HAVING BEEN BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS: epoikodomethentes (AAPMPN) epi to themelio ton apostolon kai propheton: (Ep 4:12; 1Peter 2:4,5) (Ep 4:11, 12, 13; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 16:18; 1Corinthians 3:9, 10, 11; 12:28; Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14)
Having been built (2026) (epoikodomeo [word study] from epí = upon + oikodoméo = build) means to build upon or erect a superstructure. Paul changes the metaphor from a household (or family) to a spiritual temple as he explains the unifying character of the church.
The aorist tense speaks of a past completed action. However note in the next two verses "being fitted together" (Ep 2:21-note) and "being built together" (Ep 2:22-note) are both in the present tense indicating that although the foundation has been laid securely and irrevocably, God is still in the process of fitting and building believers into His holy Temple, His dwelling place. The passive voice indicates that God's Spirit is the One Who is active, His power being the force that enables the building of the household.
Illustration - There is a famous story from Sparta. A Spartan king boasted to a visiting monarch about the walls of Sparta. The visiting monarch looked around and could see no walls. He said to the Spartan king, "Where are these walls about which you boast so much?" His host pointed at his bodyguard of magnificent troops. "These," he said, "are the walls of Sparta, every man a brick." The point is clear. So long as a brick lies by itself it is useless; it becomes of use only when it is incorporated into a building. So it is with the individual Christian. To realize his destiny he must not remain alone, but must be built into the fabric of the Church.
Foundation (2310) (themelios from théma = that which is laid down in turn from títhemi = to place [see study of related word themelioo]) means something laid or put down, that on which a structure is built or a stone used in the construction of a foundation. It was used literally of buildings foundation (foundation stone Rev 21:14).
1 the supporting base for a structure, foundation -
(a) of a stone that constitutes a foundation Rev 21:14; 19
(b) of the structural base for a building Lk 6:49, 14:29; on something Lk 6:48. The foundations of the heavenly city built by God He 11:10 [contrast ‘tents of Abraham’ with the city]).
2 the basis for something taking place or coming into being, foundation, fig. extension of meaning.
(a) of the elementary beginnings of a thing; of the founding of a congregation Ro 15:20; 1Cor 3:10; 1Co 3:12. Of elementary teachings He 6:1.
(b) of the indispensable prerequisites for something to come into being: God’s will is the foundation of an orderly creation. The foundation of the Christian church or congregation: Christ 1Co 3:11 became its foundation; the apostles and prophets Eph 2:20; cp. 2 Ti 2:19-note.
(c) a foundation provides stability, therefore treasure, reserve 1 Ti 6:19 = ‘something fine to build on for the future’.—(Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature or Wordsearch)
metaphorically, the foundations, beginnings, first principles, of an institution or system of truth (as what is necessary for belief or practice): 1Co 3:11, 12; the rudiments, first principles, of Christian life and knowledge, He 6:1; a course of instruction begun by a teacher, Ro 15:20… the Septuagint several times also for a palace (Isa 25:2, Je 6:5, Amos 1:4, etc).
Themelios - 12x in 11v- Ro 15:20-note; 1Cor 3:10, 11, 12; Eph 2:20; 1Ti 6:19; 2Ti 2:19-note; Heb 6:1-note; He 11:10-note; Rev 21:14-note, Re 21:19-note NAS - foundation(11), foundation stone(1), foundation stones(2), foundations(2).
Romans 15:20-note And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation;
1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
1 Timothy 6:19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
2 Timothy 2:19-note Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."
Hebrews 6:1-note Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Hebrews 11:10-note for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Revelation 21:14-note And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Revelation 21:19-note The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;
Themelios - 8x in the Septuagint - Deut 32:22; 1Ki 5:17; 2Ki 16:18; Ezra 4:12; 5:16; Job 22:16; Ps 87:1; 137:7
The foundation of the apostles and prophets - describes those of the NT era, first century AD. He does not mean the OT prophets for they knew nothing of the NT Church, the building that Paul is describing in this passage. Note carefully that although apostles and prophets are "foundational", they are not the ultimate foundation, which is Christ Himself.
John MacArthur explains foundation of the apostles and prophets writing that…
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” (1Cor. 3:10, 11; cf. Ro 15:20-note). (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Apostles (652) (apostolos [word study] from apo = from + stello = send forth) means one sent forth from by another, often with a special commission to represent another and to accomplish his work. It can be a delegate, commissioner, ambassador sent out on a mission or orders or commission and with the authority of the one who sent him.
