Sermon #18                                               Zechariah Series


Title:                    How does God

                        build his Church?

Text:           Zechariah 4:6

Subject:      God’s Message to Zerubbabel

Date:          Sunday Morning — November 6, 2005

Tape #        Zechariah #18

Reading:    Psalm 115




Countless books have been written on “Secrets to Church Growth,” and “How to Build a Church.” In fact, were you to ask anyone you meet on the streets tomorrow, how the work of building the church should be done, I am certain you would get a very quick response. Every mother’s son is (in his own humble opinion) an authority on such matters. Every Bible College and Seminary teaches would be preachers how to be successful in building churches. Every denomination has committees to study the subject and make proposals about doing it. But the opinions of men on the subject are all meaningless.


How does God build his church? That question is important, very important. — It is his church. — He builds it (Matt. 16:18). How does God build his church? Where can we find the answer? Is it answered in a clear, definitive way in Holy Scripture? Indeed it is. The answer is found in one, dogmatic statement in the 4th chapter of the Book of Zechariah. Zechariah has just been given another vision to encourage him in the work of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.


There is a clear, unmistakable connection of these visions with one another.

·       The man riding on a red horse among the myrtle trees, tells us that Christ is always with his church, to protect it.

·       The four horns of oppression and four carpenters tell us that though God’s church constantly faces opposition from the world, our God always supplies his church with gospel preachers who, by the preaching of the gospel, cause his church to overcome and triumph over her foes.

·       The man with the measuring line tells us that Christ alone owns his church, measures it and builds it according to his unalterable purpose of grace.


In the vision of chapter 4 the theme is the same. The Angel of the Lord showed Zechariah, a remarkable thing.


(Zechariah 4:2-3)  “And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: (3) And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”


Then, in verse 6, the Angel explained the meaning of that mysterious vision.


(Zechariah 4:6)  “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”


The picture was given as a figurative representation of the building of God’s church. The Lord God commanded the rebuilding of the temple. That it would be rebuilt was a matter of certainty. Zechariah was shown two prominent characters involved in the work, two men by whom the temple was to be built: — Joshua the high priest, — and Zerubbabel the governor and ruler. These two men are set before us in very particular images, pointing to the person and work of Christ, who is both Priest and King in Zion.


He saw Joshua the high priest in chapter 3. Then, the prophet seems to have fallen asleep. We read in verse 1 of chapter 4, — “The angel that talked with me came again, and waked me as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.” Then he showed him this vision.


The Candlestick


In verse 4 Zechariah asks, — “What are these, my lord?” This golden candlestick was a representation of the church of God in every age.

·       It was had seven lamps, representing completion and grace.

·       All of pure gold, representing its purity. There was to be no mixture, no alloy. It was all pure gold. In the church of God there is nothing of the creature, nothing earthly, nothing man made. And you can be sure that when God owns his candlestick — his church — at last day, there will be nothing found but pure gold, pure spirituality, divine life.

·       But this candlestick had some features about it that were not seen in the candlestick that stood in the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple. Zechariah saw a golden bowl, full of oil on the top of the candlestick.

·       In close connection with that golden bowl full of oil there were two olive trees, one on each side, supplying the bowl with oil, which ran by seven pipes to the seven lamps.


This golden bowl was on top of the candlestick. I take that to mean that it is superior to it. And it was seen in the very center of the seven lamps. I think it is reasonable to assume that it represents our Lord Jesus Christ in his mediatorial office and work.


The two olive-trees, obviously to point to Joshua and Zerubbabel. They certainly have reference to God’s servants, his witnesses, the angels of the churches, gospel preachers, by whom the Lord Jesus constantly feeds his church, his candlestick with the oil of his grace, by the preaching of the gospel. They are called “the two anointed ones” in verse 14. But, Joshua (the high priest) and Zerubbabel (the ruler) are both typical of Christ our Great High Priest and our Great King.


