In Ephesians 2:19-22, in the Phillips translation, the apostle Paul writes:
So you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian [the saints, NKJV] - you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you is the foundation, God's messengers and prophets, the corner-stone being Christ Jesus himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbor, grows together into a temple consecrated to the Lord. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his Spirit.
We stand on the Christian lives of those who have gone before us. Those who have died in the faith, the saints who await their resurrection from the dead, form the foundation on which we stand, along with Christ, the Cornerstone. If we live our lives with integrity, then we too become an integral piece of the Temple.
Paul's main intention in Ephesians 2 is to let Gentile converts know that they have equal privileges with Israelite converts. Whatever his origins, each individual forms a separate piece of the "building," and all fitted together provide a habitation for God. The building metaphor is equally appropriate for us. Each of us comes from a different social and ethnic background, education, life experience, and so on. In order for us to become part of the Temple, a place where God dwells, integrity must reside in our characters.
Continuing the metaphor, each of us is fitted into the proper place. If a building is constructed of solid pieces - no rotted or bowed wood, no rusted metal, no inferior materials of any type - and if it is erected on a solid foundation, the result is a structure with integrity. The apostle Peter also uses the building metaphor in I Peter 2:1-5:
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
A building block or stone, used to construct a spiritual house or a temple, must be sound. It must itself have integrity. If the stone is weak, it will crumble or crack easily, endangering the whole building.
Building With Integrity
This creating, building, or growing that Paul writes about here is the process by which we come to have more and more in common with each other so that there can be a continuing fellowship. The Holy Spirit, mentioned in verse 18 and again in verse 22, is the mechanism by which this is accomplished.
The eradication of the differences that we bring with us into the church and the building of the commonality are primarily the creative work of God. He is the Artisan at work, and we are being created in Christ Jesus into a fellowship that is so close that it is likened to a family. Families have things in common. It begins with a biological affinity, and the children of a mother and a father are genetically closer to each other than they are to their parents. What are we called in the church? Brothers and sisters.
Families have looks and practices in common, too, among other things. What they have in common makes them a family. So, in the church, God has to build a commonality to give us the family and therefore the fellowship that will enable us to continue with Him and with our brethren.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)
This spiritual Tabernacle is God's habitation, just as, physically, the Tabernacle of Meeting served as His habitation in the wilderness.
God Our Provider
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ephesians 2:21:
1 Corinthians 16:1-3