Apostolos referred to someone who was officially commissioned to a position or task, such as an envoy. Cargo ships were sometimes called apostolic, because they were dispatched with a specific shipment for a specific destination. In secular Greek apostolos was used of an admiral of a fleet sent out by the king on special assignment.
In the ancient world a apostle was the personal representatives of the king, functioning as an ambassador with the king’s authority and provided with credentials to prove he was the king's envoy.
Prophets (4396) (prophetes from pró = before or forth + phemí = tell) refers in the present context to those who speak under divine influence and inspiration foretelling future events or exhorting, reproving, and admonishing individuals or nations as the ambassador of God and the interpreter of His will to men. The prophets speak not their own thought but what they received from God, retaining, however, their own consciousness and self–possession (cf notes 2 Peter 1:21)
Paul helps us understand that he is not referring to Old Testament prophets explaining in Ephesians 4 that Christ…
gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (See notes Ephesians 4:11; 4:12)
Vincent has a note on NT prophets writing that this refers not so much to the…
foretelling of the future. Quite probably very little of this element is contemplated; but utterance under immediate divine inspiration: delivering inspired exhortations, instructions, or warnings.
CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF BEING THE CORNER STONE: ontos (PAPMSG) akrogoniaiou autou Christou Iesou: (Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10,11; Luke 20:17,18; Acts 4:11,12; 1Peter 2:7,8)
Christ Jesus Himself being the Corner Stone a metaphor which Paul states clearly symbolizes Christ.
This picture of Christ as a Stone or Rock is intimately woven by the Spirit throughout both the Old and New Testaments and makes for a fascinating and encouraging study
Suggestion: This study would make an edifying series in a Sunday School class and would be very enlightening to those who are not that familiar with the Old Testament. Remember to carefully observe the context to arrive at the most accurate interpretation, interrogating each each "base" verse with questions such as… When does this take place? Where does this take place? What are the circumstances surrounding the use of this metaphor? Who are the "cast of characters"? Who used the name Rock? What attributes do you discover about the Rock or Stone? How should we apply this truth to our life today -- not Can we? - it is God's Word of Truth and it is ALWAYS applicable to our life. The more relevant question is "Will we allow the Spirit to speak the Word of Truth to our innermost being and respond with unhesitating obedience"?)… here are the Scriptures…
Genesis 49:24 > Exodus 17:6 > Exodus 33:21 > Numbers 20:11 > Deut 32:4 > 2Samuel 23:3 > Psalm 18:2 > Psalm 18:31 > Psalm 18:46 > Psalm 19:14 > Psalm 27:5 > Psalm 28:1 > Psalm 31:2-3 > Psalm 40:2 > Psalm 42:9 > Psalm 61:2 >Psalm >Psalm 62:2 >Psalm 62:6-7 >Psalm 71:3 >Psalm 78:16 > Psalm 78:20 > Psalm 78:35 > Psalm 81:16 > Psalm 89:26 > Psalm 92:15 > Psalm 94:22 >Psalm 95:1 >Psalm 105:41 >Psalm 114:8 >Psalm 118:22 >Psalm 144:1 >Isaiah 8:14 > Isaiah 17:10 > Isaiah 26:4 >Isaiah 28:16 >Isaiah 30:29 >Isaiah 32:2 >Isaiah 33:16 >Isaiah 44:8 >Isaiah 48:21 >Isaiah 51:1 > Da 2:34 > Da 2:35, 44-46 > Hab 1:12 > Zech 4:7 > Mt 7:24,25> Mt 16:18 >Mt 21:42 >Mk 12:10 >Luke 20:17 > Acts 4:11 >Ro 9:32-33 > Acts 4:11 >1Cor 1:23>1Cor 10:4 >Ephesians 2:20 >1Pe 2:4-8 (Which book of the Bible has the most allusions to Rock? Why might that be the case?)
