thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these
things from the wise
Part V - The Building Stones
By Edgar Jones
The Herodian temple in Jerusalem was a marvel of building construction, which testified to the ability of King Herod as a builder of huge stone edifices. Observing it, one of the disciples of our Lord was much impressed and said,
Mk.13:1 Behold how great [are] the stones and how great [are] the buildings. 2 And Jesus said to him: Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left stone upon stone that will not be thrown down.
We will appreciate the wonderment of the disciples when we learn something about the nature of those stones. Below is a recent picture of stones in a surviving wall from that time and a description by Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian, with an illustration showing stones from the wall surrounding the outer courts of the temple, taken from this site: http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NewTestament/Hebrews/Temple.htm#T223C1.
The outer courts were surrounded by a high and thick wall. Josephus says that this wall was the "greatest ever heard of," which, although exaggerated, is not far from the truth (Ant. 15.11.3; 396). Parts of this wall survive today and have recently been excavated down to their original street level. Not surprisingly the stones used were large, especially those used in the lower courses and the corners. Josephus says that some of the stones were 40 cubits long (c. 20 m.) and six cubits (c. 3 m.) high (War 5.5.1; 189; Ant. 20.9.7; 221); the largest stone found to date is 12 m. x 3 m. x 4 m., weighing 400 tons (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 88). The outer wall consisted of three rows of blocks and was about five meters thick (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 90-91); the blocks were fitted together using the "dry construction" method, which means that no mortar was used in the construction. Each block had a "marginal dressing," meaning that each had a frame or margin chiseled around its edge (M. ben Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 96). The stones used are described by Josephus as "hard and white" (lithoi leukoi te kai krataioi) (Ant. 15.11.3; 392). According to Josephus, Roman battering rams were unable to cause a breach in the outer western wall (War: 6.4.1; 220-22).
Examine the long seam between the stones in the above photo. These stones were a marvel of both engineering and craftsmanship. The engineering marvel consists in moving and setting such huge stones in place, weighing as much as 400 tons! The craftsmanship marvel arises from the exactness by which the stones were squared and surfaces polished such that no mortar was required to seal the joints. If not perfect fits, these stones were very nearly perfect!
This high level of craftsmanship was not unusual in the Greco-Roman world and in the emerging civilization of the preceding centuries. Will Durant1 tells us, regarding the Palace of Cnossus in Crete that was built in the Seventeenth Century BC:
They cut the stone blocks so sharply that they can put them together without mortar.
This high level of craftsmanship continued for centuries as indicated by the construction of the Herodian temple, above. We can expect that the same level of craftsmanship was involved in the construction of Sepphoris, which King Herod's son, Herod Antipas, built as his capitol after the death of his father in 4 BC. This marvel of stone construction, about four miles from Nazareth and built during the early life of Jesus may, as I have said before (see Part 1), have utilized the skills of both Joseph and Jesus as stone masons. From this site we have recent pictures, reproduced below, showing the result of archaeological digs, including structures built during the early years of Jesus. You are observing structures that Jesus must have observed, and may have had a hand in building.
So, when the Lord announced to Simon (Matt.16:18) that he was petros, a building stone, we have a better appreciation of what this entailed. As it must have required a long time for skilled craftsmen to cut and polish the many great stones incorporated into the buildings of Sepphoris and Jerusalem, just so the Lord is in no hurry to complete the work in the present age as he continues the process of preparing building stones for his Ekklesia. When he has completed his work of shaping and polishing us, in sufficient numbers, all will be called forth from the world and the graves to assemble before him and then, at last, his Ekklesia will appear.
Jn.5:28 Be not marveling at this, that [the] hour comes in which all those in the graves will hear his voice, 29 and those having done good will come out to [the] resurrection of zoe-life. . ..
But for now, we remain on the earth where we, like Simon (if we are of the Truth), are being cut and polished by the Lord so as to conform to the perfect fit that we described (see Part IV). Even now we are building stones, not yet assembled into his Ekklesia but are rather dispersed throughout the earth. This all appears simple and clear enough once one has disposed of the fog of Christian teaching that blinds and enslaves the churchmen. However, it must raise some reasonable questions before you that are hearing the Truth for the first time, and it is to address these that we dedicated the balance of this last part of the Builder series.
Is Perfection Required?
The short answer is "No."
The discussion of the perfect fit in Part IV may have suggested otherwise. By "perfection" I mean absolute conformity with all of the Builder's specifications, including those listed in Parts III and IV and elsewhere in the Word of the Lord -- a perfect fit in every way. I have been careful to state that all the specifications are not listed, but anyone is able to learn them by listening to our Good Shepherd as he speaks to his sheep from the pages of the gospels.
