Three pictures of what the Church should be!!
We have seen throughout this chapter how a contrast is drawn between what we were by nature – dead in sins and cut-off from God – and then what we become by faith because of God’s grace. Those who by nature are hostile to God but have now been brought into a close relationship with God and are at peace with God and have been reconciled to God through Christ’s death on the cross.
We have seen how salvation is all of God – that there is nothing that we can do to work our way to God or make ourselves acceptable to him. It is only possible for people to know God because God is kind and gracious and the punishment that is due to us as sinners was placed on Christ. Salvation is not automatic, however, we must respond to God’s kindness by repenting of our sin, asking forgiveness and pledging our allegience to Christ.
As a result, those who respond to God in this way are brought into the community of God’s people where there is no division as a result of race, sex, colour or language but all are equal in God’s new community.
Paul now goes on in verses 19-22 to explain what we have become as a result of having peace with God. What Paul does in these verses is to use three metaphors to describe what the church of Christ is. All metaphors are limited and therefore it should not be surprising that Paul uses a number to communicate the characteristics that the church should exhibit.
He says that we are “.. citizens … members of God’s household … part of God’s building..”
What the church is, has been, and still often is, very misunderstood not simply by those outside the Church but often by those within the Church – we should not be surprised therefore that society at large has a very strange and usually distorted view of what the church should be.
Very often the Church is percieved to be an irrelavant, outdated organisation run by a group of people who are 50 years behind the time – often that view is more than just a perception, it is a reality.
What is the church – what should it be? It should be God’s alternative community! God’s new society! Distinct from society and yet with a message that is relavant to society – a Christian is a citizen of God’s Kingdom but also someone who should have his/her feet firmly on the ground! The Church should be a loving community – a family! The church should be the place where God’s Spirit is manifestly at work!! Sadly there are some Churches where if the Holy Spirit withdrew thay would continue as if nothing was wrong!!
There are many things that can be said about those who are God’s people – here in these verse Paul focuses on three.
– Citizens of God’s Kingdom
– Members of God’s Family.
– “Stones” in God’s Temple.
- CITIZENS OF GOD’S KINGDOM.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people ………………., (NIV)
The consequence of being at peace with God is that we have been brought into God’s kingdom. Paul is writing to the Ephesian Gentiles who, as we saw last week, were excluded from the nation of Israel [2v12] This does not mean that a person must become a Jews in order to be accepted by God –even in the OT those who were Jews by birth were not automatically God’s people
6 ……. …… For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. (NIV)
Only those in OT times who truly believed God were God’s true Israel [His people] – BUT now Christ has made it possible for all to come to God through Him. The terms of admission into God’s kingdom are the same for everyone – whether Jews or Gentile –
Further, the status of everyone within the kingdom is also the same – there are no first and second class citizens within the community of God’s people. That doesn’t mean that the Church is leaderless but it does mean that no-one is more important than anyone else – one person is not more valuable than another.
What does it mean to be a citizen? You have all the rights and privileges of the country to which you belong.
When I first came to UK 5 years ago I was an alien – I was not allowed to vote – if I left the country for a certain time I would not be allowed to come back and live here – initially I would have had no support from Social services had I needed them. If I did anything wrong I could have been deported. NOW however I am a British Citizen with the full rights of anyone who was born here.
I am no longer an alien.
Illustrations are always limited. Citizenship in God’s kingdom is only possible by being born into God’s kingdom.
3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 …….. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’……. (NIV)
The Church is not a building – the church is people – those people who are part of the church are members of the body of Christ and citizens of the kingdom of God. Having your name on the membership list of this local congregation or any other local congregation does not make you a Christian – You must be born again.
- MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY.
19 ……………………………… and members of God’s household, (NIV)
The metaphor changes from Kingdom to household/family. Now already in this letter Paul has touched on the fact that Christians are members of God’s family.
Chapter 1 adoption into God’s family – ie. with full rights and sons and daughters.
2v18 “.. access to the Father …”
ILLUS.: THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN:
There is an old Roman story which tells how one of the Emperor’s was celebrating a triumph, and was leading his victorious troops through the streets of Rome.
The streets were crowded with people, and at a certain point on the route, a platform had been erected from which the Empress and the Emperor’s family
might see this scene.
The route was lined with great tall Roman legionnaires fully armed. When the procession was coming near the platform where the Emperess and the children were, the Emperor’s little son jumped down off the platform, burrowed his way through the crowd and was just about to run out on the road to intercept his father’s imperial chariot. One of the legionnaires who were lining the road, picked his up and held him. “You can’t run out there,” he said. “Don’t you know who that is who is just about to ride by? That’s the Emperor. You can’t run out to him.” The little lad laughed at the legionnaire. “He may be your Emperor,” he said, “but he’s my father.”
Being part of God’s family also means that we have brothers and sisters!
–affection, care, support — something that seems to be in short supply in the families of this nation. I am not going to bore you with the statistic of family break down you know the situation is bad.
BUT what is even more sad is when this same attitude is evident in the Church –
ILLUS. We had a friend visit us this week [Barbara Phelps]. She was over here from SA visiting family in Wales. It is 12 years since her last visit but left the UK 25 years ago. She returned to the church where she attended as a child – the sermon was on being friends with God – after the service no-one spoke to her.
How do we measure up as a congregation and as individuals – most visitors seem to think that we at Binscombe are a fairly friendly bunch – If they don’t think so they haven’t said. But how deep is the care and love.
“Faith without works is dead.” If love is not practical then it is not love at all.
The interesting thing about families is that strong, loving families are families who spent time together. How much time do you spend with your fellow-christians.
Meeting together like this on a Sunday morning is necessary and good. But this is not where you can have fellowship – this is not where you can get to know people and form close relationships — where you can share your personal concerns and pray for each other. NOW it is not possible to know everyone in the church at that level that is why small study groups / prayer groups are so important.
It is important that we meet in each others homes – hospitality is a key area of the Christian life – and it is NOT an option.
Romans 12:13 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. (NIV)
23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.
1 Peter 4:9 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)
We are not just ask by God to be friendly and smile at people when the come into the church building. You expect that from shop assisstants and Bank clerks.!!
Hospitality lit. means “lover of strangers” so it is more than just inviting those people that you like and get long with.
BUT I am not good at entertaining people!! We are not talking about entertaining! A fancy 5 course meal eaten off fine china with silver utensils is not necessarily hospitality – such situation can sometimes be very inhospitable. You eat at home don’t you?? You drink tea and coffee don’t you?? Invite other to share with you what you have. In a spirit of love and concern for them – that is being hospitable.
For a Christian hospitality is not an option it is a command in scripture. Our homes need to be open to people. If we are going to care for each other as we should and reach our community as we should then our homes must be open!!
Yes, you might not like people invading your space – you might feel vulnerable and uneasy – you probably will. Being part of God’s family means that we care for each other and reach out in love to those outside the family.
- “STONES” IN GOD’S TEMPLE.
Ephesians 2:20-22 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV)
Paul changes metaphors again. While the Church is not a building of bricks and mortar, it is people, Paul likens the Church to a building to illustrate the relationship between the various parts.
For 1000 years the Temple in Jerusalem had been the focus of God’s people. Now in Christ God had done something new – a new people needed a new Temple. This new people of God was international and worldwide — a localized temple would be inappropriate.
There are a number of things we need to notice about this Temple of God.
3.1. A well-founded building.
Any builder will tell you that the foundation of a structure is the most important part – evreything rests on that. Jesus pointed this out in his illustration of the two houses built on the sand and the rock respectively.
Apostles and prophets are the foundation in so far as their teaching is the basis of church belief. They themselves are founded upon Christ. The apostles and prophets were the foundation because of their teaching about Christ and NOT because of their person or position/ office.
We tend to think of these as OT prophets and NT apostles by the order seems to suggest that both are NT [not prophets and apostles] [cf. 3v5]. Prophets were the small group of teachers closely associated with the Apostles and what they taught is foundational to the Christian faith. What they taught in preserved in scripture. That is why they were unique and foundational and their teaching is the basis of what we believe – it cannot be changed or modified by anyone claiming to be an apostle or prophet today.
When the church shifts off the foundation of what is taught in scripture it will begin to crumble and history is a testimony to that fact. Today many churches in this nation have moved away from this foundation and consequences are obvious. A wishy-washy spineless teaching that tries to please everyone and ends up helping no-one.
