19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19–22)
In the book of Ephesians, a major theme is about the Church—the body of believers who are in Christ. In Ephesians chapter one, we can see how God planned the Church before the foundation of the world. There’s also the great reminder of how God made Christ the head of the Church:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:22)
In the second chapter of Ephesians, we have seen that entrance to the church is by grace through faith in Christ. We also saw how hated enemies, the Jews and the Gentiles, were brought together in peace in Christ in the Church. The Church isn’t a Jewish church or a Gentile church, it’s a Christian Church.
In this passage, we learn more about the Church. Paul uses three images to describe the Church:
The Church Is A Community
The Church Is A Family
The Church Is A Temple
I. THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
A. A Community Doesn’t Have Foreigners
What is a community? Although we often think of a community as people who are living in the same place, like a neighborhood, a community can also be a group of people who share the same values, interests, and goals.
Now a natural part of a community is that there are some people who are in the community and some people who are not: they are “strangers and foreigners.”
“strangers” (ξένος, ξένοι, Adjective masculine plural nominative stranger; strange). “foreigners” (πάροικος, πάροικοι, Adjective masculine plural nominative stranger)
Here these two words refer to the Gentiles. They essentially have the same meaning, and while there might be some distinctions, it’s probably best just to say that Paul doubles up two similar words to emphasize the how distant the Gentiles were from God.
A foreigner may not speak the language of a community; they might not understand the history or know the unwritten rules and expectations. The community is as foreign to them as they are to the community.
In the New Testament, unbelievers are referred to as “them that are without,” or those on the outside.
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. (Colossians 4:5)
Most unbelievers will find the Church, a worship service for example, strange and foreign. Most of them only see what is on the surface, the rituals or the hypocrisy, and miss the personal relationship that Christians have with the Lord Jesus.
Some churches today are trying to make the unbeliever feel more comfortable in the church (Now, granted, we certainly don’t want to chase anyone away. Being friendly to visitors is a must for a church to grow), sometimes to the degree that the church doesn’t seem like a church, but more like a secular event.
But at the same time there has to be a recognition that the Church is a special community of believers in Jesus Christ and those who don’t believe will be on the outside until they receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.
A community doesn’t have foreigners, but…
B. A Community Does Have Fellow-Citizens
“but fellowcitizens with the saints”
“fellowcitizens” (συμπολίτης, συμπολῖται, Noun masculine plural nominative fellow citizen) A compatriot.
What this is saying is that they were once belonging to another group—the world—and now they belong to the group of the saints.
It’s like someone from a foreign country immigrating to the United States and becoming a citizen. They once belonged to China or France or wherever, now they are fellow citizens with the rest of us.
Why does it say “fellowcitizens with the saints”?
My family moved to Big Timber in 1983. I was just going into seventh grade. For the first time I was going to a school that had three times as many students in one classroom as there were in the entire country school that I went to up at Prairie Elk.
It was scary at first, but the thirty or so kids in my new classroom were all seventh graders going through many of the same growing pains as adolescents. So soon I had friends with the same pimples and zits and awkward arms and legs. They were fellow classmates of a seventh grade community.
The Church is a community of fellow citizens who are saints. A saint is a “holy one set apart for God,” and, unlike what many people think, a saint isn’t a special Christian who has done many good things.
When you become a Christian you become a saint. That doesn’t mean you instantly become a super-holy person, but in God’s eyes you are a saint because you believe in Jesus, his Son, who was the only perfectly holy person ever to walk on earth.
The point here is that when we are saved by being born again, we are made into something different, a saint. And, as they say, birds of a feather flock together, so the saints will congregate together (that’s why we use the word “congregation” in our church vocabulary).
We have our flaws—our zits and pimples—but we are all in this together. We are all saints who are called out of the world and set apart for God, and as we pass through this world, we must stick together. We’re part of the Church, and the Church is a Community.
II. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
A. Christians Are In God’s Family
Note this final phrase here, “and of the household of God;” The word for ‘household” (οἰκεῖοι, οἰκεῖος, Adjective masculine plural nominative: kin, family member; friendly) refers to a group of persons who are formed into a close-knit group by kinship or circumstances (BDAG).
The New Testament says that Christians are consider one another as family. For example, Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to…
1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1–2)
The implications of being part of God’s family are laid out for us later in Ephesians where Paul describes how we ought to treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Here let’s consider how one becomes a part of God’s family.
B. Becoming Part Of God’s Family
How do we become members of God’s household? God’s family? Same as you become the member of an earthly family—you get adopted or you are born into it. In this case, it’s both!
(1) Born Again
To be saved and become part of God’s family, you must be born again. Jesus explained this to Nicodemus in John chapter three:
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:3–7)
Nicodemus had a hard time understanding, but what Jesus was saying is that a man must be born twice to be saved. He must, of course, be born physically, but he also must be born spiritually.
Why does he have to be born again? Because, according to Ephesians 2:1, everyone who isn’t born again is “dead in trespasses and sins” and must be made alive.
