Alfred Place Baptist Church

2:19-22 The Church A Holy Temple In The Lord

Ephesians 2:19-22 “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.”

Virtually every Christian laments the fact that his appreciation of the church is not what it should be. Some Christians feel that they have overemphasized the invisible worldwide church to the detriment of their own congregation as a body of people loved by Jesus Christ. Others feel that they have over-individualised the Christian message of redemption so that salvation for them has been just their own personal deliverance from hell and they have little feeling about body life of Christ. Others have had bad experiences of fellow church members, or they see many congregations lacking in vital spiritual life. As has been said, the church is like Noah’s ark; the stench inside would be unbearable if it weren’t for the storm outside. So some feel that this gives them a right to be terribly negative about the church in quite a cruel way. They never would speak of the Lord, the head of the church, like that, but they act as if it’s an open season in denigrating the body of Jesus Christ. However, the congregation is so dear to our Lord that he bought it with his own blood; for her life he died. A man who is bitter about the church is within a membrane of being bitter about Christ.

One consequence of examining these verses should be that we say to ourselves, “What an unspeakable privilege it is to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ.” You will especially feel that if you’ve never belonged to anything of any importance. Perhaps you came from a poor and divided family and you lived at the back of beyond. You never did well at school. You never climbed the ladder in your workplace. Today you don’t belong to any reputable organisation. You have felt yourself to be a nobody, a loner and an outsider, but then, through the wonderful providence of God, you came to meet with real Christians; you heard the gospel, and you were converted to faith in Jesus Christ. You started to attend a church. Now you can’t imagine how you had lived without the support of the people of God. Who are these remarkable people? What is the church?

1. THE CHURCH IS GOD’S CITY.

“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people” (v.19). These Ephesian Christians were once considered foreigners and aliens by the actual Old Testament people of God themselves. It must be terrible to be an illegal alien in the British Isles, not having any entitlement to live in this country, keeping one step ahead of the police, not covered by the rights of citizenship. No passport; no sense of belonging; under the influence of the men who smuggled you into the country, some of them evil pimps and racketeers. You would feel little better than a slave, and where can you go? To whom can you turn, locked into your alienation for ever?

When the gospel came in power to an Ephesian slave he was no longer Johnny Foreigner. The alienation from God of himself and his fellow believers ended. These men and woman finally had a sense of belonging. All their lives they were waiting for this. They had become citizens of the kingdom of God. They could walk tall. You think of the boldness Paul has in addressing governors, kings, synagogues with packed congregations, or Greek philosophers in Athens. What nobility and dignity he has in his posture and gravity of speech, just like a king’s ambassador, and yet with what graciousness and meekness he speaks to them. Only the Christian has this combination. On the one hand he is poor in spirit because he knows of his sins and that it is only through the Lamb of God that he has been saved; “Nothing in my hand I bring,” he acknowledges. Yet he also knows that the Creator of the rolling spheres, the ineffably sublime Lord of the Universe loves him deeply, and that by the new birth he has become a citizen of the kingdom of God. That combination explains the bold meekness, and the gentle dignity and the humble strength of the Christian.

God’s kingdom is not a geographical area, it is the reign of God over his people, by which he keeps them and protects them, always assuring them of their rights in Christ as members of his kingdom, pleading with them and rebuking them when they break his laws, directing them always into the paths of righteousness. They are the citizens of the King of heaven. There was once the old Jewish theocracy but now there is this new God-ruled international and interracial community, an alternative society found in all the world. Paul was once so proud to be a Roman citizen. He is a thousand times more proud of being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. In the city of God he has freedom, and security. He has a sovereign Protector, unseen yet for ever at hand. When Paul defines the kingdom of God he says, “Let me tell you what it is. It is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost!” Those are not slogans marketed by public relations men. These don’t come from the world of spin at all. No politician can provide this. Here alone is where righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is to be found – in the city of God. It comes from a new relationship with God. It comes from the indwelling of the Spirit. It comes from the living truth of the Bible that transforms the happy inhabitants of Mansoul.

