What is the Church? Part III – January 21, 2024

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

What is the Church? Having established that the Church of Jesus Christ is the group of people on earth and in heaven who are redeemed by His blood (Ephesians 2:11-13) and the people who have been brought together and given access to God the Father, through God the Son, by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-18), we now come to a third answer to this question that is found in Ephesians 2:11-22. The Church is people who are indwelt by God. The Church has been redeemed by God, given access to God, and is indwelt by God.

It was never God’s final plan to live in temples that were constructed by people (2 Chronicles 7:12-16; Acts 7:48; 17:24). Instead, it is God’s ultimate plan to live in and among His people. Now, when a person places their faith in the Lord Jesus, they are baptized in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Corinthians 12:13). This means that the Holy Spirit places them in the body of Christ (the Church), applies the sacrifice of Christ to them (Titus 3:5), and takes up residence in them, giving them the very life and presence of God (Romans 8:9-11). God dwells in His people. This gives to His people new life and new identity. It means three things for the believer, those who are the Church.

We are His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not about a place, it is about a people. There will come a time when God’s Kingdom will be manifested physically on the earth (Revelation 20:1-10; 21:1-22:5), but that time is at the return of the Lord Jesus and following. Now, God is building the people, or citizens of His Kingdom. Formerly, Gentiles were cut off from the people of God. They were regarded as “strangers and foreigners,” but Paul gives the amazing news that those who place their faith in Christ are now “fellowcitizens with the saints.” While we may be citizens of the United States of America, our ultimately citizenship is in God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). The point of this is that we belong to God’s people and we are ruled by our King, the Lord Jesus. We are no longer under the kingdom of Satan (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13), but have been rescued and made citizens of Heaven.

We are His family. Not only have believers become citizens of God’s Kingdom, but we have become adopted into His family. The word “household” (Greek oikeios) that is used in Ephesians 2:19 is a word that doesn’t refer to a house or building, but refers to an immediate family. This family is located in heaven (those who have died in the Lord) and on earth (those who are saved and alive now). We have been adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:14-17) and are heirs of all that God has promised to His people. He calls us His children (1 John 3:1). It doesn’t matter what earthly family we come from. Our parents could have been the most devout Christians or far from God. The reality is that when we are born again by the Spirit (John 3:3-8), we are brought into a new family, a spiritual family, the Church of Jesus Christ.

We are His temple. Paul now speaks to the reality that God is putting the Church together brick by brick to make His Church His temple, or dwelling place. The bricks in this building are the individual people that make up the Church. The whole Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” This refers to two offices that delivered the New Testament revelation. They taught the things we have in our Bibles from God that have been written by them and preserved throughout the years for us. The foundation of the Church is the teaching of Jesus Christ given to these faithful men. While their teaching is the foundation, Jesus is the “cornerstone.” He is the key piece of the foundation that holds the whole thing together and on which the whole building is built.  This temple, collectively made of all believers is God’s dwelling place. He no longer dwells in the temple on earth, or the Holy of Holies, but in us. Our bodies are His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and we should live accordingly.

The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of the people who are indwelt by God. We are His Kingdom, His family, and His temple. The local church is the local gathering of those for whom this is true. Let us remember in our churches that we used to be cut off from God’s people, but now are citizens in His Kingdom; we used to be cut off from His promises, but now we have been given access to Him by His Spirit; and we used to be cut off from His person, but now He indwells us through His Spirit. His Church is not a building. It is not an organization. It is the group of people He has redeemed for Himself, given access to Him, and lives in. Are you in His Church? His Kingdom? His family? Are you His temple?  The way in is through in the Lord Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).