This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
The House of God Being Built
Meditation on Ephesians 2:19-22
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens 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; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
A major theme of Ephesians is the church. What glorious images of the church are presented to us in our pericope! There is the kingdom of which we are citizens. The second picture is of a family, “ye are…of the household of God.” The third picture is the most carefully developed, a building which turns out to be the temple: “in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Later in the letter Paul develops the images of the church as Christ’s body (chapters 4 and 5), and still later as a well-equipped army (ch. 6)
What a rich imagery the first picture was. The kingdom of God is where God rules. Since God rules over all life and over all worldly kingdoms, there is a sense in which the whole world is God’s kingdom. His kingdom prevails. What a comfort that is in the midst of this world’s chaotic conflicts and changes: Covid-19, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, fires, the election turnout, and the tumult on the streets and in the church. Those who confess God’s kingship are comforted in the midst of all these changes. We are not to be alarmed by them. God is sovereign! God rules over the world in His power. The kingdoms of this world rise and fall. But God’s kingdom is everlasting, established by Jesus Christ. By grace we are citizens together of this spiritual kingdom which is still coming. No longer strangers and foreigners, but now instead the Ephesians believers and we are fellowcitizens of the saints! We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. God rules us in His grace!
Paul’s second picture was of the church as a family. We are members of God’s household. Wonderful as the relationship of a citizen to a strong, benevolent state may be, family ties are more intimate, the bonds tighter. One is either born into or adopted into it. We dwell in God’s house. We have communion with God and intimate fellowship. We are the family of God. How is this possible? Jesus’s teaching to Nicodemus was: “you must be born again” (John 3:7). Peter wrote in his first letter, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Pet. 1:23). Being a member of God’s household brings privileges with it. We have the support from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the oversight of elders and deacons. We have the prayers and fellowship of the saints. We have the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. We have the assurance that God will hear and receive us, and answer our requests out of His mercy. Do you love the church?
The most extensive picture of the church in these verses is that of a temple (vs. 21). It is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone! The strength and durability of a building rests upon its foundation, and that is true of the church also. Jesus is the foundation. The apostles and prophets were the appointed and inspired witnesses to Christ in the first generation, and the word they brought forth is still the foundation of what we believe and confess. We are an apostolic church. Isaiah wrote of the coming of Jesus Christ in these terms: Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16). Peter writes in I Peter 2:5, “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.” The stones placed into this great structure are chosen and shaped for their position by God. It is His temple: He is the architect. The stones are placed into position in relationship to Jesus Christ, attached to Him. If not, they are not part of this building. The stones are of different size, shape and color, employed for different functions. This brings out the rich diversity in the one church of Christ. The stones are linked together and contribute to a great building in which God is pleased to dwell. These stones keep on being added until all the elect are born and saved. What a great process this is!
There is this amazing truth for us to contemplate: by grace I have been chosen by God and am shaped by God to be a part of this great building. And even greater is the truth that God is pleased to dwell in His church. The Church is the habitation of God! Shall we not sing the following songs?
I love thy kingdom Lord! The house of thine abode, The church our blest Redeemer saved With his own precious blood. I love thy Church O God! Her walls before thee stand, Dear as the apple of thine eye And graven on thy hand. Beyond my highest joy, I prize her heavenly ways, Her sweet communion, solemn vows, Her hymns of love and praise.” (Aaron Williams)
The church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is his new creation By water and the Word: from heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; With his own blood he bought her, And for her life he died. Mid toil and tribulation And tumult of her war, She waits the consummation Of peace forever more; till with the vision glorious Her longing eyes are blest, and the great church victorious Shall be the church at rest. (Samuel Wesley)