You think of the town of Kidderminster after Richard Baxter had been preaching and pastoring there for a couple of years, how there came reconciliation between those who had been at loggerheads. Men had been delivered from thievery and drunkenness. Marriages had been saved. The hearts of parents had been turned to their children and children’s hearts had been turned to their parents. This was a new city through the power of the word and the Spirit. Welshmen don’t need to go to England to see such a transformation. There have been many such places in our Principality: Llangeitho under Rowland, Talgarth under Harris, Clynog under Robert Roberts; Loughor a century ago, Ysbytty Ystwyth under Dafydd Morgan – communities where multitudes of men and women were conscious that they were citizens of a kingdom ruled over by the most benevolent and patient of sovereigns. They knew they belonged to God’s people, his own laity, where they could eat and drink and do all things with all their might to his glory. This kingdom cannot be shaken or destroyed. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

So this is where Paul begins with this affirmation that the church is a city inhabited by the people of God. It is no social club, no encounter group, no Sunday morning meeting place. It is the city of God in this fallen world, created and sustained by the power of eternity that flows to it through Jesus Christ. It demands such honour. I try never to say the words, “my church.” I don’t think I say them, or at least I haven’t said them for years. This is not “my church”; we are the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. Early on in his Christian life Charles Colson was invited to preach to a big congregation. There had to be two morning congregations in order to get everyone inside, and both services were videotaped, and then the better service was beamed across the state. In the first message Charles Colson got caught up into what he was saying. He was quite overwhelmed with the gospel, and the congregation were obviously moved by what they were hearing. Then, between the two services, Colson listened in on a conversation in which the pastor’s assistant told the pastor that at the end of the second identical service, the pastor should join Charles Colson in the pulpit and put his hand on his shoulder and invite people to come to the front. This was done, but the second service had none of the pathos of the first. The freshness had gone. The earlier genuine emotion couldn’t be faked and recaptured. Colson was too occupied with the clock and what was going to happen. No one came to the front at the appeal, but the assistant insisted that this second service with the pastor coming and putting his hand on Colson’s shoulder should be the one shown on TV. Colson protested, and pointed to the power of the first service, and there was a little argument. “You don’t seem to understand, Mr. Colson, this is Dr So and so’s church,” the assistant finally said. The second service had put their minister in the most favourable light, and it was “his church” wasn’t it? So that was the video that was beamed across the state. How pathetic! ‘My church’ indeed! Can a preacher save even the most compliant person? Can we sanctify the child who has the sweetest disposition? Were we there when God determined to save the church? Did we take any part in the church’s redemption? Wasn’t that done by Christ alone? What if God had put the instruments of salvation in human hands? We would have failed dismally. No, salvation is of the Lord. “I will build my church,” said the head of the church. So the church, first of all, is compared to a great city. Each term in the morning assembly in our boys’ grammar school we would sing this hymn:

“City of God, how broad and far
Outspread thy walls sublime!
The true thy chartered freemen are,
From every age and clime.

How gleam thy watch-fires through the night
With never-fainting ray!
How rise thy towers, serene and bright,
To meet the dawning day!

In vain the surges’ angry shock,
In vain the drifting sands;
Unharmed upon the eternal rock
The eternal city stands.” Samuel Johnson, 1822-82

2. THE CHURCH IS GOD’S FAMILY.

“Members of God’s household” (v.19). You were once foreigners and aliens. You had no family and no home, but now you belong. You’re in God’s household, not as a temporary visitor or a guest but as a member of the family. You are no longer alone in the universe, a tiny speck clinging briefly to a planet in the solar system on the edge of a vast galaxy which itself is one of a million million others. You have a home for ever; a Father who says, “I can’t stop loving you” and many brothers and sisters who would lay down their lives for you So where is loneliness? It is, of course, a terrible thing, maybe the thought of loneliness is even worse. Let me give you two illustrations of it. A.B.Davidson, who was later a controversial Hebrew lecturer in Scotland, went away to college. He was living by himself in a city where he knew no one. He would go for a walk in different parts of the metropolis in the evenings, and sometimes through an uncurtained window he would catch a glimpse of a family in a room, sitting at the table or around the fire. Then someone might draw the curtains and the sight would be gone. “You don’t belong to this home,” said the closed curtain. He was on the outside, friendless in a vast strange city.