(1) To God Jesus is…
Exodus 17:6, 1Cor 10:4,
cp John 4:13, John 4:14
(2) To Israel Messiah is…
1Pe 2:8 (note), Ro 9:32 (note)
Ro 9:33 (note); 1Cor 1:23
(3) To the Church the Lord Jesus is…
1Pe 2:6 (note), Ep 2:20 (note),
1Cor 3:10, 11, 12 (foundation)
(4) To all the Gentile world powers Jesus the King of kings is the…
Stone cut without hands
Stone that grows and fills the earth
Da 2:35, cf Da 2:44 2:45
(5) To Israel at Second coming Messiah is…
Capstone of the corner
(6) To unbelievers the Lord Jesus Christ is the…
Crushing Stone of judgment
Being (1510) (eimi) means being or existence. Present tense speaks of His continuity.
Corner stone (204) (akrogoniaios from ákron = extreme + gonía = corner) refers to the stone that supports the main weight of a structure and figuratively is Christ Who unites Jews and Gentiles into one body and Who sustains whole structure of the church.
The corner stone of a building 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 thus functioned as the supporting stone, the stone that oriented all other stone, and the stone that unified of the entire building. Jesus Christ perfectly fulfills each of these roles in God’s building, the new man, the body of Christ, the Church.
Related Study - See CHRIST THE STONE
Expositor's Bible Commentary adds that…
The word akrogoniaios ("cornerstone") literally means "at the tip of the angle." It refers to the capstone or binding stone that holds the whole structure together (TDNT, 1:792). It covered a right angle joining two walls, as Sir Henry Layard found, for example, when excavating Nineveh. Often the royal name was inscribed on it. In the East it was considered to be even more important than the foundation. (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing)
Blaikie has this note on the corner stone writing that…
the stone which, being placed in the corner, determined the lines of the whole building. The idea of foundation is that of support; the idea of the chief corner-stone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation. Jesus is not only the Origin, Foundation, Support of the Church, but he gives it its shape and form, he determines the place and the office of each stone, he gives life and character to each member. (The Pulpit Commentary: Ephesians)
Barnes has the following note on cornerstone writing that…
The corner-stone is the most important in the building. (1.) Because the edifice rests mainly on the corner-stones. If they are small, and unstable, and settle down, the whole building is insecure; and hence care is taken to place a large stone firmly at each corner of an edifice. (2.) Because it occupies a conspicuous and honourable place. If documents or valuable articles are deposited at the foundation of a building it is within the corner-stone. The Lord Jesus is called the "corner-stone," because the whole edifice rests on him, or he occupies a place relatively as important as the corner-stone of an edifice. Were it not for him the edifice could not be sustained for a moment. Neither prophets nor apostles alone could sustain it. See [1Co 3:11]. (Barnes Notes)
Christ Jesus, the Messiah, is the Corner Stone about which the Old Testament repeatedly prophesied…
Psalms 118:22 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
Comment: The question is whether the cornerstone of Scripture is a foundation stone or a stone which crowns the building. Isaiah 28:16 seems to refer to the former and Ps 118:22 [rosh pinnah - rosh means head, top, uppermost height of an object] to the latter. It is somewhat ironic that verses from Psalm 118 were sung by the Jewish multitude as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey on "Psalm Sunday", see Mt 21:9! This psalm clearly predicts the "Jewish builders" rejection of their "Stone", the Messiah, this rejection culminating in their cries "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Luke 23:21
Isaiah 8:13-note "It is the LORD of hosts Whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. 14 "Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over (Paul wrote "we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block [skandalon - see note] " 1Cor 1:23), and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone (pinnah) for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes (aman - basic root idea is firmness or certainty. Faith is not a blind leap into the dark but a confident commitment to the One about Whom abundant evidence bears ample testimony of His eternal, immutable trustworthiness) in it will not be disturbed (agitated, LXX = kataischuno = caused to be much ashamed, disgraced, dishonored, also conveys the sense of disappointed).
Jesus after telling the Jewish chief priests and elders of the Jewish people the parable of the Vineyard, then quoted from Psalm 118:22-23 explaining that the Stone rejected by the Jewish builders was chosen of God as the Head of the corner. Matthew records our Lord's words…
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED (speaks of His rejection by the Jews and His crucifixion fulfilling the OT prophecy), THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone (anticipates His resurrection and exaltation); THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'? (Matthew 21:42 quoting Psalm 118:22-23)
Comment: In the context of the preceding parable Jesus' quotation might seem irrelevant at first glance. However if one remembers that it is taken from a Messianic psalm, it becomes clear that Jesus cited it to suggest to the Jewish chief priests and elders that the Son who was killed and thrown out of the vineyard was also “the chief cornerstone” in God’s redemptive plan! It is also interesting to ponder that although in modern parlance the CORNERSTONE is placed at the foundation of a building, in ancient Israel the CAPSTONE was placed at the very top - a true ''HEAD'' STONE. Jesus is the STONE that serves as both the alignment and the completion of our lives, the Author and Perfecter, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega!
