The Great Work Taking Place in Our World
At a celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Westminster Confession of Faith, held at Westminster Abbey in London several years ago, the great Scottish preacher Eric Alexander spoke about Paul and the early Christians. Despite persecution and difficulty, these believers devoted themselves to building up local churches. Pastor Alexander pointed out that their knowledge of what God was doing in church history compelled them to the work and “injected a certainty into their tentative, weak, poor faith. It gave many of them a security in a desperately insecure world.” The same could be said for the builder/guardians from Nehemiah’s day, working so hard on a city that others had given up for lost, for they knew it to be part of God’s unfailing project for salvation in the world. Pastor Alexander pointed out, “Were we more heavenly-minded in our living, it would do the same for us.”
Pastor Alexander went on to ask a series of pointed questions to make us think about our own lives. He asked,
What is the really important thing that is happening in the world in our generation? Where are the really significant events taking place? What is the most important thing? Where do you need to look in the modern world to see the most significant event from a divine perspective? Where is the focus of God’s activity in history?
How would you answer those questions? What would you identify as the great work taking place in our world, the most interesting thing that demands our attention today? Pastor Alexander gave his answer:
The most significant thing happening in history is the calling, redeeming, and perfecting of the people of God. God is building the church of Jesus Christ. The rest of history is simply a stage God erects for that purpose. He is calling out a people. He is perfecting them. He is changing them. History’s great climax comes when God brings down the curtain on this bankrupt world and the Lord Jesus Christ arrives in his infinite glory. The rest of history is simply the scaffolding for the real work.
Pastor Alexander finished by mentioning that the last time he had been in London, Westminster Abbey had been covered in scaffolding as workers were cleaning and beautifying it. “One could not see its true beauty,” he noted, “but one was aware that something of great significance was happening behind that scaffolding. Something of majestic beauty was to be revealed.” Drawing upon that image, he applied it to our lives and to the church:
There will come a day when God will pull down the scaffolding of world history. Do you know what He will be pointing to when He says to the whole creation, “There is my masterpiece”? He will be pointing to the church of Jesus Christ. In the forefront of it all will be the Lord Jesus Himself who will come and say, “Here am I, and the children you have given me, perfected in the beauty of holiness.”
That is the day for which we are laboring now as men in the church. In times past, the Israelites under Nehemiah offered themselves for rebuilding that great city Jerusalem to which Jesus would one day come as the Savior of the world. In a later time, spreading out from that same city, Paul and the other early Christians faced down the hostility of the Roman empire with the power of truth and love as they built the earliest Christian churches and safeguarded God’s deposit of saving truth. Now is the time for us. And like Nehemiah, Paul, and those who labored with them, we must fix our eyes on the day to which all our labor is directed, the day when we ourselves will be resurrected in glory and when God will fully manifest His splendor in His people. If we live for that day now, it will strengthen us to the work of building the church of Christ together, in His name and with His power, striving with all our might to safeguard the gospel, which gives the only hope of salvation to a world lost in sin.
This excerpt is taken from The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips.