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Neighborhood Study Guide

Ephesians 2:19-22 Introduction

Its not uncommon to connect the idea of a temple with a church. In fact, some churches used the word temple in their title. However, sadly, the image of a temple is all too reminiscent of the church dry, abandoned, dusty a relic that may be interesting historically, but hardly relevant to the real power struggles and spiritual questions of today. However, in Pauls day, the temple was a potent image for Jew and Gentile alike. The temple, in Jerusalem or any pagan city, was the center of daily life, cultural identity and political power as well as spiritual and religious practice. A city and her citizens found their pride and purpose in the temple. The temple was where heaven and earth met. When Paul uses temple imagery to describe the church, he is pointing to a large subject. Christians could no longer worship in the pagan or the Jewish temple. Without the temple, how could one get right with the gods? Without the temple, how could one participate in public life? Without a temple, where could one find their identity and purpose? So, Paul uses the image of the temple because it is a big one. But he also subverts the image of a human built temple in radical ways. These subversions give us a deep insight into what it means to be the church in the midst of the temples of our day. Read Ephesians 2:19-22

Introductory Question
Few people in our culture worship in temples today. Where are the places where people find pride, purpose and community in life in a modern city? How do these temples work today? Can you think of examples?

Ephesians 2:19-22
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

1. Paul is using temple imagery for a Gentile audience. Is it radical for aliens to become fellow citizens with saints? How is Paul in keeping with the Old Testament view of the temple? (See 1 Kings 8:41-43) Is Paul simply saying that everyone is invited to join the church or something more? 2. What is the difference between a citizen and a member of the household? Why does Paul use both of these images? 3. What role do apostles and prophets play? Why are they the foundation? 4. A cornerstone is not only a part of the foundation, but sets the angle of the building as well. How does Jesus fill the role of cornerstone in the building?

This image of Jesus as the cornerstone is not simply a helpful metaphor it draws deeply on an Old Testament idea, that the temple is ultimately something God must build not humans. In Psalm 118:22-23 it says: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lords doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Jesus is the new temple (see John 2:18-22) where atonement is made, worship is offered and a new city is built. This temple is not built by human hands but by God himself. So, the most radical thing that Paul says about the church is that it is a temple not made of human hands (Acts 7:47) but made by god. The church is his project, his creation. Ultimately, any temple we build will become an edifice for our prejudice, purpose and pride. This often happens to churches that humans build. But the church of Christ, built on his cornerstone can only be for Gods glory and purposes. He is building it! This essentially is an image of the gospel as well. In religion, we build an edifice for God, but it is really about our pride. In the gospel, God builds a house for us, and it is for his glory. (See 2 Samuel 7:1-13 for an excellent illustration of this.)

Reflect on verse 21 and 22. 1. How do churches erect barriers to entry that are not of God? What are some examples? 2. How do churches get involved in purposes that are not about God? What are some examples? 3. How do churches become more focused on their human achievements than what God has done? How can churches be examples of human pride rather than Christ-like humility?

Practical Question
How can you make Christ the cornerstone of your church life? Worship singing? (How does worship become about praise, not preferences?) Bible study? (How does Bible Study (and neighborhood group) reflect a desire to grow in love, rather than a mere growth in knowledge?) Fellowship (How should our friendships in church differ from friendships outside the church? What specifically can we do to put Christ in the center of our relationships?) Mission and Service (How does our work point to God, rather than to ourselves?)