The Church: A Holy Temple
Ephesians Lesson #075
July 19, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are thankful for this opportunity to come together to be strengthened, encouraged, refreshed as we look at Your Word, the opportunity to take our eyes away from the details of life that surround us and distract us, and are so often for us these days a cause of being unsettled, worried, anxious about different things.
“Just to know that You’re faithful and that Your Word is true no matter what is going on around us. The one thing that we must do, the one thing that we must not forget is to reflect upon Your Word, study Your Word, to come to understand You more fully and that we may walk with You more intimately.
“Father, as we look at this chapter, may we be impressed with who we are in Christ. It is not because of who we are, but that we are in Christ that we are in this new entity that is called the body of Christ, the household of God. It is called also the bride of Christ.
“Father in this we rejoice because it is not due to anything that we have done, but according to Your grace. It’s not by works of righteousness which we’ve done, as we have recited, nor that we should boast, but all the boasting is in You. For that we are grateful.
“Open our eyes to the truths of this passage this morning. In Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 2, continuing our study. This passage, as I have said time and again over the last several weeks, is one of the foundational if not THE foundational chapter of all the chapters in the Bible on the church.
More important than anything else, one of the things that we hold to be true about the church is that it is a universal body of believers. We believe that the church began on the day of Pentecost in AD 33. And we believe that the church will be on the earth as a witness to our Lord until He deems it time to call us home at the Rapture of the church.
As we look at God’s plan and purposes for the church, the one thing that stands out in this passage is that the church is a distinct entity from the saints who have gone before us: Old Testament Gentile saints from the Age of the Gentiles, from Adam to Abraham; Jewish saints from Abraham to Christ; Gentile saints that were saved during that time of the Age of Israel as well. But here we see that there is something distinctive and unique and sacred about church.
We can get into a trap of thinking about church as what we do on Sunday morning. We go to Bible class on Sunday morning. We sometimes think, “Well, we have to go to church on Sunday morning. I could stay in bed a little while longer or I can do this or that a little while longer. Maybe I’ll go fishing this morning,” and that’s not the focus here.
The focus is to understand who we are in Christ. The church that we think of most often is a local projection—a local representation—of this universal body of Christ. And we are being prepared to truly appreciate and to worship because we are in this unique entity, so that we should think differently about church, that this is an artistic creation of God—a masterpiece.
These kinds of words are never said about Israel in the Old Testament, they are not said about the Gentile believers in the period before Israel. They’re certainly not said of the Tribulation saints or those who are in the Millennium. That sets us apart, and the word in Scripture that is used for being set apart is “holy.” That’s why I said it’s sacred. These words all relate to one another. We’re distinctive and we are unique.
In this passage, we will be introduced to the final idea that Paul is expressing in Ephesians 2:11–22 about the universal church, where we learn that it is in the process of being built.
Ephesians 2:21, “In whom—that, of course, is in Christ—the whole building—that introduces us again to this metaphor.”
There are several metaphors, and Paul switches between them, so you have to watch that because we can’t make these metaphors stand up and walk as absolutes. They just appeal to our common frame of reference that relate to this. It’s one new man, one body, the household of God, it is the church that is “this building.” All of these different ideas are present here to try to communicate to us the living dynamic of the body of Christ that is being brought together today.
In a distinctive way it is still being brought together; it is still in the process of growing. Ephesians 2:21, “In whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows—all this is present tense, and we’re growing—into a holy temple.”
We probably won’t get to the concept of the holy Temple in detail until next week, but will introduce it today. This passage is distinctive in identifying the church, the body of Christ as a holy temple in the Lord.
Ephesians 2:22, it is “in whom—that is in the Lord—we are also being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
We’re headed to the focal point: “The Church: A Holy Temple.”
I want to read through Ephesians 2:19–22, so we catch what is going on here, then we need to go back and review, because there are phrases and terms here that is really easy to misinterpret. As I have read and studied the commentaries, I have seen that a lot of people that I am surprised about have misunderstood it.
