A Holy Temple in the Lord


“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

In this beautiful text, the apostle Paul seeks to impress upon his readers how much they have been given, spiritual blessings for which they should be thankful and praise God. In the context, he has contrasted what they once were with what they have become (see Eph. 2:11-18). They are no longer outsiders, separated from the people of God and the covenants of promise. No more are they without God or the hope he brings. Now they are fully incorporated into God’s community, the church.

To teach a lesson on the significance of his church, the apostle makes use of a series of metaphors to make his message vivid and appealing. He moves seamlessly and at times without warning from one figure to another. They have become fellow citizens (part of a kingdom). They are members of a household (a family). Indeed, they are built upon a foundation (the house itself). And the house becomes a temple (the house of God).

Paul combines and mixes the metaphors by describing how the house is not only “built” and “joined together,” but that it also “grows.” Different individuals from different groups and different backgrounds in Christ are “being built together,” Paul explains, added like the bricks or stones of a wall into this holy temple (compare Peter’s teaching in 1 Pet. 2:4-10).

Its foundation is rock-solid. Apostles and prophets were God’s messengers (Eph. 3:3-5). The work and teachings of these inspired men were foundational for the church (Eph. 4:11). It was through them that Christ built his church. But Paul also wants to be clear that the position of Christ in the plan is preeminent. He alone is the cornerstone. Just as everything in a building is directed and held together by the cornerstone, so Jesus Christ is the source and sustainer of his church.

God’s purpose in this great work was not only to bring believers from all backgrounds into one body, the church. It was ultimately to build them together into a “dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Just as the sanctuary of the old earthly temple was the place where God promised to dwell with his people, this holy temple has become God’s spiritual dwelling place among those who are his. The promise of fellowship with God and his family is for all who come to Christ in faith and obedience.

The more we consider this grand design, we can appreciate what Paul calls “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” which is evidence of the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:8, 10).

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Dan Petty