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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
More From This Series
Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians 2:19. If you’re visiting with us this morning—as I look around, I think we’ve got several visitors—we’re in a series on the book of Ephesians. The model here at Kindred is expositional preaching. We usually pick a book in the Bible and just work our way through it, line upon line, precept upon precept. We hope, as we unpack the text for you, you just even gain a model of how to study your Bible. We’re in this rich New Testament letter written by Paul. It’s a series called Life Together. One of the great themes of the book of Ephesians is our unity in Christ and life together in the church. And we’re coming to look at verses 19–22, a message I’ve called “Taking Up Residence”—because one of the striking things we’re going to learn this morning is that God, through His Holy Spirit, at our conversion, takes up residence in your life and my life. We are temples of God. It’s an amazing truth, something that should indeed make us radical in the way that we live and we indeed conduct ourselves.
Now, we don’t need to stand, but open your Bible and follow along. I’m reading from the New King James translation of Holy Scripture. Ephesians 2:19–22: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
So reads God’s Word. We pray for the help of the Holy Spirit.
I have a friend, a member of our church here, who buys and restores and flips houses. And part of his company’s tagline is this advertisement: “We buy ugly houses.” I love the honesty of it. I love the humor of it. “We buy ugly houses.” You’ve maybe seen a TV advertisement or seen it on a billboard. I guess the tagline is meant to convey this idea that if you have a house that’s in bad shape and no one wants to buy it, my friend and his company will take it off your hands. And they’ll fix it up, and they’ll sell it for a profit. That’s good for them, and it’s certainly a help to the people who couldn’t sell their ugly house. Every time I see the billboard, or every time I watch the advert, I think of my friend who buys ugly houses, but I also think of the gospel and the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ does pretty much the same thing with you and with me. What do I mean? Follow the logic.
See, in the gospel, Jesus finds us run down and dilapidated. Our lives are broken, and what He does is that He purchases us—not at the lowest cost but the highest cost, His blood. Having purchased us, we become His possession, and He sets about fixing us up and filling us with the Spirit of God so that God takes up residence in your life and in mine. Isn’t that beautiful?
The amazing thing about the gospel is that Jesus Christ transforms our bodies into the temple of God. Isn’t that what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20? “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” and you’ve been “bought at a price,” and “you are not your own?” I love the way Paul describes his own Christian experience in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live . . . I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Jesus buys ugly houses, and He flips them by grace, turning them into temples of God. Isn’t that amazing? And I’m going to show you that in the text that we have got before us this morning, Ephesians 2:19–22. Let’s go to that text. Look at verse 19 in the opening couple of words: “Now, therefore . . .” You may have a version that says, “So then . . .” Paul is now summarizing the implication of the text of verses 14–18, where he has talked about what Jesus has achieved by His purchasing peace, promoting death. He wants these Gentiles to know that through the gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ, there’s been a marvelous change of status through Christ and His cross.
As John MacArthur says, “Aliens have become citizens, strangers have become family, and idolaters have become the true temple of God.” Isn’t that amazing? Just let me say that again. In this text, Paul is saying to the Ephesians—who have come out of paganism and idolatry, who were separated from the commonwealth of Israel, were apart from the promises of God, were without God and without hope in the world—they are now family. They are now citizens in God’s kingdom. They are now walking, talking temples of the living presence of God on Earth. It’s amazing. And we want to unpack that.
Now, we’re going to really concentrate on verses 20, 21, and 22 because that’s Paul’s concentration. He really focuses in on this third metaphor of the temple and the fact that the church is a building being put together, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. But let’s look at the three metaphors quickly. Paul likes to mix his metaphors because he wants us to understand the fullness of the Christian faith, and the different metaphors each offer a certain richness and a breadth of understanding.
The first metaphor is that of a nation. The second metaphor is that of a family, and the third metaphor is that of a building.
