Exodus 25:40 — “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.”
When the Lord gave Moses instructions for building the tabernacle and the related components, the instructions were quite explicit. As we read through the books of Moses, we find in Genesis interesting and intriguing stories. The beginning of Exodus is the exciting story of God’s redemption of the children of Israel from out of the bondage of Egypt. Then we get to the later chapters, and begin to get into the details about the tabernacle, the altar, the ark, and so on. We can begin to ask ourselves, “why is this here?”, and “why do I need to know this?”
When we get to a place like this, and we see all of these details and wonder why they are there, preserved for us, and how this information can be of use to us, we can count on finding the answer in God’s word. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, who was the prisoner of Jesus Christ for us Gentiles, (Ephesians 3:1, Romans 11:13), has this to say about that which was written in time past:
Romans 15:4 — “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
This is one of those “whatsoever things”, that God put into writing for us to learn.
Moses was given a job to do. He was to see to it that the building of the tabernacle was done according to plan. This writer has a working knowledge of kind of project. While having never undertaken a building project, I have for over twenty years worked in the manufacturing industry, and if I could say there is one thing that is a requirement in that industry, it is to manufacture according to the plans and the specifications that are given. If I manufactured a workpiece that was not within the definition of the manufacturing drawing and related documents, that piece would go to quality control and would come out with a “non-conforming material” report, and a red tag with the words “REJECTED”.
Moses, God’s man of the day, did see to it that the tabernacle and its related components were manufactured as shown to him in the pattern on the mount. Moses is remembered as being faithful in all of God’s house (Numbers 12:7; Hebrews 3:2 – 5). What a wonderful way to be remembered, faithful in all of God’s house!
Moses, being remembered for his faithfulness in God’s house, oversaw and completed the proper building of the tabernacle. Now remember also, that when Moses did not follow instructions, he lost out on entering into the Promised land. So the question we must ask — and answer with the affirmative — is “does God value whether we follow instructions?”
Some may argue, “We are under grace, so don’t be so legalistic!”
The Bible says nothing of the sort. Yes, we are under grace, and no, God is not holding the measuring stick of the law against us; but it would be foolhardy to think that we can do God’s work in our own way and have good results. We do not know more than our Lord does.
In a group of men that I meet with regularly for Bible study, we began to look at the doctrine of the judgment seat of Christ of which the Apostle Paul regularly speaks. We were studying the doctrine specifically in regard to its timing. We were reading from Ron Rhodes’ book The End Times in Chronological Order¹, and Dr. Rhodes, for several reasons, places the timing for the judgment seat of Christ immediately after the Lord catches us away to be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18). In his book, he speaks of the scope of the judgment, and that the judgment would evaluate personal stewardship of the Christian’s gifts, talents, opportunities, responsibilities, and character. The judgment would be deciding whether the Christian would receive or be refused rewards, and has nothing to do with whether he would remain saved.
This is a true statement, for our salvation is a pure gift from God, and it was given to us when we were at our worst (Romans 5:6 – 8; Ephesians 2:8 – 9; Romans 3:24; etc.). We were forgiven all trespasses (Colossians 2:13), and this forgiveness is found because we have redemption through His blood, according to the riches of His grace (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7). We receive this full forgiveness through faith that is in Christ (Acts 26:18), and that will not be revoked. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:8).
It must, however, also be remembered that the Lord is interested in what work we do as saved, and how we carry it out. Dr. Rhodes quoted 1 Corinthians 3:12 – 15 as a description of the judgment seat, and with that I would heartily agree; but the 3 verses preceding these must also be included, for in them we find the Dispensation of Grace counterpart of Exodus 25:40:
1 Corinthians 3:9 – 11 — “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The word that Paul uses to describe himself in this passage is “masterbuilder”, translated from the Greek term ἀρχιτέκτων, which is transliterated architektōn, from which we get our English word “architect”. We understand an architect to be the person in charge of the design of the building, and also, seeing it through to completion. Now, an architect does not just design and build any building he wants, he designs and builds the building that is to appear and to function as the person who hired him so requires. As a wise masterbuilder, he is describing himself as a cunning craftsman, who is doing his job in the exact way that is intended. An almost identical phrase is used in the LXX translation of Isaiah 3:3, which is translated to English as “cunning artificer”. This is intricate, skilled labor.
As we continue in our passage in 1 Corinthians 3, we find out that the Lord will indeed test our work that we did building on the foundation:
1 Corinthians 3:12 – 15 — “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
The Lord is interested in the type and quality of our work. This is when we find out if our work will get the dreaded REJECT tag. Now, as we are discussing this, it is important to keep in mind that our relationship to the Lord is that He is Lord, He is Savour, and because of this, our relationship to God is that He is Father. His relationship to us as Father does not change. The question is whether the work that we claim to have provided him will stand the final “Quality Control” inspection. Will that which we spent our lives doing abide the test, or will it be rejected?
If I, as a manufacturer, provide my customer something that meets his specifications, he is a satisfied customer. If it does not, he will send it back and not pay, until I fix that which is out of spec, or sometimes, I might lose the job and the customer. To our benefit, the “customer” in this case is our Lord in Heaven, so we will not lose Him. We may, however, find out that what we think that we accomplished for the Lord will not account for much.
Are we building on the foundation on which the Lord gave us to build?
Is your “foreman” guiding you to build according to the plans and specifications that the architect drew according to the Lord’s instructions, or does he throw them out and say that he knows better? Your “foreman” is anyone that has a leadership role, whether in or out of a local church. Always read the instructions, if you want to please the Lord!
Are we building according to the blueprint provided for us? If I were to create the workpiece given to another, my customer might say, “Great job making my drive shaft, but I hired Jack to make my drive shafts. I hired you to make axles. I don’t know why you made my drive shafts. It looks like you were reading my drawing, but you were not reading the one that I gave you. Sorry, I’m not going to pay you for that, and, since you spent all your time making drive shafts for me, you never got around to make the axles, so you will be paid nothing.”
That is about what we can expect when we do appear before the judgment seat of Christ if we labor for Him in work that He never intended for us.
2 Timothy 2:15 — “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
This verse also describes the “man of God” as a workman, one who is doing the Lord’s work. If this workman is to study to show himself approved unto God, there is the possibility that he could show himself unapproved of God. To study means to be diligent, conscientious, and mindful of all that is contained in the work instructions. Our work will meet with the approval of God if we build according to the plan provided. Paul, our architect, or master-builder, was sent by the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ to provide the pattern, and to be the pattern for Christian life and service.
1 Timothy 1:12 – 16 — “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, Who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.”
As workmen, our approval is about our work. This is not salvation, and whether or not we will be accepted by God, for we are accepted in the Beloved One, Who is Christ (Ephesians 1:6). Our position as workmen though is another story. We will be ashamed if we do not follow instructions and build on the foundation according to the proper blueprint. If we think to stand before the Lord and present our work to Him, we had better take care to make sure that we are presenting Him with the work that He expects to receive from us. Have we “filled the order” properly? We have the blueprint for Christian life and service contained in Paul’s epistles, and it is crucial that we follow them.
- Rhodes, Ron. “The Church with Christ in Heaven.” The End Times in Chronological Order: A Complete Overview to Understanding Bible Prophecy, Harvest House Publishers, 2012, p. 67–70.