Ephesians 2:17-22(HCSB)17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 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.
It is only in response to the cross of Christ (called faith in Ephesians 2:8(HCSB)8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, that peace exists vertically between humans and God and horizontally between humans. This new society, called the church, is depicted at the end of chapter 2.
The church is pictured as a nation (“fellow citizens,”), a family (“a household”), and a “building.” This new building is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The purpose of the church is for believers to be “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.
David S. Dockery, “The Pauline Letters,” in Holman Concise Bible Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 578.
Jesus is the cornerstone, The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
Isaiah 28:14-18(HCSB)14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you mockers who rule this people in Jerusalem.15 For you said, “We have cut a deal with Death, and we have made an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.” 16 Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. 17 And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. 18 Your deal with Death will be dissolved, and your agreement with Sheol will not last. When the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be trampled.
Romans 9:33(HCSB) As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.
1 Corinthians 3:11(HCSB) For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-10(ESV)4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Jesus is the cornerstone and the church is built off of it and the foundation of Apostles and Prophets.
In a general sense, a prophet is a person who speaks God’s truth to others. The English word prophet comes from the Greek word prophetes, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.”Prophets had the task of faithfully speaking God’s Word to the people. They were instrumental in guiding the nation of Israel and establishing the church.A true prophet of God will be committed to speaking God’s truth. He or she will never contradict God’s revealed Word. A true prophet will say, with the prophet Micaiah just before his fateful confrontation with Ahab, 2 Chronicles 18:13 “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says”.
PROPHETS – GOD SENT MESSENGERS TO DECLARE HIS WILL
DEUTERONOMY 18:18 (HCSB)I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.
The canonical prophets, whose books make up over a quarter of the Old Testament, were called by God to be organs and channels of revelation. They were men of God who stood in his council. Jeremiah 23:22(HCSB)22 If they had really stood in My council, they would have enabled My people to hear My words and would have turned them back from their evil ways and their evil deeds. , knew his mind, and were enabled to declare it. God the Holy Spirit spoke in and through them (2 Peter 1:19-21(HCSB)19 So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
They knew he was doing so; hence they dared to start messages with “this is what the Lord says” or “an oracle of the Lord,” and to present Yahweh himself as the speaker of what they were saying.
Prophecy involved prediction (foretelling), but usually this was done in a context of declaring God’s warnings and exhortations to his covenant people here and now (forth-telling). The predictions had to do with the coming of God’s king and kingdom after purging judgments; the prophets’ chief concern was to exhort to repentance, in hope that for the present the judgments might be averted. They were primarily reformers, enforcing God’s law and recalling God’s people to the covenant faithfulness from which they should never have lapsed.
With their preaching to the nation went prayer for the nation: they talked to God about people just as earnestly as they talked to people about God, and they fulfilled a unique ministry as intercessors (Exod. 32:30–32 [Moses]; 1 Sam. 7:5–9; 12:19–23 [Samuel]; 2 Kings 19:4 [Isaiah]; cf. Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).
False prophets were a bane to Israel. Professionally linked with Israel’s organized worship, they said what people wanted to hear and spoke their own dreams and opinions rather than words of God (1 Kings 22:1–28; Jer. 23:9–40; Ezek. 13).
In the New Testament, one book, Revelation, announces itself as a true and trustworthy prophecy, received directly from God (actually, from God the Father through Jesus Christ: Rev. 1:1–3; 22:12–20). The ministry of the apostles brought instruction directly from God to his people, just as the Old Testament prophetic ministry had done, though the form of presentation was different. Prophets of the New Testament period were linked with the apostles in the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20; 3:5) as expositors of the fulfillment in Christ of Old Testament hopes (Rom. 16:25–27).
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993).