Number one, Gentiles who were once aliens have become citizens. Did you notice that? “Now, therefore, [so then] you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens.” See, Israel was God’s chosen people, but they had rejected the Messiah. Remember what it said in John’s Gospel? Jesus came unto His own, but His own received Him not. Israel rejected the Messiah. They rejected their rightful King, and, as a result, they have been temporarily set aside. Underscore the word “temporarily.” It is not our conviction here at Kindred that the church has replaced Israel. Israel has a future in the purposes and plans of God. I think that’s clear in Romans 9, 10, and 11. Romans 11 tells us that blindness, in part, has happened unto Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. Then, all Israel will be saved. So, God has temporarily set them aside, and God has indeed created a new nation, the church. And this is a nation made of Gentiles and Jews on equal standing. That’s how the church is described in 1 Peter 2:9: “a holy nation.”
And so, Paul wants them to know this because remember, back in verse 12, he has said about these Gentiles that once they “were without Christ.” They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” But no longer. Given what Jesus has done, given their embrace of Jesus Christ, “so then” Gentiles who were once aliens have become citizens. Isn’t that how the Christian’s described in Philippians 3:20? Your “citizenship is in heaven.”
Listen, I speak as one who has experienced this. Citizenship in a great country is a wonderful blessing. We are naturalized citizens of the United States. My wife and I were born in the United Kingdom—my wife in Scotland and myself in Northern Ireland. We came here on a green card, and we enjoyed many aspects of American life. But, because we weren’t citizens, there were aspects of American life that were not ours to enjoy, and rightly so. There are some things in a country that ought to be reserved for its citizens. Once it had become clear that we were to stay here and God had called us to be here, we went through the process of naturalization. And, one day in Staples Center in LA, with 3,000 other people from all over the world, we made a pledge to indeed be good citizens of this nation and to bless it as it has blessed us.
I remember, actually, in my interview with the INS officer, saying that this is a really big day for us. I told him our story and told him how I’ve always appreciated America from a distance and how now, living here, I appreciate her even more upfront, face to face. I said that if we are given citizenship that we will consider that to be a great privilege. I got a little teary-eyed, a little emotional, and so did he. And he said, “You know what? Not too many people appreciate this country the way you do. Less and less.” It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Because citizenship in a great country is a wonderful blessing not to be taken for granted, not to be assumed. It’s a rich gift. And, you know what? If that’s true, how much more is it true when you’re part of the kingdom of God?
I put my passport down yesterday when I was preparing my sermon manuscript, and in the first page of my American passport are these words: “The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requires all whom it may concern to permit the citizen of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.” Isn’t that wonderful to know that this nation, its military, its people, its resources, will come to the aid of its people and will demand that other countries respect the citizens of the United States?
Paul said to these Gentiles, “Now, you were not once part of the people of God, but now you are. You’re now citizens of the kingdom.”
Secondly, Gentiles who were once strangers are now family. You who were once strangers and foreigners, you’re now fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (v. 19). What a wonderful blessing. They’re not just citizens in a nation; they are members of a family. The word “household” here in the Greek, LXX, or the Septuagint, is a word that means “blood relative.” You’re now family; you’re blood relatives. If you go back to verse 18, he’s already kind of sewn this thread, hasn’t he? “For through Him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father.” See, when you and I get saved, God becomes our Father, and the church becomes our family. And another Christian becomes our brother, and another Christian becomes our sister.
I know some of us have come from broken backgrounds. I understand that. That aside, that qualification made, there’s nothing like family. There’s no place like home. Home’s where they have to take you in. Home’s where you feel safest. Home’s where you’re known best. Home’s where you’re loved most. We need to bear that in mind and make sure that Kindred Community Church approximates that, that it’s more than an event. It’s more than a teaching time. It’s more than a social gathering. It’s family time. And, wherever we are from—whatever our background, our ethnicity, our social standing—we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ve got to make it feel like family, got to love each other and take care of one another. And yet, many people treat the church as a hotel, not a home. And the implication of this is the church is family—the church is a home—and yet many of us treat the church like a hotel.
Listen to Tony Merida on Acts 29 in a commentary on Ephesians: “The church is not a building we go to or an event we attend. The church is family, living life together on mission. Be careful not to treat the church as a hotel—visiting a place occasionally, giving a tip if you are served well. Rather, see the church as part of your Christian identity, and understand that we all have a role in God’s household.” Just think that through. Don’t treat the church like a hotel. Remember, it’s a home.
