CONTRAST BETWEEN PAST AND THE PRESENT .
Being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. A new figure, the third here introduced to denote the change—that of a temple, of which Christians are stones. There is no contrast in form in this figure, as in the other two; it just expresses directly the privilege attained. There is a real contrast, however, between the first three and the last three verses of the chapter—the lowest degradation expressed in the one, the highest elevation in the ether. Observe, the apostle passes, by association of ideas, from the household ( Ephesians 2:19 ) to the house ( Ephesians 2:20 ), from the domestics to the stones; but by a bold figure he gives life to the stones, otherwise we might be in the same region of lifelessness as in yore. 1-3. Two questions arise here.
1. About this foundation—In what sense is it "of the apostles and prophets"? Certainly not in the sense that they constituted the foundation; for, though this might be warranted grammatically, it would be untrue: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 3:11 ). The best meaning seems to be, the foundation which the apostles and prophets laid, which they used for themselves and announced for others. But what was this foundation? Substantially that of 1 Corinthians 3:11 ; but the mention of Christ as chief Corner-stone at the end of the verse might at first seem to indicate that something different was meant by the foundation. But it is impossible to propose any suitable interpretation which would not make Christ the Foundation too.
2. Who are the prophets? We might naturally suppose the Old Testament prophets, but in that case they would probably have been mentioned before the apostles. In other passages of this Epistle "apostles and prophets" denote New Testament officers ( Ephesians 3:5 ; Ephesians 4:11 ), and it is most suitable to regard that as the meaning. It was the privilege of the Ephesians to use the foundation on which stood the two highest bodies of officers in the new dispensation—the apostles and prophets; nothing better could be found. Jesus Christ himself being the chief Cornerstone. Not as opposed to the foundation, but in addition thereto. Jesus is really both, but there is a reason for specifying him as the chief Cornerstone; comp. Psalms 118:21 , "The stone which the builders rejected is become the headstone of the corner;" i.e. the stone which, being placed in the corner, determined the lines of the whole building. The idea of foundation is that of support; the idea of the chief cornerstone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation. Jesus is not only the Origin, Foundation, Support of the Church, but he gives it its shape and form, he determines the place and the office of each stone, he gives life and character to each member.
The Christian temple.
This the climax of the comparison between past and present pursued in this chapter. Temple of Diana at Ephesus may have suggested the figure. The three persons of the Godhead are concerned in this work of building.
The three are brought together in Ephesians 2:22 . Glorious threefold cord, securing the salvation and final glory of the Church! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost are with her foreverse While all the three are connected with the building, Christ is so pre-eminently. This connection appears in five particulars.
1. Christ is the Foundation of the temple; his Name, the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved; he the tried and sure Foundation-stone, elect , precious. Are we resting on him?
2. He is the chief Cornerstone , determines the lie and direction of other stones. We must be in harmony with Christ, our wills, notions, taste, habits. There may be secondary cornerstones; comp. Psalms 144:12 , "That our daughters may be as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." Reference here to the high polish as well as true position of a temple cornerstone. Records of Christian Church present many such women. From the Marys of the Gospels, the Priscillas and Lydias of the Acts, the Phoebes and elect ladies of the Epistles, through all the trials and struggles of the Church, down to the present day, in all which none have shown more of the true polish of corner-stones, more sympathy for the lost, more zeal and self-denial and devotion to God and man, than earnest Christian women. Blessed ambition for all young women, to be placed in such a relation to Christ, and vital communion with him, as to help to square and polish others, and thus make their lives likewise beautiful and blessed!
3. In Christ, the whole building is fitly framed together . Every one gets stability and adaptation to his neighbors—angles rubbed off; each gets and gives support. Stones are not all alike; not a brick building. Different talents, gifts, and graces: some Christians excel as speakers, some in prayer, some in praise, others in visiting sick, or in teaching the young, or in collecting contributions, or in speaking to strangers; some can write books, others can translate; some can guide the Church at home, others go to the heathen. In Christ, all work together to a common end. Out of Christ, strifes and divisions arise, ending in schisms and ruptures. Let each try to ascertain his part, and patiently and conscientiously to fulfill it.
