Last week, Paul introduced us to a new class of people; not Gentile, not Jew. Of course this is the Church, which Paul will expound on in Chapter 3 as being totally new.
And we looked at the three works that Jesus performed for us:
Then we identified that the Church was a new entity -- not a replacement for the Jews, but different. Both the Church and the Nation of Israel had a specific calling, identity and destiny. Each had different and unique callings, identities and destinies. One did not replace the other.
Then we saw that Jesus is our peace; he made peace and preached peace. I tried to make the case that evidence of our peace with God is our unlimited ability to have access 24 hours a day 7 days a week to the Sovereign of the universe. If there was still enmity between believers and God, I don't think we would have that kind of access.
Lesson 19: Jesus is the Cornerstone, we are the Building:
Today, let's wrap up Chapter 2.
Recapping from last week, we read:
And now on to new territory:
Now we, Gentile believers, have new privileges. We are no longer dogs, aliens, outsiders, strangers. We are now first-class citizens and the Jews have no advantage.
If you want to look at that issue, look at Philippians 3. Contrast the old position of the Gentiles with the new position. It is really hard to grasp what a big deal this is without really doing a study of the Jewish view. We tried to see this a couple of weeks ago.
Its fascinating, when you wrestle with this, to take a quick look at Acts Chapter 15. This conflict between Jew and Gentile believers became so intense that they finally had a special council in Jerusalem to deal with it. I'm amused by Peter's rebuttal. For 20 years Gentiles had been saved but the Christian Jews felt that for someone to be saved they had to become a Jew first. In this whole thing it is hard for us to relate with this argument, that it was a big issue.
Peter is saying, "Why put them under the Law? We Jews couldn't meet it either." He is saying, "you are missing the point."
Here is the kicker, in verse 11.
See the reversal? Peter is talking to Jews. We believe that by the grace of Jesus, Jews will be saved, even like the Gentiles have been. See the reversal? The Gentiles have the opportunity for salvation, and we Jews have the opportunity that they have. Only by the Holy Spirit could Peter have seen this and said it.
It is interesting that the whole notion, the whole thrust of this thing is that all nations are eligible, not just the Jews.
We're dealing here with cornerstones, foundations and so forth. It's interesting that this "foundation" concept is a New Testament view, not the Old Testament view. And Christ is the only foundation (Romans 15:20, First Corinthians 3:11).
The Apostles are literally associated with the twelve foundations of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:14. So this is very literally portrayed for us in the book of Revelation.
This term "cornerstone" is not foreign to our ears, because it is prophesied in Psalm 118:22:
Now what is a cornerstone? A cornerstone joins walls together. The Jews and the Gentiles were two walls which were joined together as one church. A cornerstone is also the keystone of an arch, the highest place, the predominant point, the stone that if you remove it the entire arch collapses.
One of the things I encourage you to do, for lots of reasons, is to take a word like this, say stone or rock, with a concordance, and track it through the Scriptures. One of the things that will leap out at you, especially if you do it yourself and just work it through, is that you'll discover the integrity of design. That's why you can call the Bible, 66 books penned by 40 different authors over thousands of years, an integrated message. One of the many ways to show that, is the use of idioms throughout the Bible that are consistent.
In First Corinthians 10, Paul makes the point that the rock in the Torah that followed them in the wilderness was Christ. It's an interesting metaphor. He is the stone cut without hands in Daniel 2. Take stone or rock and notice its use throughout the Scripture and it's amazing how often its use, literally and yet metaphorically, represents Jesus.
Peter talks of us as living stones. The portrayal here is of the analogy of the temple built of living stones. Notice it is a building framed together but growing into a holy Temple of the Lord.
It is interesting to me when you study the Kingdom Parables in Matthew 13, that among those parables, one of them is the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Remember that? -- that Heaven is like a Pearl of great price. The man sells everything he has and buys the pearl. That is very similar to some of the other parables until you look at its differences.
The more you study that parable, the more bizarre it becomes, because here is a Rabbi talking to Jewish listeners. Pearls are not Kosher. Oysters are not Kosher. Shellfish are not Kosher. Pearls were not prized by the Jews except for trade with the Gentiles. They didn't value pearls, because they were not Kosher. They traded them in the sense that they used them as money. But Jesus chose a pearl which is the only jewel created by a living organism. It grows by accretion, or being added to. It starts with an irritation. And it grows and it's removed from its place of growth to become an item of adornment.
Think about that. The Church starts with Jesus, who was clearly an irritation. It is a living organism and grows by accretion. It will be removed and become an adornment in Heaven. Boy, you begin to realize that Jesus knew what he was talking about. His choice of idioms, his choice of words, totally defy all our ability fully to comprehend them. The more you study, the more you realize there's more and more hidden to be learned by studying the seven Kingdom Parables of Matthew 13, or any of the parables of Jesus, for that matter.
Now back to verse 21.
This is not the word hieron, which is the word usually used for the Temple as a whole, but it's naos, the noun used for the inner shrine, the meeting place between God and his people. We won't dwell on this but there are seven times in the New Testament that it proclaims that you are the "Temple of God". That can be taking collectively as the church, which is true. But it appears that it also applies to each of us individually. God indwells a Temple. The Temple is holy and set apart from the world. A temple is the center for praise and worship and adoration. Here Paul is talking about the Church growing into a Holy Temple in the Lord.
The "you" here refers to the Gentiles. Now that's wild. Contrast that with the Old Testament. Gentiles could not even come near the habitation of God, but now they form the habitation of God. They are the habitation of God. Interesting.
Note the Trinity here.
As we conclude Chapter 2, let's recap at the summary level.
You might consider making a personal inventory of your grave clothes. Remember our discussion that although Jesus freed us from our past, the grave clothes, most of us still walk around bound by our past, not appropriating the freedom Jesus gave us. Are you still bound by the habits of your former life? You're in Christ you say. Great! But are you still defeated, are you still bound up by the grave clothes? Are you still bearing the trappings of the graveyard? Or are you raised and seated on the throne? Well, you say, I'm going to be raised and seated on the throne when I die. No, right now. Paul said you're there right now. Do you practice your position in Christ? Your position in Christ is with him on the throne. Do you practice it? He has worked for you. Do you now let him work in you and through you -- the Living grace? Are you letting him lead you in his grand adventure that he has for you for the glory of God?
Next week, in Chapter 3 we're going to have the opportunity to have revealed to us the great Mystery. Paul was entrusted with a precise unique special Mystery and that's what he has laid the groundwork for, and that's what he's going to unveil to us in Chapter 3. I personally have the view that probably not one Christian in a hundred understands the Mystery that Paul lays out for us in Chapter 3.