As technologically complex as the workplace has become, basic tools remain that can be used to effectively and accurately perform jobs. For instance, a bricklayer has the tool of a plumb line—“a cord from which a metal weight is suspended pointing directly to the earth’s center of gravity; used to determine the vertical from a given point” (http://wordnet.princeton.edu). When building a wall, a bricklayer must ensure that the wall does not lean in or out but that it is true, or plumb. The bricklayer will hang a plumb line so that as each new course of bricks is added, the distance from the plumb line to the outside of the bricks remains constant. This ensures that the wall is true and sturdy rather than off-course and susceptible to toppling. If not detected and corrected early, a small discrepancy in the wall becomes magnified as the construction progresses.
In His Word, God used a plumb line as an object lesson to convey an important spiritual lesson concerning His people Israel. In a vision God gave to His prophet Amos (Amos 7:7–9), a plumb line symbolized the standard by which God would assess the spiritual construction in the life of Israel. Most likely the standard referred to the Law through which God revealed His guidelines for the conduct of His people. When the line was stretched, the spiritual condition of the people was found not to be plumb, or true, to the standard. God could not tolerate a wall that was crooked; He would choose to knock down the wall and then rebuild it. The nation would endure only if it stayed in line with God’s standard.
When Christ announced in the New Testament the construction of His church (Matthew 16:18), a plumb line was a necessary tool as the construction took shape. From generation to generation through the Church Age, each new builder of the church has placed another course of bricks, which actually are believers—“living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). In this process, the builders must give attention to ensure that the church remains plumb, or true.
In Acts 2 the construction of the church was initiated and the plumb line was hung: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (v. 42). The church builders were doggedly determined to stay true to the plumb line. The building of the church in Ephesus was described as, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). Proper construction of the church could take place only if the church remained plumb to the standard.
To those who were endeavoring to build the Corinthian church by their teaching, Paul warned about the danger of getting off-course: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it” (1 Corinthians 3:10). A little discrepancy here and there would gradually result in an unstable church that would eventually collapse.
The challenge we face is to remain plumb to the standard of God’s Word in our lives and ministries. Whether as an individual believer, a local church, or an association of churches, we must constantly assess our spiritual construction by God’s revealed standard. We must practice the discipline of the believers in the Berean church who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the formation of the GARBC. It is an ideal occasion for us to assess our spiritual construction. Strong Biblical preaching has characterized our Fellowship. Great preachers have consistently turned us to the Word of God to check if we are plumb. During this year we plan to publish in The Baptist Bulletin a series of articles from the past to remind us of our commitment to remain plumb. I trust you will read these articles with a desire to keep building churches that are true to God’s Word.