Finally, Gentiles who were once idolaters are now the temple of the true God. This third metaphor must have exploded upon their conscience because, to the Jew, it would’ve been shocking. Remember, to the Jew, the temple in Jerusalem, Herod’s temple that had existed for about a thousand years (There was a temple under Zerubbabel, Solomon, and now Herod) was the hotspot of God’s presence on Earth. It was the centerpiece of national life among the people of God.
And now, Paul is saying, hold a minute. God has moved His focus from Israel to the church. And God’s presence concentrated and localized on planet Earth is not found in Jerusalem; it’s found in every gathering of God’s people throughout the world: the church in Ephesus, the church in Philippi, the church in Colossae, the church in Thessalonica. And it would’ve not only shocked the Jew in the church at Ephesus. It would’ve surprised the Gentile—because that was a Jewish temple, and there wasn’t equal access to that temple for the Gentile. But now, in the Spirit, they have equal access to the Father. And now, because of Christ, the church is being built up, built together, fitted together to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. That would’ve been shocking to them.
They themselves were aware of a temple in the city of Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis, or the Temple of Diana. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was massive. It was four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. It had 127 marble columns. It was the largest building in the world at the time. But now they are being reminded they themselves are a temple. God’s presence is not to be found in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and God’s presence was never to be found in the pagan Temple of Diana. God’s presence is now to be found in the church, among the people of God.
Listen to this. This is striking. In the Old Testament, God had a temple for His people. In the New Testament, He has a people for His temple. You are the temple of the living God. Live as such. We’ll come back to that.
Here’s what we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20. Hear it again if you haven’t heard it for a while. It reinforces the thought here. Paul is speaking: “Do you not know your body is the temple [the residence, the dwelling place] of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God . . . ?” So, you as an individual Christian, your body is the location of God’s presence on Earth in a concentrated, special manner. God is omnipresent, but He is especially present in the lives of His people. Just let that sink in.
And what’s true of the Christian individually is actually true, and in many ways more greatly true, in the gathering of God’s people in numbers when the church gathers. Because, in 1 Corinthians 3:9, we read, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are [plural, the church in Corinth] God’s building.” Wherever you are, that’s God’s zip code. Wherever you are, God can be found. Amazing. Striking.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at this last metaphor for a few minutes. Three thoughts, I think, come out of the text here in Ephesians 2: the foundation of the temple church, the formation of the temple church, and the function of the temple church.
Let’s look at the foundation of the temple church. Go back to your text. Verses 19–20: “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” We’ll stop there. This is the foundation of the church. The literal there would be the foundation which consists of the apostles and the prophets. We see that again in chapter 4, verse 11, when we’re told about the gifts of the risen Christ given to the church. I want you to notice: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets.” You get a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 12:28–29, talking about spiritual gifts: “first apostles, second prophets.” They consist of the foundation of the church.
Now, you don’t need me to tell you foundations are important. You don’t need to be a carpenter, a bricklayer. You don’t have to have worked on a construction site to know that foundations are important. Jesus told us in a story, didn’t He, about a wise builder and a foolish builder. One built his house on a rock. The other built his house on sand. Foundations are important.
So, let’s look at this idea of the apostles and prophets being in the foundation. Bear with me. Let’s just describe them and define them. The word here “apostles,” I think, refers to the men, or the 12 and a few added to them, who were directly called by Christ—the disciples of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, and so on. These men were special because one of the marks of an apostle of Jesus was they had seen the risen Christ. They were special in the sense that they were men spoken to by the Holy Spirit directly. Revelation was given to them. That’s what Jesus promises them: I’m going to go away, and the Spirit’s going to come, and He will reveal all truth to you, the apostles. And through their writings and their preaching, we have the corpus of the New Testament. According to Hebrews 2, these men were marked by signs and miracles. I think that’s who’s in mind when we read the word “apostles.”