If you are a finished work, a building stone perfectly shaped and dressed so as to fit into the Ekklesia needing no mortar, and matching with perfect uniformity the corresponding surfaces of any other perfectly finished building stone that is to fit adjacent to you in his Ekklesia -- you are a completed work. You have conformed fully to this admonition of the Lord:
Mt.5:48, KJV: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
You almost surely are not such a finished work -- nor am I. Our interpretation of the Lord's admonition, as we read it from this translation (KJV), may not be correct. We are likely to understand "perfect" according to our primary definition:
1 a : being entirely without fault or defect : FLAWLESS <a perfect diamond>
This is misleading, and does not accurately represent what the Lord said. He utilizes a word that is more accurately expressed by the Faithful New Testament:
Mt.5:48 Therefore be complete as your heavenly father is complete.
We are building stones in process of being shaped, polished and fitted as we respond to the Lord, and his admonition is to abide in the process until we are complete. These words are addressed to the incomplete ones, and admonishes us to persevere to the point of being finished works. Then we indeed will be without a flaw as the Father is without a flaw. Here is a prayer of the Lord in behalf of the first disciples, and us:
Jn.17:22 And the glory that you have given to me I have given to them, in order that they be one [thing] just as we are one [thing], 23 I in them and you in me, in order that they be completed into one [thing], in order that the world know you sent me and [that] you agape-loved them just as you agape-loved me.
The Lord spoke of himself in the same manner, using a cognate of the same word:
Lk.13:32 And he said to them: Go and tell that fox: Behold, I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will be completed.
When the Lord uttered these words, even he was not complete! It is a mistake to apply this word to sinfulness and understand it to mean without sin now as some have done. It expresses the goal of an ongoing process rather than a present condition. All that have been completed will, of course, be without flaw and without sin, as is the Father -- but that is a different focus and not the meaning of Matthew 5:48. If we see ourselves as building stones currently being shaped and polished so as to fit perfectly into his Ekklesia on the day when he calls us from the world and the grave to assemble before him, we have understood the meaning of the Word. Furthermore, the world, by observing the uniformity of his disciples in the world -- how they are united in one even here and so fit together -- will know it was the Father that sent Jesus, the master mason. into the world.
The Lord takes us as he finds us, in the rough, as he took Simon on that day when Simon was the first to be identified as a building stone. Simon was far from a finished work. The next words the Lord addressed to him were these:
Mt.16:22 And Peter taking him aside began to be rebuking him saying: Mercy to you, Lord! This will not be for you! 23 But Jesus turning said to Peter: Withdraw behind me, Satan. You tempt me because you do not think on the [things] of God but of men.
So the Lord is not demanding sinless perfection but the question remains: how does he deal with sin? How does he dispose of the flaws in the raw materials he chooses for his building stones?
We know that Paul's doctrine of sacrificial redemption is false. He and his Christian disciples have taught that God accepts only the sinless into his kingdom and salvation. But through his grace he has provided an entry for sinners -- he will impute the innocence of the sinless Jesus to us if we will only believe that Jesus has suffered the penalty of our sins. This presumably satisfies the justice of God, and presto! We can stand sinless and perfect before him on that day.
But we have learned from our Lord himself that the Father is merciful to perfection (He is indeed perfect in all things) and in His perfect mercy He stands ready to forgive everyone that repents of sins, and also forgives the offenses of others. The Lord's Parable of the Unmerciful Servant gives his teaching on the subject in graphic form.
Mt.18:32 Then when his lord called him he said to him: Wicked slave, all this debt I allowed you because you called upon me. 33 Mustn't you also have mercy on your fellow-slave as I also had mercy on you? 34 And having been angered, his lord gave him over to the torturer until he pay all his debt to him. 35 Thus also your heavenly father will do to you, if you do not forgive each of your brothers from your heart.
To repeat, The bottom line -- the short answer -- is, "No." The Father deals with sin by forgiving it!
How Do We Find Others?
The short answer is, "We look for the lights."
We need to be praying that the Lord will lead us to other disciples and confirm them when we find them. We require much patience in most cases because, as I have stressed, the numbers are few such that in any one location there may be none, and so we can see none. Never the less we must be looking -- and one more thing -- we must be lights that others may see us. The Word has much to say about the Light.
Jn.8:12 So, again Jesus spoke to them saying: I am the light of the world. The [one] following me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of zoe-life.