The other story is of Edith Dain, a Scottish pastor’s daughter who went to India as a missionary in 1935 finally arriving after the long sea voyage in early December in Lakhnadon. She wrote this verse in her diary on a Sunday evening nine days after arriving in the town, when all the initial excitement had died down, “No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Then she added these words. “This is the verse given me today, for it has been a bad day. After worship and Sunday School a great tidal wave of homesickness broke over me and I went under. Went to my room and cried as though my heart would break. I longed to see my mother and father. Five years seems a long time to wait. Even as I write the tears are falling to the pages. Yet Lord it is thy perfect will and I would not have it otherwise. Lord, give me grace and strength not to show this weakness before other people.” He did. She did overcome her loneliness by the grace of God. Edith, in fact, was never to see her parents again. The following year her mother died and her father a year later and it was not until 1946, because of the war, that Edith could return to Scotland. She found some words of Amy Carmichael helpful: “God always answers us in the deeps and never in the shallows of our soul. In hours of confusion, to remember this can help.” God always answers us in the deeps of loneliness. Maybe he will bring a brother or sister into our lives to deliver us from that fiery dart of despair just then.

What is the church? It is God’s home. By the new birth Christians become “members of God’s household” (v.19). Paul has already told us that we are citizens under the protection of wise, loving and powerful ruler. That is a great status, but there must be a certain formality about relationships with your fellow citizens even if you live in a village. So Paul moves on from the city image (which stresses order and protection and identity) to that of a family. Everyone in a family gets to have a key to the front door. You don’t have to ask for permission to enter a home if you live there. You have access to those people at any time. The church is the family of faith. By the new birth we have all become the children of God. We can all come into the presence of our Father; he has made himself accessible to us and promised us his provision, and his fatherly admonitions. A family has a certain affection and it gives family members support and loving counsel.

But you don’t claim that the mark of the Christian family is that it is warm’n’fuzzy in its relationships. You don’t say, “That’s what a Christian family is all about.” The essence of Christian family life is not that it has a touchy-feely life together. That isn’t the acme of our life is it? When a husband comes home from work a wife doesn’t hurry to hug him and say, “And how is the most wonderful, terrific husband in the world today? I hope the men in work appreciate all you do for them as we do, don’t we kids? I was just calling a few of my friends this afternoon and telling them what a marvelous husband I have.” Any husband who came home to that would think his wife was having a nervous breakdown, or that she had just crashed the car. The purpose of a home is not to bolster all the family’s self-esteem and self-fulfilment in an atmosphere of narcissism. Jacuzzi families are not Christian families. A home is not designed to keep all its members in a state of perpetual bliss but to instill the values of work and modesty and self-sacrifice and patience in all the family – eternal values, judgment day values. The family does this by continually turning to the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So when Paul calls the church a household he is not saying that the congregation lives on a mountain top high because no family lives there, nor should it try. The purpose of the family of God is not to make its members happy; it is to make them holy and useful, glorifying God and enjoying him. No family can survive by slick marketing or by its fancy facilities. So it is with the church; what matters is the character of the family of faith, that it is supportive and wise. In the second century there was a pagan actor converted to Christ. Most theatre of that day encouraged immorality. Young boys would be seduced into homosexuality to play the parts of women. This new believer was truly converted and he knew he couldn’t continue to be an actor. However, all he knew was acting, so he decided to support himself by teaching drama to non-Christians. Before he began he went to his church elders and he explained to them his predicament and ideas, but they weren’t happy with his plan. “If it is wrong to be in the theatre than it is wrong to teach others to work in the theatre,” they told him. They talked together about this problem. The man had no other skill, so how could he support himself? The elders wrote to old Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, and they asked him for advice. “You are right,” he told them. “That is no career for a Christian, but if he can’t find any other employment then send him here and we’ll provide whatever he needs and find a job for him.”

That is how a family behaves. It holds its members accountable for their behaviour. It guides them in righteousness and encourages them in repentance. It supports the weak and channels the energies of the strong into wise paths. Parents will try to help their children in whatever ways they can, setting up a business, or purchasing a home for themselves. A family acts like that in an atmosphere of loving support and acceptance, but that is not a warm’n’fuzzy love. It is a strong, holy love. For example, in the church the leaders of the family of faith can regularly search one another to make sure they are living as sort-of-parents in the household of God should be living. Here are seven questions which one church often uses to test its officers in their meetings:

1. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
5. Have you given priority time to your family?
6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
7. Have you just lied to me?