The two olive trees constantly supplied the bowl with golden oil (v. 12). That golden oil represents the gifts and graces of God the Holy Spirit. And we have no oil in our churches, no light in our candlesticks, no prosperity in Zion, except by the mediation of Christ, interceding for us as our Priest and ruling all things for us as our King. Christ’s priesthood is represented by one of the olive-trees. His sovereign dominion and kingly office is represented by the other. Both are emptying out themselves into the golden bowl, which is the fulness of Christ our Mediator. And from the golden bowl of his mediatorial fulness we receive grace for grace. That golden oil of grace, constantly flowing to us from Christ, our Mediator, by the power of his intercession and dominion, keeps the lamps burning.


The two olive-trees may also have reference to and typify the two natures of Christ, as the God-man, our Mediator. The words in verse 14, “the two anointed ones,” might be translated (as they are in the marginal reference) “the two sons of oil.” Our Savior could never have communicated the oil of his grace in his divine nature alone, or in his human nature alone. But when God and man are joined together in the perfect God-man, our Mediator, the oil of grace super abounds and is constantly poured into the golden bowl by our mighty King and Priest. Thus, the golden bowl is always full. — “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell!” — And, as long as the golden bowl is full, and the golden pipes unite Christ our Mediator and every member of the candlestick, every member of the church of the living God, the oil must flow, the lamp must burn, and there must be a light shining unto all that are in the house.


The Meaning


What does all that mean? It means that the work is all God’s work and God’s work alone. I cannot, with absolute authority, tell you what the two olive trees represent. But I can tell you what the vision means, because it is plainly stated in verse 6.


(Zechariah 4:4-6)  “So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? (5) Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. (6) Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”


When I read that, I thought, “There must be some distinction between these two words, ‘not by might, nor by power.’” And I was right. The word “might,” refers to the collected might of many, like the might of an army. The second word, “power,” refers to the prowess of an individual. The distinction is not a distinction without a difference. The text might be paraphrased, — “Not by the combined force of men laboring together, nor by power of mere man, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”


(v. 6 — Amplified Bible) “Then he said to me, This [addition of the bowl to the candlestick, causing it to yield a ceaseless supply of oil from the olive trees] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol], says the Lord of hosts.”


(v.6 — Message) “This is GOD’s Message to Zerubbabel: ‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit,’ says GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.”


All this is figurative. The temple was to be built, and the candlestick to be put in it, and the supply of oil promised by God, and this declaration from God is that man is to have nothing to do with it — that man with his depravity and death was not touch it with a finger. — If he did, he would pollute it. — “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”


Negative Answer


When I was in school, I observed that teachers often answered questions negatively and then positively. They would first state what the answer to a question is not. Then they would tell you what the answer is. How does God build his church? First, the Lord here gives us the negative answer. This is how it is not done. — “Not by might, nor by power.” God’s church has never been built, is not being built, and never shall be built by the might of many men, nor by the power of any mere man. Now, let me tell you what that means.


Not by Might


The might of men can never accomplish the salvation of a single sinner, can never build the church, can never preserve the church, and can never cause the church of God to triumph at last. Remember, the word “might” refers to the collected might of many men.


·       That means the cause of Christ can never be advanced by any nation, government, or political body.


You cannot legislate Christianity. You can legislate morality, but not Christianity. You can legislate religion, but not Christianity. — Let no one misunderstand me. I hate, with every fiber of my being, the left-wing, liberal agenda of those who want to remove everything having to do with God from our society. I make no apology for saying that those who seek such are wicked men and their motives are wicked. But every effort to promote Christianity by legislation does more harm than good. The only thing that can be produced by religious legislation is a generation of religious Pharisees.


·       While I’ve got my head in the noose, I’ll go a step further, and say, — God does not build his church by religious organizations.


I am speaking now of denominations, denominational committees, colleges, seminaries, religious societies, and mission boards. I know that I am painting with a broad brush. I know that I may offend many friends who labor tirelessly in such organizations. I do not say that such organizations do no good. They may do much good. But God does not build his church by religious organizations. If God had given a committee the task of building Noah’s ark, they would still be discussing what kind of wood to use!