Secondly, the word “prophets.” I take it to be New Testament prophets, not Old Testament prophets. And the reason I would say that is because we don’t read “prophets and apostles” chronologically, in order. We read “apostles and prophets.” I think we’re dealing with New Testament prophets—again, people who spoke the Word of God directly to the church. And you’ve got that order in chapter 2:20, chapter 3:5, in chapter 4:11. And they were conduits, avenues, by which God revealed His Word and will to the church.
Go to chapter 3:5 of Ephesians. Speaking of the church as a mystery, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of man, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.” The church is a New Testament entity. That’s another argument for the prophets being New Testament prophets. The doctrine of the church—unique and distinct from Israel, birthed at Pentecost—came through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament. It was hidden before, but now it’s being revealed through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament. They spoke of the church’s birth, belief, and behavior. So, that’s what we’re dealing with here.
Now, here’s something you’ve got to understand. It’s very important that we understand that when we read about them constituting the foundation of the church, we’re not talking about them as individuals nor their office. We’re talking about their teaching. We’ve just admitted that these are men that were conduits of God’s Word and God’s revelation. The church was created by the preaching of apostolic doctrine.
Listen to these words by John Stott in his commentary on Ephesians, very helpful, very clarifying: “Since apostles and prophets were both groups with a teaching role . . .” Do you agree with that? Hopefully I’ve established that to some degree. These are men who taught the church as God revealed His word to them. “Since apostles and prophets were both groups with a teaching role, it seems clear that what constitutes the church’s foundation is neither their person nor their office but their instruction. Moreover, we are to think of them as inspired teachers, organs of divine revelation, bearers of divine authority.” And so, it’s the teaching concerning Christ and His church, drawn in many cases from the Old Testament itself. It’s the preaching of that and the teaching of that truth that brought about the church, and these men and their teaching acted as the foundation.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Acts 2, day of Pentecost. Peter, an apostle, is preaching the Word of God, and he tells them to save themselves from this perverse and wicked generation. And we read what? And many “who gladly received his word were baptized.” Then what? And added to the church. And they collectively, that’s the 3,000 people that God saved, started to assemble, and they continued, what? “In the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
See, the Word of God created the church, and the church continued in her existence and expansion through coherence and adherence to the New Testament Scriptures taught by the apostles and their doctrine. Jude 3 talks about the faith once delivered to the saints, by whom? The apostles and the prophets of the New Testament. It was once given because, you see, it’s in the foundation. You don’t keep laying foundations; you build on them.
Here’s the point. The church rises or falls depending on its loyalty to the New Testament. You want to know if you’re going to a good church? You want to find a true expression of the body of Christ? You’re going to find it molded around and shaped by the preaching of the New Testament—certainly, all the Bible, but they’re certainly going to adhere to the prophets and the apostles of the New Testament. They’re going to continue in the apostles’ doctrine. The sure sign of a true church is the preaching of the apostolic gospel.
I mean, that’s what was going on in the Protestant Reformation and the principle of Sola Scriptura. As Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli looked out on the church of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church, they saw so much that had departed from the Word of God. The traditions of man and the canons of popes had replaced the authority and clarity and sufficiency of Scripture. And so, they set about reforming the church. They wanted to reform the Catholic Church from within, but when that became apparently impossible, they started the Reformed Church.
You know that famous scene. Luther is before the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, before the authorities of the Roman church. He comes before them, and he says, what? “Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed . . . . I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us nor open to us. On this I take my stand.” On what? On the Scriptures, on the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles and prophets of the New Testament.
Before we leave this idea of foundation, I’ve got a question. Are there apostles and prophets today? Now, TBN would say “yes.” We would say “no.” And the modern charismatic would say “yes,” and we would say “no.” The answer to that question is “no.” I base it on many passages, but this one is Ephesians 2:20: “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” The apostles and the prophets of the New Testament make up the foundation of the church. Now, you only lay a foundation once. You build on it; you don’t keep laying foundations.
And I believe that the apostles, who were unique men who had seen the risen Christ, evidenced signs and miracles, were receptacles of divine revelation. Their ministry was unique but limited. It was part of the early stages of the church. You don’t need to keep laying foundations; you need to keep building on them. We don’t need apostles today. We need preachers today who preach the apostles’ doctrine. We don’t need fresh revelations, words from the Lord. We have all the revelation God wants to give, all the revelation we need, because the Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation and equip us unto every good work. That tells me they’re sufficient. What more do I need than my Bible? It can sufficiently equip me unto every good work. According to Peter, it’s all that I need regarding life and godliness.
