“…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:20-22)
Paul is not talking about a material structure that would be called the church in Ephesus. That is common language today even though we know and confess better. The church is the body of Christ, and in this passage, common language is being used to help the faithful saints to understand what is happening to them as a collective of individually saved people.
The Ephesians were knowledgeable on the construction of temples whether Jew or Greek and since Paul wants them to understand that they are a temple (not made with hands) he uses this analogy. All temples were built on secure foundations. This is a known fact since many of those ancient buildings are still standing. The new temple of God has a foundation of apostles and prophets rather than stones. In Paul’s mind, nothing could be securer than the collective spokesman for God, those holy men of old who were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Key to the stability and the correctness of the temple was the cornerstone. If that stone were not true the building could not be erected properly. It was the key to the entire structure, and the trueness of the temple depended upon its quality. Paul tells us that God’s new temple is built on Jesus. Can we come up with a better, truer more qualified cornerstone?
Now, what is happening as each faithful saint is added to the body of Christ? They are fitted into the building. One by one, the saved are added into the temple. God fits them together, each one his or her own place. As this building grows, stone by stone (saved one by saved one) it takes the shape of the holy temple. And who dwells in this new building, this new temple? It is God who comes in the form of the Holy Spirit and lives in every faithful saint and in all the saints as a temple of God.
This new temple is the temple of promise. There is no reason for Jesus to return to the earth and build a stone one in Jerusalem. He is the cornerstone of the new temple, and the faithful saints are the stones. God dwells in his Holy Temple now, not in the future but now.
If you are a faithful saint, then you are an individual temple of the Holy Spirit which is how God dwells in you. If you are a faithful saint, then you are a part, a stone that makes up the universal temple that the Holy Spirit indwells as the presence of the Almighty God. This word from Paul helps explain what Peter was saying in 1 Peter 2:4-6:
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:
“BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone,
AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
The church (not a building) is the temple of God and Jesus reigns over it today.