What the apostles and prophets taught was not their own thoughts — it was based on Christ, the cornerstone.
The cornerstone was the most important foundation stone in the building – everything was measured according to it. It gave stability and direction to the building.
One stone found in the Temple site in Jerusalem measured 38’9″.
The cornerstone shows the honour of Christ’s position and also that fact that all other stones are useful only in true relation to him.
You can only be part of God’s church, building, kingdom IF you are related to Christ by faith.
3.2. A living building.
1 Peter 2:5 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 Jesus Christ. (NIV)
The church is a spiritual building, not a physical one. Each true believer is a stone / brick in God’s spiritual temple. A “living-stone”.
3.3 A growing building.
Ephesians 2:21 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises [grows] to become a holy temple in the Lord. (NIV)
Have you ever heard of a building that grows – well this one does!! It is a living building. When you consider how the Church was started with a motly band of followers – mostly uneducated fishermen – it is amazing how it has grown and spread all around the world. The church cannot be descibed as a completed edifice until that final day when Christ returns.
3.4. A united building.
Ephesians 2:21-22 21 In him the whole building is joined ………… 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV)
There are not many peoples of God – there is one! There are not many churches of God – there is one Church! United by its relationship to the head of the Church who is Christ — build on one foundation – who it Christ!! Sadly there are divisions and barriers in the church and between congregations and denominations but within these God has his people who are all united in Him.
Whether we like it or not we are related to each other – we are family – we are one — whether we are Anglican, Baptist, Methodist ……..the issue is — Are you related to Christ?? if so you are united to all true beleivers.
3.5. A spirit-filled building.
……….. a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Paul was a Jews – the temple in Jerusalem was the focus of Israels worship – had been for 1000 years. The place were God presence was manifest.
He was writing to the Ephesians – their city was home to the Temple of Artemis (Diana of the Ephesians) one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This was were the goddess lived.
Both these Temple were empty of the divine presence. God dwells on earth by his Spirit in his people. When Christ came the Temple in Jerusalem became obsolete.
By His Spirit God lives in his people – both individually and as a community. We are the temple of the living God. You can only be part of God’s temple if you are in Christ .. the two things are inextricably linked — you must know Christ personally if you are to be part of his church – theliving temple.
This is a wonder picture we have in Ephesians 2. How Gos takes individuals who are dead on transgressions and sins and in his mersy forgives them and gives them new spiritual life whan they respond by faith. How people who are hostile to God and to each other can be at peace with God through Christ and are brought together in one united, caring loving community.
What a wonderful picture. Tragically the reality today is very differnt – often the church is guilty of causing alienation, disunity and discord. It erects barriers that Christ came to destroy. What an offence to Christ when the church behaves in this way. When the Church fails to behave like the church it dishonours Christ and beomes the laughing-stock of the world.
We talk about fellowship and hospitality but we don’t practise it — we talk about missions and evangelism but the church declines — we talk about the teachings of Christ but God’s people are ignorant of Christ’s teaching and if they know it they fail to obey it.
There is a crediblity gap between what the Church says she believes and what she practices.
It is wonderful to talk about what the Church is in theory — what are we in practice? One of the most urgent need of the church today is repentence — we need to stop playing about and take God seriously. Being a christian is not something I add to my lifestyle – being part of God’s church is not like joining the local Angling Club – “I can fit you in Lord between 2:00 and 4:00 on Saturday afternoon.”
If being a Christian is not your Life — if it is not the most important thing in your life then you should seriously question whether or not your are even a Christian.
It is not good us criticizing ‘the Church’ – the church is people – you and me – each one needs to examine own own lives before God.
Let us thank God for what He has done – for the Church – for our salvation BUT let us be honest before God and repent of those things that dishonour and displease him.
EPHESIANS 2:19 – 22.
- CITIZENS OF GOD’S KINGDOM.
terms of admission – same for all
‘ … you must be born again.’
status – all equal
- MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY.
one Father – care, provision, love,
brothers & sisters – love, support,
- “STONES” IN GOD’S TEMPLE.
a well-founded building
a living building
a growing building
a united building
a Spirit-filled building