The Priviledges of the Christian
The Privileges of the Christian (Ephesians 2:19-22)
This grand chapter of biblical revelation concludes with a summary of the believer's privileges based on the foregoing themes. One saint observed that a realization of the believer's privileges would solve every problem in the Christian life. We all live far beneath our status and dignity. Out of varying degrees of ignorance we behave like hirelings rather than sons. Paul uses three figures of speech to state the believer's prerequisites: the state, the family, and the temple. He must use all three, for no one figure adequately conveys the effect of the grace of God in our lives.
The Believer Has Been Made a Citizen in God's Kingdom
Paul first states this negatively. We are no more strangers and foreigners. Taking the backward glance for another moment, the apostle reminds us of what we used to be. The words include all who by territorial distance or by absence of civic privileges are not citizens. The word "foreigner" refers to that man who dwells in a state but does not have the rights of citizenship. It could refer to those who lived outside the city walls, but not in the city. In the Old Testament it spoke of one like Ruth, halfway between an alien and a native. These words remind us that with reference to God's kingdom everyone began as an outsider. To receive a share in the civic privileges of the city of God is a grace gift to everyone. There are, in reality, no pioneers or latecomers in God's kingdom. We are all here by grace, not by tenure or performance.
One may always tell an alien from a citizen by three certainties. An alien will often not conform to the laws of the state. He thus demonstrates his foreign character. Further, an alien must always live on a passport, not on a birth certificate. In times of national crisis, the loyalties of aliens will be to their homeland, not to the nation where they are sojourners. So it is in God's kingdom. True citizens will live by kingdom laws. They can produce a birth certificate. In times of trial, their loyalty is to the church, not its enemies.
The Believer Has Been Born a Member of God's Family
The image of a kingdom will not suffice to explain Christian privilege. The difference between the state and the family is the difference between the general and the particular, the external and the internal, the remote and the intimate, the impersonal and the personal. Our relationship to God demands the metaphor of a family, not just a government. In this family, God is our Father and Christ is our Elder Brother.
How may you know for certain that you are a member of God's household? We are at ease among those of our own household. Do you feel out of your element when you are with God's people? We have a real and living interest in our own families. Do you delight with interest in the church? We know the family secrets of our own family, and we try to hide the bad things and to emphasize the good things. Those who are part of God's family wish it always to be seen in the very finest light. "Blood is thicker than water" is also true in God's family. Those covered by the blood of Christ may disagree, but there is a family loyalty that transcends family differences. In hours of trial, the family will be together.
The Believer Has Become a Stone in God's Living Temple
The apostle must soar still higher to express the truth about the believer's privileges. The believer is a living stone in a growing building. There is first the privilege of the foundation. The believer is intimately related to the same foundation laid by the New Testament apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ. There is the privilege of the cornerstone, also Jesus Christ. The cornerstone binds the stones together and becomes a fixed standard for the bearings of the structure throughout. There is the privilege of the living temple. The image Paul suggests is that of a number of smaller buildings being joined together to form one entire structure. "Unlike dead matter this monumental structure possesses a capacity for growth and interaction. The station of each individual has been preordained with regard to the contour of the aggregate fabric. Every believer has his own niche to fill."