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Unity of the Body

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1) United in God's Kingdom (Ephesians 2:19a) 2) God’s Family (Ephesians 2:19b) and 3) God's Temple (Ephesians 2:20–22).

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Ephesians 2:19-22. "Unity of the Body" Safe Haven Worship Centre. Sunday July 7th, 2019. Ephesians 2:19-22 [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21]in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV) Every summer, thousands of people make the dangerous sea journey from North Africa to Europe's Mediterranean coast, often aboard vessels that are poorly equipped for the trip. Many of them attempt the voyage to flee war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. A group of passengers, consisting of 105 people, left Libya in a rubber boat. Militant Muslims, who were among the migrants trying to flee from Libya to Italy in a boat, threw 12 of their fellow passengers overboard. Witnesses of the incident testified that the perpetrators had committed this crime because the victims were followers of Christ. According to tearful witnesses, a dispute broke out when a Nigerian Christian man prayed for salvation as the boat moved out to sea. Other passengers on the voyage told police that they themselves were spared "because they strongly opposed the drowning attempt and formed a human chain." (https://www.vomcanada.com/News-Articles/) The unity of believers is not a feel good attempt or mere theological construct. It is a life or death necessity in an increasingly hostile world. Physical threats are backed by evil spiritual forces that try to destroy the unity of the Body of Christ. Satan sows the seeds of discord in an attempt to stir up strife and cause division. Believers that have been brought together by the work of the Holy Spirit can either ignore, frustrate or embrace this unity. The danger is that we frustrate the work that the Spirit has already done by attempting seconding guessing motives or showing distain for others. If we think we can tackle the world on our own, then apart from the pack we are easy pickings from prey. To embrace this unity is to cultivate what the Holy Spirit has already created. He creates life. Our job is to maintain an environment that this may flourish. In Ephesians 2, Paul closes his discussion of the marvelous unity of the Body of Christ by giving three metaphors to illustrate it. In the picture of 1) Fellow Citizens (Ephesians 2:19a) he shows how Jew and Gentile have become part of the same kingdom. In the picture of 2) God’s household (Ephesians 2:19b) he shows how all believers are one spiritual family in Christ. Finally, in the picture of 3) A Holy Temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:20–22) he shows that all believers are together a habitation for God. Believers are a part of the Unity of the Body of Christ being: 1) United in God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 2:19a) Ephesians 2:19a [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints (and members of the household of God) (ESV) Whether former strangers and outcasts or former aliens and guests, all believers in Christ become fellow citizens of God’s kingdom with the saints—the believers from every age who have trusted in God. Strangers/Foreigners are people outside a country or community, with no special rights or privileges. The word for aliens (paroikos) often is translated as “sojourners,” a term that accentuates the transient nature of the Gentiles. In that condition they were like aliens with an “immigrant visa,” which granted them limited rights and privileges, but not full citizenship or permanent residency (Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.). God’s kingdom has no strangers or aliens, no second–class citizens. Believers are attached to a heavenly commonwealth (cf. 1:27), that is, a heavenly kingdom. They belong to a heavenly city, the Jerusalem that is above (Gal. 4:26). These Gentile Christians now have a homeland or commonwealth. They ‘belong’ as fellow-citizens with the rest of believers in that heavenly commonwealth ruled by God (O’Brien, P. T. (1999). The letter to the Ephesians (p. 211). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.). Please turn to Philippians 3 Being in the Kingdom of God has responsibilities for fellow citizens. Saints are not higher-level citizens but purposeful co-heirs of redemption with kingdom responsibilities to one another. This is how Paul explains this to the Philippians: Philippians 3:12-4:1 [12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14]I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained. [17] Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20]But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21]who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. [4:1] Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (ESV) • Paul’s life is purposeful, for he constantly aims toward a heavenly goal. He calls on the Philippians to imitate him. His intent is not for the Philippians to focus on him per se but rather for them to join him in humble, radical dependence on Christ. Philippi prided itself on being a Roman colony, offering the honor and privilege of Roman citizenship. Paul reminds the congregation that they should look to Christ, not Caesar, for their model of behavior, since their primary allegiance is to God and his kingdom. They need to stand together with one another and with Paul in striving for the gospel.( Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2282). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.) • Enemies of the cross worship themselves (their belly), and they are consumed with earthly things. The greatest lie of our times in individual spirituality. We are constantly encouraged to find our own path by our own means for our own benefit. Kingdom citizenship calls us to worship Christ and to serve others. (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2286). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.) The implications of this new citizenship is immense. Before Christ, people are in alienation, but now having been reconciled to God and to believing Jews and Gentiles belong! This is a universal experience for all Christian believers. ... Believing Jews and Gentiles had become a common people. They had a common language — a language of the heart which they all understood. They had a common heritage and history as part of the community of faith. They had a common allegiance which superseded all loyalties. They had a common goal (glorifying God). They even had the same destination — a place prepared by Christ to which he would take them — the ultimate polis, the heavenly city (cf. John 14:1–6)...We can travel throughout the world or even trek among the stars and sojourn in other galaxies. But as believers wherever we go we are free from alienation, for we are reconciled to God and his Church and we belong (Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (pp. 98–99). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.). Illustration: Kingdom of God 363 Missionary John Hess-Yoder told of his time in Laos: “Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. “The exact location of a person’s home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited.” So it is with us: we live in the world, but as part of God’s kingdom. Our citizenship transcends any local political or ethnic tribe. As heavenly citizens, we are to be living according to His kingdom’s standards and values. (Larson, C. B. (2002). 750 engaging illustrations for preachers, teachers & writers (pp. 291–292). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.) Believers are a part of the Unity of the Body of Christ being: 2) United in God’s Family (Ephesians 2:19b) Ephesians 2:19b [19] (So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and) members of the household of God (ESV) As if being members of His divine kingdom were not enough, God’s gracious work in Christ draws us even closer and makes us members of the household of God. This statement is formulated in terms of the contrast between the pre-Christian past and the Christian present of the readers, which the writer had left in v 13 in order to explain in vv 14–18 how this contrast had been made possible by Christ’s work of reconciliation. Because we have identified ourselves with His Son by faith, God now sees us and treats us exactly as He sees and treats His Son—with infinite love. Because the Father cannot give anything but His best to the Son, He cannot give anything but His best to those who are in His Son. (Rom. 8:17). What should this household relationship look like on earth? (Lincoln, A. T. (1990). Ephesians (Vol. 42, p. 150). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.) Please turn to Acts 2 We can see clearly from the book of Acts that when people were converted to Christ they gathered together in Church. Being members of the household of God resulted in formal church membership. This is how we see the early Church in Acts: Acts 2:41-47 [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. [42] And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [43] And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [45] And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. [46] And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV) • For those who received the word of God by faith they publicly showed that commitment through baptism and Church membership. Baptized believers were "added that day" (v.41) which implies that everyone knew who was a member of the church and who was not. The leadership here of apostles (v.42) would be help accountable for their oversight. This implies that there must be a definite number of church members for whom they are responsible, and who have committed to follow their leadership. The commonality of all those who believed (v.44) resulted in an intimate knowledge of others needs and a commitment to fulfill them (v.45). They shared what they owned and themselves. It was not support from afar. It was a sharing in worship and personal lives (v.46) This would also result in spiritual accountability one with another. Their commitment to one another had a public impact (v.47) and God honored their commitment and added to their number those who were being saved. This was not a social club but a list of only those who were committed believers that were dedicated to worship, instruction and fellowship. This was a fellowship dedicated to love, a commitment to give, serve and share in the ordinances of the Lord's table and baptism. (Adapted from Bill James: Baptism and Church Membership. Carey Publications. Faverdale North, Darlington, England. p.20-26) Illustration: 1568 Beauty Of A House What can be said for the biological home, can be said for the congregational home: The beauty of a house is harmony, The security of a house is loyalty, The joy of a house is love, The plenty of a house is in children, The rule of a house is service, The comfort of a house is God Himself. (Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 420). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.) Finally, believers are a part of the Unity of the Body of Christ being: 3) United in God’s Temple (Ephesians 2:20–22) Ephesians 2:20-22 [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21]in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV) The foundation of the apostles and prophets refers to the divine revelation that they taught, which in its written form is the New Testament. The expression of "built on" is an AORIST PASSIVE PARTICIPLE. The foundation of our faith has been fully, finally, and completely laid by the Triune God (Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 94). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.) Because the Greek genitive case appears to be used in the subjective sense, signifying the originating agency, the meaning is not that the apostles and prophets were themselves the foundation—though in a certain sense they were—but that they laid the foundation. Paul spoke of himself as “a wise master builder” who “laid a foundation” and went on to say, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10–11; cf. Rom. 15:20). These are New Testament prophets, as indicated by the facts that they are listed after the apostles and are part of the building of the church of Jesus Christ (cf. 3:5; 4:11). Their unique function was to authoritatively speak the word of God to the church in the years before the New Testament canon was complete. The fact that they are identified with the foundation reveals that they were limited to that formative period. As 4:11 shows, they completed their work and gave way to “evangelists, and … pastors and teachers.” In practical terms this means that the church is built on the New Testament Scriptures. They are the church’s foundation documents. And just as a foundation cannot be tampered with once it has been laid and the superstructure is being built upon it, so the New Testament foundation of the church is inviolable and cannot be changed by any additions, subtractions or modifications offered by teachers who claim to be apostles or prophets today. (Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p. 107.) Please turn to 1 Peter 2 The cornerstone of the foundation is Christ Jesus Himself (see Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11). Today cornerstones are largely symbolic. In the first century, however, the cornerstone was a vital part of the construction of a building. Great care was taken to be sure the cornerstone was perfectly square and level. It then stood as a standard of reference for all the measurements relating to the construction of the rest of the building. The cornerstone was the major structural part of ancient buildings. It had to be strong enough to support what was built on it, and it had to be precisely laid, because every other part of the structure was oriented to it. The cornerstone was the support, the orienter, and the unifier of the entire building. That is what Jesus Christ is to God’s kingdom, God’s family, and God’s building. (Redford, D. (2007). The New Testament church: Acts-Revelation (Vol. 2, p. 206). Cincinnati, OH: Standard Pub.) Peter explains it like this: 1 Peter 2:4-10 [4]As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, [5]you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [6]For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."