Paul in explaining God's sovereign plan for salvation of the Gentiles quotes in part from Isaiah 8:13-14 and Isaiah 28:16 writing…
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (See notes Romans 9:30; 9:31; 9:32; 9:33)
Comment: Israel's rejection of their Messiah resulted in God setting Israel aside for a time and turning to the Gentiles.
Peter filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit when asked by the Jewish priests, rulers and elders by what power or in what name was he preaching unabashedly, boldly declared…
"He (Christ the Messiah) is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you (the Jewish priests and leader), THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else (absolute negation); for there is no other Name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11,12)
Peter reiterated this important truth about Christ Jesus the Corner Stone in his first epistle explaining to his readers…
And coming to Him (Christ) as to a Living Stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (quoting Isaiah 28:16) 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone," 8 and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION (KJV = "a peculiar people" = a people for possession), that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE (In Hosea it is Israel who is not God's people; in Romans 9:25; 9:26 it is the Gentiles to whom Paul applies Hosea's words. Thus in 1 Peter the words could apply to both Jews before they met their Messiah & pagan Gentiles before the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit), but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (See notes 1 Peter 2:4; 2:5; 2:6; 2:7; 2:8; 2:9; 2:10)
Jesus Christ is not only the Chief Corner Stone, but He is also the foundation, that on which the whole structure is built, Paul writing that
we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me (Observe that the effectiveness of our Christian work is due to God's work through us not to our own efforts!)., as a wise master builder (architekton = spiritual "structural engineer") I laid a foundation (themelios), and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation (themelios) other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1Cor 3:9-11).
Wayne Barber writes that…
We have been talking about the brand new identity we have in Jesus Christ. As we have studied in chapter 2, Christ did not make the Jew a Gentile. He did not make the Gentile a Jew. He took both of them as they became believers and made them into one brand new body, one that has never before been seen. Christians are unique. It is a brand new identity that Christ gives to those who believe in Him.
Look in Ephesians 2:14-15. Paul says,
"For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man."
That new man is a body of believers. I have a brand new identity when I receive the Lord Jesus Christ. I am birthed into something that is qualitatively brand new, originating only from Christ Himself.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
"Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he a new creature,"
He is a new creation. That’s what I think Paul is bringing out here in Ephesians. He wants these Gentile believers to understand the brand new identity they have in Jesus Christ. He uses three word pictures of this new identity we have in Jesus Christ. We looked at two of them in the last study in 19:
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household."
First of all, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. He does not mention the kingdom, but he mentions the fact that we are citizens with responsibilities. We are of a brand new nation. We are fellow citizens. The word "citizen" always refers to responsibility. Yes, privilege is involved, but much more is responsibility. So implicit in that verse is that we are part of a holy nation, a kingdom that is Christ’s and Christ’s alone. That is part of our new identity.
The other picture he gives us is that we are children of a heavenly household. We have been brought into the family. I love where he says we "are of God’s household." The word "household" means "family." Actually you can translate it either way. We are a part of God’s family. I am a child of a heavenly household.
We said it last time, but I want to say it again. The family of God is not a hotel which you can pay a price to get into. Oh, no. It is a family, and you have to be birthed into the family. You either are or you aren’t. Paul wants to give the Ephesians this picture of this brand new identity.
The third picture Paul shows us is that we are His Holy Temple. That’s incredible. Verses 20-22 give the whole picture of our being His Holy Temple in which He dwells on this earth. We need to know WHOSE we are, and we need to know WHO we are when it comes to living in this world. We are brand new creatures. We are His Kingdom. We are His family, but we also are His Holy Temple in which He dwells.
Well, let’s begin to look at it. In verse 20, we are going to look at three things. First of all we are going to look at the foundation of this Holy Temple. Secondly, we are going to look at the cornerstone of this Holy Temple. And thirdly, we are going to look at the stones that are in this Holy Temple.
Verse 20 says,
"having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
What is the foundation of this holy temple of God? Each one of us who are believers are a part of that holy temple of God. Something is happening to us as God is constructing that temple.