In fact, there is one commentary that I consider to be the best overall commentary on Ephesians, written by Dr. Harold Hoehner who was the head of the New Testament Department at Dallas Seminary. He went to be with the Lord about 14 or 15 years ago, and this was His magnum opus. He had taught Ephesians since the late 1960s.
When this is your full-time job and you teach it every single year, you are getting dozens and dozens and dozens of exegetical papers from students. If students are writing Masters Theses and doctoral dissertations on Ephesians that you’re grading, the level of study and focus you have in one epistle like this is just phenomenal.
He has great insights, but I found him a little bit ambiguous here where in one spot he would talk about the household of God as if it included all the saints of all the ages, and then later on not, so it’s difficult.
Many times as I have read through this, at the end of Ephesians 2:19 it appears that when it says that we’re “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” that it includes all of the saints from all of the ages. But pay attention what happens in the next verse.
Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you’re no longer strangers and foreigners—that takes us back to Ephesians 2:12 where Gentiles were strangers and ‘aliens to the Commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise,’ so he’s picking up those ideas, saying—you’re no longer for strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
Even in the English you can figure out that “the household of God” is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” and see how covenant theologians would take the idea: they assume that this is Old Testament prophets and New Testament church.
But the word order tells us it’s not talking about Old Testament prophets because then it would be prophets and apostles. One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that you don’t find covenant theologians, replacement theologians, talking very much about this passage from Ephesians 2:11–22.
Ephesians 2:20–21, we’re “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building—we’ve been a body and now we’re a building—being fitted together—present tense—grows into a holy temple—that is a dwelling place. That’s what a temple is, a dwelling place.”
In this body, this building is an edifice. It’s looking at us not as individuals here, for the dwelling of God, but as the church corporately. God is the One who dwells within us as the body. Jesus is the cornerstone and He’s dwelling in the body, so to describe what he’s talking about goes almost beyond human language, which is why he uses mixed metaphors.
Ephesians 2:21–22, “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom also you are being built together.”
How many times have we seen that word “together” so far? Who does it refer to? Jew and Gentile.
Ephesians 2:22, “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
First a quick review, because as we focus we see that the endgame in Paul’s thought process is that we are a holy temple in the Lord. We need to be reminded of the significance of that historically, that before the Church Age began on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33, things were quite a bit different.
Israel, that is, the physical genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were appointed by God to a mission, and that mission was to be a kingdom of priests. God had called them to be a kingdom of priests in Exodus 19, a light to the world.
In the Church Age we’re the body of Christ, we’re to be sent out. Jesus says wherever you go, baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I’ve taught you—all My commandments. That’s the mission of the church: we’re to go out.
What was the mission of Israel? To stay and establish a kingdom that was supposed to be a physical testimony, a light to the world, so when people came there they would see the difference between Israel and the rest of the world. That’s one of the things Moses reminds them of early in the Book of Deuteronomy.
Israel was the people through whom God would reveal Himself to the world; they we’re going to be receptors of the revelation of God and the custodians of that Scripture, so that it would be preserved down through the ages.
That first dwelling place of God was the tabernacle, mishkan in Hebrew. Shakan is the Hebrew noun for dwelling place, where you live: a house, a building. Mishkan, the verb, to dwell somewhere. They refer to the temple as the mishkan, the dwelling place.
God had a dwelling place physically among His people, not in His people in the Old Testament. The tabernacle, which was first constructed a year after they left Egypt, during the year 1446, completed in 1445 BC. From 1445 to 959 BC, God dwelt in the tabernacle.
For over 300 years it was at Shiloh. Various movements took place during the time of 1 Samuel, then it was brought to the area of Jerusalem where it was finally placed in the temple when it was built and dedicated in 959 BC. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, nobody knows what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. The temple was destroyed.
Ezekiel, you remember, had a vision of the Shekinah. And Shakan the root for Shekinah, means the dwelling place. Mishkan, Shekinah, all of these are based off the same basic idea of the dwelling place. We often think Shekinah means “glory.” Shekinah doesn’t mean “glory.” Shekinah is a word that refers to the presence of God, and the presence of God is going to exhibit His glory, so it’s an associated idea.
