The letter to the Ephesians is essentially describing what church should be like. Up until this point, Paul has only used the word “church” once (in chapter 1:22) However, Ephesians 1 & 2 has been gradually revealing to us what the church ought to look like. As we’ve looked at in previous sessions, Paul, when writing the first two chapters of Ephesians, refers to the past (how we were before we heard the message) the present (the changes we have undertaken) and, as we come to the last 4 verses of the chapter, he once again addresses the future. It is at this point that Paul begins to describe ‘church’.
Chapter 1 presented the plan of salvation from God’s perspective. Chapter 2 presented the plan from our perspective , showing how we were “dead in our transgressions and sin” but are now alive in the spirit. But as we reach the end of chapter 2, we finish by looking at the church. This shouldn’t surprise us - it shows us not only how we have been made alive in Christ, but also how we have been brought into fellowship with God’s redeemed people. In summary, we were dead to sin, by God’s grace we have received salvation through Christ and once we have been saved we become the people of Christ. As that people, we become part of the body of church with Christ as its head. The reality of this should shape how we behave.
Paul does not use the word “church” in these verses, but what he does is tell us clearly what church is. Re-read the 4 verses, with the mindset of Paul describing the attributes of the Church. Firstly, when Paul writes “you are no longer foreigners… but fellow citizens with God’s people” he is referring a city-state or a kingdom, Secondly, Paul writes “… and members of Gods household”, a family. Thirdly, a building, which turns out to be a temple “… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”. Later in the letter Paul develops the image of the church as Christ’s body (chapters 4-5).
Firstly, God’s kingdom, or the kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, as we hear these many bible verse may spring into mind, maybe John the Baptist “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:2) or Jesus declaiming in Luke 17:21 that “The kingdom of God is within you”. Or maybe even when we pray the Lords prayer, “… Your kingdom come…” There could be much conversation held around when the Kingdom of God is, In some cases the kingdom seems to have a past presence, as in Gods rule over Israel. In some cases it is present, as John the Baptist describes and yet other cases it is in the future, as in the Lords Prayer. The solution, perhaps, is that Gods kingdom is outside of what we understand of temporal concepts, it's outside of our time and space. We could say however, that the kingdom of God is where God rules.
And this is where Paul is leading to, once we allow Christ into our lives and we accept the salvation he offers, we then give ourselves to God, we follow the teaching of the scriptures, we live in Christ, we call Jesus our King. As we live in Christ and Christ is our King, we are in his Kingdom. God rules in us, we become (all best a very small bit individually) part of his Kingdom. Paul describes the internal aspects of the kingdom as “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). In this present time the kingdom comes whenever the righteousness, peace and joy of Jesus enters into an individuals life. Then as Paul wrote before, Jew and Gentile are reconciled, both are brought near to God on an equal basis and become parts of one great spiritual kingdom, the Christian Church.
This would have been a revolutionary idea, that would have, in part, caused the early persecution of Christianity (As it was to be called). Consider, Rome was at its strongest, at the height of its territorial expansion and glory. But Paul looked at Rome, and didn’t see one incredible kingdom of world domination and of power, but as a force imposed regardless of which side of the line you fell on, rich or poor, free or slave, man and woman, jew or Gentile. Paul saw what Gods Kingdom was / is to be, a new humanity, transcending all the boundaries of rich or poor, free or slave, man or woman, Jew or Gentile. All people being equally Christian, all being part of the kingdom, with no-one being excluded.
