A fair number of years ago we tuck-pointed our church building. Expansion and contraction over the years amid the changing seasons had taken their toll, weakening the mortar between the bricks. Without a total restoration of the mortar, things would have crumbled. Bricks would have fallen out. The building would have fallen apart.
The same sort of thing can happen spiritually. Long years of careless neglect in hearing God’s word, and sad attempts to weather the storms of life without Christ can result in people “coming loose.”
Paul put out the welcome mat for both Jewish and Gentile Christians in Ephesus: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Eph. 2).
What amazing grace! You and I are no longer outsiders looking in, no longer illegal aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people, members of God’s household. This household, this family, is what the Apostles’ Creed calls “the holy, Christian Church, the communion of saints.”
The Holy Christian Church or communion of saints is really the one true church. It is made up of all believers in Christ – and only of believers in Christ. We call this one Holy Christian Church by another name – the invisible Church – as real as the invisible air we breathe – but invisible – because only God knows who truly believes in Jesus as their Savior. We joyfully confess that there are believers in Christ all over the world who will enjoy perfect fellowship in heaven.
But we cannot attend an invisible church. We live out our lives in the visible church, painfully aware that false teachings have caused tragic divisions in the visible church from the very beginning, and that church bodies which were once orthodox or right-teaching no longer are.
The ecumenical answer to this tragedy is to agree to disagree, to pretend that doctrinal differences are no big deal, to gather everyone under one big umbrella for a phony sort of unity, to share altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship without first agreeing on what the Bible teaches.
It is infinitely more loving to recognize that the Church is built “on the foundation of the prophets and apostles,” that is, upon the Holy Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments, with Christ Jesus Himself as the Chief Cornerstone. The Church only thrives and grows to the extent that it remains faithful to the Bible. Real unity exists only when those who kneel at the same altar agree on the teachings of the Bible.
All believers are stones in this living temple. It is a living building with living stones as Peter reminds us in his epistle (1 Peter 2:5). God adds another brick to this building every time a baby is baptized, every time a person is brought to believe in Jesus. You and I, individually and together, are a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit through the gospel. It would be sheer tragedy to come loose and fall out of the building, to lose our place in God’s family. Sunday after Sunday, year after year, let the tuck-pointing continue!