Jn.9:3 Jesus answered: Neither this [man] sinned nor his parents, but [rather] that the works of God be manifested in him. 4 We must be working the works of the [one] having sent me while it is day; when night comes you are not able to be working. 5 While I be in the world, I am [the] light of the world.
Jn.12:46 I am light come into the world, in order that everyone believing in me not abide in darkness.
Mt.5:14 You are the light of the world. [a] city cannot be hid [when] set on [a] mountain.
15 Neither do men light [a] lamp and place it under the bushel basket, but [rather] upon the lamp stand, and it illumines all those in the house. 16 So let your light shine before men, that they see your good works and glorify your father in the heavens.
Jn.20:21 Jesus therefore said to them again: Peace to you. Just as the father sent me, I also send you.
The Light is the Truth enshrined in the Word of Truth as proclaimed in the world by Jesus of Nazareth. Before the appearance of the Lord, all men were in the dark, therefore it was said that the whole world was in darkness. Not having the Light, they knew not God -- knew not His purpose for them -- and therefore they vainly appealed to imaginary deities that are not gods and attempted to realize life-fulfillment in terms of life in this world. I state this in past tense as descriptive of the world into which our Father sent his Son with Light, but nothing has changed. The world remains dark! Christians have, for many centuries, worked to seal the darkness against the Light and have largely succeeded by testifying to more darkness and not to the Light while yet calling it the Light. Such is the incomparable tragedy of Christianity. Like the ancients, they also vainly appealed to an imaginary deity that is not God and attempt to realize life-fulfillment in terms of life in this world.
Lk.11:35 Be looking therefore that the light in you be not darkness.
The Light is not snuffed out. It shines today as brightly as it did when it issued from the lips of the Lord. The Holy Spirit has protected and preserved the Word of Truth that is Light, and it is easily accessible to anyone possessing a copy of the canonical gospels. The ignorance of all men is not due to the hiddenness of the Light, though it is indeed hidden from them, but to the condition of their hearts. They have blinders on. Modern Christians are slaves of the darkness, like the Israelites in the First Century and those to whom Isaiah the prophet and later, the Lord, addressed these scathing words:
Mt.18:13 I speak to them in parables because of this: Because looking they do not look, and hearing they do not hear not understand. 14 And the prophesy of Isaiah is fulfilled in them which said:
Hearing they will hear and will not understand
16 But blessed are your eyes because they look, and [your] ears because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and just men lusted to see what you look at and they did not see, and to hear and they did not hear.
He condensed this into the utterance that appears at the head of each paper on this site:
Mt.11:25 In that opportune-time Jesus answered saying: I confess to you, O father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these [things] from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed these [things] to the childish. 26 Yes, O father, for thus [your] purpose came to pass before you. 27 Everything has been delivered to me by my father, and no one knows the son except the father, nor does anyone know the father except the son and [the one] to whom the son intends to reveal [him].
Lk.10:21 In that hour he exulted in the Holy Spirit and said: I confess to you, father Lord of heaven and [the] earth, that you have hidden these [things] from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed these [things] to children; Yes, O father, that thus [your] good pleasure comes to pass before you. 22 These [things] have been delivered up to me by my father, and no one knows who is the son except the father, and [no one knows] who is the father except the son, and to whom the son intends to reveal.
So, how do we find other disciples, other sheep of the Good Shepherd dispersed throughout the world?
The bottom line remains the same: We look for the Lights. And pray.
What Is Our Task?
The short answer is, Let our Light shine before men.
Matthew 5:16 is a key utterance in revealing what the Lord would have us be doing as Lights in the dark World. Because it has been so commonly misunderstood I will provide an explanation.
So let your light shine before men, that they see your good works and glorify your father in the heavens.
What are the good works? I once understood, and preached, that these "good works" consist exactly of good deeds. Surely deeds are works, and does it not follow that good works are good deeds?
But my understanding ran afoul of another utterance:
Mt.6:1 Be giving heed that you not be doing your justice before men to be beheld by them, otherwise you have no reward from your father in the heavens. 2 Whenever therefore you do [a] merciful [thing], do not trumpet before you, like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, in order that they be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But [when] you do [a] merciful [thing], let your left hand not know what your right hand is doing, 4 in order that your merciful [deed] be in secret. And your father who sees in secret will reward you.
Surely, merciful deeds are good works?
Yet, if they are, and if this is what the Lord means in Mt. 5:16, we have a radical contradiction in the Word, which cannot be. This seems to say the very opposite. How do we resolve this?
