Lesson 25 : The Dwelling Place of God”
Where does God live? This simple, yet profound question has been answered in many ways by many people down through the years. But anyone who is familiar with the scripture knows that it contains the answer. But that answer is not what everyone might expect. The passage to which we come today gives us that surprising answer. But to get the full implications of it we need to review the context in which it appears.
The first 10 verses of chapter 2 give us a detailed picture of what we have because of our salvation. And then verses 11 through 22 give a review of that same information. And in that section of review, verses 19 through 22 tell us of the “consequences” of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf.
First, we have a new relationship in verse 19, which we discussed in our last study – 3 pictures of our relationship to God and to each other. So today we want to think about the second “consequence” or result of God’s completed plan, and that is a new residence described in verses 19 through 22.
(19) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God., (20) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, (22) in whom you are being built together for a habitation of God in the spirit.
Verse 19 refers to “the household of God.” And verse 22 speaks of “a habitation of God.” So obviously this is another picture of our relationship to God to which we need to pay attention. So let’s go back to verse 20 again and notice the foundation of the residence.
(20) Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
Critics have found a supposed contradiction in this verse, because 1st Corinthians 3:33 says that “no other foundation can anyone lay except Jesus Christ.” And yet this verse seems to say that the apostles and prophets are the foundation. But those who have the ability to look at the intricacies of the Greek text, tell us that the phrase “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” is in a form that could be translated “the foundation laid down by the apostles and prophets.” So the “basis” or “foundation” of this residence is that which was taught by the apostles and prophets.”
Incidentally, the prophets mentioned here are the New Testament ones, not the Old Testament ones, because they are mentioned after the apostles, and because at this point “the church” as it is now constituted of Jews and Gentiles alike, was still in its “mystery” form, (which is going to be explained in the next chapter). So those who claim to have the gift of prophecy are far behind times – the “foundation” of the church has already been laid; no further prophecy is needed. John, Peter, Paul, and Jude were the New Testament prophets and apostles. And their prophecies, recorded in scripture form the foundation for what we know of Christ’s return and other future events.
But there is another important aspect of this foundation too. Notice the phrase, “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” In the ancient world cornerstones were more important than they are today. Today they are largely ceremonial because of modern building methods. But in those days the cornerstone was the thing that determined the alignment of the walls as well as bearing a great deal of the weight of the building. And there is an important application to make from this: Jesus Christ is always the determining factor in any area of doctrine. For example, prophecy. Look at Revelation 19:10:
And I fell at His feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
God did not give us prophecy to make us prophets, but to reassure us of His control over history. Another area is the work of the Holy Spirit: In John chapter 14 and again in chapter 16 Jesus had instructed the disciples about the Holy Spirit who would come to take His place in their lives. And verse 16 is the summary:
He will glorify me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.
This is always the test of any spiritual activity or movement: “who does it glorify?” Is it the pastor of the church? Or the individual Christian whom God is using in a great way for whatever purpose He may? Or is it the Lord Jesus Christ? This principle extends even to our daily life and activity – Look at Matthew 5:16:
Let your light so shine before your good works and glorify – who? Your Father in heaven.
So that is the foundation of this new residence that God is building for Himself. But the first part of verse 21 tells us about the framework of it:
In whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord
Now remember, we are talking about God’s residence. And this verse adds a new fact about it: it is still under construction! The verbs in this verse are in the present tense, which indicates continuing action. And that, too, has some implications for us: First it reminds us of the responsibility that we all have to bring others into the building – to get others to accept Christ as Savior. Do you realize that our world is only one generation away from paganism? Who will pass these truths on to future generations?
The second implication of the “growing” nature of this “building” is that you and I as individual parts of the construction, need to be growing too. Look at Colossians 1:10: here is a part of a prayer that Paul is praying for the Christians who lived in the city of Colosse:
That you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
This growth of the residence of God is not simply a growth numerically, but spiritually as well. Are you growing spiritually? Do you know any more about God and His word than you did a year ago? Are you walking as closely with the Lord as you were then?
Now we have thought about “the foundation” of God’s new residence, and the “framework” of it. But the last part of the verse tells us something about the form that it will take. Look at the phrase “a holy temple in the Lord.”
The Ephesians would have been much more impressed by that term than we would be today. Because Ephesus was the home of the temple of Artemis, the center of the worship of the goddess Diana, and one of the seven wonders of the world. Sometime when you have the time, look at Acts 19:23-41 to get an idea of the power of the pagan religions surrounding those early Christians. That puts the dwelling place of God in its proper perspective!
And that concept of personal involvement sets the stage for the last point of the chapter. Finally, in verse 22 we see the familiarity in the residence.
In whom you also are being built together for a habitation of the Spirit.
Here is where this whole section has been headed. The “residence” that is being constructed is for God not us. And it consists of your heart and mine, our whole spirit and soul and body. Think of it! The God of the universe living within you and me! To our human minds it is truly incompressible. But to the heart of faith it rings true.
In the opening chapters of Genesis He visited with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. Later His presence dwelt in the tabernacle and later still, the temple that Solomon was allowed to build. In the opening chapters of the New Testament he was present in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. But this is much more personal than any of that – now He lives in each individual believer (and is with us collectively when we are gathered in His name, which is the focus of this passage.
The full impact of this may hit us when we think about one little word in this passage – the word “habitation.” This is the translation of a Greek word that means “to be at home;” “to be at ease.” Think of the difference between your home and even the most comfortable hotel you have been in. No matter how beautifully appointed and how fully equipped that temporary resting place may be, it is still not “home.” Your home has all your “stuff” in it; you know where everything is. The chairs and sofas and beds have adjusted themselves to your body. It is full of pictures of your family and others that you love. It has little reminders of other loved ones all over it. You know how every nick and scratch came from. It is home!
Is your spirit and soul and body the dwelling place of God? And is He comfortable there? Does it have all of those characteristics a well lived in home has? May that be from this day forward: that we may be the dwelling place of God!