Summary: Ephesians 2:19-22 gives us a portrait of our new identity in Christ.
Today I am concluding a series of sermons on Ephesians 2 that I am calling, “God’s Plan of Reconciliation.”
Ephesians 2 has two main sections. The first is verses 1-10, and the second is verses 11-22. Each section addresses our past, our present, and our future. Regarding our past, the Apostle Paul taught that all people were alienated from God and from one another. Then, he set down our present in which he described our reconciliation with God and with one another. And finally, Paul explained our new identity in Christ. That is what we shall examine today.
Let’s read about our new identity in Ephesians 2:19-22:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
On Friday, July 4, 2008 my family and I drove to the Convention Center in Tampa, FL. We were going to attend a Naturalization Ceremony, at which time I was going to take the Oath of Allegiance to become a citizen of the United States of America. I believe there were 704 of us who took the Oath of Allegiance that day. The Convention Center was packed with family and friends.
I found the Naturalization Ceremony very powerful and highly emotional. After checking in at arrival, I turned in my Permanent Resident Card (aka Green Card) and took my seat. A short while later the Naturalization Ceremony began. After a meaningful introduction, I finally took the Oath of Allegiance. Then I went to the front and received my Certificate of Naturalization. As I left the auditorium I registered to vote, and applied for a U.S. Passport, which I received a few weeks later.
I think that naturalized U.S. citizens have a profound appreciation for the process. We renounce our allegiance to our former country, and then take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. Once we do that, we have a new identity, with a new status, privileges, and responsibilities.
As the Apostle Paul came to the end of Ephesians 2, he explained that the Christians in the church in Ephesus had a new identity. They had transferred their allegiance from their former way of life, and they now had a new identity in Christ.
Ephesians 2:19-22 gives us a portrait of our new identity in Christ.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. We Are Citizens of God’s Kingdom (2:19a)
2. We Are Members of God’s Family (2:19b)
3. We Are Stones in God’s Temple (2:20-22)
I. We Are Citizens in God’s Kingdom (2:19a)
First, we are citizens in God’s kingdom.
Paul said in verse 19a, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints.” Paul was writing at a time when Roman citizenship was highly prized. Most likely, many of the Ephesian Christians were also Roman citizens. Paul himself was a Roman citizen. However, in this verse, he was referring to citizenship in God’s kingdom. John Stott says,
Now [Paul] writes of another citizenship. Although he does not develop the metaphor, he appears to be alluding to citizenship of God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God is neither a territorial jurisdiction nor even a spiritual structure. God’s kingdom is God himself ruling his people, and bestowing upon them all the privileges and responsibilities which his rule implies. To this new international God-ruled community, which had replaced the Old Testament national theocracy, Gentiles and Jews belonged on equal terms. Paul is writing while the Roman Empire is at the zenith of its splendor; no signs had yet appeared of its coming decline, let alone of its fall. Yet he sees this other kingdom, neither Jewish nor Roman but international and interracial, as something more splendid and more enduring than any earthly empire. And he rejoices in its citizenship more even than in his Roman citizenship.
Before I became a naturalized U.S. citizen, I was a Resident Alien. (I always thought that E.T. and I had something in common!) However, once I became a naturalized U.S. citizen, I was now a fellow citizen with all you natural-born U.S. citizens. For 25 years, I would stand to attention but I did not sing the National Anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance. But, once I became a naturalized U.S. citizen, I am now able to sing the national anthem and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I am no longer a Resident Alien but a fellow citizen. That is what Paul was referring to when he said of the Ephesian Christians in verse 19a, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints.”