Second Corinthians

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe                                                Date: 5/2/17



Lesson 11: The Foundation Which Christ Laid Through His Apostles (2:19-22)



Ephesians 2:19-22 (KJV)


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.





19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;


“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,”

You are regarded as being with the people of God. You are entitled to their privileges, and are not to be regarded as outcasts and aliens. The meaning is that they belonged to the same community (the same family) as the people of God. The word rendered “strangers” means “foreigners in state,” as opposed to citizens. The word rendered “foreigners” means “guests in a private family,” as opposed to the members of the family. Strangers such as those who planned to reside for a short time in Athens, were permitted to reside in the city, and to pursue their business undisturbed, but they could perform no public duty; they had no voice in the public deliberations, and they had no part in the management of the state. They could only look on as spectators, without mingling in the scenes of state, or interfering in any way in the affairs of the government.


They were required to humbly submit to all the demands of the citizens, and observe all the laws and customs of the republic. They were not even allowed to transact any business in their own name; but instead, they were required to choose from among the citizens one person who was to function as their sponsor, and whose duty it was to guard them against all injustice and abuse. Proselytes, who united themselves to the Jews, were also called in the Jewish writings, “strangers.” All foreigners were regarded as “strangers,” and Jews only were supposed to have access to God. But now, says the apostle, this barrier has been taken away, and the believing pagan, as well as the Jew, has the right of citizenship in the New Jerusalem, and both enter into the family of God in the same way; through faith in the Son of God. The main thing here is that Gentile believers are no longer considered merely guests or foreigners, but were a part of the family itself, and entitled to all the privileges and hopes which others had.


“But fellow-citizens with the saints,”

Belonging to the same community as the people of God.


“And of the household of God;”

That is, members of the same family. Entitled to the same privileges, and regarded by Him as His children (See Ephesians 3:15).


20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;


And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”—that is, upon their ministry and living example. Compare this with Matthew 16:18.<1>.Christ Himself, the only true Foundation, was the grand subject of their ministry; He was their motivation and provided them with strength, courage, wisdom and the ability to perform miracles. As one with Him and his fellow workers, they (the apostles), too, in a secondary sense, are called “foundations” (Revelation 21:14). The “prophets” are joined with them closely; for the expression here is not “foundations of the apostles and the prophets,” but “foundations of the apostles and prophets”; for the doctrine of both was essentially the same (See 1 Peter 1:10, 11; Revelation 19:10). The apostles take the primacy, as Christ pointed out to them⸺“For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Luke 10:24). Thus He appropriately shows regard for the claims of the Jews and Gentiles: “the prophets” representing the old Jewish dispensation, “the apostles” the new. The “prophets” of the new also are included.


David is called a “prophet” in Acts 2:30⸺ Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Compare also Isaiah 28:16<5>; another prophet present to the mind of Paul, whose prophecy leans on the earlier one concerning Jacob (Genesis 49:24<4>). The sense of the context, too, suits this: Ye were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (in the time of her Old Testament prophets), but now ye are members of the true Israel, built upon the foundation of her New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets. Paul continually identifies his teaching with that of Israel‘s prophets of the past (Acts 26:22; Acts 28:23). The costly foundation-stones of the temple (1 Kings 5:17) typified the same truth (compare Jeremiah 51:26). The same stone is both the corner-stone and the foundation-stone on which the walls rest. Paul supposes a single stone or rock so large and so shaped that it could serve both purposes at the same time; supporting the weight of the wall as the foundation;  and joining the side walls together at their ends to form a corner and to unite the walls with the corner-stone. As the corner-stone, it is conspicuous, as was Christ (1 Peter 2:6), and when it lies in men‘s way it may be stumbled over, as the Jews did with Christ (Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7).


“Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”

 “The actual foundation-stone being Christ Jesus Himself.” The “chief corner stone” was the primary foundation-stone at the corners of the structure. It is He who supports and holds together both the foundation and the walls. It is faith in Him which gives to every believer a place in the building, and it is Christ who gives to the structure its unity and its strength. There was not one single line or angle of the building which was not determined by and adjusted to the perfect symmetry of that stone. The angle of the cornerstone governs all the lines and all the other angles of the building.


Jesus Christ is the most important aspect of Christianity (Matthew 16:16-18). Remove Him and Christianity becomes useless (1 Corinthians 15:17), yet this is exactly what many denominations have done. They deny His virgin birth, His literal resurrection or the truthfulness of His message through His apostles. For all practical purposes such religious bodies are nothing more than non-profit human organizations. Very busy, but completely powerless to bring their members to salvation. Jesus Christ determines everything that Christians believe in and practice. Every aspect of the church from worship, to organization, work, and terms of entrance take their cue from Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:3). The world can never destroy the church, because it will never be able to successfully destroy its foundation. Jesus is called a "corner-stone" in other passages as well (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42-44; 1 Peter 2:6-8). Jesus is the "great test" for all men. Some cannot bring themselves to be completely honest when dealing with Jesus, and that's why they stumble, fail the test, and end up eternally lost. Others encounter Jesus and are crushed by how selfish they have lived, and become Christians.