In a family members are accountable to one another. If someone works in a bank the manager can’t gather the staff around him and ask them those seven questions. These aren’t questions to test a workplace. They would be mocked in a staff room, but in the household of faith you can probe and exhort one another because there is a sense of accountability which family members have to one another. The crime and imprisonment of a father is going to pull down around him the whole life of the family. So it is in a church. When pastors fall the whole congregation is devastated. So every family has certain requirements of its members because you are all living together in such a little space. A Christian family lives by God’s book. Boyfriends can’t stay overnight in a daughter’s bedroom. Music can’t be played so loudly that all the family has to hear it. There are dress codes in certain businesses and restaurants and public functions, and no one yells, “Legalism” at such institutions. If you stop attending the meetings of the Rotary Club they will inquire and then throw you out if you aren’t ill, and no one yells, “Heavy shepherding.” Organisations have rules, and those who apply to them know what is expected of them, but let a church exercise some simple rules and they can get threatened with litigation, or they’re called “Fascists!” What are sermons on holy living if the church doesn’t back them up by action? They are empty words. So a church is a responsible family.

3. A CHURCH IS GOD’S TEMPLE.

“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” (vv.20-22). We wouldn’t have described a church in the order that Paul chooses here. Yes, we too would have started with the image of the city, and then we would have moved on to the temple, and finally ended with the family image, because those are the values of our culture and maybe our kind of evangelicalism. But the climax for Paul as he describes the church is that it is God’s temple and you can see the amount of detail he goes into as he works out this metaphor.

It is common to describe the building in which the church meets as a ‘church.’ And then we catch ourselves saying it and we may repeat the words of the little poem,

“The church is not a building,
The church is not a steeple,
The church is not a resting place,
The church is a people.”

But it is more than a crowd of people who have come together. It is a new community; it is a structured people. When we confess Christ, God’s response is to bring us into his church. We become part of the body, and our commitment to the church is indistinguishable from our commitment to Christ. There is no Christianity apart from a New Testament community that testifies to the truth. In this community there are all kinds of men and women; some of them are novices in the faith while others are elders; there are different gifts and vocations. Some have charisma for ministry while others have charisma to receive that ministry. Some few have gifts for church leadership but all have gifts for service. So there is a structure to a church; some are appointed to baptise and to take the communion service and interview new members and counsel. The mark of a church filled with the Spirit of God is that everything is done decently and in order. The structures maintain this God-required orderliness. So it’s natural for Paul to bring in the image of a beautiful proportioned temple to describe the church. He tells us three or four things about it:

i] Like a temple a church must have a foundation.

Nothing is more important than a good foundation. The Lord Jesus told the story of two men who set to work to build two houses. One man worked rapidly and his house was up to roof level within a week and he had finished the house by the end of the second week. Soon he was sitting on his porch watching his neighbour working away. This second man had taken weeks to go down to the bedrock on which he had set the house’s foundation. The first man was picking runner beans in his new garden before the second man had completed the house and moved in. The months went by, and one week a storm brewed, the sky was black with rain clouds and the wind began to howl. It rained and rained for days, and the lake in the mountains overflowed and the waters came cascading down the sides of the valley and the river overflowed its banks, and a tempest rocked the houses. After an hour of these blasts of wind cracks began to appear in the house of the first man, and then it began to tilt, and the house that had gone up so quickly collapsed just as quickly. However, the house that was rooted in the rock withstood all the buffetings of the wind.

Why did the Lord tell that vivid story? It was to illustrate the need to apply to our daily living all his teaching. It was not enough to have heard the sermon on the mount and comment on it and admire it. Only those who have built their lives on what it said could survive the great storms of life – illness, the loss of loved ones, unanswered prayer, war, plagues, and finally, the most unavoidable storm of all, our own death. To stand in such evil times, and having done all to stand, there must be a mighty foundation to stand on, and that foundation is Jesus Christ the prophet priest and king. We are not talking of any old Christ Jesus but the Christ Jesus of the apostles and prophets. When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God then the Lord spoke to confessing Peter and told him that on that rock of the confessing apostle he would build his church. All the Bible tells us all about him, in the Old Testament the Moses and the prophets spoke of his coming, telling us why it was necessary, and in the New Testament the apostles tell us of his life and death and resurrection.