First of all, what is the foundation: "having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets"? When you first read this it appears to contradict another verse that ought to be familiar. It appears to say that the apostles and the prophets are the foundation of this holy temple. Go back to 1Corinthians 3:11:
"For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." So we know that the foundation is Jesus Christ."
Well then, what is he doing telling us that the apostles and the prophets are the foundation of this holy temple? Paul is not talking about the same thing in Ephesians that he is talking about in I Corinthians. He is talking about part of it, but he is not focused the same way. When he says that Jesus is the cornerstone, in a few moments, that is his focus in Ephesians. When he says the foundation, he is talking about the revelation the apostles and the prophets were given which they gave to us in its written form. That is called the New Testament. He speaks of the fact that they were not really the foundation, but they were the ones given the command to lay the foundation.
If you will look at 1Corinthians 3:10 where Paul says,
"According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it."
Paul is an apostle. They laid the foundation by transferring to us the divine revelation of truth that God gave to them as apostles and as prophets. I believe what he talks about here as the foundation is the doctrine that we hold to of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the foundation, and the apostles and prophets laid that foundation. He refers to our doctrinal inheritance.
Jesus Himself said that the seed that falls into a person’s heart has got to be the Word of God. You get saved when the Word of God falls into your heart and reveals to you that Jesus died for you and that you are a sinner. Once you see that, understand that, open the door and let Jesus come into your life, that is salvation. Therefore, we all go back to what the doctrine of the New Testament says to us about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that sense, the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the holy temple. They were the ones who were given the divine revelation of Christ who is the one that saves
each of us.
Well, if the foundation he is referring to is the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, who are these apostles and prophets? We know for a fact that they were a specific group mentioned together three different times in the book of Ephesians. In 2:20, they are the doctrinal foundation. They are laying the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 3:5 it says,
"which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit."
It appears to be a specific group that is being referred to. In 4:11 he still continues to be specific. He says,
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets."
They were the two groups that he is talking about, or the one group made up of apostles and prophets, to whom the divine revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ was given. We are founded upon that divine revelation. This leads us to another question. We can figure out who the apostles are; can we figure out who the prophets were? Are they the Old Testament prophets? Some people say that, but I don’t believe this is a reference to the Old Testament prophets. There are three reasons why I don’t. First of all, there is the order in which he puts them. He says, "Apostles and prophets." If he were talking about the Old Testament prophets, he would put the prophets first and then the apostles.
Secondly the statement that the apostles and the prophets are the foundation of the church. The fact that they are the foundation of the church disqualifies the Old Testament prophets. Why? Because in this foundation we are talking about here in Ephesians, it is not just Israel, it is including the Gentiles. That was not a part of the message of the Old Testament prophets. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even understand this body that we are now in. They didn’t understand the church.
Thirdly in 3:5, the fact that it says, "it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets," shows me that they are not the Old Testament prophets. This was a fresh, brand new revelation given to those prophets who stood before the others and proclaimed that which God gave them.
So who are the apostles and the prophets? Let’s see if we can get a better understanding. Both groups were Christian teachers, but they were not identical. There were many prophets who were not apostles. The apostles are distinctly different than the prophets in the fact that they were the immediate messengers of Christ, invested with infallible authority as teachers and supreme power as rulers of the church. That makes the difference between the apostle and the prophet. The prophets were a class of teachers who spoke by inspiration from time to time as God directed.
What was the role of the apostles and prophets at the time that the New Testament era began, when the New Covenant became in effect? Their function was to authoritatively speak the Word of God to the church during the years before the New Testament canon came to be complete. They had a definite role. They didn’t have the New Testament like we have today. They were the ones God used to put together the New Testament. The fact that they are mentioned with the foundation relates them to that era of Christianity. They are the ones who laid the foundation by the divine revelation given to them by the Lord Jesus who is, in fact, the foundation.
So the foundation of the church, the holy temple of God, is the doctrine of Christ which was given to us by the apostles and prophets. In that light, they are a part of the foundation. Jesus is the substance of the foundation, and the apostles and prophets laid the foundation and told us about Him through the divine revelation God had given to them.