Since we are supposed, where it is possible, to “let Scripture interpret Scripture,” I would assign the meaning of Ephesians 2:20 solely to these verses; Ephesians 3:5<2> and Ephesians 4:11.<3> These verses imply, I think, that the New Testament prophets are not excluded; but the apostle‘s clear reference to Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner,” proves that the Old Testament prophets are a prominent thought.


21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:


“In whom all the building [is]  fitly framed together,” This building is composed of all the saints and people of God, of the whole universal church, which is God's building. It is a building with a spiritual nature, and it will stand forever, for it has been properly framed together. It consists of various parts, as a real, tangible building does. Some saints are comparable to beams, some to rafters, others to columns, and so on. These have exact symmetry and proportion, are placed in the building according to a predetermined plan, are joined and united to one another, and are in a proper subservience to each other, and so to provide for the good, the strength, and beauty of the whole. And it all centers in Christ; he has a great concern for this building; he is the master builder, and the foundation and cornerstone; and it is knit together in Him,


“groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:” Individual believers are sometimes called “temples of the Holy Ghost,” (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16,) but here all are said to constitute one temple. In both cases the metaphor is just and appropriate. When God dwells in each of us, it is His will that we should embrace all believers in holy unity, and that He should form one temple out of many. Each person, when viewed separately, is a temple, but, when joined to others, becomes a stone of a temple; and this view is given for the sake of extolling the unity of the church.


The verb “growth” is in the present tense, to signify that the builders are still at work, and this temple not yet finished. The Church grows by the addition of new stones, or of souls called by grace, and added to it. This building is not yet openly and visibly completed, as it will be; therefore, the ministry of the word, and administration of ordinances must be continued, until, in the latter day, when all of God's elect, among Jews and Gentiles, shall be gathered in.


True Church growth isn’t merely numbers. The Church really grows when each member is remaining loyal to Christ. The Church is God’s Temple, which means that the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament were mere types of the Church. Both structures were built according to a Divine pattern (Exodus 25:9; 1 Chronicles 28:19), and the church is also built according to a Divine pattern (1 Timothy 3:15). A pattern exists for its terms of entrance, its work, worship, and organization (1 Timothy 3:1-16). If the church is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) then its members are priests (1 Peter 2:5). Hence every member must have something to sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2), and every member is expected to be involved. Therefore, every member is expected to treat God with respect by doing such things as singing from the heart, praying sincerely, examine themselves prior to the Lord’s Supper, giving as they have been prospered, and meet to worship God with other Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). Since we are priests, let us live like people who serve God continually (Ephesians 5:3). In the Old Testament only one temple existed. The same is true today. Only one Church exists which contains all Christians, but it is invisible.


22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.


I’ll say it again, “Only one Church exists which contains all Christians, but it is invisible.”

Sometimes we hear it called the universal church, and it, like every particular church is a building that is built, in and upon Christ, as was the church at Ephesus. God is the builder of it; Christ is the foundation; true believers are the proper materials; the door, or entrance into it, is Christ, and faith in him; the ministers of the Gospel are pillars in it; the ordinances are its windows; its furniture is of various sorts, there are vessels of small, and of great quantity; and its provisions are large and entertaining. A church is a building which consists of many parts; and these are joined together by agreement, and are interlaced and cemented in love. Since they are joined together, and in harmony, they are designed for social worship, and their great ambition should be to edify one another. The phrase, “in whom,” may refer either to the holy temple previously spoken of, the universal church, of which a particular church is a part; or to Christ, who is the master builder, by whom they are joined together, and the foundation on whom they are built, and the cornerstone in whom they meet and are united. And the purpose for which they are joined together, is to provide a habitation (house of God) through the Spirit; which may be understood to mean God the Father, since He is distinguished from Christ, in whom, and from the Holy Spirit, through whom, they are built for this purpose, though not to the exclusion of either of them; for a particular church is a habitation of Father, Son, and Spirit. And being the habitation of God, it reveals His great grace and condescension, and the great value and regard He has for it. This alone is enough to make it a desirable, delightful, and pleasant habitation. To the saints it is a safe and a quiet one, and they are happy to dwell in it; and the saints should go there for the enjoyment of the divine presence. And since it is said to be such through the Spirit, it appears, that the Spirit is joined by the other two persons in the building of it; and that makes it a spiritual house; and through His grace, it is a fit habitation for the holy God to dwell in; and that God dwells in his churches by his Spirit.





Scripture and Special Notes


<1> “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18).

<2> “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5).

<3> “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).

<4> “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)” (Genesis 49:24)

<5> Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16).





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