That is the foundation for every truly Christian congregation. Every generation as the years go by, and in every nation of the world until today, people are called to build their lives on the foundation of the twelve apostles and the prophets who worked with them. They were the mouthpieces of God’s revelation; God’s final word, the all-sufficient Scripture which can make the man of God perfect and thoroughly furnish him for every good work God will ever ask from him for his entire lifetime. All needed wisdom is found in the God-breathed Bible. That is the foundation, and it is inviolable. You may not tamper with it. There have been plenty of claims to additional foundations from God, like Rome’s Sacred Traditions, or like the Latter Day Saints’ Book of Mormon, or like a man claiming that God has told him that the end of the world is going to be October 15 2004. None of them can be a foundation for none of them go back to the apostles and prophets. The church stands or falls by its dependence on the foundation truths that God carefully revealed by the Spirit to the Twelve when he led them into all truth.

ii] Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone.

The chief cornerstone is crucially important because it lines up two sides and holds them together, and defines one of the limits of the foundation. One of the chief cornerstones in the Jerusalem Temple is enormous. It is the size of a bus, 12 metres in length. “Christ Jesus himself is the chief cornerstone,” says Paul. You understand how important that is? Yes, we can build our lives on the foundation of the revelation that comes to us through the apostles, but there is no salvation in Peter, or James, or John, or Andrew, or Paul. They are reporting to us about him, what he achieved by his blameless life, and what he accomplished by his atoning death, that he lives and reigns, and one day will return. That is the chief cornerstone of the church.

Christ Jesus is the only foundation for justification. What is justification? Justification is the legality of being reckoned righteous before God, before God’s law. The folly of our human nature is that it wants to put something else along with Christ in the matter of justification. He can do a part and I can do a part. Our nature is biased in the direction of “Jesus plus”, but the gospel message of justification is Jesus as the only foundation. It is hard to stick fast by this truth. Jesus only is the bedrock of our justifying righteousness. If you are a Christian, then I would say, remember that the legality of your standing before God is not in the least degree dependent upon yourself or the apostles or anyone else except Jesus only. As a Christian your responsibility has now become the divine responsibility of Christ on your behalf, because it is Christ who has covenanted that he will present your soul unblemished and complete before the glory of his face, with joys divinely great. He will do it, and he will do it without any assistance. Jesus only for our justification. Rest your confidence where it must rest.

When you sin, grieve for it, but do not think that your grief must be added to Jesus’ merit. Remember that just as your righteousness can never make Christ’s righteousness any better, so your sin can never make Christ’s righteousness any worse. If you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, even though you see yourself black with sin, you may stand now on this chief cornerstone, and at the Judgment Day and say, “Jesus has lived and died for me,” and that fact will see you through. Your faith, God-given though it is, has not lived and died for you. I believe the problem with a great many Christian people who have no assurance of salvation lies just here – their faith is in their faith and not in Jesus. They then begin looking at their faith and finding fault with it and picking holes in it. It is only a little faith, so down goes their feeling, their heart and their hopes. Faith in faith will never give you an assurance of justification before God, but faith in Jesus only will.

Then recollect this also. Good works, whereunto you were also ordained as a Christian and as a believer, add nothing to your justification. You must not build on that cornerstone. If you were to die the same moment that you believed on Jesus only, so that you didn’t live to fulfil the godly life of a justified person, you would be as sure of heaven as those who live to a great age to serve their Maker and their Master. The Christian who lives from day to day spending and being spent in Christ’s service has, it is true, more happiness than the Christian who, for whatever reason, is not so full of loving service, but he is no more justified, he is no more secure. Be active in the life of grace and you will be happy in the life of grace, but do not be active in the life of grace in order to be safe. The good works of a believer add nothing to his justification. It is Christ that died. It is Christ that is risen. It is Christ that is at the right hand of God. It is Christ that makes intercession for us. Christ Jesus the chief cornerstone for our salvation.

