Friday, December 05, 2008

Ephesians 2:19-22

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

In v19-22, Paul uses three descriptions of the church in this passage: Calvin says, “The high value of that honor which God had been pleased to bestow upon them, is expressed in a variety of language.” In v19a, he uses the image of citizenship in a kingdom. Then in v19b, he speaks of being a member of the family of God. Finally, in v20-22, Paul describes the people of God, the church, as a temple, or a building, the very dwelling place of God. Whereas Israel was made up of the descendants of Abraham and was a national community, a state, so God’s new people is trans-ethnic: it’s made up of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

First, there is one citizenship in one kingdom. We are God’s people, distinct from those who are not God’s people. We are to live differently, and that comes not by eating differently as Israel did compared to the nations in the Old Testament, but by thinking differently. Christians have a different worldview and different priorities than those of the unbelieving world. Our worldview is informed by the teaching of Scripture. We live by a different moral code than the world around us, and by this the world is to see that God’s rule is manifest in our midst. This is our witness to the kingdom of God in which we live. Our citizenship in God’s kingdom has already begun; it is not merely a future kingdom, but it is not of this world. We need to be in the world but not of the world, to live Coram Deo. The great challenge for us is to live like we are citizens of God’s kingdom and not of the passing kingdoms of this world.

Second, there is one household in one family. We are members of God’s family. We are part of a family that stretches across all racial, national, political, and cultural boundaries, and that is to be expressed in our love for all Christians, especially in our local congregation. Remember what Paul said about peace? We not only have peace with God through Jesus Christ, but we also have peace with one another. Again, this is especially noticeable in the Jew/Gentile relationships of the first century. But Paul would have it be true for us today as well. Do you have peace within your family of believers? If not, be reconciled!

Third, there is made up of all Christians one temple, in which God’s lives by His Spirit. We are the building blocks of God’s house. We are living stones. The greatest promise that God ever gave to His people in the Old Testament or the New Testament was that He would dwell with us, and that we would dwell with Him forever. We would be in fellowship, in sweet communion with Him, forever. The greatest Old Testament symbol of that was the Tabernacle, and then the Temple, God’s dwelling place with men. And now, Paul says that Jesus is building a new Temple, on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus is the cornerstone. We are the body of Christ; we are the temple of the Spirit of the Lord.

Consider that Paul here instructs us on what marks a true church; it must have the apostles and prophets as its foundation (the doctrine of the Word of God, what Jude 3 calls “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”) and Christ as the cornerstone (what and who the doctrine proclaims – the cornerstone determines where all other stones are placed). See 1 Corinthians 3:10-11; 1 Peter 2:4-10. In v21-22, Paul uses the phrases “joined together” and “built together.” See phrases convey a unity of Spirit and not merely some chaotic mass. After all, a building must be constructed in an orderly fashion in order to rise up (v21) to be God’s dwelling; otherwise, we get an uninhabitable pile of rubble.

When the Jews asked Jesus for a sign in John 2:18-20, He replied, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Astonished, they said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?” It was their symbol that God dwelled with them; but more, it had become their pride. Jesus would raise from the dead after three days, as His body was His temple. But, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).

If we ourselves are the temple of God, how grievous a thing it is for us to live like the world, to besmirch with sinfulness the place where God dwells! It is a great privilege to be the living temple of the living God, and with it comes a great responsibility (2 Corinthians 6:16). Remember the sin of Achan and the judgment of God. If you are living two lives, one that professes to be in God’s kingdom, part of God’s family, as God’s temple, and another that goes against the kingdom, the family, and the Temple of God, then today is the day is the day to renounce one of those lives. We are either in God’s kingdom or we are not. You can’t be in both. If you’re a believer, struggling with your weaknesses and your sin, and sometimes you’re drawn after the world – but your heart really isn’t with the world, it’s with the Lord God – then remember what God has made you, and live like it – “by His Spirit” (v22).

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