“Having destroyed the hostility and antagonism between them, Jesus has reconciled Jews and Gentiles into a single body through His cross. He came and proclaimed the Gospel of Peace, both to those who were afar off and to those who were near. Through Him both groups now have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. Therefore you are no longer strangers or outsiders, but share citizenship with the saints as equal members of God’s household. The firm foundation of the Church was built upon the teachings of apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Every part of this structure is closely joined together by Him and is constantly growing to form a holy sanctuary. Through your union with Him, the Holy Spirit develops you into a dwelling place for God.” (2:16-22, paraphrased)
By the first century, the primeval hostility between Jews and Gentiles appeared insurmountable. Such antagonism threatened to divide the Church into two groups. But from the perspective of Calvary, Believers from all parts of the globe are now viewed as one united entity.
Throughout this passage, the two themes of reconciliation of men to God and of men to each other are mingled. The sacrifice of Jesus has removed the obstacle of racial bigotry. Paul stresses this fact by referencing the blood of Jesus (v. 13), His death (v. 15), and His cross (v. 16).
The foundational concept of “reconciliation” (apokatallasso) means turning from hostility to friendship. The deeply-rooted hatred between Jews and Gentiles has been abolished. God’s answer to racial segregation, inequality, tribal feuds, and anti-Semitism is the cross. It stands today as the ultimate emblem of global inclusiveness.
Those who were “far off” and those who are “near” refer to the Gentiles and the Jews respectively (v. 13). Every human being can become a member of God’s family through Christ.
The Lord’s incarnation was announced through angels on a keynote of peace (Lk. 2:14). The arrival of the Messiah meant this message could be proclaimed to Gentiles everywhere. Jesus is the author of the method whereby the Good News is globally proclaimed. He “preached” peace by His lifestyle and teachings and expects His followers to follow His example (Mt. 28:20).
Thanks to the atonement, everyone has “access” (prosagogeis) to God. The term conveys the idea of a personal introduction. In oriental courts, the prosagogeis was an official who ushers subjects into the presence of a king. Through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Father is equally available to everyone. God’s approachability is based solely on the willingness of an individual to surrender fully to Christ. We are bidden to come with confidence to His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).
Once again Paul refers to the miraculous change of status regarding Gentile Believers. He uses two terms which form an apt description the state of all non-Jews:
<> A “stranger” (xenoi) refers to a person away from home. A xenoi is a visitor, an alien either passing through the land or dwelling in it temporarily.
<> A “foreigner” (paroikoi) is a “licensed sojourner” who could live legally in the land, but might be required to pay a fee for the privilege. A paroikoi had no rights as a citizen, could not vote, and had no voice in government.
In stark contrast, citizenship in God’s kingdom bespeaks unconditional acceptance and inclusiveness. Gentile Christians are not second-class citizens for the former distinctions have been removed. All Believers enjoy the same privileges in God’s household (Jn. 3:5).
Paul often mixes his metaphors and here changes his illustration from citizenry to a building. He told the Corinthians several years earlier that Jesus Christ is the sole foundation upon which the Church is built (I Cor. 3:11). Paul does not infer the apostles and prophets are the foundation; only that they helped lay the foundation. Apostles and prophets base their teachings on the Messianic promises of the Old Testament (Rev. 21:14). These fundamental teachings are the bedrock upon which the Church rests, rather than the sandy foundation of false doctrine (Mt. 7:26).
A cornerstone is the most important stone in a building and occupies a conspicuous place of honor. It establishes the stability and integrity of the structure by governing the angle of every stone that is laid. Each block depends upon the cornerstone, for all others must be fitted in relation to it.
Paul borrows this illustration from Isaiah, who uses it to refer to the Messiah as the precious Cornerstone and our sure foundation (Isa. 28:16). Peter also employs this metaphor when referring to Christ as the frequently rejected Cornerstone (I Peter 2:7). The imagery of Jesus as the Cornerstone denotes His preeminent position in His Church. He alone consolidates the structure. The point of this metaphor is clear: all Believers are united according to the symmetry established by the Cornerstone. Every Believer depends upon Christ and finds their effectual place of service in relation to Him.
Peter handles this metaphor somewhat differently when referring to Believers as “living stones” in this building (I Pet. 2:5). Each new Believer is a fitted brick, hewn from the quarry of carnality. Paul puts another spin on this illustration when he refers to individual Believers as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6:19).
The entire Church is “harmoniously framed together” (synarmologoumene). This term pictures a skilled mason strategically erecting a complex building. The present participle is used to show this structure is a work in progress. For two millennia the Church has continued to grow according to the Master’s blueprint. The Church gains her strength through perpetual global expansion.
In this chapter, Paul uses four analogies by comparing the Church to a man (v. 15), a city (v. 19), a house (v. 19), and a building (vv. 21-22). This indestructible temple is the habitation of God, the Cornerstone is the Son, and its glory is manifested by the Spirit.
Believers are “built together” into this structure through close fellowship. The teachings of Jesus especially focus on interpersonal relationships, for those no longer alienated from God must not alienate themselves from one other. Through the Holy Spirit, every person has access to the same Father. Whatever their ethnic background, all saints have access to the same Father. Each is part of the same body, the same Church, and the same Kingdom. All Christians belong to “the household of faith,” and become members of this family on the basis of adopting grace (Gal. 6:10).
Points to Ponder:
1. Paraphrase the concept found in Psalm 118:22 that Jesus quotes in Matthew 21:42. Why does Peter refer to this passage in Acts 4:11?
2. What is Jesus not ashamed to call His disciples (Hebrews 2:11)?
3. A prosagogeis was a court officer who introduced a subject to his king. With this in mind, what does Jesus call Himself in John 10:7-9? To whom does Jesus introduce us?
4. Paul tells us the apostles and prophets helped lay the foundation for the Church. What do we learn about the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:14?
5. What did the Lord show Peter in a vision (Acts 10:28)?
6. What does the Great Commission teach us regarding racial inclusiveness (Matthew 28:19 & Mark 16:15)?
7. Paraphrase I Peter 2:4-5. What can we learn from this passage regarding our position in the Kingdom of God?
8. When writing to the Corinthians, Paul informs them every individual is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” ( Corinthians 6:19). From I Corinthians 6:15-20, list way in which this “temple” must never be abused.