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THE MAGNIFICENT TEMPLE OF GOD
Intro: Pauls emphasis in chapter 2 has been on the grace of God in salvation. He describes our lost condition in verses 1-3. He talks about Gods amazing salvation in verses 4-10. Then, Paul reminds us that we were Gentiles. As such, we were separated from the provisions and promises of God, v. 12. Not only that, but we were separated from the Jews, who were Gods chosen people. They had the Law of God and they held the keys to pleasing God. The Gentiles had nothing but condemnation and hopelessness.
In our natural condition we were lost and headed to Hell, but so were the Jews. They might have had the Law of God, but they did not know the God behind the Law. Both the Jew and the Gentile were lost. In Jesus, Paul tells us that we have been reconciled to one another and to God. Jesus broke down the walls that separated the Jew and the Gentile, and He broke down the walls that separated lost sinners from God, v. 13-18. When Jesus died on the cross, He opened the door of salvation to all who would believe, whether they are Jew or Gentile.
Having told us how God saved us and has brought us together in Jesus, Paul now moves to describe our relationship to God. In these verses, Paul describes The Magnificent Temple Of God. Paul describes the temple God is building from both redeemed Jews and Gentiles. There are some truths here that should challenge and encourage our hearts. Lets notice these truths today as we think about The Magnificent Temple Of God.
I. THE METAPHORS PAUL USES
Ill. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is laid over against another thing in order to make a comparison between the two. Jesus was the Master of the metaphor. Some examples of His use of this literary devise are as follows:
· Ye are the salt of the earth, Matt. 5:13.
· Ye are the light of the world, Matt. 5:14.
· I am the door, John 10:9.
· I am the good shepherd, John 10:14.
· I am the true vine, John 15:1.
· I am the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6.
· I am the bread of life, John 6:35.
· I am the light of the world, John 8:12.
· I am the resurrection and the life, John 11:25.
In this passage, Paul uses three metaphors to describe who the children of God are. These metaphors are important because they magnify our relationship with the Lord. Lets examine these precious metaphors together for a few moments.
A. v. 19b The Metaphor Of A Belonging - Paul uses the phrase now therefore. This means consequently, or because of this. This immediately draws our attention back to the preceding verses. The first part of this chapter serves to remind us of who we were before we met the Lord Jesus Christ. We were dead, v. 1. We lived to serve the flesh and the devil, v. 2. We are wicked to the core, v. 3. We were outcasts from God, from His promises, and from His people, v. 12. We were a people who were in a deplorable condition. We were lost in our sins and separated from God. We were literally doomed and headed to Hell, v. 3.
Now, Paul tells us that we are no more strangers and foreigners. The word strangers refers to those who are not of ones family. The word foreigners speaks of those who are sojourners in a country that is not their home; aliens. Those two words accurately describe who we were before we were saved by the grace of God.
As strangers we were always on the outside looking in. Have you ever been a stranger? Have you ever been in a place where you knew no one and no one knew you? Maybe you went to a new school, or took a new job, or moved to a new town. I know what that feels like. I changed schools four times between the third and sixth grades. I was a stranger in those new schools. I moved from one state to another. I came to this church from another county. I know what it is like to be a stranger.
I remember one occasion when a man walked up to me in another town and asked me for directions. I had to tell him that I did not know the place about which he was asking because I too was a stranger in that town. Because I was a stranger, I did not know my way around. I did not know the advantages of that community; I did not know where things were located or how to find them. In other words, I was in a position of ignorance. I was ignorant about the place I was in at that time in my life.
Strangers are those people with whom we cannot have fellowship. When we are young, we are told to never speak to strangers. Strangers are the kind of people you do not invite into your home. Strangers are the kind of people you are wary of and suspicious of. We know what it feels like to be a stranger. We know that feeling both as people in this world and as strangers from God. We know what it is like to go to Gods house and not fit in. We know what it is like to feel like we are estranged from God. We know what it means to be a stranger!