We begin here by recognizing Mt.6:1 as valid, needing no explanation. It is thoroughly consistent with other utterances of the Lord, and it makes perfect sense. The problem, then, for me was in my misunderstanding of Mt. 5:16:
Mt.5:16 So let your light shine before men, that they see your good works and glorify your father in the heavens.
I was misunderstanding "good works' in this utterance. The previous verses,
Mt.5:14 You are the light of the world. [a] city cannot be hid [when] set on [a] mountain.
15 Neither do men light [a] lamp and place it under the bushel basket, but [rather] upon the lamp stand, and it illumines all those in the house. So let your light shine before men . . .
tells us what is meant, for it is the consequence of letting our Light shine, and we have already seen that the Light is the Word of Truth. We are to give our testimony before men -- let our Light shine -- that men, some of them -- will hear and see the Light so as to glorify the Father who has given such wonderful Light to human beings in this dark world. The "good works" consists of our testimony to the world, proclaiming the Word and letting our Light shine so as to illuminate all that are in the house. A few "men" will see and understand and give glory to the Father.
I have said it; now we need confirmation from the Lord. He has not disappointed us but has wonderfully confirmed this perception of the "good works" he has commanded us to display to men. We go first to this utterance -- and incidentally, this may also enlighten us concerning these other utterances of the Lord that have seemed strange. This was spoken to some unbelieving Jews:
Jn.10:37 If I am not doing the works of my father, be not believing in me. 38 But if I do [them], and if you are not believing in me, [then] be believing in the works, in order that you know and be knowing that the father [is] in me and I in the father. 39 So they were again seeking to arrest him, and he went out from their hand.
How does one go about believing in the works? It is simple, once we see that the works in this verse consists in proclamation of the words, or ideas, that the Lord was setting before them. To believe the works in this context means to believe the Words. It is not that the works are the words, but the works consist of the proclamation of the words, as the Lord proclaimed the words of the Father. Understanding this, the balance of the utterance becomes self explanatory.
That is one source of confirmation. Here is yet another, this spoken to his disciple, Philip:
Jn.14:10 The words that I say to you [all] I did not speak from myself, but the father dwelling in me does his works. 11 Be believing me that I [am] in the father and the father [is] in me. But if not, be believing on account of the works themselves. 12 Truly truly I say to you, the [one] believing in me, the works that I do, that [one] also will do, and greater than these will do, because I go to the father.
The Lord rightly attributes the source of the words he utters to the Father dwelling in him, and explains that this is the Father doing his works. Again, the proclamation of the words is the works!
Then the Lord proceeds to make an astonishing promise to Philip: the [one] believing in me, the works that I do, that [one] also will do, and greater than these will do, because I go to the father. This we understand to mean that the very same works that Jesus does (the utterance of the very same words), the disciple will also do, for the disciple will utter the same words.
We aren't done yet. The Lord next proceeds to tell Philip (and us) that those believing in him will do the same works that he does -- will proclaim the same words -- and more than that, the believing disciple will do greater works than those the Lord was doing!
How is it that a believing disciple can do greater works than those of the Lord?
Again, the question has a simple answer. Do you notice how the Lord explained that the disciple would do this because I go to the father? If we but refer to this next utterance, we may learn something truly remarkable: how it is that a disciple will do greater works than the Lord was doing.
Jn.16:12 I have yet many [things] to be telling you, but you are not now able to be bearing [them]. 13 But when that [one] comes, the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself, but as much as he hears will he speak, and the coming [things] will he disclose to you. 14 That [one] will glorify me, because he will receive from me and will disclose to you. 15 All as much as the father has is mine. Because of this I said that he receives from me and he discloses to you.
After witnessing the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord, the disciples would be capable of believing many things that they were not able to receive before. Therefore, they would receive greater words than they had yet received from the Lord, and they would then proclaim those wonderful words to the world. The proclamation of greater words is the doing of greater works!
The Lord does not mean that his disciples will perform greater physical miracles than he had performed or greater deeds of charity, but that they would have received and so be capable of delivering greater words to the world -- yet nothing that they had not received. It is therefore as the Lord has commanded us, his disciples:
So let your light shine before men, that they see your good works and glorify your father in the heavens.
Our task is to let our Light shine before men by proclaiming the Word we have received from the Lord.
This is the bottom line, and the short answer with which we began:
So let your light shine before men.
As the Father has sent me, so send I you.
And yes, we are to be doing the merciful deeds also.
