NEW BOOKLET: A Master Carpenter Builds His Church by David Dombrowski is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet.* The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are available. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of A Master Carpenter Builds His Church, click here.
A Master Carpenter Builds His Church
By David Dombrowski
Looking for a Carpenter
I would like to take you on a historical journey into the past through the record of Scripture. History books inadvertently have a certain level of bias, but the Bible is not so for it is inspired of God and consequently totally accurate. We will also take a glimpse into the future through the prophetic eye of Scripture. Again, the Bible has and will continue to always be one hundred percent accurate. With this kind of accuracy, we have a decisive means with which to steer our course and to get a sense of where we are.
We begin our search into the past by looking for a carpenter. If we can get a hold of a certain carpenter, he can tell us what’s wrong with the church. You see, much of the church of today is rickety and on the brink of collapse. Some of the churches may seem just fine. Their attendance may number a thousand or more, and their income makes elaborate expansion possible. Don’t get me wrong; in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with a church having good attendance and a self-sustaining income, but that is not what forms a good church. We must look beneath the outer surface and see what is being used for the foundation of the church. Then, too, we will want to see what kinds of materials are being used to build upon the foundation. If the foundation is good and the materials are good, we can expect to have a strong church.
Unfortunately, over the years, our ministry has been contacted by various ministers (holding high credentials) who told us we at Lighthouse Trails are not qualified to discern. I was always surprised when this happened because I did not know that discernment had a qualification. In fact, I have known uneducated people who evidence more discernment than some of these professors and leaders. Be that as it may, we humbly remit that we do not have the credentials they are looking for. And, hence, we are out, looking for a carpenter.
Finding a Master Carpenter
In seeking this particular carpenter, we’ve moved back now to more than 2000 years ago to a stable in a small city because we are told that the redeemer of all people of all nations was born in Bethlehem.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
Little is said in the New Testament of the years preceding Jesus’ public ministry, but we know He was the son of Joseph, a carpenter, and hence became a carpenter Himself. And while we know little of the early years, His life and teachings reflect His skill as a master carpenter.
The word carpenter is only used twice in the entire New Testament, yet in both cases, it is in reference to Jesus:
Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. (Matthew 13:55-57; emphasis added)
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching. (Mark 6:3-6; emphasis added)
From these two passages, we can extract bits of information. From the first, we see that Jesus was known as “the carpenter’s son” while the second passage identifies Him as “the carpenter.” After Jesus began His public ministry, the religious leaders were seething with jealousy because they lacked the depth of wisdom, understanding, and spiritual power that Jesus had without their formal education. Instead of drawing near to glean and learn from Him, they separated themselves from Him. Can you imagine the opportunities they missed by withdrawing from our very Savior? His siblings, too, apparently did not recognize Him as suggested by Jesus’ statement that a prophet is not recognized even in his own house (Mark 6:4). Some speculate that James, who became the highest authority in deciding matters of doctrine in the early church (see Acts 15:13-21), was so humbled and ashamed for not recognizing Jesus while He lived, that he ascribed to himself no special recognition or honors when he wrote his epistle other than beginning with the words, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).
It is also unfortunate that this period of Jesus’ history has often been obscured or even twisted to accommodate various points of view. For example, Catholic theologians insist that Jesus had no brothers or sisters; otherwise, this would impede on their view that Mary, as the “mother of God,” had to be both sinless and a perpetual virgin. Ellen G. White (founder of the Seventh Day Adventists), on the other hand, insisted that Jesus had older brothers; but this idea negates the possibility of Jesus being born to a virgin, which view is totally faulty as well. It is important, then, that we be like the citizens of Berea who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Thus far, we have established that Jesus was born to a carpenter and became a carpenter Himself—most likely with carpentry being a family business. We should, therefore, take a moment to examine what it meant to be a carpenter in Jesus’ day. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word for carpenter, found only twice in the New Testament, is tekton (meaning “a craftsman in wood”—see Greek entry #5045). It’s interesting that this word is only used in the New Testament to describe Jesus. He was a skilled craftsman who probably started young and had many years of experience. He perhaps had a shop from which He and His father and younger brothers worked. So, while we can expect that this family business was likely involved in building construction and home repairs, much of the work was probably done right at the shop to do any variety of wood projects.
The Carpenter Shows the Way
One such project Jesus and His father, Joseph, must have been familiar with is the construction of wooden yokes for beasts of burden. Consider, for example, the following plea spoken by Jesus during His public ministry:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
As a carpenter, Jesus would have known how to fashion a yoke that fit a working animal well. But He also knew what yoke the Jewish people were under in that day. In addition to their burden of being under Roman occupation, their own religious leaders had taken the Mosaic Law and added so many stipulations that the Jewish people were scarcely able to budge from their requirements for living a “good” life. Jesus addressed these leaders in open rebuke by saying:
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)
After describing the yoke the leaders had placed on their followers, Jesus said:
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:4)
Jesus also knew that no one could gain eternal life by means of observing the Laws of Moses because the law has never been kept perfectly by anyone (except Jesus), and therefore everyone needs a redeemer. The Old Covenant thus exposes our sin and shows us only that we are in a lost condition. The New Covenant that Jesus sealed with His own blood gives us eternal life.
