Many world faiths have had or have temples–places of worship, places of ‘spiritual’ encounter, places for the deity of the faith to dwell. I wish I’d had a camera on the day I visited Israel many years ago. A Muslim labourer was interrupting his work day at the time of prayer. He was one of several workers who were excavating a Greek/Roman temple from a bygone era. At the entrance of this ancient building which was being unearthed, he had unrolled his prayer mat towards Mecca in order to fulfill one of the daily mandates of Islam. I left that place with plenty of food for thought!
In Ephesians 2 Paul summarizes the impact of the work of Christ in permanently altering the access of Gentiles into the new ‘holy temple’ God is building through His chief designer, Jesus Christ.
“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. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
I’ve spoken in recent days to individuals who are at various stages of gaining citizenship in our nation. The process is challenging at times, but the rewards are worth the effort. Instead of just being ‘visitors’ or ‘foreigners,’ those who comply with our nation’s standards are granted full rights as those who have been providentially blessed to be Canadians by birth.
For the Gentiles in Ephesus and elsewhere, the finished work on the cross of Jesus Christ granted them citizenship–full membership among the people of God. Instead of a building in Jerusalem, like the temple of old, this new spiritual building was being erected around the world. God was laying (through the God-given work of His apostles and prophets) a foundation and Christ Jesus himself was the chief cornerstone, the standard of faithful compliance throughout the entire building process.
This new ‘building’ was being erected and was rising as a holy temple–a place consecrated by and for the Lord. This ‘dwelling place’ would be a gathering location for all ‘living stones’ to be joined together resulting in an evident residence for the Spirit of God. God Himself is building a place that is fit for the King!
What are some of the implications or applications of this text?
1) There is equal access for all who are genuine Christ-followers. Spiritual rebirth not natural lineage determines one’s participation in this building.
2) The foundation rests on God’s appointed leaders. The interpretive challenge is to determine who these apostles and prophets are. These duly qualified leaders, guided by the Spirit of God, penned for us the books of Scripture. The resulting compilation, known commonly to us as ‘the Bible,’ provides a ‘firm foundation’ for the saints of Lord to rest their faith.
3) The foundation is complete and Jesus Christ occupies the place of prominence in God’s architecture. A true ‘gathering place’ or ‘assembly’ of God’s people is one where JESUS CHRIST occupies the supreme place. He is the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5). He is the central focus of Scripture (John 5:39-40). He is THE way, THE truth and THE life – God’s only means by which repentant sinners may come to the Father (John 14:6). Those tasked with oversight must see that the central focus of ministry remains riveted upon Christ.
4) No physical location is more ‘holy’ than another. It is not our buildings that are sacred, but the people who have God’s Holy Spirit indwelling them. Genuine Christians may benefit from travel to other countries, but are not mandated to visit some ‘sacred’ location in order to encounter the God they worship.
Perhaps it’s time to sing… “The Church’s One Foundation” is Jesus Christ her Lord. That hymn depicts through music, the spectactular engineering design of a God who is erecting a building worthy of the inscription – “Holy unto the Lord.”