Ephesians has been called “Queen of the Epistles” and even “The Holy of Holies of the New Testament.” 1 We see in Ephesians how we Christians are gloriously chosen and wondrously blessed. In Ephesians 1:4 we read that, “He chose us in him before the creation of the world.” One writer says that this is a family secret that we enjoy but do not share with the lost. In Ephesians 1:3, we read that the Lord has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (emphasis mine). We can enjoy all that blessing now, since Jesus lives in our hearts, for Heaven has nothing better than Jesus. In Ephesians 2:6, we read that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places…” This is past tense, since it has already happened. I might ask, “If we are now seated in heavenly places, then why on earth are we still living ‘under the circumstances?’” We should be reigning in life as Romans 5:17 tells us.
We also read in Ephesians that we are considered trophies of God’s grace (Eph. 2:7). The shocking truth is that Jesus will someday show us off to angels, principalities and powers of the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:18 tells us that we represent “the riches of his glorious inheritance,” and that part of this inheritance is “in the saints.” With this information we might need to stop and look around at those sitting on the church pews beside us. They make up part of our glorious inheritance. They are a special treasure. Unfortunately, we do not always see things this way. There are the little lines that go like this:
To live above with the saints we love, Oh, that will be glory;
but to live below with the saints we know, Well, that’s
The publisher William Randolph Hearst was a wealthy man and was interested in collecting treasures from all over the world. “One day Mr. Hearst found a description of some valuable items he felt he must own, so he sent his agent abroad to find them. After months of searching, the agent reported that he had finally located the treasures. They were in Mr. Hearst’s warehouse. Hearst had been searching frantically for treasures he already owned! Had he read the catalog of his treasures, he would have saved himself a great deal of money and trouble.” 2 The Psalmist develops this thought further saying: “O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name” (Psa. 61:5).
In this glorious book of Ephesians we are given two pictures of the church. They are of Christ’s body and of his building. Let us examine these two pictures.
WE ARE A BODY, AND THE UNITY IS MUCH LIKE OUR PHYSICAL BODIES
Ephesians 4:4-6 says, “ There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (cf. 1:23) There is only one body, like there is only one Israel. Since there is only one body we had better take good care of it.
We cannot allow the body of Christ to be divided. My wife and I grew up as Baptists and I served as a Baptist pastor for a number of years. Baptists are good people who love the word and believe in evangelism. However, there are well over a hundred different kinds of Baptists. Why can’t these good people, who basically believe the same thing, get together and be in unity? Jesus made the unity and we are asked to keep it. We are even told in Ephesians to exert ourselves and make every effort at keeping this unity (Eph. 4:3).
It is amazing how our physical bodies correspond with the body of Christ. Some years ago Dr. Paul Brand, who is famous for his pioneering work with Leprosy, wrote an important book with Philip Yancey. The book was titled Fearfully And Wonderfully Made. In it he compares many activities of our physical bodies with the church, the body of Christ. He says God requires that his cells be loyal and that each cell is flooded with information about the rest of the body. He says each cell has an infallible sense of belonging, and that each one is stamped with DNA of the body, just as we are stamped with the DNA of Christ. What an incredible thought! He notes that some cells benefit from the body, but they do not cooperate with the body. The name of those cells is – cancer. Dr. Brand explains how the dreaded disease of leprosy results from loss of feeling for the body. We think how dangerous it must be when we are without feeling for others in the church. We need to realize how each member of the body of Christ must grow to the, “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). That is the work of edification.
In real unity, allowance must be made for diversity. We even see this diversity in the Godhead, with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is a God of diversity. With all the billions of leaves, there are probably not two exactly alike. We think of that early church. It had great unity but it also had great diversity. Some people kept the Sabbath and some did not; some would eat only kosher food and others would eat anything. Some were circumcised and some were not. Yet, in the midst of all this diversity there was a wonderful unity.
My wife can testify that I am a very particular gardener. When I plant a garden I stretch out a string and make sure the row of beans is straight. When the beans come up I have been known to transplant any bean that came up out of the row. Yet, as the plants grow they go in all directions. They grow according to the laws of life. We might line up tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery but we will never line up the saints of God.
The Bible says that the saints all have differing gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12). We must not judge a saint because his or her gift seems strange. We cannot exclude a person because their gift is not like ours. In 1 Corinthians 12:21 we read: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!” (1Cor.12:21). We cannot exclude ourselves because we don’t think our gifts are as good as others. My old seminary professor used to gross out his classes by telling about a 175 pound eyeball just rolling around and staring up at the sky. Such a thing would be a monstrosity. Actually it would be an eyesore.
As the body of Christ, we are knitted together by ligaments (Eph. 4:16). These veins, arteries, muscles, tendons, and nerves are all united to the Head, who is Jesus. This has many implications for us. The head feeds the body; it hears what is going on; gives the body sight and smell.
Through all these connections with the head we receive nourishment, edify each other and grow to the measure of the stature and fullness of Christ. When we were children we probably put marks on the wall to measure our growth. We must realize that Jesus by his triumphant life put a mark on the wall for all of us to try and reach. As we grow toward that mark we must remember to pray for each other. Oft times we pray, “God bless John” or “God bless Mary,” as we recite our prayers. We should note that Paul never prayed that way. We can see one of his great prayers in Ephesians 1:17ff. Here is how he prayed: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” When Paul prayed for people they quickly came to maturity and new little churches sprang up all over the Mediterranean world.