So when the Jewish people asked Jesus what work they must perform to gain eternal life, He merely said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
Jesus made the way to eternal life accessible to all. His only requirement is that we believe the Gospel. This is the yoke to which He was referring when He said, “my yoke is easy.” It is also the plan of salvation Isaiah spoke of when he wrote:
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. (Isaiah 35:8)
There is only one way of holiness, and that is to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. When we put our faith in Christ alone for salvation, we apply the blood that was shed for all sinners—the blood that “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). When we place our faith in Christ, God also gives us a new birth whereby we become partakers of a new nature with a heart for good works.
The Carpenter and the Church
Now, we have established that Jesus is the carpenter for whom we are looking to examine the Christian church of today. After two thousand years, it is in need of repairs. But first, we must learn of Him what constitutes a strongly built church. So let us turn to Him now and hear what He has to say about building construction:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)
It is important, then, that the church be built upon solid rock in order to withstand the tests of time. The Greek word for “rock” used here is petra meaning “a mass of rock.” To understand what Jesus is really talking about, let’s look at His discourse with a man named Simon (later called Peter). When Jesus first met Simon, He gave him a surname:
And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. (John 1:42)
The name Cephas is found six times in the Bible, and each time it refers specifically to Peter. In a later discussion, Jesus asked His disciples “whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) to which Simon Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). In response to this, Jesus revealed the importance of what Simon Peter had said while giving him yet another new name:
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (v. 18)
It is here that Jesus reveals the secret to a healthy church. Notice that the word petra is used again as in the parable Jesus used earlier to describe the importance of building on solid rock. So when Jesus now says “upon this rock I will build my church,” He is not referring to Peter, a stone, but to the foundational truth Peter had just disclosed, namely that Jesus is truly “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” True Christianity always was and always will be rooted in the Gospel. Scripture says, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). This is as much of a statement as it is a question because it urges us to keep the foundation of our faith intact. Great harm has been inflicted on the church as New Age practices and beliefs and emergent-church ideologies have infiltrated the church with their toxic teachings that Jesus never really atoned for sin but was just a role model for “Christ” consciousness. As for Peter being our first pope with infallible qualities (which the Catholic Church teaches), Jesus made it clear this was not the case when only a few verses later He said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (v. 23).
However, Jesus did leave Peter with a key—i.e., the Gospel and a place in the church as one of the building stones firmly planted on the significance of the Cross as the only way to Heaven. It should be noted that the term petra is never ascribed to Peter in the New Testament but is always used in reference to Jesus. Jesus is also referred to as the chief cornerstone and the “head of the corner” to show that only He has the critical and most significant place in the church.
In Acts 4, Peter spoke of the special place Jesus has as the foundation of the church:
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:11-12)
Then, in 1 Peter 2, Peter alluded to the proper construction of the church. He refers to Jesus as the “chief corner stone” (v. 6) and “the head of the corner” (v. 7), but he also includes himself and all believers as “lively stones [lithos]” (v. 5). It is important to recognize what Peter is and is not saying in this chapter because he goes on to refer to all believers as “a royal priesthood” (v. 9). Peter never intended that he should be called “pope.” Neither did he see a unique priesthood performing transubstantiation (i.e., the Catholic belief that priests can change the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ) on an altar. Rather, he recognized the priesthood of all believers in that Jesus had already performed a one-time sacrifice that was perfect and complete (see Hebrews 9:24-28). Peter witnessed Christians throughout the community breaking bread daily as a remembrance of Jesus’ death on the Cross for all sin. Nor did any of the apostles frown on this practice as something that only “priests” can and must do because in John 6, Jesus had already reprimanded them for even considering that partaking of the “bread of life” should be viewed as a literal eating of His flesh and blood (see vv. 61-63). Rather, Peter saw a vibrant church of “living stones” rejoicing in the salvation that Jesus brought to those who would believe on Him—a salvation that was and is perfect, complete, and for certain to “whosoever believeth.” There is no fading with this covenant. Moses covered his face with a veil whereby the children of Israel could not see “the end of that which is abolished” (2 Corinthians 3:13), but the apostles had no need to cover their faces but rather proclaimed the unending glory of the New Covenant sealed in the blood of the perfect Lamb.
The Carpenter and the Purifying of the Church
God is not through with His church. Remember, Jesus promised Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. Yet, to many of us, it appears that the church at large has entered an accelerated state of apostasy that is unsurmountable as more and more of it is succumbing to broad-sweeping interfaith ecumenism, New Age and esoteric experiences, and anti-biblical “social justice” beliefs. Even still, God’s Word will not fail.
