Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (verses 19-22)
What insightful pictures of our identity as followers of Jesus. Together. More importantly yet, at the very centre there’s a sighting of Jesus himself.
First, about us.
We are “fellow-citizens” among God’s people. This is a powerful statement for those of us who don’t have Jewish heritage – we are now included among the covenant people of God. We who were “not a people, … are (now) the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10). We have been chosen, just like Abraham and his descendants, with God’s name placed upon us. Therefore, face to face with one another, there is equality, no one having higher pedigree than another. We are all equally part of God’s people.
More intimately yet, we are “household members,” embraced in the very family of God. We have the full rights and privileges of heirs in the family, together with the security, compassion, fellowship, and responsibilities that come as a result. When we think of the best of human families, we get a sense of this goodness. Therefore, we care for one another, committed as sisters and brothers, loving each other as did Jesus himself, laying aside our rights and comforts to serve.
But then the imagery changes, shifting into the realm of wood and stone and architecture. We are a “building,” Paul says, the whole structure being joined together and growing apace, built up in function and design. Therefore, we stand firm in the scripture, relying on the God-breathed teachings of apostles and prophets – this is our sure foundation. Further, as part of the whole, we each have a place and part, fitted together with brothers and sisters, our weight resting on them as theirs also on us.
And then the image is tweaked again, as the “building” is revealed to be a “holy temple.”The Sovereign Lord gave instruction for a temple to be built in the heart of Jerusalem as the physical location where he would make known his presence and where worship would be offered in his name. Corporately now, we are that location. He makes himself known in us. Our lives are living sacrifices – this is our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). Therefore, we live together with eyes on heaven, beyond ourselves, focusing on the Lord whose name we bear, but maintaining unity and peace among ourselves so that we remain true to our high calling, making his presence known.
That’s us – God’s people, his household, his building, his temple.
But at the centre of it all is Jesus himself. He’s the foundation. Paul calls him the “chief cornerstone” – apart from him the whole building wouldn’t have a hope, but would simply teeter and crack, then fracture and crumble, collapsing into an unsightly heap of debris.
But more, he is the very atmosphere in which we thrive. The little word “in” once again does mighty work. We are “in him … in the Lord … in him” (verses 21-22). Apart from him we can do nothing. But with him, we’re alive. Cut the power to an electric lamp, it ceases to shine. Pull a fish from water, it ceases to live. But allow yourself to be immersed in Christ and he makes all the difference. Allowing his breath to fill your lungs gives capacity to live into his calling. We’re fully dependent on him. Only “in the Lord” can we be his people, his household, his building, his temple.
“In him.” All to his glory.
Thank you, Lord, for joining me together with brothers and sisters to bear witness to your goodness. We are your people, your household, your building, your temple. Strengthen me in my inner being to draw life from you, one breath after another. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Take one of these images – people, family, building, temple – and live into it today. Consider what it means to be empowered (1) “in him,” (2) “together.”
Image by RyedaleWeb from Pixabay