WE ARE A BUILDING, BEING FITTED INTO SOMETHING GLORIOUS
The church is the house (household) of God and is built on a great foundation (Eph. 2:19-20). In Israel when a house (usually an apartment) is built, it is made of stone and concrete. Actually all buildings in Jerusalem must at least be faced with stone. There are a lot of stones in Israel. My wife laughingly paraphrases the scripture in Luke 2:8, to say that the shepherds “kept watch over their rocks by night.” The ancient temple along with its retaining walls was made of massive hewn stones. The retaining wall (Western Wall) still remains and some of those stones have estimated weights upward to 200 to 400 tons each. The stones are beautiful with their decorative Herodian borders around them. They fit together so closely that one cannot slide a paper between them. There is a certain place along the wall where one can look down and see 17 layers of these beautiful stones going down to bedrock. There must be a lesson for us here. Sometimes we need to lay ourselves down unseen and allow the church to be built upon us.
Ephesians not only tells us that God is building a house or household (2:19-20), but it tells us that the household is growing to become a holy temple (2:21). This was what Jesus talked about with the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24. She asked the Master whether she should worship in Samaria or in Jerusalem. He said to her: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Jesus was speaking of a spiritual unseen temple. The Bible says “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
When we lived in Israel and traveled abroad, people were constantly asking us if they were yet building the temple. We always had to reply “no” to their question. Actually, if the Jews started to build the temple it would also likely be the start of World War III with the Moslems. However, we can truthfully say today that the temple is being built and it is quite far along in its construction. It is being built of those who are like living stones (1 Pet. 2:4-5). We Christians make up the new temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). It is interesting to note that when the Bible speaks of us making up the temple or the body of Christ it uses the plural Greek forms. We make up the temple together and never by ourselves. Yes, the true temple is being built and thus the primary work of the church today is that of edification, or building up (Eph. 4:11-16).
All this assumes relationship or fitting together. That is not so easy, because we all have some rough edges that keep us from fitting well. However, God has people in the church who are experts at knocking off our rough edges. That is painful, but we need these people to help us.
Jesus says an interesting thing in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Why would Jesus say such a thing? The truth is that people make up the new temple of God. People make up the temple and may even the altar where we had planned to worship.
Many years ago my wife and I were part of a little church in the southern US. The pastor of that church was an amazing man with a keen gift of prophecy. I learned much from him. Then, there came a time when the church was divided. Some of us separated from that dear pastor and we lost track of him for some years. After we were later sent to Israel and began our ministry there, the Lord seemed to say to me, “Why don’t you go back and make up with that pastor?” That was shocking and unnerving but I decided to do it. Some months later I was able to go to that pastor’s home. That day there happened to be a number of people there. God just does things like that for some reason. Still, I went in and humbled myself before that dear pastor. I said to him, “Brother Nochta, I was wrong.” Those are the hardest three words to say in the English language. I said to him “I have sinned against you. Will you forgive me?” After my confession that old pastor got so happy. From that point on we had the closest relationship ever. He would write me asking questions about Israel and Jerusalem and I would always write him back. One day I received a letter from him asking another question and he advised me that I would need to answer him soon. I sat down and answered him immediately. In just a few weeks that dear old pastor was called home to glory. Today I am so happy I got things right with that man of God.
We make up the house of God. We make up the temple, the walls, the altar, the priesthood and even the sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). We note an interesting thing in Ephesians 2:14 – 3:6 that the new temple God is building must include the Jews. Verse 6 tells us that this is a great mystery. Well, it certainly continues to be a mystery with many Christians and churches to this day.
So, we are like living stones in God’s house. There is a problem with those like living stones – they wiggle around a lot. They get all out of place and move from one spot to another. When a temple stone is out of place it often becomes only a stumbling block. We sometimes even end up trying to destroy the building. In 1 Corinthians 3:17, we have a warning about this: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him…” There are many ways we can try to destroy God’s house. We can do it by uncleanness, adultery, immorality, porn, gossiping, and complaining. We can also do it by our lack of interest and attendance (Eph. 5:3-4; Heb. 10:25). Unfortunately, we have some sad statistics in our current postmodern world. Today we are told that 70 percent of Christians think they can get along without the church. 3 This is sad indeed.
Well, the Bible gives us one of the greatest challenges on earth in Hebrews 10:19-25. We are told that through the blood of the perfect Lamb, Jesus, we can now enter together into the Holy of Holies and worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth to our heart’s content. Let us enter in with hearts full of faith and sincerity (Heb. 10: 22). But we must enter together with our brothers and sisters. May we say as David did long ago in Psalm 122:1 and 27:4: “ I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’… One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
This article is condensed from a sermon preached by Jim, March 2, 2014, Colorado Springs. CO.
1. Peter Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians,http://www.studylight.org/com/pet/view.cgl?bk=48
2. Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary , NT (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), p. 589.
3. Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney, American Mainline Religion.
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