Ezekiel saw the presence of God depart the temple, go out through the Eastern Gate, cross the Kidron, up the Mount of Olives, and ascend to Heaven. There’s no presence of God that we know of in the second Temple, which was built in 516 BC, and it continued. Although it was completely rebuilt during the time of Herod, it’s still the same temple because they never stopped the sacrifices, so it’s always referred to as the second Temple, not a second and third temple. The third Temple is the apostate Temple of the period of the Tribulation, and the fourth Temple is the millennial Temple.
There were always these dwelling places of God in the Old Testament, the Mishkan, the tabernacle, the Temple, the second Temple, in the future an apostate Temple, then you have the Millennial Temple.
What’s the temple in the Church Age? The body of Christ. This is a phenomenal concept—that we are being built together to be a dwelling place.
For context, back to Ephesians 2:11, Paul just reminds them who they were, “you were Gentiles, you were uncircumcised,” and all of that meant as the unclean, you can’t come into the temple.
We looked at the fact that they were originally separate from Israel, and they did not have any participation in the spiritual blessings of Israel during that time, unless they became a full proselyte and basically became a Jew.
- Without Christ
- Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel—picked up again in Ephesians 2:19
- Strangers from the covenant of promise—that word’s not repeated, but a synonym is used in Ephesians 2:19
- Without hope
- Without God in the world.
Gentiles did not have a relationship with God. That doesn’t mean those Gentiles weren’t saved, we know that they were from the Old Testament, but as a class they are separate.
Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who are far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Notice this: we see three phrases in these verses: “through the blood of Christ,” “through the cross,” and “through Him.”
What does that tell you? That tells you the focus is on what Christ did on the Cross. It’s a focus on His work. I’m going to come back and tell you why that’s important along the way, but it sets the stage. Context is everything, and when we understand how these terms set the stage, then we’re not going to make some mistakes when we get to Ephesians 2:19–22.
In Ephesians 2:14–16 he talks about how the peace is, first of all, making the both one. “The both” are the Jew and Gentile. They both are one, and that middle wall of separation is defined as the Law in Ephesians 2:15, which is abolished with the result that He’s doing what? He’s creating in Himself one new man. The “both” are one in Ephesians 2:14.
That “one” is now called “one new man” in Ephesians 2:15, “thus making peace,” so the emphasis here including all the way to Ephesians 2:22 is peace in the body. Ephesians 2:16, “that He might reconcile both—Jew and Gentile—in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” “Through the blood,” “through the cross.”
These images portray that the barrier between God and man has been removed.
That’s the objective aspect of reconciliation that took place on the Cross, so that Jew and Gentile by faith in Christ’s work on the Cross are united in the church, which is also called the body of Christ.
I am belaboring this because in conversations I’ve had with a couple of different pastors, there is such a tendency to misread this. As I walked my way with Dr. Ice yesterday through this, he almost slipped a few times. I would say, “Look at this. Let’s go back and look at all these words.” He said, “Yeah, you’re right.” He hasn’t been in this passage in a while. It’s really easy, though, to slip up.
The church is the body of Christ made up of Jew and Gentile: there’s reconciliation.
We see here that the phrase “we both” is the same as “one new man.” “We both” refers to the one new man, and the “one new man” is then referred to as “one body.” That’s important. It’s real obvious in Ephesians 2:11–18.
Ephesians 2:17–18, “And He came—the First Advent—and He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who are far off…”
See Jesus had a ministry to Gentiles during the First Advent, but they aren’t getting the peace that this is talking about because the Cross hadn’t happened yet. There was a peace prior to the Cross, but it’s not the same.
I used the illustration of a border. We have peace with Canada. You don’t have armed guards out there on the border between the United States and Canada, you don’t have sentries, you don’t have machine guns and barbed wire. There’s a state of peace there.
But it’s not the same as driving from Texas to Louisiana. That border has peace, but it’s a totally different kind of peace. We see that here. There are two kinds of peace. There’s a peace that was available to Gentiles in the Old Testament, but it doesn’t bring them together as one with the Jews, with Israel.
