Rev. Terpstra is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan
of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan
July 2, 1998
It is a wonderful evening for us as a congregation. Our faithful and gracious God has provided us a new church home in which to worship Him and in which to busy ourselves in the labors and activities of His kingdom. We have a beautiful new church home, inside and out, architecturally and aesthetically. In this respect our new building reflects the beauty of God Himself, as well as the beauty of the church He saves by His grace. We have a well-built edifice, reflecting not only the skills of the carpenters and contractors, but also the strength and stability of God’s covenant of grace with us and our children.
As we look about us tonight, we have much to be thankful for. We have great reason to praise our God.
We have come together tonight to dedicate this new structure to our God. It is all of Him and through Him, and so we must use it all for Him. Every part of the building itself, every room, every piece of equipment, must be returned to God, used in His service and for His glory. Also all the activities that take place here, every function performed here, must be dedicated to God. Consciously, all we do here must be done for the Lord.
For let us not forget that we are the church. Not this building, but we the people. These bricks and blocks and wood are not living; they cannot dedicate themselves to God and use themselves in His service. But we can, because we are the church, God’s living stones, His spiritual house, His holy priesthood. As such we must consciously give ourselves to God by performing the service that pleases Him. That’s the truth of the text we consider together on this occasion, I Peter 2:4-6:
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.”
On the basis of this text I speak to you concerning “A Spiritual House for God.”
The spiritual house of God, which is the church, is made up of stones. Not lifeless ones, like these in the building about us, but living ones. One of these stones is a very special stone. It is set apart from the others, being a fundamental stone, an indispensable stone. That stone is Jesus Christ. He is the Cornerstone, the Headstone of the foundation of the church. He has this place because God, the great Architect and Builder of the church, laid Him as such in the building according to verse 6 of our text. Christ was laid as the Cornerstone by sovereign, eternal election; He was laid by divine promise in the Scriptures; and in the fullness of time He was set in place by His incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection. That is why this Cornerstone is precious to God, to the church, and to the believer. Christ was indeed disallowed of men. Men despised and rejected Him when He came and took His place as the chief Cornerstone. But God laid Him, preserved Him, and exalted Him!
That Christ is the chief Cornerstone means that the whole spiritual building rests on Him and depends on Him. Christ determines the size, strength, and stability of the church. The church’s election and salvation are in Christ alone. He gives life to the other living stones. He’s the basis for all that the church is and does. We are nothing and can do nothing without this Cornerstone. We are no spiritual house without Christ; we have no service to bring to God apart from Christ.
For this reason our text speaks of coming to Christ to be built up. In the way of coming to this living Stone we are living stones and are built up a spiritual house. That “coming” certainly defines the church’s task—to point God’s living stones to Christ the living Stone. That she does chiefly in the preaching of the gospel, the pure gospel of sovereign grace. And that preaching of the gospel is the power that enables the elect stones of God’s church to come to the living Stone. But that “coming” also defines our life in the church. Each living stone must see to it that he or she is coming to Christ so as to be properly constructed. Only insofar as we are constantly coming to Him in true faith can we be built up a spiritual house. Only in this way are we going to be strong and useful in the service of God. Let us keep in mind that in all of our life and activities here in this new building we must be “coming” to Christ the living Stone.
When God’s lively stones come to Christ the chief Cornerstone, they are built up a spiritual house. They are constructed together to form one beautiful building. That’s another wonder God works with His church. The lively stones which God has chosen and saved in Christ do not stand individually and separately in the church. They are designed and fashioned to fit together, to make up a magnificent, unified edifice, each stone in his and her place, contributing to the whole. The idea of the communion of saints is implied. We may compare this to the way in which these bricks and other materials also fit together to make up this whole building. So when God constructs His church, He puts together lively stones to form a spiritual house.
That the church is God’s spiritual house brings to mind the Old Testament tabernacle and temple. They were God’s house. And the main idea of that house was that it was God’s dwellingplace, the place where God dwelled with His people in covenant friendship and communion. That’s what we are as the church built on Jesus Christ—God’s house, His dwellingplace. In and through Jesus Christ God is pleased to dwell in us and with us. We may call this new place God’s house too, from this point of view, that when we gather here as God’s spiritual house, He is pleased to dwell with us in covenant friendship and fellowship. This building becomes God’s house when we are here. And we must desire that fellowship with God and delight in it, also in and through this building.
But in addition to this, the Old Testament tabernacle and temple as God’s house was the place where spiritual service to God went on. At the house of God worship took place, sacrifices were made, feasts were celebrated. The whole building and all its activities were dedicated to God. And that’s the other point we wish to stress.
Our text says that the church is not only a spiritual house but also a holy priesthood. Believers are priests, holy unto God. They are set apart from Satan’s kingdom, from the world of unbelief, and from sin so as to be God’s exclusive servants, His priests who are consecrated to Him. God’s people exist for God alone, for His service and for His glory.
That’s the idea of dedication too. This material building (house) we dedicate to God because we are His holy priesthood, saved to be consecrated to God. So we use all this for God. Everything we have here and do here we must do for God.
That involves making spiritual sacrifices, just as it did for the church in the Old Testament. They brought sacrifices of thanks and praise to God in worship; they offered to God through their singing, their prayers, their giving, and their hearing of His Word. They also brought animal sacrifices, and these were spiritual sacrifices too, because they were types of Christ’s sacrifice made on the cross. As the New Testament church, we don’t offer up these sacrifices any longer, for the atoning blood has been shed on Calvary. Yet we still come to God in worship and prayer and fellowship in and through Jesus Christ. We present ourselves and our spiritual offerings to God only through the cross of Christ, for in no other way are we and they “acceptable to God.” All of the service we perform must be done by faith in Christ, receiving His perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Therefore, as God’s holy priesthood, we must now use this new facility to offer up our spiritual sacrifices to God. Standing in God’s service, dedicating this place to Him, we must always come with our spiritual offerings to Him. That is especially our worship of God. Here we will and must meet to thank and praise our great and glorious God. Let this place be filled with our songs of praise to Him, our prayers of thanks to Him and dependence on Him, our gifts laid up before Him and for Him, our faithful hearing of His Word in the preaching of the gospel. Unless this is done here, this beautiful structure is really ugly and vain.
But our spiritual sacrifices include much more than our offering up of official worship. They include our spiritual fellowship as a congregation, our walking together and our coming together in this place in love and delight of one another and for the mutual benefit of one another, whether that be for Bible studies, weddings, funerals, or pancake breakfasts. These sacrifices include our spiritual nurture of the covenant seed in catechism and Sunday School. They include our obedience to the gospel in all areas of life. Let this place be filled with this service to God too. That’s how we will show we have dedicated this place to the Lord.
That means that each of us individually, and thus all of us together, will be personal, living sacrifices to God. We cannot dedicate this place to God and offer up spiritual sacrifices in His service unless we ourselves are dedicated to God, as personal offerings. We must first give ourselves to Him, our hearts, our lives, our time, our energies, our abilities. Some of you have given of yourselves in that way in the building of this place. So it must be in our use of this place from here on. Do we understand our calling as we dedicate this building to God? Are we ready to give our own selves first of all to God? Are we dedicated to Him personally in our hearts and lives? Then, and only then, are we prepared to give this whole building to God and to do all to His glory as we devote ourselves to His service through our spiritual sacrifices offered up here.
May God give us grace to be faithful priests in His spiritual house. Then we and our children will be blessed in our use of this place.