Nor by Power


God does not build his church by the “might” of many. And he does not build his church by the “power,” or the force of any.


·       God does not use the power of any man’s intellect and learning to save sinners.


·       He does not use the power of any man’s eloquence to save his elect.


You have all heard of the preaching of George Whitfield. Did you ever read any of his sermons? If you have, you will acknowledge that there is nothing in them that appears profound, intellectual, learned, or eloquent. It was Whitefield’s earnestness, earnestness given by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, that made him eloquent and powerful.


God uses individuals, but rarely does he use anyone that we or the world would expect to be useful. — It was one man, but not a great one, Samson, who delivered Israel from the Philistines. — It was one man, but not a brave one, Gideon, who gathered the people together and routed the Midianites, crying, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” — It was one man, but not a significant one, Shamgar, who with his ox goad slew 600 Philistines and delivered Israel. — It was one man with a little dagger, but not a famous one, Ehud, a left-handed Benjamite, who slew Eglon the king of Moab. — It was one man, but not a mighty one, just a little shepherd boy, David, who conquered a mighty Philistine army with a sling and a stone.


Whenever God is pleased to raise up a man do some great thing by him, he invariably selects a man whose faults and errors are so glaring and apparent to everyone, that we are obliged to say, “I am astonished that that man did that. Surely, the work must have been of God. That man simply could not have done it.”


(1 Corinthians 1:20-21)  “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”


(1 Corinthians 1:26-31)  “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”


(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”


Our God is such a great artisan that he uses the worst of tools to produces great masterpieces of grace.


·       And God’s great work of building his church, God’s great salvation is never accomplished by the imaginary power of man’s imaginary free will!


The whole religious world says that any man can be saved, if he will, if he chooses to be saved. What utter nonsense! Find the man, any man in this whole wide world who ever…

·       Created a breath of prayer in his own heart.

·       Shed a tear of repentance because he hated himself. — There many who shed bowls full of tears because they are afraid of going to hell, but that is not repentance. Real repentance flows from hatred of sin and self, flowing from the revelation of the crucified Son of God.

·       Chose to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, chose to bow to the yoke of Christ as his Lord and King.

There never was a spiritual act put forth where no spiritual life existed, and it would be grossly absurd to expect it. Augustus Toplady was right when he said, “We deem it unreasonable to exhort unregenerate men, as such, to perform spiritual acts.”


(Romans 9:16)  “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”


Positive Answer


How does God build his church? “Not by might, nor by power.Salvation is not by the might of many, nor by the power of one. That is the negative answer. Now, here is the positive answer. — “But by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.


The first touch, the first breathing after God, the first movement of a lost sinner toward God, the first emotion of spiritual life known or felt in a poor sinner’s heart, is and must be by the transforming power of God the Holy Spirit. All holy desires, all spiritual thoughts, and all that is involved in faith, in coming to Christ, proceed from the Holy Spirit, not from the will of man. — “It is the Spirit that quickeneth. The Flesh profiteth nothing.” There is not so much as a holy desire in any child of Adam until the Holy Spirit puts it there by his own transforming power.


What a great and wonderful work that is! Dead bones transformed to living sons! — Dead sinners made alive to God. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1-5).


(Ephesians 2:1-5)  “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”


You can kick a dead man as long as you want. He will never cry, “Oh!” You can lay as many burdens on him as you like. He will never complain about being weary and heavy-laden. But kick a living man and lay heavy burdens on him, and you will hear about it very quickly. The sinner dead in trespasses and sins knows nothing of the life and power of godliness.

·       Christ does not live in him.

·       The Holy Spirit has not taken possession of him.

·       The Father of mercies has not shed abroad his love in him.

But the God of all grace takes hold spiritually dead sinners, utterly destitute of anything like spiritual life, and makes them alive through Jesus Christ.