No, we don’t need more revelation. We need to study more the revelation we’ve already been given. We need constant teaching of the apostles’ doctrine and illumination of the Holy Spirit concerning the revelation of God. And another thing we need is renewed obedience to that which we already know to be true. I came across a quote by P. T. Forsyth, an old writer. He said this: “The preacher is not to be original in the sense of being absolutely new, but in the sense of being fresh, of appropriating for his own personality, or his own age, what is the standing possession of the Church, and its perennial trust from Christ.” Listen to this great little statement: “He makes discovery in the Gospel, not of the Gospel. Some preachers spoil their work by an incessant strain after novelty.”
We don’t need novelty in the church. We don’t need innovation in the church. We need a fresh application of the ancient, ever-living text of Scripture, brought with fresh illumination of the Holy Spirit and new obedience on the part of the believer. I think I’ve told you this before. When John Calvin was dying, he brought some colleagues around his deathbed—professors and pastors—and here’s what he said: “Change nothing and avoid innovation.”
Now, with the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, did you notice we have the chief cornerstone of Christ? “. . . having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets . . .” The foundation of the church consists of apostles and prophets and the revelation that God has given to them, which they shared with us. And, alongside them, you’ve got Jesus Christ Himself. Just pause there. “Jesus Christ Himself . . . the chief cornerstone.”
See, the cornerstone was closely tied to the foundation of a building in ancient times. It was the first stone laid alongside the foundation, and it was the cornerstone against which everything lined up. This stone set the direction for everything else, and this is the picture that Paul wants us to understand. The church is built upon the teaching of the revelation of the apostles and prophets, which centers upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ is the cornerstone, and a good church will align itself with Him, will have a sound doctrine of the person and work of Christ. That church’s leaders will look like Jesus, behave like Jesus, and believe what Jesus taught. The Word of Christ will direct that church. The praise of Christ will delight that church. The love of Christ will define that church. The apostles were aligned to Christ, and their life and ministry and message, and they called the church to tightly and solely align itself to Christ.
The living stone rejected by men, the cornerstone appointed by God (1 Peter 2:4–6). When I was studying this, an old verse of an old hymn came to my mind. It’s actually probably a British hymn, but it went like this: “What think ye of Christ? is the test. To try both your state and your scheme; You cannot be right in the rest, Unless you think rightly of Him.” It’s good theology. Concerning a church leadership, its worship service, its existence, its doctrine—what think ye of Christ? That’s the test because He’s the chief cornerstone. Everything must be aligned to Him. Our belief must be based on His doctrine. Our actions must be underwritten by His power. Our desires must go after His glory. He’s the object of the church’s worship, the mainspring of her activity, the seat of her existence, the essence of her love, the heart of her message, the center of her unity, the anchor of her hope.
If you go over to a corresponding letter by Paul in Colossians, all things are from Him and to Him and for Him. In all things He must have the preeminence. Eric Alexander is a pastor in Scotland. My wife and I, when we were dating, used to duck into the Tron in the center of Glasgow where he would preach. Just recently, I read a story about him and how he had a brother in the ministry, like himself. But his brother served only for three years in full-time ministry and then died suddenly, tragically, at 29. As Eric Alexander was going through his brother’s journals and stuff, he came across these words: “In some people’s lives, Jesus Christ has no place. In every Christian’s life, Jesus Christ does have a place. In many Christians’ lives, Jesus has a prominent place, but in few Christians’ lives, He has a preeminent place.” Let’s make Him the chief cornerstone of our marriages, our parenting, our work, our ethics, our living.
