Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:21a “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth”
With Christ as her “chief corner stone” (2:20), the Church rises as a building under construction, with emphasis placed on two things, compactness and expansion. Compactness is emphasized in “fitly framed together.” The phrase pictures stones in a wall being harmoniously fitted together. Unbelievers are a useless heap of stones flung helter skelter into a pile of confusion. From this rubble, believers are, by God, transformed, transferred to, and perfectly transplanted in, a flawlessly planned wall.
God’s plan for the Church is intense coherence. He dove-tails all the stones in His wall to one another, and expects them to embrace each other. What is true of a stone wall is also true of a church within God’s spiritual wall: unity is the key to strength, cracks are forerunners of disaster.
“Groweth” emphasizes expansion. The Church is a cathedral unfinished, and will continue to be erected till the final day, when the Lord comes again. Only then will its capstone be affixed. In the meantime, God expects His Church to grow. Compactness is not enough. Some churches are close knit cliques which resist the inclusion of newcomers. This is not right. The wall is to be compact, but also growing. New believers should be joyously welcomed into our part of the wall regularly.
Eph. 2:21b “. . .unto a holy temple in the Lord:”
The Church is “a sacred society” (Henry), “holy,” set apart unto God, built “in the Lord.” The Church is special. She alone is the bride of Christ. Even as no building matched in importance the temple of old, no institution or organization of earth comes close to being a peer to the Church.
No other temple in history was built like Israel’s. As a sign of reverence, it was constructed in silence, thereby keeping God from being aggravated with rude noises. All the temple’s blocks were dressed at the quarry, with no margin allowed for error. The stonecutters had to work perfectly to assure “that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building” (1 K 6:7). Massive stones were silently set in place exactly as brought from the quarry. This is unparalleled in architecture. No other temple was built in this silent way. Even the workers seemed to be whispering, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Imagine watching a building being built for seven years, and hearing no chiseling and no hammering. What eloquence! All who watched the temple rise in beauty and majesty must have been profoundly affected with a deep sense of awe as they saw work proceed without the clanging and clattering which usually accompanies construction. No other building in the world was like it. It was “holy,” set apart to One worthy of such reverence.
The Church, too, is “holy,” set apart. She, also, is unique, reared with awe, being constructed “in the Lord.” Even as the people of Jerusalem could see the erection of the temple, but not the preparation of its stones, people today see the church grow, but not the work which makes her “holy.”
God’s temple is still built silently. Within the hearts of men and women, in the depths of one’s innermost self, change is wrought in each individual stone “in the Lord.” No one can see or hear what is going on inside human minds and hearts when God creates new life in them.
We see living stones stir the baptismal waters, write their names on our church register, and see their lives change, but the initial work is done in private, at the quarry of lostness. God goes to the rubble of useless rocks, elects stones, breathes life into them, and chisels them before they are brought to public view in the wall. This private work, wrought “in the Lord” on one individual at a time, is what makes the temple-Church “holy.”
Eph. 2:22 “In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation
of God through the Spirit”
Yes, Gentiles, “ye also” are included in the walls of this building. “The middle wall of partition” (2:14) excluded us from the Jerusalem temple, but we are now included in the wall of God’s new temple.
Note the emphasis on the Trinity: “whom” refers to the Lord Jesus, “God” points to the Father, “Spirit” is the Holy Spirit. The latter reminds us each individual believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 C 6:19). Where people are built in Jesus and indwelt by the Spirit, there the Father resides.
Herein is awe: the Church is “a habitat for divinity” (Hughes). The greatest glory of the Church is, she is “a habitation of God.” What was the greatest dignity of Israel’s temple? It primarily “was not built for the comfort of the worshipers, but as a shrine to house the deity” (Moffatt).
