In the last section of Ephesians 2, Paul sums up the message of the entire chapter with a resounding crescendo. After reminding his readers about their past (2:1-3) and what God did to deliver them (2:4-10) – as well as describing the ways Christ brought them peace (2:11-18) – Paul takes the time to sum things up once again. Paul wants his readers – us included – to truly understand the incredible blessings that have been granted to those who know Christ, and by means of three distinct images, he does just that.
First, Paul makes clear that as a result of what Christ has done, we are citizens in God’s kingdom (2:19a). Paul says we used to be “strangers” – those who did not belong – and “aliens” – those who were out of place. Now, however, we are “citizens”. A “citizen” is one who belongs to a certain place, and the one who trusts Christ has such a place of belonging. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 4:20), because we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13-14). Through faith in Christ, our very identity is transformed. We have a new place of belonging and a new home. Instead of being lost, we are clearly identified as citizens of God’s country and God’s people – along with all the other who have trusted Christ. Because of what Jesus has done, we are “fellow citizens with the saints”. Like all God’s people throughout history, we are part of a better country and a heavenly city (Heb. 11:13b-16). Why does that matter? It matters because – as with any citizenship – it means we have certain privileges as well as certain responsibilities. As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to seek that Kingdom above all kingdoms (Matt. 6:33), and we are to live as faithful representatives of that kingdom. Conversely, as citizens of God’s kingdom, our King as promised to provide everything we need (Matt. 6:31-33), protect and keep us (Rom. 8:31-32), and hear our prayers (1 Pet. 3:12). Clearly, being a citizen of God’s kingdom makes all the difference in the world.
Second, Paul says that as a result of what Christ has done, we are part of God’s family (2:19b) – specifically, we are “members of the household of God”. Not only are God’s people part of His kingdom but intimate parts of His family. This is not merely a matter position but of affection. As Paul makes clear elsewhere, we are not mere slaves but sons (Rom. 8:15-16; 2 Cor. 6:18). In fact, one of the central reasons Jesus came was that we might be adopted as sons (Gal. 4:4-6). Again, this truth has incredible implications. It means God’s love for us certain and cannot be taken away (Rom. 8:35-39). It also means we can ask for what we need with confidence that our good Father will hear and provide (Matt. 7:7-11). It also means we have a glorious inheritance waiting for us because we are God’s children (Rom. 8:16-17; Gal. 4:7).
Finally, Paul says that as a result of what Christ has done, we are part of a new temple of God (2:20-22). It becomes clear that this is an image when we see that the foundation is the apostles – those who had seen Christ – and the prophets – those who spoke the word of God to the people of God. Moreover, Christ is presented as the cornerstone – the centerpiece around which, and upon which, everything else is built (see Matt. 21:42-44; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6-7). Not only are we citizens of God’s kingdom and part of God’s family but we are also part of God’s very dwelling place. Throughout Scripture, God’s dwelling place is a serious issue. In the Old Testament, even though God was “with” His people, He was still separated from them in the tabernacle and temple. But at various points in the Old Testament, there was a promise of something more (Lev. 26:12; Ezek. 37:27). And in the person of Christ, God came and dwelt among His people in an even more intimate way (John 1:14; 2:19-21). Now, since the coming of Christ, the Bible regularly calls believers the temple of the living God – that is, His dwelling place (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). And Paul’s point in our text is that, right now, God is building His people together in such a way that in eternity, He will be able to dwell unshielded and unseparated from them (Rev. 21:3-4,22). This is the significance of the building that God is building with His people. We are being built together into the very dwelling place of God. We will see Him face to face – He will be our God, and we will be His people.
Paul wants us to understand rightly our position in Christ. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God – the kingdom that will never end and that will last forever. We are part of God’s family – adopted as sons and daughters by a Father who will never let us down or disappoint us or disown us. And we are being built together – along with all the other believers in the world who have ever existed – into a group in which God himself will dwell for all of eternity. We will be part of the true temple to which Israel’s earthly temple pointed. It is a glorious reality, and it should cause us to rejoice and praise our God. Amen.