The New Temple of the Lord
Having spoke of the “one new man” created by Christ through his own blood whereby he has reconciled both Jew and Gentile unto himself through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, Paul now moves to that new living institution to which both groups now belong using the metaphor of a building or temple which they not only inhabit but are parts of the building itself. This institution is, of course, the Church of Jesus Christ, and as I have said in other devotions, this passage shows us that our Lord’s Church—both universal and local—is no mere gathering of likeminded believers who happen to agree on some key doctrines and so worship and minister together in their community. No. The Church of Jesus Christ is something much more: It is that living and breathing impregnable structure of which he himself is the cornerstone—meaning that it shall never be moved. And he has so graced this building, his temple, such that its foundation is of those apostles and prophets through whom he spoke (thus indicating that it is his word which they spoke that is more the foundation of the building than the men themselves). Moreover, we ourselves, Jew and Gentile alike, are being built into the structure of this new temple as fellow citizens, neither group counted as aliens or strangers but each and every one received as a part of this building, people born from above through the shed blood of Christ.
And this new temple seems to grow. As more and more come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, more and more precious stones are being added, which only enhances the luster of this new temple until that day comes when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). And the primary inhabitant of this temple is not the stones themselves but the Holy Spirit of God who animates (i.e., brings to life) the stones.
The disciples had come to Jesus saying, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” But Jesus shockingly replied, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mark 13:1-2). Such is the end of all earthly buildings, but the building that God builds shall endure forever. And that building is called His Church consisting of both Jew and Gentile—all of those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ in faith. No wonder Martin Luther wrote: “To me she’s dear, the worthy maid, and I cannot forget her; praise, honor, virtue of her are said, then all I love her better” (LW 53:293).