As foreigners we are in a place to which we do not belong. We are in a country that is not ours. We are separated from others by culture, by language and by nationality. If you have ever travelled to another country then you know what it is like to be a foreigner.
We were in Mexico last year and needed to pick up a thing or two at a local pharmacy. There was a clear language barrier, and it was easy to see that we were foreigners. We were there during some big Roman Catholic festival to honor the Virgin of Guadeloupe. Each night children would roam the streets of bands of three or four and would want to sing for donations. They sang their songs in Spanish and I never did know what they were singing about. Why? I was a foreigner! I was a stranger. I was ignorant of their speech, their customs and their ways!
As foreigner does not have the same rights as those in the country he is visiting. They are citizens and enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship, but a foreigner has no rights. A foreigner travels on his passport. He is allowed to remain in that country only by the permission of the government and he can be deported any time they choose. A foreigner may know more about his host country than a stranger, but he is limited in what he can do.
Paul tells us that in a spiritual sense, we were strangers and foreigners. When it came to God, we were strangers. We were ignorant of Him and of all He could give us. We were on the outside looking in at the blessings of God, not understanding that those very things could be ours.
We were also foreigners. That is, we were around the things of God, but we did not understand them. We would read a tract, own a Bible, go to a church, sing a hymn, etc., but we had no saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, thus we were not full citizens of His kingdom. We had no spiritual rights or standing.
But now, because God through Jesus Christ has reached out to us and has taken us in, we are fellowcitizens with the saints. That means we have changed our citizenship. We are members of a new kingdom. We are no longer strangers and foreigners, we are in the family, and we have come home.
Because we are citizens of the United States of Americas we have certain privileges, rights and responsibilities that do not belong to non-citizens. As citizens we are under the protection of our government. As citizens we are under the authority of our government. As citizens we get to vote for our leaders and we must pay our taxes.
Because we have been saved by grace, we have been brought into a new kingdom. We have a new national anthem: Amazing Grace! We march under a new flag: the bloodstained banner of Calvary! Because we are citizens of Gods kingdom, we are brought under His protection and His authority.
As citizens, we are no longer ignorant of God, His blessings, or of what He can do for us. When they preach about Him, talk about Him, sing about Him and testify about Him, I know what they are talking about!
As citizens we are no longer without rights and without standing. As citizens we cannot be deported. As citizens we are no longer separated from God. As citizens, we are on equal footing with the rest of the saints, Ill. Matt. 8:11. As citizens, we even have access to the King Himself, Eph. 2:18; Heb. 4:16.
As Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, We no longer live on a passport; we have a birth certificate. We really do belong.
B. v. 19c The Metaphor Of A Birth - Not only are we fellowcitizens, but we are also of the household of God. This means that we are not merely citizens of Gods kingdom; we are also members of Gods family. When we were saved by the grace of God, we were born again, John 3:3, 7. We were adopted out of Adam and into Christ, Col. 1:13.
This is a far more intimate relationship that merely being a citizen of a country. As a citizen I can know about the King, and I might be able to meet the King, but as a son, I know the King.
Illustration: The story is told of a king who was holding court in his throne room. His counselors, advisors, noblemen, and the ministers of state were all there. Suddenly, there was a loud banging at the door. Hearing the clatter, all heads turned in that direction. Immediately, the door burst open and into the room ran a little boy.
One of the royal guards tried to stop the boy saying, Here now boy! Dont you know you are interrupting the council of your king?
The little boy kept running toward the king, and he replied, Hes your king, but hes my daddy! And with that he leaped into the open arms of his father!
As Gods children we outrank all others in the kingdom! We have access to our Father at all times for we are His sons and daughters! That is why John marveled in 1 John 3:1 about the exalted position enjoyed by those who know Jesus.
Since we are His children, He has our best interests at heart. What touches you touches Him. Ill. ...for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye, Zech. 2:8. He will take care of you, Luke 12:32.
C. v. 20-22 The Metaphor Of A Building - Not only are we in the kingdom and in the family, but we are also part of His building. The image of a building is just another way of describing the body of Christ, of which all the redeemed are a part, v. 18.
