“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:19-22 NLT
Can we imagine what it must have felt like? Knowing that there was a God in Heaven but being excluded from being able to know Him. It was like a religious apartheid, with signs saying “No Gentiles” plastered everywhere. Life would have been much like those racially segregated times in South Africa and the US. The Jews claimed that God was exclusively their God. No-one else’s. But an amazing thing happened. God had a plan, as we read earlier in this Epistle. Through the wonderful act of mercy of Jesus’ sacrifice at the Cross, all of a sudden, God was accessible to everyone. No exceptions. But Paul was now saying to the Gentiles, the “strangers and foreigners“, that they were citizens of the Kingdom of God. However, we know that this new and wonderful status comes with some responsibilities.
Paul said that as members of the same family, God’s family, we become His house. And we get this foundational picture of Jesus being the main support, the “cornerstone” with the apostles and prophets completing the substratum, the bedrock. Solid stuff, certainly. And Paul completes the house building analogy by saying that God’s people are carefully and exactly joined together forming the house. A house which then, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, becomes “a holy temple for the Lord”. And Paul couldn’t resist pointing out the Gentiles forming the Ephesian church were also made part of it.
But coming back to the responsibilities. A bit scary really. Any member of a house and family, has responsibilities. We all know what it must be like to have a rebellious and aggressive person in our houses. My wife and I fostered difficult children with challenging behaviour for many years. When everyone of them was following the house rules and were doing and behaving as they should, peace reigned and all was well. But when one of them decided to smash up his or her bedroom, all mayhem broke loose. It’s the same with God’s Temple. We are each “bricks” that dovetail into the next “bricks”. A brick that decides to be something else will cause some difficulties for the house. In today’s verses, we see that “we are carefully joined together in Him”. And that is the secret of being part of God’s Temple. Our relationship with Jesus. Our constant referral to, and our relationship with, the master builder, who is carefully joining us together in Him, will ensure a Holy Temple. And God lives with us by His Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul wrote, “Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.” So God is using “bricks” that are in themselves places where the Holy Spirit lives.
At this point, we would be forgiven for thinking that we can never measure up to these standards. And in our own strength that is right. But we serve a loving and gracious Heavenly Father who understands our human frailties, and who has given us the means to become suitable building material. As we read earlier in this Epistle, through Jesus we are made anew. So in humble thankfulness we praise and worship Him. There is no alternative.