The new birth is not a resuscitation of the old life. — It is not a mere reanimation of that which once existed. — It is not putting the children of Adam in the position which he occupied before the fall. — The new birth is more than that. It is the life of God put into the soul! — It is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” — It is the Holy Spirit moving into and occupying his own temple. — It is God the Father carrying out his promise, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; and if you do not have not divine life implanted in you, if Christ himself is not imparted to you, you have no Christianity. Christianity can never be imparted by the might or power of the creature. — It is “by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”


The whole work of grace is God’s work. I know of no terms of salvation but “I will,” and “they shall.” And when the Lord God says, “I will take possession of your heart,” the sinner says, “no.” — “I will not have this man to rule over me.” But when God comes by his Spirit, you shall. It is written…


(Psalms 65:4)  “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.”


(Psalms 110:3)  “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”


These are God’s terms of saving sinners. You will be lost to all eternity if God does not save you by the sovereign omnipotence of his free grace in Christ. All it will take for you to go to hell is for God to leave you alone. It is the Holy Spirit’s express work is to find out and take possession of every sinner purchased and redeemed by Christ’s precious blood. He will do it. He is doing it today!


(Job 33:4)  “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”


As regeneration, conviction and conversion are the works of God the Holy Spirit, all spiritual light and instruction is his. — “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord” (Isa. 54:13). —It is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” All spiritual knowledge and understanding comes by divine revelation through the preaching of the gospel.

·       Not by the might of learning, nor by the power of intellect.

·       Not by the might of reason, nor by the power of persuasion.

·       But by the Spirit of grace.



Real Christianity is nothing more nor less than the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, descending to take possession of a poor sinner’s heart, and occupy it for himself without asking his leave. The Spirit of God operates upon the poor sinner’s soul as an absolute Sovereign. He waits no preparation, no qualification of the creature, nothing that mortals may profess or attempt to accomplish to render themselves acceptable to God. Indeed, all this is an offence to him. “Bring no more your vain oblations,” is the prohibition written in the Book of God. All those imaginary preparations for grace are abominations to the God of grace.


What, then, will he have?The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” A whole burnt offering that cannot be marred, even in the Lamb of God (Mic. 6:8).


(Micah 6:6-8)  “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? (7) Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (8) He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”


This is that good thing that the Lord requires of man. Remember, God only requires what he gives; and God gives all that he requires. The vast majority of men writing on this verse, or using it from the pulpit, tell us that God requires all men to do that which is just, right, merciful and humble in all things regarding men and God. This, we are told, is the essence of all moral and spiritual uprightness.


I have not so learned Christ! And that is not what Micah is teaching in this text. The requirement that we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly is distinctly said to be “with thy God,” with an eye to him, with the eye of faith fixed upon him.


·       We do justly with our God when we confess that we justly deserve his eternal wrath, by reason of our many sins (Ps. 51:4).


(Psalms 51:4)  “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”


·       We love mercy with our God when we love the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Mercy promised in the Scriptures (Luke 1:72). — All mercy is found in his blood and righteousness.


(Luke 1:68-72)  “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, (69) And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; (70) As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: (71) That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; (72) To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant.”


·       And we walk humbly with our God when we walk before him as sinners, confessing our sins and looking to Christ alone for salvation (1 John 1:9; 1 Cor. 1:30; John 16:8-11).


(1 John 1:9)  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


(1 Corinthians 1:30-31)  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”


(John 16:8-11)  “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”


All this bounteous grace and mercy comes to us by the omnipotent power and irresistible grace of God the Holy Spirit.

·       Not by the power of the sinner’s will.

·       Not by the power of the preacher.

·       But by the power of the Spirit.


(1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)  “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. (5) For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”


It all comes to this. — Faith in Christ is the fruit of the Spirit, the gift and operation of God the Holy Spirit. If you trust Christ, you “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” If you trust Christ, you are born of God, redeemed, justified, called, and sanctified in Christ.


(1 John 5:1)  “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”


(1 John 5:9-13)  “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. (10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”


Faith in Christ is the fruit and evidence of eternal life bestowed upon you and wrought in you, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Do you believe on the Son of God? O blessed Spirit of God, come in omnipotent power upon us and cause dead sinners to live, giving them faith in Christ.


(John 3:36)  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”