19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
now, therefore (v.19) — concluding the thoughts in vs.14-18 and drawing the conclusion
strangers (v.19) = alien, of a different quality or nature — those separated by natural or territorial demarcation
foreigners (v.19) = lit. “has a home alongside” — those separated by absence of civic privileges. The two terms, “strangers and foreigners” refer to all non-citizens.
building (v.21) — the Church, the Body of Christ
fitted (v.21) = to join closely together — fitly framed in the KJV — an architectural metaphor
temple (v.21) — the inner sanctuary, not the entire temple with its outbuildings.
I thought Sadler was excellent on this passage, so I’ve included a lot of what he says.
The term “now” used here by Paul signals that a significant dispensational change has taken place.
But now we are no more strangers but fellowcitizens with the saints. In essence the apostle is saying that the Ephesians were fellowcitizens with the other members of the Body of Christ, which is true of all those who have trusted Christ down to this very day.
Paul broadens the scope when he reveals that we are also numbered with the household of God. In this context the phrase “household of God” is a collective reference to all of the blood-washed saints from every age.
The apostle goes on to add that we are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Exactly who were these apostles and prophets? Some insist that this refers to the 12 apostles and the Old Testament prophets.
If these were the apostles and prophets of the kingdom the order would be reversed, for in God’s Prophetic Program the prophets preceded the apostles, as seen in Luke 11:49.
We believe that these were the apostles and prophets of grace who preached Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery. Of course, Paul is the primary apostle of this dispensation, but there were those who also held this office in a secondary sense. When Paul wrote to those at Thessalonica about his ministry among them he states: “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the APOSTLES of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 2:6). These apostles of Christ are identified for us by the Holy Spirit as being Paul, Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
In Paul’s epistles the order is always the same, apostles first, followed by the prophets, for this is the order in which they were given. (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11).
So then, as members of the Body of Christ, we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets of grace who proclaimed the Lord of glory in His exaltation. Christ is the chief cornerstone which is synonymous with the foundation. It is the point of reference from which all measurements are taken. Thus, if we want to measure up to God’s standard today, we, too, must acknowledge Paul’s apostleship and message.
But it is equally important to recognize the connections between the two programs of God. For example, the Savior who shed His blood for Israel is the same Savior who died for our sins. The Spirit who indwelt the saints at Pentecost is the same Spirit who indwells believers in the age of grace. As we have seen, the members of the Body of Christ are also numbered with the household of God and therefore joined to the living temple which God planned and purposed before the foundation of the world. This helps to explain why Paul uses the metaphor of a ”temple” when speaking of us collectively (Ephesians 2:21).
[Inside the Old Testament temple, separated from the Court of the Gentiles] we have the Holy Place, which represents all of those who have been saved under the Prophetic Program. The living stones that have been placed into this side of the structure rest on the sure foundation, which is Christ relative to His earthly ministry. This explains why Peter says to his readers: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). With the setting aside of the nation Israel in unbelief, God has temporarily discontinued the construction on this part of the building. He has, however, revealed another set of plans for a new addition to the structure.
A new masterbuilder, Paul, is summoned, through whom God reveals His secret purpose, which was hidden from ages and generations past. Consequently, Paul was very careful NOT to “build upon another mans’ [Peter’s] foundation” (Romans 15:20). Instead, he pours out a new section of foundation in his epistles, which is Jesus Christ according to His heavenly ministry (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).
It is interesting that the term “temple” used here by the apostle in Ephesians 2 is the Greek word Naos, which refers to the sanctuary, and in this context to a specific section of it called the Holy of Holies. In this holy sanctum dwelt the very presence of God Almighty. Only the High Priest was permitted to enter this area once a year on the Day of Atonement. Anyone else was under the sure sentence of death if they even dared to draw near. But now, through the blood of Christ, God dwells in our midst, thus we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
When Solomon constructed the temple in Jerusalem he commanded, “and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.” Solomon paid a king’s ransom to purchase the stones for his temple, but it is nothing to be compared with what it cost our Savior to purchase us from the quarry of sin. Every stone that was placed in Solomon’s temple was made ready before it was brought to the structure so that, “there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building” (1 Kings 6:7). These stones were cut to such precision at the quarry that when they were brought to the site each fit perfectly into its place without a sound. In like manner, the sound of the hammer was only heard on a hill called Calvary, as they drove nails into the hands and feet of our Lord. The living stones that were chiseled from His finished work are still being slipped quietly into the temple of God. We are perfect and complete in Him. — Sadler, pages 110-115.