But after the Cross they’re brought together, so that the peace before the Cross is like the peace at the border between Canada and the US—two different countries that stay separate. But with the border between Texas and Louisiana, you have a different kind of peace, and we together are part of the same nation.
Now we come to the fun passage:
Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
It’s interesting how Paul begins this. We get a glimpse that there’s something else going on here because of the way the New King James translates this at the beginning, “Now, therefore…”
In other translations, you will see other conjunctive adverbs of conclusion; there are actually two that are used in the Greek: ARA would mean “therefore” if it was just there by itself;” and if OUN was there, you would translate it “therefore.”
There’s no evidence that this compound was used anywhere in classical Greek literature prior to the Scripture. It’s a “Paulism” where he puts these words together in a new way because he wants to grab everybody’s attention. He has gotten more excited as he’s talked about the body of Christ and now he’s telling us the consequences by combining these two conjunctive adverbs.
Dr. Hoehner states in his commentary, “Although both are logical, ARA primarily expresses a lively feeling of interest.” That means Paul’s alerting the reader by using these two words to expect some sort of significant mind-blowing conclusion. This is the consequence of everything he said in Ephesians 2:11–18, and now he wants us to really pay attention to this because this is exciting stuff.
Ephesians 2:19, “… you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
To show the significance of this grammatically, I charted it. Notice in the translation at the top, I have added a second “you are.” In the New King James it leaves it out, but it’s there in the Greek. The Greek has two verbs, “you are” “you are,” for emphasis; and that expresses and emphasizes the contrast between the two positions. He says, “You are,” then you have in a negative, “you are no longer strangers and foreigners.”
The word for foreigners indicates someone who’s not a citizen. The reason he changes from using the synonym in Ephesians 2:12, where he talks about the fact that they’re strangers from the covenants of the promise, and here he uses a different word for foreigners. It’s indicating that you’re not a citizen, because he’s going to use the word at the end there that we are now fellow citizens, so he wants that contrast there.
We are “no longer strangers and foreigners, BUT—this is a strong contrast here—fellow citizens in the household of God.”
He wants us to pay attention to it. Think through with me a minute, what we’ve seen in these contrasts in this chapter. The first contrast, Paul starts the chapter, “You’re born spiritually dead” in Ephesians 2:1; then in Ephesians 2:4, “BUT GOD made us alive together in Christ.”
The second contrast is when in Ephesians 2:11, “You were once Gentiles in the flesh.” Then we get to Ephesians 2:13, “BUT NOW in Christ Jesus.”
Third contrast, “You were strangers and foreigners, but now you’re fellow citizens in the household of God.” He wants us to really pay attention to this.
I like to point out these little things; there is another reason he does this. There are two different ways that you can express contrast in Greek. One is with another conjunction called DE, which sometimes means “and” and sometimes means “but.” It can be just as strong as the conjunction that’s used here, ALLA. He uses DE in the first contrast, but when he gets to this one, he really wants us to pay attention to it, so he shifts to ALLA.
Those are the little literary things that you see that a writer does to draw your attention to certain things that he is saying so that you think “Wait a minute, wait a minute!” If we were writing today in English, somebody would be using boldface and italics and changing all kinds of different fonts and making it all cluttered, but they did it through the use of language and grammar.
He really wants us to pay attention to this major shift that’s taken place—being excluded from Israel. When he says “at that time,” that’s Old Testament. It’s not “at that time” when you were unsaved, but “at that time”—as a class you were those five things—you were excluded from the blessings of Israel.
Now he says in Christ Jesus you’ve been brought near. That’s important because he tells us that this new state is a state that is not true of unsaved Gentiles, but it’s only true of saved Gentiles, and they now, post-Cross, have been brought near.
This tells us that this cannot in any way be applied to them becoming linked to Old Testament saints, whether Old Testament Gentile saints in the Age of the Gentiles or Old Testament Jewish Saints. It’s not something that is retroactive.
The reason I say that is because in this next phrase, “the household of God,” it looks like in English if we just stop here at the end of Ephesians 2:19, that the “household of God” would include the two groups: the saints and the members of the household of God.