[7]So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,"[8]and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. [9] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (ESV) • Peter sees that the OT temple anticipated the new temple where God dwells (i.e., in his people). Christ is risen from the dead and hence is the living stone—the foundation of God’s new temple. Believers are living stones in God’s new temple (i.e., spiritual house). Since the components that make up the house are “living,” the house itself is also growing (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2407). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.) • If your favorite celebrity were coming to visit you—or perhaps a king or queen—what would you do? Straighten up the house, mow the lawn, and trim the shrubs? No doubt you would do all that and more. When we belong to Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, he doesn’t just come to visit. He takes up residence in our hearts. We are his dwelling place, both individually as believers and collectively as the church. Since we are together a living, growing holy temple, a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit, what kind of dwelling place ought we to be? One marked by factions, divisions, self-seeking, quarrels over money and worship styles? Or one that exudes unity, servanthood, joy, self-sacrifice, and love? In which place would you rather live? ( Barton, B. B., & Comfort, P. W. (1996). Ephesians (p. 57). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.) It is Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone, as verse 21 declares , in whom the whole structure/building, being joined/fitted together grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Christ, in addition to being the principle of the church’s stability and direction is also the principle of its growth. It is in vital union with him that the entire building is “growing” or “rising.” There is nothing static about this edifice. It is a living building consisting of living stones: believers. And since each living stone makes their own contribution to the growth and beauty of the building, the latter is described as “harmoniously joined/fitted together.” (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, p. 143). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.) Sunarmologeō (joined/fitted together) refers to the careful joining of every component of a piece of furniture, wall, building, or other structure. The term “joined/fitted together” (συναρμολογέω, synarmologeō) comes from a root word (“harmonized together”) used when all the parts made a complete whole, when different music blended in harmony, even when a man and his bride were joined in wedlock. It was used especially in fitting planks together in a ship, or fitting stones together in a building. The emphasis is the harmonious blending of diverse parts—Gentile and Jew—into a united whole (Boles, K. L. (1993). Galatians & Ephesians (Eph 2:21). Joplin, MO: College Press.). Every part is precisely cut to fit snugly, strongly, and beautifully with every other part. Nothing is out of place, defective, misshapen, or inappropriate. Because it is Christ’s structure/building, positionally in Christ: the church is perfect, spotless, without defect or blemish. And that is how He will one day present the church, His own holy temple, to Himself (Eph. 5:27). Christ’s Body, however, will not be complete until every person who will be called and believe in Him has done so. Every new believer is a new stone in Christ’s structure/building, His holy temple. Thus Paul says the temple grows because believers are continually being added. Thus, the Church has the growth of a living organism, not the mere increase of a building (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 347). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.). • Many cathedrals in Europe have been under construction for hundreds of years. In a continuing process, new rooms, alcoves, chapels, and so forth are built. That is the way with the church of Jesus Christ. It is in a continual state of construction as each new saint becomes a new stone. “You also, as living stones,” Peter said, “are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). As kingdom citizens, family members, and living stones, believers in Jesus Christ are a holy priesthood who offer up spiritual sacrifices in God’s holy temple. As a living, functioning, and precious part of that temple, verse 22 concludes with the fact that we also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by/in the Spirit (see also 2 Cor. 6:16). This is a PRESENT PASSIVE. God is continuing to build/add to His church. The term a dwelling (katoikētērion) carries the idea of a permanent home. God by/in the Spirit makes His earthly sanctuary in the church, where He takes up permanent residence as Lord. This would be a vivid perception for people living amid temples in which pagan deities were believed to dwell, as in the temple to Artemis in Ephesus (Acts 19:23–41). But the church is no small physical chamber in which an idol is kept; it is the vast spiritual body of the redeemed, wherein resides His Spirit. (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19–20.) (Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 94). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.). Through the blood, the suffering flesh, the cross, and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, aliens become citizens, strangers become family, idolaters become the temple of the true God, the hopeless inherit the promises of God, those without Christ become one in Christ, those far off are brought near, and the godless are reconciled to God. Therein is the reconciliation of believers to God and of person to person. As we publicly commit to Christ, and to each other we declare ourselves members one to another for the cause of Christ. (Format note: Outline & base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 81–83). Chicago: Moody Press.)
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