Secondly, the idea of family, in the 2nd half of verse 19 “… and members of God s household”. What Paul is eluding here isn’t to actual earthly family, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, rather being born into the family of God with all Christians around the world, regardless of location. As we looked at before the family of God supersedes all other divisions, rich or poor etc… To become a family member you must be born into, or adopted into, that family. The Bible uses both of these terms to describe what it means to be a Christian. Foremost rebirth, which was Jesus teaching to Nicodemus (John 3:7). Yet also as we’ve looked at before, Eph 1:5 “…adopted into sonship…”. Whichever one you look, they both point to the same family ties, that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thirdly, God’s Temple. As we look at vs 20-22 (re-read), we should note there is much we can learn about how “church should look” just from these three verses. 1) The Foundation - A builder will tell you, the strength and durability of a building comes first from the foundations and the Church is no difference. This is so important that Paul begins with reference to the foundation. Paul says this should be “the apostles and prophets”. We may recall that 1 Corinthians 3:11 makes the point differently, saying, “No one can lay any foundation other the the one already laid, which is Christ Jesus”
Paul isn’t saying we should build our church on the apostles and prophets, putting them as the foundation. Rather, the apostles and prophets teaching of Jesus. The apostles were appointed to witness Jesus first hand, Jesus said he would give the New Testament through them (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15). The prophets, Paul refers to those who received and proclaimed direct messages from God. It is all their teaching that the church should be founded on. Jesus said to the apostle Peter in Matthew 12:18 “On this rock [meaning himself] I will build my church”
2) The Cornerstone - In 1 Corinthians 3:11 Paul calls Jesus the foundation. Here he calls him the cornerstone. A cornerstone was important for two reasons. It was part of the foundation and also the angle the builders set the entire rest of the building from. I don’t think it takes much explaining to understand why Jesus is referred to as the cornerstone. Every stone in a building is connected, to the cornerstone, it is the one stone that needs to be perfect for the building to hold, it is exactly the same for church. What else can a church be built on, the lyrics to the song say it perfectly “Christ alone, Cornerstone”
3) Living Stones - Paul does not mention stones directly but this is what he is thinking when he writes “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Believers are all (regardless of location in the world) mortared together together with the cornerstone (Christ), with God being the architect. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:5 “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus”
The comparisons of a building to the church needs little explanation however here are a few to consider. Firstly, the stones placed in the church are chosen and shaped by God, it is his temple, he is the architect and it is not up to us to decide how we will fit into his church. Second, the stones are all placed into relation with the first stone, the cornerstone, they are all attached to him, if not, they are not part of his building. Third, the stones are all different shapes and sizes, perhaps even different materials, they are put together for different functions, they all serve in different ways. Fourth, the stones are all linked to each other, even if they are across the other side of the building and cannot see each other. Fifth, the stones are not selected to draw attention to themselves, but all contribute to a great building which God alone dwells.
Paul describes beautifully, and simply, how the Church of Christ is to be built and how it should “look”. We’ve looked at why the church was built, we’ve looked at how the church was built. The rest of Ephesians goes into details on how the church should behave now it's been built. We’ll get to that next time…
1) What is Church?
2) Can you list 10 things that are the personal “attributes” of Church… For example, Welcoming, Friendly… etc
3) Trying to be objective, should someone completely “un-churched” walked into any of the MIE services, how do you think they would see us as the Church of Christ? Would they be able to see that Christ is our cornerstone? Would it make sense?
4) Does the format, or style of a church service matter? Why / why not?
5) Francis Chan, the American pastor, once had someone say to him after a service “I didn’t like that worship music today” Francis replied, “Thats ok, we e’rent worshipping you”. Was he right to say this?
6) If we get caught up with how services look, are we missing the point of Church?
7) What do you think the expression “The life of the Church” means?
8) Do you / we sometimes find ourselves getting caught up in the life of Church rather than proclaiming Jesus? What can we do to remedy that?
9) Thinking about the phrase “Living Stones”, that all Christians in the world form part of the global church, what emotions does this stir up? Does this mean that regardless of Christian denomination we are all part of the same Church of Christ?
10) Do you think that Christ is happy with his Church? What do you think brings him most joy? What do you think he isn’t as happy about? What can we do to change that?
11) Do we pray enough?
12) Is there time to pray now? There are also many prayer meetings across MIE…