4. In the Lord, the building grows to a holy temple. Two ideas.
5. It is a habitation of God through the Spirit . Its collective qualities serve to indicate the presence of the living Spirit; it is a kind of incarnation. Historically this is a delightful view. Bring together all the holy qualities of the Church from first to last—the simple trust of the hundred and twenty in the upper chamber: the warm brotherly love of the Pentecostal converts; the missionary ardor of Paul and his companions; the faith and constancy of the noble army of the martyrs; the seraphic spirit of many a man and woman who has dwelt at the gate of heaven; the steadfast devotion of Waldenses and Culdees, of Lollards and Wickliffites and Hussites, of reformers and Huguenots and confessors of every clime; the consistent godliness of many a humble cottager; the brilliant service of the Christian philanthropists and the glorious struggles of all the champions of freedom who have fought the battle of the cross in evil times;—in all this we have a vision of the glory of the Church as the habitation of God through the Spirit. Alas! there have been so many corruptions that this glory has been sadly tarnished. Let each one resolve by God's grace to fulfill his part, and. so to live that, so far as his life and character are concerned, they may show the result of God dwelling in them through the Spirit.
The spiritual temple.
In the apostle's prayer for the Ephesians the power of God to us-ward who believe was illustrated first in the experience of our risen and reigning Head, and secondly in the experience of us as risen and. reigning members of his mystical body. The unity of the members, however, has not been as fully brought out in the preceding verses as Paul desired, and so we have in the section now before us the subject amplified and completed mainly round the figure of a " spiritual temple ." It is this main figure which we shall now keep before us. And—
I. CONSIDER THE RAW MATERIAL OUT OF WHICH THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE IS TO BE BUILT . (Verses 11-17.) This is Gentiles and Jews, the Uncircumcision and the Circumcision, those far off from God and those that were nigh. The Gentiles were "without God" ( ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ), by which we are not to understand "atheists" in the sense of disbelieving the Divine existence, but simply "without God in the world," as men who cling to the world in its corporate capacity, wherein it ignores the Divine sovereignty and lives an alien citizenship. The Jews, on the other hand, were nominally citizens of the sacred commonwealth, and the covenants of promise were in their hands, and they had hope in consequence . Yet the raw material in both cases was rough and unsightly until the Lord undertook its preparation for the temple wall. Both were under sin, both had to be redeemed from evil, taken out of the quarry of nature and fitted by Divine grace for their place in the building.
II. THE FOUNDATION OF THE TEMPLE . (Verse 20.) The spiritual temple is here said to be built on the "foundation of the apostles and prophets." This, of course, signifies that it is upon the revelation God made through apostles and prophets that the edifice is erected . It is not upon speculations or dreams, but upon "the sure Word of prophecy," that the structure rests. Without the witnesses in the inspired Word, we should have no basis for spiritual unity and no foundation for edification. Hence our deep indebtedness to the sacred writers. We cannot do without "the Book;" we should only be building on the sand.
III. THE CORNERSTONES . (Verse 20.) The next consideration here is the cornerstones. Now, Christ is called here the "chief Cornerstone," that without which the two walls could not be bound into one. He lies at the foundation of the structure, the massive stone, so to speak, which unites the two great wails. Above him and. upon him are laid other but minor corner-stones; for every Christian soul who longs to promote unity among men is so far a corner-stone in the great building. Hence the minor honor of being elements of union is given unto Christ-like souls. But Jesus is the indispensable Cornerstone. And the apostle shows how Jesus is the bond of union between Jew and Gentile. Both as under sin needed an atoning Savior; but only one Savior and one blood were provided. The Savior of the Jews was the Savior of the Gentiles also. Thus both Jews and Gentiles were brought of necessity to the one Savior; the one sacrifice on Calvary atoned for both; the one blood blotted out the transgression of both; the one crucifixion reconciled both to God, and. peace produced between both and God secured at the same time peace with each other. Jew and Gentile are united and brought nigh to God by the one blessed Savior.
