The Foundation Which Christ Laid Through His Apostles: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 5/2/17

Lesson 11: The Foundation Which Christ Laid Through His Apostles (2:19-22)

Ephesians 2:19-22 (KJV)

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.


19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,”

You are regarded as being with the people of God. You are entitled to their privileges, and are not to be regarded as outcasts and aliens. The meaning is that they belonged to the same community (the same family) as the people of God. The word rendered “strangers” means “foreigners in state,” as opposed to citizens. The word rendered “foreigners” means “guests in a private family,” as opposed to the members of the family. Strangers such as those who planned to reside for a short time in Athens, were permitted to reside in the city, and to pursue their business undisturbed, but they could perform no public duty; they had no voice in the public deliberations, and they had no part in the management of the state. They could only look on as spectators, without mingling in the scenes of state, or interfering in any way in the affairs of the government

They were required to humbly submit to all the demands of the citizens, and observe all the laws and customs of the republic. They were not even allowed to transact any business in their own name; but instead, they were required to choose from among the citizens one person who was to function as their sponsor, and whose duty it was to guard them against all injustice and abuse. Proselytes, who united themselves to the Jews, were also called in the Jewish writings, “strangers.” All foreigners were regarded as “strangers,” and Jews only were supposed to have access to God. But now, says the apostle, this barrier has been taken away, and the believing pagan, as well as the Jew, has the right of citizenship in the New Jerusalem, and both enter into the family of God in the same way; through faith in the Son of God. The main thing here is that Gentile believers are no longer considered merely guests or foreigners, but were a part of the family itself, and entitled to all the privileges and hopes which others had.

“But fellow-citizens with the saints,”

Belonging to the same community as the people of God.

“And of the household of God;”

That is, members of the same family. Entitled to the same privileges, and regarded by Him as His children (See Ephesians 3:15).

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”—that is, upon their ministry and living example. Compare this with Matthew 16:18.<1>.Christ Himself, the only true Foundation, was the grand subject of their ministry; He was their motivation and provided them with strength, courage, wisdom and the ability to perform miracles. As one with Him and his fellow workers, they (the apostles), too, in a secondary sense, are called “foundations” (Revelation 21:14). The “prophets” are joined with them closely; for the expression here is not “foundations of the apostles and the prophets,” but “foundations of the apostles and prophets”; for the doctrine of both was essentially the same (See 1 Peter 1:10, 11; Revelation 19:10). The apostles take the primacy, as Christ pointed out to them⸺“For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and

have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Luke 10:24). Thus He appropriately shows regard for the claims of the Jews and Gentiles: “the prophets” representing the old Jewish dispensation, “the apostles” the new. The “prophets” of the new also are included.

David is called a “prophet” in Acts 2:30⸺“ Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Compare also Isaiah 28:16<5>; another prophet present to the mind of Paul, whose prophecy leans on the earlier one concerning Jacob (Genesis 49:24<4>). The sense of the context, too, suits this: Ye were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (in the time of her Old Testament prophets), but now ye are members of the true Israel, built upon the foundation of her New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets. Paul continually identifies his teaching with that of Israel‘s prophets of the past (Acts 26:22; Acts 28:23). The costly foundation-stones of the temple (1 Kings 5:17) typified the same truth (compare Jeremiah 51:26). The same stone is both the corner-stone and the foundation-stone on which the walls rest. Paul supposes a single stone or rock so large and so shaped that it could serve both purposes at the same time; supporting the weight of the wall as the foundation; and joining the side walls together at their ends to form a corner and to unite the walls with the corner-stone. As the corner-stone, it is conspicuous, as was Christ (1 Peter 2:6), and when it lies in men‘s way it may be stumbled over, as the Jews did with Christ (Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7).

“Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”

“The actual foundation-stone being Christ Jesus Himself.” The “chief corner stone” was the primary foundation-stone at the corners of the structure. It is He who supports and holds together both the foundation and the walls. It is faith in Him which gives to every believer a place in the building, and it is Christ who gives to the structure its unity and its strength. There was not one single line or angle of the building which was not determined by and adjusted to the perfect symmetry of that stone. The angle of the cornerstone governs all the lines and all the other angles of the building.

Jesus Christ is the most important aspect of Christianity (Matthew 16:16-18). Remove Him and Christianity becomes useless (1 Corinthians 15:17), yet this is exactly what many denominations have done. They deny His virgin birth, His literal resurrection or the truthfulness of His message through His apostles. For all practical purposes such religious bodies are nothing more than non-profit human organizations. Very busy, but completely powerless to bring their members to salvation. Jesus Christ determines everything that Christians believe in and practice. Every aspect of the church from worship, to organization, work, and terms of entrance take their cue from Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:3). The world can never destroy the church, because it will never be able to successfully destroy its foundation. Jesus is called a "corner-stone" in other passages as well (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42-44; 1 Peter 2:6-8). Jesus is the "great test" for all men. Some cannot bring themselves to be completely honest when dealing with Jesus, and that's why they stumble, fail the test, and end up eternally lost. Others encounter Jesus and are crushed by how selfish they have lived, and become Christians.

Since we are supposed, where it is possible, to “let Scripture interpret Scripture,” I would assign the meaning of Ephesians 2:20 solely to these verses; Ephesians 3:5<2> and Ephesians 4:11.<3> These verses imply, I think, that the New Testament prophets are not excluded; but the apostle‘s clear reference to Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner,” proves that the Old Testament prophets are a prominent thought.

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