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.
A common literary device that Paul uses is to mix all kinds of metaphors, stacking them and combining them together in order to create a full picture. He’s doing it here in Ephesians 2 to describe the church. We are a kingdom, a family, and now a building (all in the same sentence).
The emphasis continues to be on our unity in Christ. He is the cornerstone IN WHOM the rest of us stones are built together into one building.
Now I know very little about building and stone masonry. But I know three things from this text: you need a cornerstone, you need stones, and you need a builder.
Christ the Cornerstone
So what is a cornerstone, and why is Jesus called one?
Paul is quoting Psalm 118:22. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Calling Jesus the cornerstone makes a lot of sense in Paul’s flow of thought. The cornerstone literally sat on the corner of a building and joined two walls together into one structure. If that stone is wonky so are the walls and thus the whole building. Jesus has joined the Jewish wall to the Gentile wall and there is no wonkiness in his completed structure. The foundation is sure. The corners are strong. No wind can blow him or his church down.
Jesus vividly fulfills the Psalm 118 prophecy. Psalm 118 describes God’s messiah as a rejected stone (think death) who then becomes the most important stone (think resurrection). The foundation of the whole building.
But Jesus is also the destructive stone.
Luke 20:18. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.
Trust me, you want to fall on the stone of Jesus and be broken into pieces. You do not want the Cornerstone to fall on you. One of these two things has or will happen to you. If you are reading this most likely you are in Christ. You have fallen on the Cornerstone and been shattered. Praise be to God! Now he is rebuilding you, shaping you, forming you into the walls of his holy temple in the Lord, the dwelling place of God.
There’s gotta be a sermon illustration in here somewhere…
We the Stones
Are you in Christ? Are you in the Spirit? Then you are a living stone (1 Peter 2:5). A brick in the wall (but way better than Pink Floyd’s) – in whom the whole structure grows. The foundation was laid by prophets and apostles. But now the walls are going up. Christ is the most important stone in the building. The stone we are all modeled after. A stone that was rejected and then glorified (Ps. 18:22). We too are stones that are modeled after his death and resurrection. Suffering and glory. His “temple stones” were torn down and rebuilt in three days (John 2: 19). We too are constantly torn down to be rebuilt. This is the church. Unfinished. A perpetual construction of God’s mercy and justice.
What grace. What purpose. What a joy to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. And I mean much, much bigger – God’s dwelling place. Think about that for a second. Do you see yourself this way?
You know a stone down in the quarry by itself is pretty pointless. Sadly a lot of Christian “stones” are just sitting alone in the pit. The Spirit wants to chisel away and shape them into Jesus stones, but his transforming grace is resisted by so many. Grace that comes in the form of the church community.
I know it’s hard to be a brick in the church sometimes. But that’s actually the point. It is forgiveness that reveals God. It is grace and kindness, even when it’s hard, that reveals God. It is loving an enemy, even a church enemy, that reveals God. It is confrontation and acknowledgment and restoration and reconciliation that reveal God and his gospel. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s hard to build a never ending temple. It’s hard to make a stone grow – impossible without God.
God the Builder
But that is what God is doing. He’s growing stones. He’s growing a temple. It is his work on earth today. In Psalm 118 the builders were the Jewish religious leaders who ultimately would put Jesus to death. But here in Ephesians 2 God himself is the builder. More specifically the Spirit. The Spirit has placed you into Christ when you trusted in him for salvation. He has placed you into the kingdom, the family, the building, the church. This is what IN CHRIST means.
God has no other plan than the church. This is it, like it or not. Being part of the church is how the Spirit works in our lives. There is no spiritual growth without it. It is literally anti-God to think that you can grow spiritually apart from God’s building project, the church.
Once the builders rejected the Stone, but today the danger is that the stones reject the Builder by rejecting his building. May it never be.
“To live is Christ” is to be a living stone. A stone carved into the form of Christ the Cornerstone. A stone that God has placed into his building project, the church, for his glory. Each stone rescued from the pit and polished into the shape of Jesus forming a new temple for our God. His house. His life lived within our joined lives. Praise be to God.
And just for contrast…