|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 20
Meditation Title: God's Household
Eph 2:19,20 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Sometimes in Christian circles there are people who prefer, it seems, to live lives like hermits, in isolation away from others. Historically, as we have commented previously, there were people who went and lived in the desert, miles away from anyone else so that they would not be tainted by the world. However the language of the New Testament is the language of community and of relationship. When reading the Christmas story I have been struck with how God sent people to Joseph and Mary to bless them – shepherds to confirm heaven's approval, Simeon and Anna to confirm it yet again, and the wise men to bring material provision for them. People blessed them! God uses people to bless and change us. So let's look at this ‘corporate language' here.
Before we do, note again the ‘link language' that shows how it flows on from previous verses: “Consequently.” i.e. as a result…. This links the present verses with verses 11 to 18 where Paul spoke about how Jew and Gentile were now one. He is now specifically addressing the Ephesian Gentiles and he's basically saying, “you are not second class citizens in the kingdom of God.” He starts with a negative: “you are no longer foreigners and aliens”. That is how they had appeared previously. The Jews had been the people with the relationship with God and everyone else was considered by them a foreigner and an alien. Indeed the Law even used that language! Perhaps it is difficult for us today to grasp this for we who are ‘Gentiles' comprise the vast bulk of the Church and so we in no way feel inferior; in fact some of us look at Jews who become Christians and we feel that they are. How the roles have been reversed, but in that day the Church was Jewish and it was only as Paul went out on his journeys around Asia Minor that it changed – even more so as the Gospel went around the world.
Oh no, says Paul, you aren't aliens but are in fact “fellow citizens with God's people.” Do you notice that even he distinguishes them from “God's people” even though he was building them in to the Church? “God's people” had been up to then primarily Jews, but all this is saying, “Gentiles, you are too.” ‘Citizens' refers to our place in God's kingdom. A citizen is a member or native of a city, a community or a country. We are now all members of God's kingdom.
But he also uses another ‘community' analogy: “and members of God's household.” A household refers to all those who live under one roof and so Paul envisions God's people all living under one roof with God and there are no distinctions there, no Jew or Gentile etc. As he said to the Galatian church with the same things in mind, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) and similarly to the Colossians, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Col 3:11) To all of these churches he has to say the same thing. Why? Because in life there are naturally divisions arising as pride or insecurity rises up and we cope badly with differences. It shouldn't be but as you look across the Christian world it is still so in the Christian Church. If we are all ‘living together under one roof' then we shouldn't be having these divisions; they are signs of childish immaturity and it's time we grew up!
But there is an important conclusion to this verse because this ‘house' or ‘household' is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” They are the ones through whom God has revealed His plans and purposes, it is they who received the revelation and imparted it to the world. It may be that the prophets may include the Old Testament prophets who brought the prophetic words about the coming Messiah. Peter wrote of this, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Pet 2:10-12). Yet is may also be that our present verse refers to those who were New Testament prophets who received, with the apostles, the truths and insights of the Gospel. It is through these men that we have the Gospel today; it is through them that this truth came.
Now comes the final word: “with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” A cornerstone was a stone that held everything together so Paul is saying that the message of the Gospel was conveyed by the apostles and prophets but the truth is that the whole thing is held together by Christ. He is the beginning and the end of all of all. It is all about him. Praise him!