In Ephesians 2:11-22, the apostle Paul says this:
“Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in [by] the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition [division], having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances [civil laws]; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners [foreigners], but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom [the whole] building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded [being built] together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
In this passage, Paul is explaining in detail “what is the hope of His [God’s] calling” as it relates to the Gentile Ephesians’ relationship to Jewish believers. Up until the words, “so then”, he explains to the Ephesians the contrast between their alienation from God as Gentiles with their new access to God along with Jewish Christians. In the last sentence, which I want to focus on in this study, he says this:
“So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners [aliens], but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom [the whole] building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded [being built] together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
So, why does Paul begin this sentence with “so then”? Because he’s now going to sum up what he has just said in the rest of this passage. What has he said? That the Ephesians were once far off from God and His people, but they have been brought near by the blood and preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, and now have access to God the Father just as much as Jewish Christians, since they are both part of the one people of God.
So, what’s Paul’s first conclusion?
“. . . ye are no more strangers . . .”
What does it mean that they were strangers? That they were estranged, or cut off from Someone and something. Paul tells us earlier who and what they were strangers of:
“. . . ye were at that time separate from Christ . . . and strangers from the covenants of the promise . . .”
So to whom were they strangers? To Christ, or the Anointed Prophet, High Priest, and King of God’s people. And to what were they strangers? The Old Testament covenants of the promise of Christ — the covenants made to Abraham, to Israel through Moses, and to David, which were all fulfilled in Christ. The Ephesians once had nothing to do with Christ or the Old Testament covenants about Him, but now they aren’t strangers to them.
Paul’s second conclusion is that the Ephesians are “no more . . . foreigners”.
What does this mean? That they were once foreign to the people of God. This is how Paul puts it:
“. . . ye were at that time . . . alienated from the commonwealth of Israel . . .”
What does this mean? Well, the commonwealth, or citizenship, of Israel, was once the people of God, and so the Ephesians were not a part of the people of God — they were people of the world and Satan. However, Paul says that they are no longer foreigners to God’s people.
So, if the Ephesians are no longer strangers and foreigners, what are they? First, they are “fellow-citizens with the saints”. What does this mean? Well, Paul doesn’t mean that now the Ephesians are citizens of the literal nation of Israel, since they obviously weren’t — they were Roman citizens. So in what sense are they “citizens”? Well, Paul says that the citizenship of all Christians is in heaven in Philippians 3:20. That is the sense in which they are citizens — they are citizens of the new nation of God’s people — the church.
And who are “the saints” to whom God refers? He has to be referring to Jewish saints, or literally “set apart ones”, since he is saying what is now true of the Ephesians’ relationship to the Old Testament people of God — the Jews. Now, the Ephesians are citizens along with Jewish saints of the heavenly city-state.
Second, Paul says that the Ephesians are “of the household of God”. What does this mean? It means that they are now members of God’s family, and are His adopted children, and so they possess all the privileges and responsibilities of membership in His household — including His eternal inheritance of the new earth.
However, Paul includes the idea of a physical home of God, since he says that the Ephesians are “of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”. What does it mean that they are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets? Well, first, what is the foundation to which Paul refers? Although he says in 1 Corinthians that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Corinthian church, in this passage, he has to be saying that the apostles and prophets are the foundation, since he distinguishes the foundation from Christ Jesus Himself, whom he says is “the chief corner stone”. In this metaphor, Christ can’t be both the corner stone and the foundation — otherwise, Paul would explicitly say so. No, Paul is saying that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Ephesian church, and the whole church.
But who are the apostles and prophets? Well, the word “apostle” is translated from a Greek word which literally means “sent one”, and implies that he is sent with the authority of the one who sent him. Thus, these apostles were sent into the world by the Lord Jesus Christ with His authority to help to found the church. But who are “the prophets”? Well, Paul can’t mean the prophets of the Old Testament, since they were all dead by the time the church was established, John the Baptist being the last one. So, Paul must mean New Testament prophets, of whom there are clearly some mentioned in the book of Acts. What were these prophets? They were men who received direct revelation from God, and proclaimed it to His people, helping to found the church.
So, how did the apostles and prophets found the church? By preaching the Word of God, delivering new revelation to churches, and bringing churches to spiritual maturity, so they could send out missionaries and make mature disciples by themselves. Once the church was founded, the offices of apostle and prophet ceased to exist.
