Summary: Building God’s church
Chez Dieu – Eph. 2:19-22
Steve Simala Grant – Sept. 2, 2001
You’ve likely heard about the man who walked past three brick layers at work. He stopped and asked the first one, “what are you doing?” “Laying bricks,” was the dejected, grumbling reply. He asked the second one the same question. He answered with a bit more life: “I’m making a wall.” He came to the third and repeated the question. The third bricklayer looked up with a dreamy, excited, far away look in his eye and said “I’m building a temple.”
Eph. 2:19-22 focuses on the building of God’s new temple – the church. The perspective is that of the last brick-layer – on the big picture, the end result, the goal.
The passage begins with the word “consequently.” That is a pretty big hint that we are jumping into the middle of a thought, and so need to look back to see what is being summed up here.
Vss. 11-18 have focused on Jesus work of reconciliation – of bringing together both Jews and Gentiles and making them into one new body which He then reconciles with God. The point of the verses is that Jesus came to tear down, to destroy, to abolish the barriers (he refers to them as walls) and make us into one new, united people as His children.
With all that in mind, Paul says “here is the result:” He then lists two specific things, first that we are now fellow citizens, and second that we are members of God’s household. Paul expands this second picture in vss. 20-22, using a building analogy to communicate what the nature of the church is. These verses are some of the most explicit Scripture texts in the Bible detailing the nature of the church.
2. Fellow Citizens:
The contrasts which Paul has been pointing out in all of chapter 2 is summed up in the first line: “you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people”. As a consequence of what Christ has done, we are no longer on the outside – no longer foreigners and aliens.
I don’t know if any of you have had the experience of living in a foreign country – somewhere you are not a citizen. I haven’t, but I know that there are restrictions – sometimes there are places you may not go, things you may not participate in because you don’t belong – you are not a citizen.
That is how it was for the Gentile people in relation to God. If you are familiar with the OT, you’ll remember that the temple in Jerusalem was physically the place where God dwelled – before the building of the temple it was the tabernacle and another dwelling called “the tent of meeting”. God was actually present there. The temple was built with very specific places that only specific people could go – the outermost part being the “court of the gentiles”. It is significant that this was a part of the temple, but what I want to point out is that they were allowed to go no further – this was where they were stopped. In fact, we have uncovered archeological evidence of an inscription on the actual pillars of the temple forbidding gentiles to enter any further on pain of death. Paul has all this in mind as he says “You were…, but now you are fellow citizens”.
Being a citizen means that you belong – that this place is home. It means you are entitled to all the rights and freedoms and privileges of that society. As citizens of Canada we have access to medical care, we are protected by police and by a justice system, we have the right to vote on who our leaders and decision-makers will be. We have the right to seek the protection of Canada anywhere around the world. That sounds pretty good, especially as we watch other places in our world, and we need to thank God for that and thank the men and women who fought to earn those freedoms for us. But all of that is nothing compared to the rights and freedoms of being “fellow citizens with God’s people,” where the most significant result is that God Himself dwells with us. And that is the next image:
3. Members of God’s household:
Paul moves from a national image to a personal one. From a large scale “citizenship” to an intimate scale “member of the household”.
We’ve seen this theme already in Ephesians: 1:5 says God adopted us as His children; 1:13 says we were included in Christ; 1:14 says the Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance; 2:6 says we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms; 2:15 says Christ has torn down the walls and made us one.