The task of finding other disciples is guided by the dictum I have already presented: "Look for the Lights." These lights are few in the world at any instant, and those few are generally dispersed everywhere so that looking for the Lights is not exactly the same, to us as it is to the Father, as looking up into a moonless and cloudless night sky. One of the things we must not do is to look for a congregation. If there are other Lights nearby, the Lord will bring us together. "Church hopping" is a vain endeavor as I can certify. So you, my reader, may be thinking that there is no profit in this world to being or seeking the Light because it can, truly, be a very lonely path.
Where is the fellowship?
Fellowship is a societal experience. Societal forces are basic to the perpetuation of every known religion. They build friendships within congregations, establish a sense of security, provide a kind of spiritual fulfillment, and perpetuate doctrine, no matter the religion. Belonging to something we think important along with many others instills confidence. Within each nation, these things and forces also promote patriotism, thus bonding one securely to the world wherever the nation recognizes the faith. The nation is one of the most powerful societal forces. Church based societal forces provide religious education for the children, which tends to lead to their continuance in the faith as adults and so to the perpetuation of the faith as each maturing individual maintains and teaches beliefs and relationships from generation to generation, century to century. When any individual becomes severed from the congregation for any reason, almost automatically that one seeks out another societal environment in which to pursue faith.
This is a key to the utter failure to know and abide in the Truth by established religions. Have you considered this fact and integrated it into your faith: The Lord Jesus never mentioned fellowship -- not in our gospels where we find his Word and Truth? Oh, yes! It is integral to the doctrine of Paul, where one finds it to be basic.
Conclusion: the concept "fellowship" has no place in the Word and in Truth. It is a societal force, and one must eschew societal forces to experienced the freedom promised by our Lord, and to be delivered from bondage to the world.
This may discourage you from further pursuit of the Truth, but there is more to say. The Lord knows our great need for companionship in the Way. Just listen and believe, and the most satisfying fellowship in the universe will be yours.
Jn.14:15 If you agape-love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the father and he will give you another advocate, in order that he be with you to eternity— 17 the spirit of truth, whom the world is not able to receive, because it does not behold him nor know [him]. You know him, because he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans, I come to you. 19 Yet [a] little [while] and the world no longer beholds me, but you behold me, because I zoe-live and you will zoe-live. 20 In that day you will know that I [am] in my father and you in me and I in you.
Jn.14:23 Jesus answered and said to him: If anyone agape-loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will agape-love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our dwelling-place with him. 24 The [one] not agape-loving me does not keep to my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but of the father having sent me.
Mt.28:20 . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And behold I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.
Mt.18:20 For when two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.
For fellowship, this is the very best! And when the two or three appear (be patient, they will) it is paradise on earth!
Let us not sorrow as in loneliness while we abide in the world -- in the Lord (the Truth, the Spirit and the Word). As one that served in a solitary state for more than forty years, I can affirm that loneliness is a temptation. Instead, listen to our Lord and rejoice -- rejoice even in your apparent loneliness for that means holiness, or separation from the world before the Lord. The Builder is preparing his building stones and he must sometimes -- perhaps always -- lead each into a solitary state to carve the finished stone.
When we discover the simple fact -- and accept it as authoritative -- that the Lord announced to Simon that he was a building stone (see Part I), wondrous things begin to happen! We see that he was not giving him a new name, Peter, but was specifying his function. That clears the way to see and understand what is Truth. The Lord, as a Builder, is not building a church. He is building his Ekklesia on the pattern of the Ekklesia of the Greek city-state with which his disciples were thoroughly familiar. We are also now enlightened to see that the Builder is, now in this time, preparing the building stones that include all true and faithful disciples through the centuries until now. They remain dispersed throughout the world and in the graves where they shine like stars in the heavens on a clear, moonless night. And then, the hour comes:
Jn.5:28 Be not marveling at this, that [the] hour comes in which all those in the graves will hear his voice, 29 and those having done good will come out to [the] resurrection of zoe-life, [but] those having done [as a practice] worthless [things] will come out to [the] resurrection of judgment.
We will hear his voice as he calls us forth to assemble before him at the Resurrection of Life. Then will appear for the first time his Ekklesia - his called out assembly with every building stone perfectly fitted in its place.
This is to be a double resurrection, for there is also to be the Resurrection of Judgment. These are those that, having exposure to his Word, have closed their ears so as not to have heard his voice in this world. At the Resurrection of Judgment, they will hear! It is surely to be preferred that we hear him now -- don't you think? Here is the result if we hear him now:
Jn.5:25 Truly truly I say to you that [the] hour comes and now is when the dead will hear the cry of the son of God and those having heard will zoe-live.
1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part II, The Life of Greece, p.18, Simon and Schuster