God’s War Memorial: The Church of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11
This Sunday marks our fifth sermon in Ephesians and, with it, the consideration of the fifth sola. As our church remembers the Protestant Reformation this fall, we have sought to highlight the five solas from the text of Ephesians. After considering the material principles of the gospel in Ephesians 1–2 (e.g., Sola Gratis, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria), we considered the material principle of the Reformation from Ephesians 2:11–22 (i.e., Sola Scriptura).
More central to the text, however, this week’s message focused on the argument of Ephesians 1–3 and Paul’s repeated emphasis on the temple of God, which is the church of Jesus Christ. Taking a page from the Reformers (ad fontes), we stepped back to understand the symbolism of this temple and how temples operated in the warfare worldview of Ephesus and the Old Testament. Accordingly, this sermon paid keen attention to the temple theme in the Bible and it aimed to prepare us for understanding how the church as temple shapes our identity, community, and mission—three themes that we will, Lord willing, develop from verses 11–22 next week.
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 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.
- In reading Ephesians, how do the chapters help and hinder us from understanding the flow of Paul’s argument?
- When we compare Ephesians 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; and 6:12, what do we learn about heavenly places?
- In Ephesians 2, what evidences do we have of temple imagery? How does that help us understand Paul’s argument? What other questions or insights does that raise?
- In the Old Testament, what role does the temple play in Israel? In what ways do the nations relate to the temple?
- How is Paul speaking about this temple in Ephesians 2? What is the relationship between Christ’s work on the cross and the temple?
- What does this idea of the church as temple do to inform our identity, community, mission? What other implications or application does it have?
- Introducing Bezalel: A Temple Building Son of Judah
- Temple Building and Divine Warfare: Two Important Themes to Understanding Ephesians 2:11–22
- An technical exposition of Ephesians 2:19–22
- Being and Building a Better Church: Temple Language in Paul
- From Eden to Zion: A Temple Story
- Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology by Jeffrey J. Niehaus
- God is a Warrior by Tremper Longman
- From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by T. Desmond Alexander
- The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of Dwelling Place of God by Gregory K. Beale
- The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God by Timothy Gombis
N.B. While Gombis’s book helpfully explores the divine warrior themes of Ephesians, it fails to maintain a fully biblical view of the cross. It rightly emphasizes Christus Victor, but it ignores penal substitution. It is far better to understand Christ defeating the powers and principalities via his penal substitution. On that approach, see my “The Cross in Colossians: Cosmic Reconciliation through Penal Substitution and Christus Victor.”
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
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