16th September 2017

The Flat Pack Church

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
Ephesians 2:19-20 (NIVUK)

The Emperor Justinian (c. 482-565) based at Constantinople, became a prolific builder of churches in an effort to strengthen and regulate Christianity across his empire. Under his rule large stone-carrying ships, laden with prefabricated marble church interiors were sent out from quarries around the Sea of Marmara to sites in Italy and North Africa. These ships were heavy and slow and in stormy weather some became unbalanced and sank.

One such sunken vessel was discovered in the 1960s off the south-east coast of Sicily and up to 600 components of a basilica made from prefabricated marble were brought to the surface, including 28 columns, slabs and pieces of a pulpit, but much still remained on the seabed.

Items of this Byzantine church were reassembled and displayed for the first time at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford last year. Because of its prefabricated nature and the ease and quickness of construction (hopefully easier than modern day flat pack products), the building was designated the flat pack church.

But God has his own plans for the widespread building of his church which is not a quick fix solution. The New Testament church is a spiritual house of which God has been preparing the foundations for over millennia—composed of the prophets as well as the apostles, but the chief cornerstone is Jesus Christ. The cornerstone is the most important stone in the building; it is first stone to be laid and is essential since all other stones will be set from it and in alignment with it. The cornerstone determines the position of the entire structure and has to be level and true otherwise the walls of the building will lean and fall.

The cornerstone and foundations, the words and deeds of the prophets and apostles as they are aligned to Jesus, have been laid, but the church is also a work in progress and is still being built. Christians are described as living stones—they have been rough-hewn out of the quarry of this world. But the apostle Peter makes a poignant point in 1 Peter 2:4-5, “As you come to him the living Stone…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” As we come to him (the Greek has the intimation of continuously coming to him), God is able to dress each rough-hewn stone and orientate it to be in alignment and harmony with the cornerstone.

This cornerstone is also described as the living Stone since it is the resurrected Christ that has life and gives life to every Christian, the whole building.

Father, we thank you for your church. Help us to rest on and be built up in Christ and be in harmony with him and each other.

Study by Eddie Marsh


About the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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