Mark 13:1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
Let us learn from this solemn saying that the true glory of a Church does not consist in its buildings for public worship, but in the faith and godliness of its members. The eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ could find no pleasure in looking at the very temple that contained the holy of holies, and the golden candlestick, and the altar of burnt offering. Much less, may we suppose, can he find pleasure in the most splendid places of worship among professing Christians, if His Word and His Spirit are not honored in it.
We shall all do well to remember this. We are naturally inclined to judge things by the outward appearance, like children who value poppies more than corn. We are too apt to suppose that where there is a stately ecclesiastical building and a magnificent ceremonial–carved stone and painted glass–fine music and gorgeously-dressed ministers, there must be some real religion. And yet there may be no religion at all. It may be all form, and show, and appeal to the senses. There may be nothing to satisfy the conscience–nothing to cure the heart. It may prove on inquiry that Christ is not preached in that stately building, and the Word of God not expounded. The ministers may perhaps be utterly ignorant of the Gospel, and the worshipers may be dead in trespasses and sins. We need not doubt that God sees no beauty in such a building as this. We need not doubt the Parthenon had no glory in God’s sight compared to the dens and caves where the early Christians worshiped, or that the lowest room where Christ is preached at this day, is more honorable in his eyes than St. Peter’s Cathedral at Rome.
Let us however not run into the absurd extreme of supposing that it matters not what kind of building we set apart for God’s service. There is nothing wrong in making a church handsome. There is no true religion in having a dirty, mean, shabby, and disorderly place of worship. “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40.) But let it be a settled principle in our religion, however beautiful we make our churches, to regard pure doctrine and holy practice as their principal ornaments. Without these two things, the noblest ecclesiastical edifice is radically defective. It has no glory if God is not there. With these two things, the humblest brick cottage where the Gospel is preached, is lovely and beautiful. It is consecrated by Christ’s own presence and the Holy Spirit’s own blessing.