As citizens, we share a common country. As children, we share a common bloodline. As part of the building, we share an indivisible unity both to God and to one another.
The citizens in a kingdom may be divided. Just look at America today. We share a common citizenship with all other Americans, but there is vast separation in our nation on all kinds of issues. But, in a building there is absolute unity.
The members of a family may be separated by distance and circumstance. Look at the family of Casey Anthony. That family is torn to pieces and it will never be the same. I have relatives I havent seen or spoken to in years. We are related, but we are not close. But, the parts of a building are inseparably linked.
In a building there is no separation between the stones. They are brought together by the will of the builder and put in their places and there they stay. One stone on top of another, one stone beside another, inseparably brought together as part of the same building. One stone may have come from one quarry and the stone next to it from another, but they are both part of the same building. They either stay together or the whole building falls.
So, Paul tells us that we are not strangers and foreigners any longer. We are citizens of the same kingdom. More than that, we are members of the same family. More than that, we are components of the same building, standing together in Him with a closeness that is permanent, powerful and precious.
Some parts of this building are Jew and some parts are Gentile. I came from one place and you came from another. We have differing pasts, abilities, interests and ways. Yet, in spite of our differences, we have been brought together in Jesus Christ and given a unity in Him that is stronger then blood. We have been given a unity that will outlast time itself. Kingdom will fall. Families will die out. The building God is building with stones like us will stand forever as a testimony to His glory, His Grace, His power and His honor! Those are the metaphors Paul uses.
I. The Metaphors Paul Uses
II. THE MESSAGE PAUL SHARES
Ill. Pauls words have a few powerful messages to teach us. Let me share them with you today.
A. There Is A Message Of Salvation - The phrase are no more reminds us that who we are and what we have in Jesus Christ is ours because of Gods grace in salvation. We are in the kingdom; we are in the family; and we are part of the building because God, in His grace, reached down to worthless, lost sinners like us and drew us to Himself and saved us by His grace. We do not deserve what we have in Him. We did not earn what we have in Him. Everything we have and are in Jesus Christ is through and by the grace of God, Eph. 2:8-9. Pauls message is a message of salvation and a message of new beginnings. It is a message of the powerful changes Jesus Christ makes in every life He touches, 2 Cor. 5:17. Ill. are no more...! Thank God, we are changed!
B. There Is A Message Of Security - Verse 20 speaks of our security. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. That is, our hope, our faith, our salvation stands on the sure foundation of the Word of God. These men of God, the apostles and prophets received the Word from God and they shared it with their generation. People heard it. They believed it, and they were saved. They took the message they had been given, and they built upon it by sharing it with the next generation. And, so the building has been built year after year, generation after generation. That is what I am doing today. I am doing my best to be true to the accurate doctrines of the Gospel and the Bible. Some hear the preaching and they believe, and another generation is added.
Our security is also derived from the Chief Cornerstone. The cornerstone was the most important component of ancient buildings. It had to be strong enough to support the building that would rise from it. It also had to be properly placed since every other part of the building would be measured by it. If the building was to be square and plumb, the cornerstone had to be perfect. The cornerstone was the support, the reference and the unifier of the entire building. It had to be exactly right, or the whole building would be would be out of square, out of plumb and likely to fall.
Jesus Christ is to the church what the cornerstone is to a building. He is the essential component. If we are wrong when it comes to Him, then everything we build on that faulty foundation will be wrong. But, if we get the fact concerning Jesus Christ correct, and we understand Who He is and What He did so that the church could come into existence, everything we build on Him will be strong, stable and enduring.