IV. THE UNITY OF THE TEMPLE . (Verses 18, 19.) The seemingly discordant elements are reduced to real harmony, and the unity of the whole is realized in the Spirit which pervades all hearts. For when the Gentiles and the Jews realize access unto the Father by one Spirit, then the alienation has passed away, and citizenship and. the family feeling have supervened. It thus appears that "Christian prayer is a witness of Christian citizenship." We squabble about differences until we are united at the throne. It is the united prayer which really is felt to unite believers. Alienation cannot survive union at the throne of the heavenly grace.
V. THE AUGUST GUEST WHO INHABITS THE TEMPLE . (Verses 21, 22.) Every temple is erected for some god as guest. It may only enshrine a phantom or an idol, which is nothing in the world, and yet the idea in temple-building always is the enshrining of a god. Now, this temple, whose stones are the souls of religious men, and whose unity is realized in religious exercises, is meant to be the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost. He does not dwell in temples made with hands, but he dwells in those temples which are made without hands. The personalities of saintly men become his glorious home, and he condescends to dwell within us richly and- to fill us with his fullness. It is the unifying power of his presence that moulds all into one. The temple grows from within , like every growth in nature. The guest determines the character of the temple. The Holy Ghost secures a holy temple. To this unity Paul desires the Ephesians to come.—R.M.E.
Union of Jews and Gentiles in the Christian Church.
"Wherefore remember, that aforetime." The Ephesian Christians are reminded of what they were "aforetime," that is, before they received the gospel. It is a good exercise of memory for us all to go back on what we once were. For we did not all receive the gospel when it was first presented to us. Many of us who now believe were for years in a state of indifference; How well, then, does it become us to "remember" our former unconverted condition! The memory of what we were aforetime should make us humble and thoughtful, and quicken us in present duty.
I. THOSE THAT WERE GENTILES BY NAME . "Ye, the Gentiles in the flesh." The name " Gentiles ," both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, is "nations." It was applied by the Jews to all nations except their own, just as we distinguish Christians and heathen. The Jews were one nation over against many; and though Christians are relatively more numerous than were the Jews, still they are the few and the heathen the multitudinous. But the apostle has reference to what the Gentiles were "in the flesh," and so he applies a second name to them.
II. THOSE THAT WERE THE UNCIRCUMCISION . "Who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands." The Jews were distinguished by a bodily mark. It is referred to in the language "in the flesh, made by hands." By this surgical mark on them, they were known as God's. They were therefore properly called "the Circumcision," as all others who had not the mark were properly called "the Uncircumcision." And when the apostle uses the noticeable language here, "Who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision," he is not to be regarded as reflecting on the distinction, or on the names founded on it. He is simply exercising a little caution. Those who called themselves Circumcision, as superior to those whom they called Uncircumcision, should have answered to the name. But he will not say that circumcision in the flesh was also circumcision in the spirit. There is often this distinction to be drawn between what we are called and what we are. We are Christians in name; but are we also Christians in truth? We have many honorable names applied to us as Christians; but do we answer to them? Is there a broad line of distinction between us and men of the world in our characters?
III. THEIR BEARING THE NAME OF THE UNCIRCUMICISION IMPLIED MUCH .
1. Separate from Christ . "That ye were at that time separate front Christ." They were not, indeed, without some connection with Christ. For it is only on the ground of his suretyship and work that men have a lifetime on earth, brief at it is. There was, therefore, indebtedness to Christ, even on the part of the uncircumcised ; but they were separate from him in that they did not have him as their Messiah. There were Greeks and Romans that had more culture than Jews; where they came behind was in their having no Messianic privilege. There was no intimation to them of a Savior who was to come into the world. There was no presentation in type to them of the atonement that was to be made for sin. They were, therefore, excluded from such saving relation to Christ as was open to the Jews . The want of Christ is still the greatest want of the heathen world. He is not made known to them for their salvation. The radical defect in an unconverted man's position is that he is out of Christ, and so has none to give him shelter and help.