Let’s move on quickly. The formation. We’ll speed up here. The formation. Verse 21: “in whom the whole building”—that’s the church—“being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” “Fitted together” is an architectural term in the Greek here. It speaks of various parts of a building skillfully fitted to each other, not haphazardly thrown together. Jesus was a builder on earth, you know that? He was the son of a carpenter (Matt. 13:55). He’s still a builder in heaven. He’s building His church. He’s building it with you and me, that it might become a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. If you go over to 1 Peter 2:4–5, listen to this: “Coming to Him [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.” Listen to this: You also are “living stones.” That’s how the Bible describes you and me. We are living stones. See, we’ve been born again, made alive in the Spirit, and God wants to take our life and cement it into the walls of His church, which is being built together to become a dwelling place for God through the Spirit.
What a beautiful image. What a challenging image. Christ is building His church brick by brick, person by person. The church is made up of people who have rested their hope in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, who have then been cemented together by the love of Calvary. Every time someone trusts Jesus, that’s another stone that’s been quarried out of the pit of sin, whose stony heart has been broken and reshaped. They’ve been cemented by God’s grace into the walls of the church, and they have become part of the living house of the living God.
Now, let me apply that just ever so briefly. In a day, coming out of COVID, where I think the church is still in many places trying to find its feet, I’m still talking to pastors who are still waiting for about a quarter of their congregation to come back. It’s surprising, the lack of love that’s beginning to settle into American Christian life, a lack of love for the church. It ought not to be. You and I, by virtue of our conversion, by virtue of our calling in Jesus Christ, we are living stones intended to be cemented into the walls of the church. And that church, throughout the earth, meeting in localities under biblical leadership, exercising the ordinances of the church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper—loving one another, serving one another, sitting under the preaching of God’s Word—that expression of the church is to grow throughout the world.
Listen, bricks don’t stand alone. They’re placed into a wall. A thousand bricks lying scattered over a building site: useless. A churchless Christian is useless, a contradiction, maybe not even a Christian. Because, remember what we said back in Acts 2. Notice how salvation was described: “Those who gladly received his word were baptized; and . . . added to them [the church].” When someone is saved, they’re added to the church, and they become conscious of that calling. And they add themselves to the church by attendance, service, giving, and covenanting and membership with a body of believers to serve the purposes of God’s kingdom.
The Christian was made to be joined to and congregate with other Christians. Salvation may be personal, but it’s not private. I hope you’re a member of this church—baptized, submitted to the leadership, regularly fulfilling the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, serving one another, financing global missions, discipling your children, serving others.
Listen to Spurgeon. We haven’t quoted Spurgeon for at least a week. Here’s what he says: “What is a brick for?” Kind of dumb question, but follow with him, because the way some Christians are living is pretty dumb. “What is a brick for? To help build a house. It’s of no use for a brick to tell you it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground.” Have you heard that recently, by the way? “Oh, I don’t need to go to church. I can watch it online. I don’t need to be cemented into the walls of a church, submitted and accountable. Can’t you just kind of live the Christian life without the church or with a virtual experience at the church?” That’s like a brick just rolling about on the ground. That’s not its purpose; it’s useless. “It is a good-for-nothing brick,” says Spurgeon. “So you, rolling stone Christians . . .” It’s a word of prophecy. “You, rolling stone Christians, I do not believe you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live.”
Just think about that. You’re a living stone to be cemented into the walls of the church locally expressed. You say, “Well, I’m part of the invisible church.” That reminds me of a story Vance Havner told about a man who wanted to join the choir in a local church, but he wasn’t a member. So, he was refused, but he says, “I’m a member of the invisible church. Why can’t I sing in the choir?” The guy says, “Well, why don’t you go and join the invisible choir?” The invisible church expresses itself in visible form in the local church, where people covenant together under biblical leadership, under the preaching of the Word, with the expression of church ordinances and a love for one another.
There’s a famous story about ancient Sparta. Sparta’s kind of been made famous by the movies. The Spartan king boasted to a visiting monarch about the walls of Sparta. The visiting monarch looked around; he couldn’t see any walls. He said, “What are these walls of which you speak and boast?” The king pointed to lines of soldiers, the magnificent Spartan troops, and he said, “These are the walls of Sparta, and every man are brick.”
You are a brick, and you’re to be cemented into the walls of the church and live out your Christian life in connection with the local church.