Of course, not everyone who “speaks forth” a message is actually a prophet of God. The Bible warns against false prophets who claim to speak for God but who actually deceive the people they purport to inform. King Ahab kept 400 such false prophets in his employ to tell him what he wanted to hear (2 Chronicles 18:1-7(HCSB)Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and he made an alliance with Ahab through marriage. 2 Then after some years, he went down to visit Ahab in Samaria. Ahab sacrificed many sheep and cattle for him and for the people who were with him. Then he persuaded him to march up to Ramoth-gilead, 3 for Israel’s King Ahab asked Judah’s King Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” He replied to him, “I am as you are, my people as your people; we will be with you in the battle.” 4 But Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “First, please ask what the Lord’s will is.”5 So the king of Israel gathered the prophets, 400 men, and asked them, “Should we go to Ramoth-gilead for war or should I refrain?” They replied, “March up, and God will hand it over to the king.” 6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh here anymore? Let’s ask him.” 7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man who can ask Yahweh, but I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” “The king shouldn’t say that,” Jehoshaphat replied.
2 Timothy 4:3(HCSB)3 For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.
In the New Testament we have many warnings against false prophets. Jesus taught, Matthew 7:15 (ESV)“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”. He later noted that, in the end times, Matthew 24:24(ESV)“false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect”. To avoid being led astray, we must always “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”
1 John 4:1(HCSB)Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The word apostle means “one who is sent out.” In the New Testament, there are two primary usages of the word apostle. The first is in specifically referring to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. The second is in generically referring to other individuals who are sent out to be messengers/ambassadors of Jesus Christ. From the definition of the word, the closest thing today to an apostle, in the general sense, is a missionary. A missionary is a follower of Christ who is sent out with the specific mission of proclaiming the gospel. A missionary is an ambassador of Christ to people who have not heard the good news. However, to prevent confusion, it is likely best to not use the term apostle to refer to any position in the church today. The vast majority of occurrences of the word apostle or apostles in the New Testament refer to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.
Not everyone is a prophet or apostle. Apostles equip, build, and plant churches and help them to be healthy. Apostles know how to build the church with Jesus as the foundation. They are given by the ascended Christ. They draw all the other gifts back to building the local church. Apostles lay the hidden foundations. No one ever says you have lovely foundations in your house! If apostolic ministry is working, then people see a glorious church, although they might not always realize what the foundations are.
The Church is built on apostles and prophets who work together. A prophet is not someone who sometimes prophesies. They are big picture men. People who catch the Church up to the bigger framework of God’s unfolding plans in history.
Jesus is the cornerstone; everything else fits to him. Jesus is the center. Apostolic ministry sniffs out legalism and teaches grace. Apostolic ministry is missional. The great days of mission are before us as a movement. Apostolic ministry is concerned about the poor.
Ephesians 2:20-22(HCSB) 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.
Instructing the Christians in Corinth to flee from sexual immorality, the apostle Paul exhorted, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20(HCSB)18 Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. Indeed, God the Father created our bodies, God the Son redeemed them, and God the Holy Spirit indwells them. This makes our body the very temple of the Holy Spirit of God.
Those who do not belong to Christ do not have the Spirit of Christ residing in them. Romans 8:9(HCSB)9 You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Thus, their bodies are not a temple of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, then, the greatest thing we can do for our bodies is to make them into a temple for God’s Spirit.
As the Holy Spirit resides in us, therefore, we are to honor God with our bodies as they “are not [our] own,” as Paul said. We have indeed been bought with a price. And it was not gold or silver or other perishable things by which we were redeemed; it was with the precious, unblemished blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19(HCSB)18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.. Ordained by God before the foundation of the world Acts 2:23(HCSB)23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. Christ’s blood purchased us out of the slavery of sin and set us free forever. And as Christian’s bodies are God’s temple, we are to use them to glorify God.
If God meant simply to convey the idea that the Spirit lives within the believer, He could well have used words such as “home,” “house,” or “residence.” But by choosing the word “temple” to describe the Spirit’s dwelling, He conveys the idea that our bodies are the shrine, or the sacred place, in which the Spirit not only lives, but is worshiped, revered, and honored. Therefore, how we behave, think and speak, and what we let into the temple through our eyes and ears becomes critically important as well, for every thought, word and deed is in His view. When we live by the Spirit, we will no longer gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16(HCSB)16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.