We might think, “Oh! Well, maybe ‘the saints’ refers to the Old Testament saints and ‘the household of God’ refers to the Jews, and we’re all together in one household; and therefore, there is not a distinction between Israel and the church.” That’s what covenant theologians and Replacement Theology folks say.
But that’s not possible the way this is set up. We are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” “Household” is used to refer to people of the same household, who are close kin, who are family members, so there’s something more intimate here that is taking place. The intimacy taking place that runs all through this section occurs because the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been removed.
We’re not talking about just joining up with Old Testament saints, we’re talking about a totally new entity. We see that because we go back and look at what I emphasized so many times already, is the way in which this entity is described, “we both” in the early chapters.
That dividing wall’s down, so in Ephesians 2:5–6, we both are made alive together in Christ, we’re raised together, and we’re seated together in the heavenlies—Jew and Gentile. It’s all about this new thing that God is doing bringing Jew and Gentile together, where “we both” equals Jew and Gentile.
They are now “one new man,” he calls them; “one body,” he says next; and now he says that’s “the household of God.” The household of God is not any different. It has to be interpreted in context. The household of God is the same entity as “the both,” the “one new man,” “and the “one body,” and this equals “the universal church, the body of Christ.”
This so clearly teaches the distinction between God’s plan for Israel and God’s plan for the church. This is fundamental. As Dr. Ryrie pointed out, this is one of the three key elements that distinguishes a dispensationalist from a non-dispensationalists: the distinction between God’s plan for Israel and God’s plan for the church.
Covenant theologians say that the Gentiles become part of Israel; we are the New Israel. There’s no place in the New Testament that ever calls us the New Israel.
There is a place in Galatians 6 where Paul says, “Greet the Israel of God.” He is not talking about the church because he’s already addressing the church. Why would he tell the people he is addressing to greet the Israel of God? They’re clearly a distinctive group within the church or within their area. When he says, “Greet the Israel of God,” he’s talking to the Galatian believers and telling them to greet those who are Jews, a distinct group.
Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints—I highlighted this because in the Greek you have one article that precedes these two groups showing that they are closely linked together—the saints and the members of the household—it is viewing them as the same group of individuals—with the saints and the members of the household of God.”
Therefore, we are this new entity now, a new household, a new family. There’s a new level of intimacy that should characterize the church. This goes back to the same idea that was present in Ephesians 2:11–13 that Christ is now our peace because He has broken down the dividing wall and through His death, we have been brought near.
This is true not just for Jew and Gentile. Remember, Gentile refers to all ethnicities: to Africans, Arabs, Indians, Asians, Europeans, Anglo-Saxons—it refers to everybody—that we are all brought near. So there’s no basis whatsoever for any kind of racial or ethnic bias because we’re all one in Christ.
I defined it a few weeks ago: for Christians, racism really takes place when any Christian lets any ethnic or cultural or subcultural distinction cause a separation between him and other Christians. When those cultural, subcultural, or ethnic distinctions are more important, than the unity in the body of Christ, then you’ve got a serious problem with the Word of God.
We are united together in this new body as members of a family, members of the household of God.
The next thing that tells us that the household of God is not related to Israel at all in the Old Testament is the phrase at the beginning of Ephesians 2:20, “having been built” in the English translation. It represents a translation of an aorist participle in the Greek, and we know that an aorist participle without the article is adverbial. It’s modifying a verb, for those of you who still struggle with grammar.
What’s the verb? “You are” and “you are” in Ephesians 2:19, “YOU ARE no longer strangers,” “YOU ARE fellow citizens with the saints.” Then it’s “having been built.”
This tells us that unity is because we have been built; that those who make up the “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” are being built. What are they being built on? They’re being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
Right away that tells us this cannot be Old Testament. “Household of God” cannot include anybody from the Old Testament because they’re not built on the apostles. You can’t say, “Well, “apostles” means New Testament and “prophets” means Old Testament.
Because it doesn’t say “the prophets and the apostles.” That would be the correct order if you’re talking about Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. But this is talking about New Testament apostles and New Testament prophets.