We’ve looked at some foundation, the formation. Just quickly, the function. Verse 22, the function: “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” That’s the church’s function: to be a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. You won’t find the presence of God today in the temple in Jerusalem. You won’t find the presence of God today in the incarnate Son of God, walking the streets of Jerusalem on the coastline of Galilee. You’ll find the presence of God indwelling His people, both as individuals and collectively.
You’ve heard about Habitat for Humanity; the church is Habitat for Divinity. We have become a dwelling place, a temple for God in the Spirit. As I said, that’s a shocker to the Jew and a surprise to the Gentile. God’s localized, concentrated presence is found here like it’s found nowhere else on planet Earth. God’s omnipresent, right? But a localized, personalized, concentrated presence of God is found when the church gathers because we’re His temple.
Listen, in the Garden of Eden, God had been with man. In the Old Testament, God had appeared to man. In the tabernacle, God dwelt among men. In the history of Israel, God spoke through men. In the Gospels, God was visible as a man. But, after Pentecost, God became available to dwell in every man. That’s striking, isn’t it? You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve been to Buckingham Palace. I’ve been to Windsor Castle. I’ve been to the Queen Mother’s residence in Edinburgh. I’ve stood outside the home of John Calvin. I’ve stood inside the home of John Knox. I’ve done the Hollywood tour and seen the rich and the famous and their houses in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. And for those of you who know my story, I’ve actually been in the White House and stood in the Oval Office. That’s another story for another day. When I’m taking people on tours around my home city of Belfast, we go to the house of C. S. Lewis—who was an Irishman, not an Englishman. And I’ve stood in wonder, and I’ve marveled at who lived there and what they were and what they did.
But, just recently, I’ve tried to remind myself I ought to be a marvel to myself—because wonder of wonders that God Almighty is alive in Philip De Courcy and dwelling in you. You’re His residence, His temple. That means that all of life is sacred. There’s no secular; there’s no sacred. You ought not to be one thing on a Sunday and another thing on a Monday. That’s to deny the fact that you’re a temple. Wherever we go as Christians is holy ground. Whatever we do as Christians is priestly service. Your life ought to be holistic, and your life ought to be holy.
The word that Paul uses for “temple” there is naos in the Greek. That’s the word for the Holy of Holies. There were two Greek words for the temple. There was hieron for the structure and the outer courts, and there was naos for the Holy of Holies. Who went in there? The high priest. How often did he go? Once a year. What was in there? The Shekinah glory of God. It was so scary, so stupendous that according to Josephus, they tied a rope around the high priest’s ankle just in case he messed up in there, God struck him down dead, and they had to pull him out through the curtain.
But remember, when Jesus died, that curtain was torn. And your life has become the Holy of Holies. So, watch your words. Watch what you watch. Watch where you go. Watch what you do—because in a very, very real sense, God’s watching.
Augustine was tempted one day to go back to his old life. “Thou fool,” he said. “Doest thou not know that thou art carrying God around with thee?” And a happy life? Isn’t it wonderful to have family nearby? Three o’clock this afternoon, my little granddaughter Lily’s coming over. Can’t wait. Family’s wonderful, and having them nearby is one of the joys of life. Happy is that people whose God is the Lord. If that was true in the Old Testament, how much more true in the New when God indwells us?
We sang a little chorus—back to things that I’ve remembered. I don’t know if you sang it here. Dave Dunn might remember it. Little chorus we sang when I was a boy in a Baptist church in Northern Ireland: “Joy is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart, for the king is in residence there.” And if you were a little boy living in the British realm in Northern Ireland, that meant something. Because when the king or the queen was in residence in the royal palace, there was always a royal standard up the flagpole. And when the queen wasn’t in Buckingham Palace or in Windsor, there was no flag. You get the imagery?
Joy is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart because God lives there. The king is in residence there. That ought to mean our lives are holistic and holy and happy. Amen.
Father, we thank You for our time in the Word. Help us to meditate on this passage. It is stupendous. Its implications are weighty, and the outworking of it, a joy. He walks with me, and He talks with me, along life’s narrow way. He lives. He lives. He lives within my heart. We thank You, Lord, for condescending to live within us, live through us. May our lives be godly, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.