“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
In these last four verses of Ephesians 2 we find the blessedness of a new relationship of humanity to God – and to others – emphasized. Whereas these Gentile believers had once been strangers and foreigners (aliens), they now were fellow citizens with the saints and equally shared the blessings of the community or commonwealth of God’s true Israel.
They were also members of the household of God, children of God who could claim all the rights, privileges and blessings God has for His family. How can man, who is accustomed to thinking of himself in terms of his station in life in this world, truly appreciate or understand the meaning of being members of God’s family?
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1John 3:1).
These Ephesian Christians were no longer Jews and Gentiles. They were now children of God. They were no longer alienated. The dividing wall had been broken down. They were no longer masters and slaves, but brothers in Christ.
The figure emphasized in the last three verses to illustrate the fact and blessedness of this God-given unity is that of believers being built together as a temple. They had “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” with “Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,” both a secure foundation and the model and pattern for the whole building. As people come to Him, (I Peter 2:4-5), they are built into “a holy temple in the Lord.” That the Gentiles were as much a part of this temple as others Paul emphasizes in vs. 22; “in whom you (Gentiles) also are being built together.”
The last part of vs. 22 states that the reason for which all these now-acceptable believers were being built together was “for a habitation for God in the Spirit.” This speaks of the glory of this spiritual house. When the tabernacle had been built during the time of the Israelites’ stay in the wilderness, the glory of God came upon it and filled it (Exodus 40:34-35).
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
His glory does not depend on the size of the temple or its material ornamentation, but upon His presence in it and His manifestation through it. The same was true of the temple that Solomon built for God.
“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The temple of which Paul speaks was foreshadowed by earlier temples made by men, but don’t go looking for a big building in Jerusalem or anywhere else. Now, this “sanctuary…the true tabernacle which the Lord erected” of which Paul is speaking possessed the greatest glory of all by reason of Him having been its builder and by reason of the material it contains. To the Corinthians Paul had said, “you are God’s building” and compared the enduring materials built into it to “gold, silver (and) precious stones” (1 Corinthians 3:9, 12). Every picture of this spiritual temple we are privileged to behold in the scriptures indicates the great glory it possesses by describing it as consisting of the most beautiful, precious materials known to man.
Christians are the precious materials, the living stones, that make up this spiritual temple. What an estimate God places upon us that He chooses us to constitute a house for His habitation in the Spirit! What an estimate He placed upon us when He gave His Son to die for us! What a splendid house this is, made up as it is of all the blood bought, redeemed, renewed, regenerated, new creatures, all brought together by God for His purpose and for His glory! We are stones, hewed out, carved and fitted into this holy temple by the awesome power of God. I must see every brother and every sister with the eyes of God; see the glory – the beauty – that dwells in him or her. I must look at myself in this way also. We must see ourselves together as the place where the living presence of God dwells – and always seek to show forth that glory in the world.
It makes a great difference as to how we live and conduct ourselves in both our personal lives and in our attitudes and actions toward others when we truly realize that the Spirit of God dwells in us. It also makes a difference in these matters when we realize that the Spirit of God dwells in my brother just as much in myself. Though his life may not yet have been made perfect in sanctification or holiness by God, can we affirm as much of ourselves? Sanctification is a process that takes time and a lot of cooperation on our part. Is not the Lord still working in us to accomplish His purpose for us in our lives? Must we not grant our brother as much mercy – be as longsuffering toward Him – as God grants toward us as we are growing toward the ideal of spiritual maturity so that the glory of God may be seen ever more clearly through us?