In the early church, you had revelatory gifts that were given by the Holy Spirit before the Canon was completed. We’ve studied 1 Corinthians 13:8–13 where it talks about when the perfect comes, these temporary gifts are going to be removed.
If you recall, in 1 Corinthians 13:8, it starts talking about two specific gifts, knowledge and wisdom. It includes tongues later, but it talks about knowledge and wisdom, that they were incomplete. The language that you see in the translation is that they’re partial. It means they’re incomplete.
1 Corinthians 13:10, Paul, “but when the perfect comes—which is not a good translation. It is that which completes, that which brings to completion—when that which brings to completion comes that which is incomplete—the gifts of knowledge or prophecy—will be done away with—will cease, will be gone.
It’s not going to be there. It says when the perfect comes, then they will be gone. You don’t need them anymore because you have a completed Canon of Scripture. We learn that knowledge and wisdom were revelatory gifts and New Testament prophecy was a revelatory gift. I think the apostles had all the gifts and that also was revelatory.
In the early church as they were recognizing which books were worthy of keeping and which ones were not, they had to develop certain standards: “How do you know when this book is really from God and the one we need to keep?”
Let’s bring it down to a real personal level, when you get a knock on your door at 3:00 in the morning, and the SWAT team is out there and they want your Bible, are you going to give your life for the Epistle of Barnabas or are you going to give your life for keeping the Epistle to the Romans?
You want to make sure that if you’re going to go through all this suffering, you’re going to do it for the Word of God and not the word of somebody else. They had to develop these. One of the rules or canons—that’s what “canon” means—was that it was either written by an apostle or by an apostolic associate.
I think that the apostolic associates, who weren’t apostles but wrote in the New Testament: James, Luke, maybe the writer to the Hebrews because we don’t know who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jude, were prophets. They were associated with apostles, but they had the New Testament gift of prophet.
The foundation that is laid for the church is laid by the apostles and the prophets, but the chief cornerstone is Christ. I’ll talk a little bit more about what it means to be a chief cornerstone and the significance of that.
We want to look at this particular phrase in Ephesians 2:20, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” What is the significance of the apostles and prophets?
Some say, “Well, it is their doctrine.” Some say, “It is them as persons.” Let’s think about how we answer that question because in the same way that they are the foundation, in that same way Christ is the chief cornerstone.
What’s the number one rule in interpretation? If you don’t know by now… location, location, location! Context, context, context! Are we talking about the person of Christ here or are we talking about the work of Christ? How would we answer that? Let’s look at the context.
The context has been focusing us on the work of Christ: the way that this peace is brought about is through His blood, through the Cross, and through Him. It’s all focusing on what happened at the Cross. It’s not focusing so much on the Person of Christ, it is focusing on the work of Christ.
What makes Christ the chief cornerstone? It’s not excluding His person, but it’s focusing on His work. That is what brought down the barrier between Gentile and Jew. That is what wiped out the barrier between man and God. It is that that becomes the chief cornerstone for the church. It is His work.
If it’s the work of Christ, then it must be the persons of the apostles, right? No, that would not be logical; it would be the work of the apostles. What was the work of the apostles? They expanded the church, they traveled, they witnessed, they evangelized.
But the most important part of the apostles and prophets is they wrote Scripture. It was the revelation that God gave them that they wrote down. The foundation of the church is the work of the apostles and prophets and the work of Christ. That’s the foundation.
The second thing we have to ask is how many times when you’re building a building … they can change their name so much, I’m never sure what the tall buildings downtown are anymore. You take any of those tall buildings, 60 stories, 70 stories, how many foundations are there? There is only one. You only lay it once. You don’t lay it in every generation, you don’t lay it in every century.
The reason I say that is because in the charismatic movement they think that these gifts of apostle and prophet continue today because we continue to need new revelation. Well, this passage completely refutes that.
In fact, several years ago there was a book that came out of which there are a lot: “Four Views,” or “Three Views,” or “Five Views of Sanctification,” “of eschatology,” “of the Rapture,” of whatever it is where scholars have these areas of disagreement. One guy writes from one perspective, and then the other three guys will critique what he wrote and show where they’re different.