2,000 years ago, Jesus gave His life on the cross to redeem His bride. The apostle and prophets took that message to their generation and began to build up and out from that perfect Cornerstone. Now, generation after generation has been added to the building, and it is still straight, true and strong today. The Cornerstone that stands under the church is able to support the load that is being built upon Him. He was properly placed and every stone that has been added to this building is as straight and as true as he is! There is no blemish and no spot in the church He is building. It is a perfect structure that reflects His character, His grace and His power! (Ill. Isa. 28:16; 1 Pet. 2:7, 9)
C. There Is A Message Of Success - We are not responsible for building this building of God. If we were, we would be doomed to failure. Verse 21 makes it clear that someone else is doing the building. The phrase fitly framed together is in the passive voice. It means that another is building the building. He is adding stone upon stone to build His temple for His glory. Like a master mason He chooses the stones on by one and places them exactly where He wants them.
Our duty is to keep ourselves pure and to continue telling each successive generation about the Lord Jesus. He takes His stones, some from here and some from there, but He is always building His temple. The word groweth is in the present tense. It means that the building is always growing. God is ever building His building, Acts 2:47. We may not see any stones added to the temple today, but somewhere the Lord has added stones to the building. He has reached into the quarry and selected some to make a part of His building.
That is why we must never become discouraged in our work for Him, Gal. 6:9. The success of the church is not in our hands; it is in His hands. We must trust Him that He will properly build that which pleases Him!
I. The Metaphors Paul Uses
II. The Message Paul Shares
III. THE MIRACLE PAUL DESCRIBES
Ill. In this building That God in His grace is constructing, I see a few miracles that we do not want to miss.
A. The Miracle In Our Redemption - I have already alluded to this, but stones to not choose to be a part of the building. The builder chooses them. The builder looks at the stones and He chooses those He desires.
The miracle of our redemption lies in the fact that we should still be in the quarry with the rest of the stones. But God in His grace, for His Own reasons, reached down to us and brought us to Himself, saving us from our sins and putting us in the building, Eph. 1:4; 2:8. I dont know why he set His love on me. I dont know why He chose me to be a part of the body of Christ. I dont know why Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for me. But, I know this: I dont have to understand it to rejoice in it! I thank God for the miracle of redemption!
B. The Miracle In Our Rehabilitation - When the builder reached out and picked up a stone, he had to shape that stone to fit in the place he had picked for it. The builder would take his hammer and chip off pieces here and there, reshaping the stone until it was just right. Then, He would put it in its place.
Thus it is with us. When God came to us and saved us by His grace, we were a mess. Since that moment, He has been in the process of chipping away all the things He does not want, reshaping us into His image. His ultimate goal is that we become like His Son, Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:13. The chipping process is not pleasant, but the end result will be worth all the pain! Every setback, every frustration, every minor annoyance, along with all things good and pleasant are part of Gods building process.
He takes us like He finds us and remakes us into His image. He is building a holy temple. He is not building a pile of dirty, misplaced stones. He is building a beautiful temple called the church! When the building is complete, every stone will be in place and every one of them will look like they belong in the building!
C. The Miracle In His Residence - According to verse 22, we are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. The real miracle in all this is that when we are saved, we become living stones, 1 Pet. 2:5. We are not dead rocks, but we are made alive in Jesus and we become the Temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 12:13; 3:16-17; 6:19. He comes to live within us! The word habitation refers to a permanent dwelling. He comes into our lives and transforms us into His temple.
He also takes us as individuals and makes us a part of the larger, spiritual temple He is building in the world. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. Thus, I am the temple in which He dwells. I am also a living stone in the church, the body of Christ. As such, I am united with every other believer as part of a holy temple to the glory of God. God builds up His church out of the dead stones of this world so that He might bring us to life as a living testimony to His power and glory! He reveals His grace and power to a lost and dying world by placing living stones like you and me in His temple. That is a miracle!
Notice that we called a holy temple. God saved us and set us apart from the world around us. Nothing glorifies Him as much as when His temple brings honor and glory to His name.
Conc: Dr. John MacArthur said this, 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 men to God and of men to men.[i]
There is a valid reason to worship and praise the name of the God Who saved us. You may need to come do that. You may need to come be saved. If He has spoken to your heart today, please do as He is calling you to do!
[i] MacArthur, J. (1996, c1986). Ephesians. Includes indexes. (83). Chicago: Moody Press.