Again, as Christ Jesus is the foundation of our entire lives it must be Jesus only as the object of our lives. Where are our real affections set? Who has pre-eminence with us? What is the lodestone, the magnet of our songs? What is the motivation of our living? Christ Jesus himself only to command, constrain, inspire, move us. Christ Jesus is all our justification and all our sanctification and just because he is, he is worthy of all our returns of love, esteem, adoration and obedience. Charles Wesley cries: “O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer’s praise.” We may allow him the poetic licence. We may indulge the thought that we would love to have the state of soul that sincerely desired the same thing. The fact of the matter is that no man has any more than one tongue. Use the one you have. There is no need to say, as another hymn writer does: “Had I ten thousand hearts, dear Lord, I’d give them all to thee.” Again poetic licence. Hypothesis, hyperbole. Just give him the one heart you have. It is all He asks. Give Him its fire, its fear, its flame, its love, its ardour, its zeal, its pain, its pleasure and you may be sure of this, that when you can give heartily everything that is in your heart to the Lord without exception and without reservation and without fear, you will be in a fair way of communion with him. Your way will conform with the foundation of your life – “Christ Jesus himself.”

It is a great question – Can I give him my heart with everything that is in it, those hidden things, all those things which no man knows anything about, those inner secrets that I in my better moments tremble over, that I in my better moments am fearful about? Can I give Him my whole heart without reserve and without exception? If I can I shall have real and deep communion with Him. “Christ Jesus himself”, as the chief cornerstone of the life of the church.

iii] Christians are joined and built together as God’s dwelling place by the Spirit.

In fact Paul does not mention stones specifically, but this is his conception when he writes that in Christ, “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” (vv.21&22). What joins Christians together is not their race or language or class or money or anything like that. It is in Christ that the whole building is joined together. He is the mortar that cements us together. We are all one in Christ Jesus, and so there can be no church unity unless men and women are joined to Christ. But when they are, then, like branches grow in a vine so this temple made up of living stones grows in the Lord. We grow up, and we grow together, and in our midst the living God is to be found

I enjoy the little observations that the late James Montgomery Boice brings out of this image of Christians as living stones;

“First, the stones placed into this great structure are chosen and shaped for their position by God. It is his temple; he is the architect; it is not for us to determine where we will fit in or how.

Second, the stones are placed into position in relationship to Jesus Christ. They are attached to him; if they are not, they are not part of this building.

Third, the stones are of different shapes and sizes, perhaps even of different material, and they are employed for different functions. Some serve in one way, some another.

Fourth, the stones are linked to one another. From where they are placed they cannot always see this; they cannot always even see the other stones. But they are part of one interlocking whole regardless.

Fifth, the stones of the temple are chosen, shaped, and placed, not to draw attention to themselves, but to contribute to a great building in which God alone dwells.

Sixth, the placing of each stone is only part of a long work begun thousands of years in the past that will continue until the end of the age when the Lord returns.

“What a great process this is. And how mysterious. We are told in 1 Kings 6:7 that when the great temple of Solomon was constructed “only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” To my knowledge no building in history was ever built in this way. Its construction was almost silent, so holy was the work. Silently, silently the stones were moved and added, and the building rose.

“Thus it is with the church. We do not hear what is going on inside human minds and hearts as God the Holy Spirit creates new life and adds those individuals to the temple he is building. But God is working. In the days of the apostles God was adding Gentiles to a temple composed at that time largely of Jewish believers. He was adding Luke, Lydia, Phoebe, Philemon, Onesimus – and the believers at Ephesus, and other Greek and Roman cities. Later he added those we call the early church fathers, then the later church fathers and those to whom they ministered. At the time of the Reformation he added Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Knox and Cranmer and many others. He is still adding to his temple today.” (James Montgomery Boice, “Ephesians,” Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1997, p.93).

What Paul describes is not the “ideal” church, it is our church, this congregation. This is the only way we may evaluate it. The city of God. The family of God. The holy temple of the Lord. Let us love it, and pray for it, and work for it, and spend our lives serving the people of God.

“I love thy Kingdom, Lord, the house of Thine abode,
The church our blest Redeemer saved, with his own precious blood.

I love Thy church, O God, her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye, and graven on Thy hand.

For her my tears shall fall, for her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be given till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise.”

Timothy Dwight, 1800.

13th June 2004 GEOFF THOMAS