They’re really good if you’re a pastor or a seminary student in thinking through what are all the issues. A book came out, Three View on the Charismatic Gifts, 15 or 20 years ago. One of my former professors at Dallas, who is now over at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, wrote the chapter on tongues.
When it came out, I read it and Tommy read it. We were talking and we said, “Isn’t that interesting. He never talks about I Corinthians 13.” See, a lot of people, don’t go to 1 Corinthians 13 because they don’t think “the perfect” refers to Scripture, and they’re all confused and wrong there, but we covered that in the past.
What did he do? His whole argument for why tongues don’t continue and revelatory gifts don’t continue was based on Ephesians 2:20. That settles it really. It confirms 1 Corinthians 13:8–13 and 1 Corinthians 13:8–13 confirms it. It’s not like one’s better than the other, but this is showing that you don’t need revelation to go beyond the foundation because you only lay the foundation one time.
You only have one set of apostles and one set of prophets, and their work is the giving of the Scripture, new revelation, and on that basis, that foundation, God is building His church. The foundations of the church are the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
In our culture a cornerstone is different from what a cornerstone was in the ancient world. In our culture a cornerstone may be a capstone. Sometimes it is something that is set in at the end that is a statement of dedication. Sometimes they’ll hollow it out or put a time capsule behind it, or something of that nature.
But that’s not what a cornerstone was in the ancient world; a cornerstone was the orientation point for the whole foundation and the building. They would lay the cornerstone, then they would use the cornerstone as the basis for all of their measurements and the alignment of the different sides of the building. The cornerstone is that which everything else in the building relates to and conforms to.
That fits the image of Christ here. He’s the head of the body in other places; here he is the chief cornerstone. Everything in the building gets its meaning, its alignment, its orientation from the cornerstone. And everything orients to Christ: the apostles and prophets, all their revelation, everything orients and relates to Christ.
Ephesians 2:20 tells us that we have been built, the foundation’s been laid, the cornerstone was Christ’s work on the Cross. Then in Ephesians 2:21, “in whom—that is in Christ—the whole building, being fitted together …”
Here we have a present participle: the whole building being fitted together. The shift from aorist past tense participle to present tells us that this building is still being built. It is still in progress; it is a present work of God. The whole building is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place.
“Temple” is NAOS in the Greek. There were two Greek words that were used to describe the temple, first NAOS. The second is HIEROS, which would be used to describe the entire temple complex. You have the outer courtyards—the courtyard of the Gentiles, the courtyard of the women—so if that was the word used here, it would include all of the outer areas.
But NAOS is the holy place, the Holy of Holies and the holy place. It is the inner sanctum where God dwelt. This is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, that which was in the outer courtyards would be unclean.
I’ve developed the argument further. You hear the argument against demon possession, that Christians can’t be demon possessed because the Holy Spirit dwells in you. People try to poke holes in that, that various things unclean took place in the temple. But here temple is NAOS which means the inner sanctum, and nothing unclean could go into the inner sanctum where God dwelt. That strengthens the argument against demon possession of the believer.
Here it is reiterated, stated in 1 Corinthians 6:19, which we will look at next time. We will talk about the significance of what we find in Ephesians 2:21–22, that we are growing into a holy temple in the Lord, “in whom also you are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” What does that mean? That will be next Sunday.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word this morning to be reminded of all that You have done for us. Sometimes we think of salvation as something simple because it’s simple on our side. We just believe in Christ who died for us, and we’re saved. But on Your side so much had to be dealt with. Sin is such a complex thing. That all the dimensions, all the facets had to be dealt with, all the legal issues had to be dealt with, and all of that was accomplished on the Cross.
“So Father, we glory in the Cross because it is our salvation, and we are so thankful that we have such a salvation that is not based on what we do or who we are, but on what Christ did and Who He was.
“Father we pray for any that might be listening this morning or listening from a recording of this message, that they might know that there’s only one way to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
“By trusting in Christ we can have everlasting life, and that’s it. Nothing else. Once that happens we become a new creature in Christ, and what Paul is talking about in these verses is some of the aspects that are the result, the consequence of the Cross and of our faith in You.