2. Separate from the Church . "Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel." Israel was a commonwealth, as constituted, not for the good of a section, but for the good of all alike. It was constituted, not for mere political purposes, but for religious purposes principally. It was the Church more than the state. And the great privilege which every member of the commonwealth enjoyed was nearness to God. He was allowed to draw near to him and worship him in his temple, Now, when the Jews were thus constituted into a Divine commonwealth, the Gentiles were kept at an outside. The arrangement we know was for the ultimate benefit of the whole race; but none the less deplorable was their condition as aliens, or persons out of privilege. There is no arrangement now by which any are excluded from the Church of God, and yet it is with many as though such an arrangement existed. There are some, in Christian lands, who are alienated from the Christian Church, it may be , to a certain extent owing to the faults of its members; but can it be wholly put down to that, when there is in the gospel such a representation of goodness as ought to attract all who are not prejudiced against goodness? "Strangers from the covenants of the promise." There were promises to the Gentiles, but they did not pertain to them who lived before the coming of the Messiah. The Jews had the covenants of promise, viz. the covenants made to the patriarchs, founded, not on what had been effected for them, but on what was to be effected for them in the future, and which was promised. These covenants were their charter as a Church; what they could fall back upon as the reason for their existence. To these covenants the Gentiles were strangers; they had no share in them; theirs was an uncovenanted position. The covenant is not founded now on promise; it is founded on accomplished fact, it has been sealed with Christ's blood. None now occupy an uncovenanted position, such as the old heathen world did; and yet it is with many as though no change had taken place.
3. Miserable condition in the world . "Having no hope." Not having the "covenants" to go upon, they had no hope at all. Reason did not suffice to give them a hope beyond the grave. The hereafter was not a certainty, but only a vague conjecture . It was not lightened up as it was to Old Testament saints. We Christians have a rich hope. It is the hope of a glorious resurrection, and of a perfected and. endless life with Christ as our risen Savior. When such a hope has been brought to the world, how sad that there are so many in heathen lands who are looking forward into a dark and cheerless future! And sadder far it is that there are those in Christian lands who place no value on the life and immortality that have been brought to light by the gospel. "Without God in the world." Out of the Church, they were in the world. And the great evil of their being in the self-seeking, God-forgetting world was that there they were unbefriended by God. They could not live in the sunshine of his love, for they did not know him to be the God of love. It was a loss for which nothing could compensate. What a gain would it be to the heathen of our day to conceive of God as having given his Son for them! And yet, of those who have the opportunity, how few enter into the felicity of the enjoyment of God's love!
IV. THEIR ALTERED POSITION . "But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ." God had his earthly dwelling-place in the temple at Jerusalem. The Gentiles were literally far off from this center, compared with the Jews . But the distance in space was only emblematic of the moral distance at which they stood from God. They were at a distance, in their being out of harmony with his character. They were at a distance, in the displeasure with which he regarded their actions. But in Christ, in his becoming the personal historical Jesus, all this was altered. They were brought into a position of nearness to God. Christ ejected this by his blood. The blood which was shed on Jewish altars was only for Jews. The Jewish high priest represented the twelve tribes, but no more. The blood of Christ had a wider reference. It was for Gentiles as well as for Jews. And that being the case, Gentiles were kept no longer at a distance.