You can’t make yourself alive, you can’t make yourself born again—God does that when you come in faith to Jesus Christ. All you do is “look and live.” Looking is no great work on your part, it’s just simple faith, and God does the hard work of making you alive and making you born again.
Now, when you are born physically, you are born into a family. It may be a great family; it may not. At the very least, you can say that you are born into the human family.
When you are born again—born spiritually—you are also born into a family. You become a son or daughter of God the Father.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
Ye must be born again to become part of the family of God. When you are born again, you are adopted by God.
Adoption is legally making someone your own son or daughter. They will have the same legal rights as your natural-born children. Everyone who is born again is also adopted by the Father.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:15–17)
Can you imagine being adopted by one of the world’s billionaires? Suddenly all your debts could be paid. Your future would be secure. You could have unlimited resources to do whatever your new father approved and desired you to do. All because you would be part of his family.
That’s what being adopted by God is like. Your sin debt is paid. Your future is secure. You have a mansion waiting for you. And, as long as you are walking in the will of God, you will have all the resources to do whatever you set out to do. All because you are part of the household, the family of God.
The Church is a community, the Church is a family, and…
III. THE CHURCH IS A TEMPLE
As Christians, and members of the church of Christ, we are…
Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
A. The Temple Foundation
A foundation has two parts to it. A corner stone, that is the first stone put in place, and all the rest of the stones that make up the foundation.
The cornerstone in a building formed the base of a corner. The builder would erect the walls according to the cornerstone. He based the squareness of the foundation off from the cornerstone, so it had to be solid and set square and true.
Jesus is the “chief corner stone” and is the most important part of the foundation of the temple that is the church. In fact, in other passages, Christ is referred to as the whole foundation.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11)
The apostles and prophets also make up the foundation, but only in the sense that they teach about one person: Jesus Christ. So Jesus is not only the cornerstone, he is the whole foundation.
Jesus told Peter in Matthew,
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [meaning himself, not Peter] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
Notice that the reason that the “gates of hell” shall not prevail against the church is because it is build upon Christ the rock—he is the chief cornerstone.
On top of this solid temple cornerstone and foundation, there is…
B. The Temple Building
(1) Living Stones Fitly Framed Together
Ephesians 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
The temple building is made up of every Christian. Peter calls Christians the “lively (or living) stones.”
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
The individual living stones are “fitly framed together” (συναρμολογουμένη, συναρμολογέω, (σύν, ἁρμόζω, λέγω), Verb present middle participle feminine singular nominative, to be joined together). “to join together so as to form a coherent entity” (BDAG).
Here are a few observations I made about this temple built of living stones:
1. This is a present tense, so it’s an ongoing action: the living stones of Christians are being “fitly framed together.” Jesus isn’t done building the Church yet, and he won’t be until he raptures it out of this world.
For you who are unsaved, you still have an opportunity to come to Christ, to be born again and adopted by the Father, to join the community and family of Christ and to be a living stone in the mighty edifice called the Church.
2. The phrase “fitly framed together” refers to multiple pieces coming together to form a whole. The Church is more than just this one local congregation, or all the congregations of the United States. People from Africa, Europe, Asia and all over the world are being fitted together. Can you just imagine some of the characters that we are going to meet in Heaven?
3. The idea that there are many different “living stones” in this temple reminds us that God uses all kinds of people. Just as no stone in a building is exactly the same (at least an ancient one that Paul or Peter would have seen), all of us have gifts and talents that are unique.
4. The stones are “fitly framed together,” Every stone is linked to every other stone. We may not be able to see every stone that is in the temple of the Church, but we are all part of one giant interlocking edifice.
5. It is a building that is “in the Lord.” Every Christian is built on the rock, the rock of Jesus Christ. If a stone is not somehow connected to the foundation, it is not part of the building. Anyone who does not have Christ as their rock-solid Savior is not part of the Church, even if they have gone to a local congregation since they were a baby. You must be in Christ.
Finally, this text shows us that the temple building of the Church is…
(2) A Habitation of the Spirit
Ephesians 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
The Church is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit in this age. He dwells in each individual believer and no Christian is without the Holy Spirit.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)
Since every believer has the Holy Spirit, you can say that the entire Church is a “habitation of God through the Spirit.”
For the Church to grow into a “holy temple” (verse 21) in practice (we are holy in God’s eyes because of Jesus), each individual Christian, each living stone, must conduct themselves in a holy manner.
Earlier we said that every Christian is a saint, not special Christians who have attained a certain level of holiness. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t to be concerned about living holy lives.
Harry Ironside explained it something like this: “We do not become saints by holy living, but as saints we are called to holy living.”
Part of the motivation that God gives us to live holy lives is that he reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit.
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
Christian, are you living a life that honors the holy temple that you are as a Christian individual, and a life that honors the holy temple of the Church that you belong to as a Christian?
As a Christian, you belong to a community of saints. You are a son or daughter in the family of God. And you are a living stone in the holy temple of the Church.
How then ought you to live?