Christ Jesus the Cornerstone
Secondly, I want you to see the cornerstone of this temple of God. In my study of the New Testament every time Jesus is called the foundation, the cornerstone is not even mentioned. Every time He is called the cornerstone, He is not referred to as the foundation. I think it is because both of them complement one another. All the way through they add a little dimension to what the other leaves out. Each one of them speaks of the fact that the church rests upon and depends upon the Lord Jesus Christ, whether you talk about Him as our foundation or you talk about Him as our cornerstone. Oddly enough in my study, I found that in ancient times, the cornerstone was actually more important than the foundation. The cornerstone was the major structural part of ancient buildings and was the first stone that was laid. So really, when you talk about Him as the cornerstone, you move it up just a notch. Not only is He that which the building rests upon, but He is the first stone of the building that was laid. He is the chief cornerstone. It had to be strong enough to support what was built on it, so it had to be precisely laid. Every part of the structure was oriented to the cornerstone.
There appears to be two functions of the cornerstone of the ancient times. First of all, for support as the whole building would rest upon it. Secondly, and much more so, it was for structure. That is the most important part of it. The whole building depended upon the cornerstone for measurement and for unity.
So you see, you begin to get a picture of Christ being the cornerstone of the holy temple. The doctrine of Christ is our foundation in this passage, but Christ, much more so, is the cornerstone. We rest upon Him, but we totally depend upon Him. We are measured by Him, not by men. Every dimension we have as a believer has to resort back to Christ. We are being conformed into the image of Christ Jesus. He sets the standard. He is the first stone that was laid. He is the one who gives us this brand new identity. Everything about the Temple of God is governed by the cornerstone, who in this passage is Christ Himself. All the growth, all the unity, everything depends upon the cornerstone.
You may be Jewish, but you say, "The Messiah has not yet come. I don’t believe in the New Testament." Well, friend, go back to the Old Testament and Isaiah 28:16. Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus ever came to this earth, prophesied by the Spirit of God that there was going to be a cornerstone.
"Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.’"
Isaiah didn’t even understand what he was prophesying. We know that from Hebrews. They prophesied in part and in portion. They never fully got the picture of what they were talking about. They knew a Messiah was coming, but they didn’t understand all the ramifications of what He would do and the deliverance He would bring.
Jesus uses Psalm 118 to speak to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew. Psalm 118:22 says,
"The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone."
That is in the Old Testament. We are not in the book of Ephesians. This was prophesied way back in the Old Testament.
Jesus, in talking to those old skeptical Scribes and Pharisees said to them in Matthew 21:42-43:
"Did you ever read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone"
This came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it." Jesus is beginning to speak already of that holy nation that He is going to effect after His death and resurrection on the cross. Well, the apostle Peter puts them all together. In 1 Peter, he puts Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22 and another one, Isaiah 8:14, together in one passage. Isaiah 8:14 says,
"Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
In other words, he is saying Christ is going to be a stumbling block to the Jew. They thought Jesus would come and set up an earthly kingdom. They couldn’t understand that it was by His stripes and His death upon the cross that we would be healed, spiritually. They missed all of that. Therefore, they were looking for something else. He became a stumbling block to them, especially when He went to the cross. They could not fit that into their theology.
Peter says in 1 Peter 2:6-8,
"For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone," 8 and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed."
Jesus is the cornerstone. You can’t have a building that fits or stands up without a cornerstone. He is the foundation, yes, but even more importantly, He is the cornerstone, the first stone that is laid, the stone that determines the measurement of all the other stones.
See how this fits in Ephesians 1 and 2? He talks about how we are saved by grace, not of works lest any man should boast. Everything that we are hooks right back into the doctrine of Jesus and the person of Christ. We can boast in nothing else. We can only boast in the Lord Jesus Himself. He birthed us into His kingdom. He birthed us into His family, and He is building us into His holy temple on this earth.
Do you remember back in the Old Testament when God came to dwell with the people? He dwelt in a Tabernacle. It was a tent of meeting. They folded it up and carried it. There were certain responsibilities about that. Then later on, they moved to a permanent structure called the Temple. In Malachi, God was so mad at the people He withdrew His presence. For four hundred years there was not a word from God. It was called the four hundred years of darkness. Then Hebrews said, "He broke the silence and has spoken to us in this day through His Son, Jesus Christ."