V. JEWS AND GENTILES BROUGHT INTO AMICABLE RELATIONS . "For he is our Peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the twain one new man, so making peace." There is a change from "ye" to "our." There is a difference of opinion as to the extent of meaning belonging to the words, "he is our Peace." It is admitted that, in the two verses here, the idea of peace between both receives decided expression. But some think that there is also to be brought in, though subordinately, the idea of the peace of both toward God . The objection to that is, that it is superfluous. For already it has been said of the Gentiles that obstacles have been removed out of their way, and afterward there is the thought of both being reconciled to God, and also of peace, i.e. reconciliation to God, being preached to both. It seems much simpler, then, here to confine the thought to peace between both . Christ is this Peace in his own person. In him there is neither Jew nor Gentile. His work is described as making both (parts) one; and the manner of his doing it as breaking down the middle wall of partition . It seems warrantable to explain this by an intended reference to the arrangement in the temple. There was there a separating of Jews from Gentiles. There was a wall or boundary beyond which Gentiles were forbidden to advance. As by the rending of the veil was signified the opening of the way into the holiest of all, so by what is described as the breaking down of the middle wall of partition we are to understand that Jews and Gentiles are brought into the same nearness to God . The middle wall of partition is explained to be the late of commandments contained in ordinances . The Mosaic Law was, on one side, a system of separation. It was like a wall enclosing the Jews and shutting off the Gentiles. It forbade all familiar intercourse with the Gentiles. As Christ was called Peace, so the Mosaic system is here made synonymous with enmity or estrangement. The Jews were not to hate other nations (for Jehovah was the God of all the earth, and they were told of a time when all nations were to be blessed); but, as things were, they were necessarily separated in feeling from them. And the Gentiles, on their side, were not slow to hate the Jews for their exclusiveness. The Mosaic system, then, in its incidence especially on the Gentiles, was enmity. And this enmity, we are told here, Christ abolished in his flesh. The Jewish Law he fulfilled, and, by fulfilling, abolished, so that it was no more a separation, or cause of estrangement. The rending of the veil pointed to a rending of his flesh. So the breaking down of the wall suggests a breaking in his flesh. It was a breaking, it is further suggested, that, Jew and Gentile perishing, there might rise out of both a new creation, viz. Christian . "That he might create in himself of the twain one new man." The breaking thus resulted in a peacemaking: "So making peace."
VI. HOW THIS WAS SHOWN .
1. In their being placed in one Church as reconciled to God by the same means . "And might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." There is an advance from "one new man" to "one body." "Christian" was created; but it was in order that a body of Christians might be formed. In this body Jews and Gentiles might very well be together; for they had the deepest ground of union in their both being reconciled to God. This equality extended even to the instrument of reconciliation, viz. the Cross. When they were thus reconciled to God by the same means, "the enmity was slain;" and there was no need for two Churches— the Jewish Church continuing, and a Gentile Church forming a separate community. But there was the clearest case for one Church, viz. the Christian Church, containing both.
2. In their having the same gospel of peace preached to them . "And he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh." When it is said that Christ came and preached peace, we are to understand that it was under his authority and through his instruments. In comparison with what he himself had to do with it, others might very well be left out of account. There were obvious reasons for the clause in the parting command, "beginning from Jerusalem." But that only, as is implied, indicated the point of departure. And it was the same gospel that was to be proclaimed to all alike: "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his Name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." So here, with a certain emphasis in the repetition of the word "peace," as the purport of the message (to be understood in its God-ward sense)—"peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh." If, then, the gospel was preached to them in the same Name and in the same terms, they might well be "one body."
3. In their having , as reconciled , the same spiritual privileges . (Verse 18.)
VII. PRACTICAL CONCLUSION , IN WHICH THE EPHESIAN CHRISTIANS ARE ADDRESSED IN A THREEFOLD CHARACTER .
1. They are members of the spiritual commonwealth . "So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints." "Fellow-citizens with the saints." They are citizens in relation to God as Head of the commonwealth. "They are no more strangers and sojourners." There were those who stood in this relation to the Grecian states. They did not live on Grecian soil, or they lived on it without possessing the rights of " citizens ." Such had been the relation of the Ephesians to the Jewish commonwealth. But now they were fully enrolled and recognized as citizens in that commonwealth in which were incorporated both Jews and Gentiles. The members of this commonwealth are designated "saints," as were the Ephesians in the opening of the Epistle. It points to their bearing a certain character, and having certain duties to perform. But the leading idea is the privileges of citizens . And these may be particularized.
2. They are members of the household of God . "And of the household of God." The relation in the family is closer than in the state. The theocracy was as a house in relation to which they had been strangers or sojourners; but now they had the full rights of members of the family.
3. They are part of the temple of God . We are really subjects and really sons, but we are only compared to stones. It is a comparison by which are brought out some important truths.
