expense of the hearers. They are more eager to cement their place in their brotherhood than to cement Christ in the hearers through God’s design. Can they bring relief and strength to their congregation in times of trouble? Do they know how to? Are they able to lead them to a state of peace and joy? “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task” (Acts 6:3). Can the present churches of Christ boast of such men in their congregations? Yet, the Church of which they claim to represent had such men, if at all they needed to boast. Does not the word we read propose for such men in the church? But, the men the present churches have as in charge are those who keep money, records, maintenance, schedules, etc. Not that these are trivial, but in comparison to the vital entities that bring peace, joy, relief and strength to the believers they are undoubtedly trivial.
It is binding for the churches of Christ and of God to grasp who truly represent the church. “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2). A person can only profit from calling on the name of Jesus if he or she has been sanctified or consecrated by God in Christ. A person is consecrated if he or she is willing to become a part of God’s design for His house. Such consecration shall truly bring forth men who can be put in charge for the welfare of the church and for bringing glory of God.