I believe we could be entering a special time when God is about to purify the church. While there is much talk and conjecture among many of today’s most popular Christian leaders that a great revival and “awakening” is nearly upon us, the evidence of a mass true revival is not there. What is evident is a massive amount of apostasy. Yet, at the same time, from what we can see as we hear from believers all over the world, it seems God is separating and purifying genuine believers while calling those who are riding the fence of apostasy to come to the side of uncompromising faith in Jesus Christ—back to the Gospel, back to the foundation of our faith.
Back in the 1970s, when I was a new believer, I remember hearing an evangelist quoting from this verse in Ephesians:
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27).
He then looked up at his audience and said, “It looks like God has a lot of washing and ironing to do!” He said this during the “Jesus people” movement. Today, things have gotten so much worse. But, at the same time, I see a body of believers from all over the world holding to their convictions to stand on the side of truth and God’s Word. What I see, however, is the unseen. It is a hidden body of believers who love the Lord with all their hearts and seek to serve Him, not with their own strength, but with His, of which He has promised to give those who follow Him.
A Carpenter Who Prepares Us for the Future
At the time I began working on this article, I had not yet heard of the coronavirus. At present, that is about the only thing one does hear on the news. For many, it has been a roller-coaster ride trying to decipher the seriousness and magnitude of this pandemic. Coming from two extremes, some have tried to minimize what is happening by suggesting this a hoax while others seem to think this is the end of the world. Jesus spoke of a time when “the end is not by and by” (Luke 21:9) that will be marked by wars and commotions along with “great earthquakes . . . in divers places, and famines, and pestilences . . .” (v. 11). Jesus said when you witness these things, “be not terrified” (v. 9). While the coronavirus definitely seems like one of the pestilences Jesus said would come, I also believe it is another wake-up call that God is using to get us ready to face the future. But how do we go about preparing for the future?
Many practical measures are being taken right now in dealing with the coronavirus, and I fully agree that practical measures need to be taken. Yet, as believers in Christ, we do not want to miss the spiritual significance of what is happening.
Already, we can see that this current pandemic has ramped up talk by New Age and political globalist thinkers who say the world needs a new-world order. They even see COVID-19 as a positive means to a desirable end—i.e., the merging and unity of all beliefs, all people, and all nations. We saw this happen to some degree with the aftermath of 9-11 where we witnessed a push for ecumenism (in the religious realm) and global unity. But very little actually happened in seeing a genuine effort at repentance and turning to God.
So during this virus crisis, let us do the practical things that need to be done, but let us more so, as those who understand the times in which we live from a biblical perspective, prepare for a change in the spiritual climate of our nation and the world where genuine Christians will be more ostracized and one-world thinkers will be glorified. But the truth is, the world will continue to witness more of the things Jesus described in Luke 21 as a result of the world not turning to God in sincere and humble repentance.
In seeking God for a word of encouragement for our readers, I found a very sure word of hope in the Scriptures that relates to both COVID-19 and the present state of the church. In his second epistle, Peter writes:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4)
Peter also says, in verse 19, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy.” We can, therefore, find the encouragement we need in the Scriptures as we lay hold of God’s promises and assurances for the future.
Thus, let us remind ourselves of Jesus’ promise to Peter (and to us) that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18) and that He is preparing for Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27). Consider also the words of David to his son Solomon concerning the construction of Solomon’s temple:
And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
These same words can be applicable to us today. Solomon’s temple has come and gone, but God is not yet finished with building the invisible body of believers called “the church.” In light of Jesus’ promise to Peter, this verse takes on special significance in that it can assure us that God will accomplish all that He has set out for each of us to do as part of God’s spiritual body.
Furthermore, it is such promises as these that can help us on the more personal level. All of us struggle, at one time or another, with the prospect of death, and the coronavirus has caught everyone’s attention on a global scale. But these fears can grab us at different levels. There is, of course, the prospect of facing our own death, and our concerns here can be multiplied if we have family or loved ones who need our help. Questions arise like, what will happen to them if I am gone? Then, too, there is the prospect of losing a loved one. Ordinarily, we do not like to think of such things because they are too painful—until something like this pandemic happens. But, here too, we can look to the Scriptures for support, allowing the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to speak to us through His Word.
The prophet Isaiah suffered much and witnessed a lot of calamity in his lifetime, but he also drew strength and comfort in knowing that God would not fail to accomplish His purposes though the world be torn apart. God is, and has always been, faithful as the book of Isaiah expresses so beautifully:
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:9-11)
So too, one of the greatest comforts we, as believers, can have is knowing and believing that God will fulfill all He has set out to do in our individual lives and in that glorious church He is building, and He has promised to never leave or forsake us. That master Carpenter will complete what He has set out to do.
To order copies of A Master Carpenter Builds His Church, click here.
(cover photo is from alamy.com; used with permission; design by Lighthouse Trails)