(a) Each several building in its parts . The idea of regulation is brought out in the word which is translated "fitly framed together." "Joint" and " reason " both go into the word. There is not a mere putting of parts together, but there is a jointing as in the human body, and a jointing moreover that displays reason. It is in Christ as Cornerstone that this is done. tie, then, is the reason or thought of God (Logos he is called), according to which the various parts of the building are put together. It is on this thoughtful connecting of the parts that the stability of a building, which is a main excellence, depends. "A noble craft is that of mason: a good building will last longer than most books, than one book out of a million" (Carlyle).
(b) The several buildings as a whole . Regulation here also is pointed to in the word "grows." For there is a type according to which every living thing grows (which is from the Loges, by whom all things are made). So also is there a plan or distinct thought (in the mind of the Architect) according to which the buildings, separately proceeding, are made to "grow" into a holy temple. This also is in the Lord . The whole connecting of the spiritual structure belongs to him, and is shadowed forth by his being Cornerstone.
Gospel reconciliation—its subjects, agency, and results.
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in lime past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 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: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our Peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 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; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Reconciliation is the grand idea of this passage, and it sets before us the condition of its subjects , the nature of its agency , and the blessedness of its achievement .
I. THE CONDITION OF ITS SUBJECTS . They are here presented in two aspects—aspects in which all men in their unregenerated state are found.
1. As socially disharmonized . Between the Jews and the Gentiles there was no accord; on the contrary, there was a deep, mutual variance in sympathy and soul. There was a "middle wall of partition between them." That wall was built by political prejudices and religious differences, and was cemented by a mutual "enmity." So that they were "aliens," and "strangers," and morally "far off" from each other. There are these social differences between unregenerate men now, the world over. Instead of union, there is division—harmony, there is discord—love, there is enmity. Hence the eternal feuds, domestic, social, ecclesiastical, political. Some "middle wall of partition" divides family from family, class from class, nation from nation, man from man.
2. Is religiously disharmonized . There was not only a mutual variance between Jew and Gentile, but there was a variance between both and God. Religiously the Jew is represented here as being "without Christ," ignorant of him, and uninterested in him; "without hope," without any well-founded hope of future good; "without God" practical atheists. Living every day as if no God existed, Does not this describe the religious condition of all unregenerate men in every part of the world? What a picture of the moral world! Hideous, yet life-like!
II. THE NATURE OF ITS AGENCY . Who is the great Reconciler? Who is he that reconciles men to men, and all to God? There is One, and only One. "Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh." The passage gives three ideas about this reconciling.
1. It is the work of self-sacrifice . Christ does it by his "blood," by his "cross." What is the blood of Christ? Not, of course, the vital fluid which flowed through his corporeal veins—not his mere existence, but the governing moral spirit of his life. The real life of a man is his governing disposition. This is the moral blood that circulates through all his activities. What is the governing spirit of Christ? Self-sacrificing love. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," etc. It is by that self-sacrificing spirit of his in teaching, working, praying, and dying, that he does the work of the world's reconciliation. Love alone can kill enmity. Christ's moral blood is the atoning power.
2. It is the work of abolishment . Christ's mission is destructive as well as constructive. He pulls down as well as builds up. He came to destroy the works of the devil.
3. It is the work of preaching . "Preaching peace." "And came and preached peace to you." Christ preached peace himself both before and after his death. His personal ministry was emphatically a ministry of peace in spirit and in doctrine—in example and in aim. He preached by his servants. This was the grand subject of the apostolic ministry. This is the grand subject of all ministers. The gospel is a gospel of peace; Christ was the Prince of peace.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF ITS ACHIEVEMENT . What is the grand result of his reconciling agency?
1. Union of man to man . "To make in himself of twain one new man." Giving all men, however diverse in temperament, circumstances, and education, one moral soul . This is the true union, the union of heart, making men one—one in sympathy, one in purpose, one in Christ.