The tabernacle and temple’s most memorable hours were when God made obviously manifested Himself there, thus proving it truly was His habitation. When God first took up residence in the wilderness Tabernacle, He filled it with so much of His own glory that Moses could not enter it (EX 40:34-35). When Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, irreverently “offered strange fire” in the tabernacle, fire went forth from the Lord and devoured them (LV 10). Overnight, in the tabernacle, the dead wood of Aaron’s rod budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds (NB 17). When the temple was dedicated, YHWH so filled it with Himself that priests were overwhelmed and forced to flee (1 K 8:10-11). In the temple, Isaiah saw “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). Ezekiel saw “the glory of the Lord” returning from the east and filling the temple (43:4-5). In the temple, Gabriel announced to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist (LK 1:13).
As these illustrations show, God wants to let it be known where His habitation is. The Church is His new temple, and there should be a hunger among us for God to make this truth obvious to all. Our desire should be for God’s glory to burn brightly and clearly in and through our fellowship.
God dwells now in no tangible structure, but rather in the midst of His people. For three hundred years we Christians had no buildings of our own. We need to be often reminded: we ourselves are the temple. We need for the glory to burn brightly and overwhelmingly through us.
Few sights are sadder than a church which gives no evidence of being a “habitation of God.” A dwelling with no sign of inhabitants is a pitiful sight. It has lost its soul. Where children played, mice scurry. Where Dad hung wallpaper, wasps build nests. Mom’s dust-free windowsills support spider-webs. An empty house is pathetic, for its glory is to be inhabited.
The old homestead built by my Puckett ancestors over a century ago still stands in western Tennessee. It holds no glory for us anymore, though, for it is merely a shell of a building, used as a shed to store hay. When I would take Grandma there for brief visits, she would shake her head in sorrow. Only memories remained. She would step carefully for fear her foot might fall through the rotting floor. Passing a tall stack of bales, she said the wash stand used to sit there. She pointed to another stack located where her Grandpa Puckett read Bible stories each night. Where wallpaper now crumbles, she said the old phone hung–the phone she used to call my Grandpa and say yes to his proposal of marriage.
Sad! Sad! But not as sad as a church with no evidence of being inhabited by God. Dear brothers and sisters, when we gather together do we view ourselves as a dwelling place for God? In all the activities of this worship hour, have you sensed communion between yourself and Him?
Things should be happening among us which can be attributed only to God, and explained only by the supernatural. Evidence He is among us should be abundant. People should be saved regularly, the baptismal waters should be stirred often, the offering plate should meet a generosity which is nothing short of miraculous, the preaching should be anointed. Our singing should reveal we sense among us an extraordinary Presence, a divine Guest. We have all been in churches where the music was dead. Some song services seem intended as funeral dirges for Good Friday rather than as celebrations of the presence of One who returned to life on Easter Sunday. A dead, formal church surely bores even God. Our singing should have such vitality that God Himself would want to join in with us.
God ought to feel comfortable among us. Being His “habitation,” we should do nothing which would make Him not feel at home. Only when the temple is holy can the eternal Resident truly be at home among us.
God should be able to relax at our gatherings. He has fought battles for us and shielded us from Satanic blows all week, but today the Lord should be able to set aside His armor and rest at home among His people. We have pressured Him all week long with our supplications and burdens, but today let Him find solace here. Our cries have been lifted from the battlefield this week, but today let us speak to Him as if He is at home, for He is. Talk with Him, and let Him talk with us through His Word. We sought help from His hands all week, but in this service let us sit at His feet and say, “Thank You, Father. We love you.” Let His world-traveling eyes rest a moment. Hearts, away with any guile hidden within your recesses! Let nothing displease the Lord as He comes here to rest. Lips, speak only pure and sweet words today! Do not intrude upon Holy ears which have come here this morning to be blessed. I trust no one in our midst has made this hour anything less than a comfortable “habitation of God.”
I trust this prayer truly reflects the desires of us all. “Oh, God, we would be your home! Loving eyes await you here. Lips free from profanity and harshness sing of you here. Hearts free of rancor yearn for Thee. Tomorrow, it will be “back to work,” but for right now, let us be your home. Merely come, and we will have reached the climax of earthly experience.”