Not only does Paul say that the Ephesians were built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, but he also says that “Christ Jesus himself [is] the chief corner stone”. What does this mean? This is an allusion to buildings of that day, which had a “chief corner stone”. This was a huge stone that had to be perfectly cut with precise measurements in order to structure the rest of the building around it, and to stabilize it, since it was the most important part of the foundation. So, although the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, Christ Jesus is still the most important part of the foundation of the church, and determines the stability of the church.
But not only is Christ Jesus is the chief corner stone of the church, but He is also the Builder of the church:
“. . . in whom [Christ Jesus] [the whole] building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord . . .”
What does it mean that the building is growing “in Christ Jesus”? That it’s growing “through” Him. He is the Builder of the church.
But how is the church built? Paul describes the manner of its building as “fitly framed together”. This means that each part of the building perfectly fits together with every other part. His point is that the church is being built by Christ in such a way that every member of it is designed perfectly to fit every other member, so that their interactions are designed by Christ to serve for the building of the church. Every member of the church has his or her place, and they have been given that place in the church by Christ for the building up of the church.
But what is the nature of this building, and what is it’s function? Paul tells us:
“. . . [the whole] building . . . groweth into a holy temple in the Lord . . .”
First, what does it mean that it’s a “holy temple”? Well, by “holy”, Paul means set apart as God’s special possession for His special use, and by “temple” he means the dwelling place of God. But what does he mean that this building is growing into a holy temple “in the Lord”? Well, since he has just said that the church is being built “in” or “by” Christ, he would be repeating himself to say that here. Also, Ephesians 4:15-16 says a similar thing, and explicitly explains what Christ’s relationship to the building of the church is:
“. . . but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.”
Notice the similarities between this passage and what we have looked at in this study:
- Christ is the Lord and the head
- the use of the words “fitly framed”
- the body builds itself up, and the building is being built up
Thus, it looks like what Paul means by saying that the church is growing into a holy temple “in the Lord” is that this growth comes from Him. And what does it mean that He is “the Lord”? That He is the Supreme Authority of the universe. Therefore, He has the power to cause the growth of the church.
Finally, Paul moves from speaking of the church as a whole, and including all the members of the church on earth, to speaking to the Ephesians directly as a church:
“. . . in whom [the Lord] ye also are builded [being built] together . . .”
Again, here Paul is saying that the Lord is the One building the Ephesians together. But what does this mean? It means that they are becoming more “fitly framed together” as they mutually help each other to become more like Christ, and thus “grow into a holy temple”.
But what is the purpose of them being built together?
“. . . for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
This could also be translated “for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”, so, again, Paul is saying that the church serves as the people through whom God the Father manifests Himself to people. But what does it mean that the Ephesians are being built together in the Lord for a habitation of God “in the Spirit”? There are two possible meanings, and they are both true:
- It could mean that God the Father dwells in the Ephesians through God the Spirit.
- It could mean the Ephesians are being built together through the Spirit for a dwelling place of God.
God the Father does dwell in His people through the Spirit, and Christ does build churches together through His Spirit, but it seems best to see Paul as saying that Christ is building the Ephesians together through the Spirit, since that is the emphasis of this section, rather than God dwelling in them. Also, Paul later says something about God dwelling in the Ephesians, and makes no direct reference to the Spirit in that connection:
“. . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Either way, Paul says that the Ephesians are being built together into a dwelling place of God by the Lord.
So, if you have rested your faith on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead, how does this passage apply to you?
- You are no longer a stranger to Christ and the Old Testament covenants of the promise.
- You are no longer an alien to God’s nation.
- You are a fellow-citizen with the saints.
- You are a member of God’s household.
- You have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
- Christ Jesus is your chief corner stone.
- You are part of the building of the church.
- You are fitly framed together with every other member of the church.
- You are growing with the rest of the church into a holy temple by the Lord.
- You are being built together by the Lord with other believers into a dwelling place of God through the Spirit.
If you haven’t rested your faith on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection, then you are a stranger to Him and to the covenants of promise, an alien to His nation, a citizen of Satan’s kingdom, and a member of the household of Satan. However, you can become a child of God if you rest your faith on the good news that God sent His divine Son to the earth to become a man, Jesus, to send Him to crucifixion and death to forsake and punish Him for our sins against Him, to raise Him from the dead, and to make Him the Lord of the universe. He is commanding you to change your mind and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and resurrection as the only grounds of His forgiveness because He has determined to send Jesus to judge the world for its sins. If you don’t repent and trust in Him, you will be judged for your sins against your Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, and cast into hell, where you will be punished forever. I’m begging you to change your mind and trust in Him, so you can be forgiven completely by Him, and reconciled to Him.