2. Union of man to God . "And that he might reconcile both unto God." In truth, man can only become truly united to his brother man, by first becoming united to God. He must love the-great Father supremely before he will love his race with the affection of a genuine brotherhood. True philanthropy grows out of piety. Men thus united to God, the passage suggests, are united together:
(a) Beautifully united, "framed together."
(b) Gradually advancing: "groweth," the growth of a living organism, not the mere growth of a building.
(c) Religiously consecrated: "a holy temple." What a glorious temple is this! The temple of Diana these Ephesians originally considered as the glory of the world, hut it would appear to them contemptible by the grand spiritual temple that Paul here pictures to their imagination.—D.T.
The Christian temple.
The pride of Ephesus was her world-famed temple, in which the religion, the art, and even the commerce of the city centered and flourished. What the temple of Diana was materially in its visible romp and power, the Church of Christ is to be spiritually, but with a higher splendor and a wider influence. More than once has St. Paul described the Church as a temple. The truths shadowed forth by this name press upon us with weighty importance.
I. THE MATERIALS WITH WHICH THE TEMPLE IS BUILT .
1. The foundation . "The foundation of the apostles and prophets" must be the work of the earliest and leading Christian teachers who laid the first stones of the Church. They preached the fundamental truths on which the Church stands—primarily Christ crucified, for Christ is the real Foundation—and they gathered in the first converts. The Church receives its Divine recognition in being apostolic and. in being founded by inspired men—"prophets."
2. The stones . These are the men and women who compose the Church. A building cannot be all foundation. The Church must be the union of individual Christians. It is not the teachers and authorities, but the several members who constitute the Church. These, therefore, are the rich gifts and the honorable mission of the Church. All classes are here united, and those who were once furthest from God—publicans, Samaritans, Gentiles, heathen, corrupt judicials, the neglected, the ignorant, and the base—are brought in.
3. The Cornerstone . Christ crucified is the foundation laid by apostles and prophets in their preaching; Christ glorified is the crowning completion of the whole structure. We begin with Christ; we end in Christ. The temple starts with Christ, and as it rises tier by tier it is growing up to Christ. Christ, the Head of the body and the chief Cornerstone of the Church, is both the supreme authority and the perfect glory of his people.
II. THE PLAN ON WHICH THE TEMPLE IS DESIGNED .
1. The adjustment of a variety of separate parts . "Each several building" is "fitly framed together." It is as though the vast temple were begun in several distinct centers, and, as the building progressed, these approached one another till they met and combined in one vast harmonious structure. There is variety all through, for the "frozen music," architecture, is a blending of many different notes. In the Church there are necessary differences. The hot imagination of the South must produce a different type of Christianity from that molded by the cool, practical temperament of the North. All parts of the temple are not for the same ends. One is to take a lowly place in the monotonous run of stones in a wall; another, to be carved into the delicate grace of a capital, conspicuous to all eyes. But every one has its place, and the union is dependent on variety. There is no unity in a heap of cannon-balls. The fitting together of the various parts of an elaborate structure constitutes the highest unity.
2. Ultimate unity . To this the harmonizing of the several parts is tending. Do we not see the work progressing now in the cooling of ancient ecclesiastical feuds side by side with an enlarging liberty of thought? The true unity will be oneness of sympathy, brotherly love, and mutual helpfulness. Every Christian should strive to realize his share of this and beware of the selfishness of individualism. Christianity begins with individual faith, but it grows into an enlarged brotherhood and the formation of one temple.
III. THE USE TO WHICH THE TEMPLE IS DEDICATED . A temple is a house in which a god dwells. The spiritual temple is " a habitation of God ." "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands." He inhabits the humble and contrite spirit. The real presence of God is in the Church. He does not only bless his children, he visits them and abides with them. He does not confine his presence to a select few—inspired prophets, ordained priests, etc. He fills the whole Church with his presence as the incense spreads through every quarter of the temple.
1. Herein is the true glory of the Church—not in outward magnificence, but in the spiritual presence.
2. From this arises the responsibility of the Church, not to defile the temple of the Holy Ghost, but to let the glory of God shine out through every door and window unsullied by any cloud of sin.—W.F.A.