Jesus, while He was here on this earth, never went beyond the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple of Herod. Why? Because God didn’t dwell in that building anymore. He was there in human flesh. Jesus walked on this earth as the Holy Temple of God, His flesh being the house that God lived in while He was on this earth. We put Him to death on the cross. Jesus said, "When you believe in Me, I will come to live in you. You now are the Temple of God upon this earth." Individually and collectively, we are the Holy Temple of God, and Jesus is the cornerstone of that Temple. We would not be what we are except for Him who determines the measurement, the unity, and the support. Everything we are, or are going to be, is determined by the cornerstone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
So the foundation, as I understand it, is the doctrine of the holy apostles and prophets who gave forth the divine revelation, which when put together in written form is the New Testament. We are grounded and founded doctrinally by what God said, not by what man said. Not only that, the cornerstone is Jesus Himself. We are governed, grown, and united because of Him, the first stone that was laid.
Well, thirdly we are going to begin to look at the stone of this holy Temple of God. Now, Paul does not use the word "stone." Simon Peter does, but Paul doesn’t. He implies it, because in their culture, you didn’t have a temple made out of wood. You had a temple made out of stone. It was the stones that built the temple. It is implied that we are living stones, if you please, who are being built into this Holy Temple.
Let’s go over to I Peter and see how Peter talks about it. He’s saying the same thing, but he says it in a way that is a little clearer. He wants us to know that we are living stones. By the way, have you ever thought about the fact that if you are dead in sin, you are a stumbling block to somebody? You are a stone, but you are not the living stone. If you are a Christian, you are a living stone, and you can still cause people to stumble. I would rather cause them to stumble because I know Christ than because I am leading them astray from Him. 1Peter 2:5 says,
"you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
We are living stones, and we are being fitted into this spiritual edifice which is called the Holy Temple of God.
Let’s talk about that for a second. Ephesians 2:21 says,
"in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord."
What does it mean to be fitted together? In construction terms, in that day and time, that word meant the whole process that stones go through in order to be fitted together. Something is going on in our life. God is fitting us.
Now wait a minute, what do you mean? If you will look at the Old Testament temple, something comes to your mind. In the Old Testament, when they fitted those stones in place, there were no sounds of a hammer or chisel. Why? Does that mean a hammer and chisel had never been used? Oh, no. They were used back in the quarry, but when they came to putting the stones in, the stones were absolutely perfect. They fit into where they needed to fit. The construction term means "the cutting, the rubbing, the testing of the surfaces until they are completely made smooth." It is the using of the chisel and the hammer and the sandpaper to rub off all the rough edges so that when they are fitted in, they fit in exactly like they are supposed to fit. This includes preparing the little dowel holes that they would use. Then they would put dowels in it and seal it with molten lead. All of this was a part of being fitted, a preparation, so that everything is exactly to order as it is being fitted into the building.
As a living stone, I’ve got no choice but to be sandpapered and chiseled, because you see, right now, I am in the quarry of life. As a living stone, I am still in the quarry. That is what life is all about down here. We call it sanctification. It means the same thing. While I am down here, God knows exactly the vacuum to create in my life that will rub off the rough edges and will sandpaper off all of the things that don’t fit in what He wants me to fit into eternally. Therefore, He creates that vacuum so I have to come to Him and confess sin in my life. I have to see the ugliness of my pride. God tests me and proves me and rubs me and scrapes me and chisels me in the quarry so that I am being fitted. It didn’t say you have already been fitted, it says "you are being fitted." We are being fitted into this holy temple of God. There is a process going on.
If you are a living stone and you are going through something right now that you don’t understand, relax, friend. Just rest a while. The cornerstone is busy fitting you into the temple, which is the holy, spiritual, eternal, temple of God (Ephesians 2:19-22 We Are the Temple of God - 1)
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Illustration - Even They - Jack Nicklaus was a Kodiak bear on the golf course, impervious to pressure while huge galleries and television audiences watched his every shot. But put him in the maternity waiting room and he became weak as a newborn cub. Four of five times he fainted on hearing of his children’s births. The first time he hit his head on the floor. The second time he was fortunate enough not to hit his head. The third time they caught him going down. The fourth time he sniffed smelling salts—and fainted anyway. The fifth time he narrowly escaped fainting. Individual weakness can be compensated by corporate strength. That is the mystery of all the members forming the body of Christ. With God mercifully ignoring our personal liabilities to magnify our assets, each Christian contributes essential cells to each bodily function. Incompetence in one area offers no reason for guilt; what one member can’t, another can do—each one is essential to the whole. If all serve, no one’s disability disables the body! (Hurley, V. Speaker's Sourcebook of New Illustrations Dallas: Word Publishers)