My wife tells me that the key to social interaction is finding the one thing that you have in common. I believe she is right. As a matter of fact, that is the tactic that the Apostle Paul uses here to meld the two most factitious groups in the world together.
It is by recognizing what they have in common.
This morning I want us to consider the four things Paul says that we have in common. And I want us to reflect on them so that our fellowship becomes all that much more knit together. As a church that has quite a few differences, it is important for us to remember the common ground we share. For that is the key to our unity, and the key to our survival as a church—just as it was for the Ephesian church.
What do we have in common? The first thing Paul mentions is our identity. Now, it wasn’t that these Jews and Gentiles were not focusing on their identities. They were. They were identified as Jews and Gentiles. The problem was that they were not focusing on the right identity. What they needed to know is that they shared a common identity.
I. We share a common identity 
In verse 19 Paul gets them thinking about the identity that they have in common. He uses two images to describe us.
The first image Paul uses is that of national affiliation. He starts off by saying that we are “no longer strangers and aliens.” But instead we are “fellow citizens.” Here is our commonality, we all have equal standing in the kingdom of God because we are all citizens of it. There was a time when we were not. We were strangers and aliens. Our citizenship was in the world. We were the children of the devil (as we studies at the beginning of chapter 2). But all that has changed.
Unfortunately, Johan is not with us this morning. He would have been a good example of this because it was not long ago that he became a US citizen. Prior to this though, he was a foreigner. He was originally from the Netherlands. But now that he has become a US citizen he has all the rights that any natural born American citizen and he has equal standing with us. His vote is just as valid as any of ours.
So this is just one commonality that we share in the kingdom of God. Christ unifies us by giving us a national identity. We are full citizens in his domain.
The second image he uses is that of the home. You see that he says that we are also “members of the household of God.” The first image was one of national standing, this one relates to the family and our being a distinct part of that family.
Now, just as we used Johan as an example in the previous point, we can use my children as an illustration here. That’s because what Paul says here is a reference to our adoption into the household of God.
You may remember that there was a time when Paige, Geneva, and Truman were not a part of our family. Even though it might have been a short period of time in their lives, they were not official members of our household. It wasn’t until a judge gave a specific order that they became full fledged members of our family. And ever since that time, they have had the exact same standing as Katelyn (my biological child). Paige, Geneva, and Truman are not loved any less; nor are they afforded some second class status in our family.
And this is the image that the Apostle Paul uses here. The Lord has adopted us, and through Christ has made us each to be a member in his household.
And this is something that we must take to heart. Our primary identity is not Presbyterian or baptist. Certainly, that is part of our identity. We shouldn't deny that. But we must recognize that our primary identity is in what we both are. For this is what unifies us. And this is what gives proper perspective to our discussions and debates.
Family members can differ a lot. Brothers and sisters can wrestle and have all kinds of tifts. But at the end of the day, they remain brothers and sisters. And that is what puts their battles in perspective.
The same holds true for us. We stand unified on who we are and that gives us perspective for everything else.
But not only do we share a common identity, we share a common body of truth.
II. We share a common body of truth 
Look at verse 20. Paul says that we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.
Now, you might say that a third image is being used here; the image of a building. This image is going to extend to the end of our passage this morning, but I want to break it up because there are so many important things contained in this image. The first of which is this notion that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
To what is this referring? It is referring to the Scripture. God has spoken through apostles and prophets and these sacred words are our foundation. The body of truth that has been delivered through these men is what unites us. Here is the corpus of what God has revealed and it is to be our foundation.
The thing about a foundation is that is one of the main things that unites a house. The whole house coalesces around the foundation. Once you lay the foundation that’s basically it. You know where the house is going from there. It is going up. It doesn’t go out any further. So each part that is going to be added is going to be centered upon that foundation.
This is what Scripture is to us. It is the foundation for our lives. We as Christians coalesce around it because it serves as the basis for everything that we are to believe and do.
Now, let me pause here and say that this verse has typically been one of the main verses for what we call “cessationism.” Cessationism is a word that refers to God’s having ceased giving further revelation. He has ceased from revealing more things.
This is another one of those doctrines that is somewhat debated among Christians. I used to be a pentacostal and involved in churches that were known as Charasmatic churches. And these types of churches typically say that revelation has not ceased. They say that God continues to reveal things (so they are known as “continuists.”)
But these churches say that God can speak to us personally to reveal his will. They will likely affirm things like speaking in tongues and prophecy. Some might even go so far as to say that there are still apostles in our day. But the thing that they all agree on is that God continues to reveal truth beyond the Scriptures.
Most of them would say that it is not on the same par as Scripture. But this is a distinction that is a little hard to maintain. After all, it is supposed to be the word of God. I think you can understand that there cannot be things that are revealed that are more inspired than others. If it is from God, it is from God.
But, as I said, this verse is one of the verses that is often cited to refute the idea that prophecy and new revelations still exist. Why is that? It is because of this idea of a foundation. God has given us everything we need in the Old and New Testaments. He has laid the foundation through the prophets and the apostles. And once you lay the foundation, you don’t add anything to it. You take great care when laying the foundation because once you do that, the building is (literally) set in stone.
So I would suggest to you that we do not have continuing revelation today. But whether or not that is convincing, you will still believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Both continuists and cessationists stand united on this: God has spoken in Scripture. And that continues to be that which unites us.
But just as we share a common identity and body of truth, we also share a the same experience.
III. We share a common mystical experience 
The word mystical is not one we typically use. Its not part of our everyday language. But it means anything that pertains to the spiritual. It has to do with things that are a little mysterious, especially when it comes to contact with God.
Now, I just said that we do not have God speaking to us through new forms of revelation. But this does not mean that the Lord is not working in and among us. This next verse makes that very clear. Look at verse 21. It says, “In whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
What I want you to zero in on is the word “being joined together.” This word is drawn from the world of architecture. It has the idea of a mason setting bricks exactly in place or a carpenter who cuts two boards and then sets them in perfect alighment.
I even like the language of the KJV. The KJV says, “Fitly framed together.” I like that translation, except for one thing. I think it is missing one thing. The word in the original language is in the passive tense. It would be more accurate to say “being fitly framed together.” That puts it a bit better because it emphasizes that we are not the active agents; God is. We are completely passive in this. We are being acted upon. It is God who is joining us together, just like a mason when building an edifice, sets each brick in place.
A few years ago I was working at a factory and they put an addition onto the shop. They added an elevator. So they had to lay a lot of block up to the second story of the plant. But none of those bricks jumped up there themselves. Each block had to be hoisted up and set exactly in place by the bricklayer.
That’s what is going on in the church. Each of us shares in this common work of the Holy Spirit. We each are a block and God’s Spirit works upon us to draws us together. And, like a carpenter or mason, he binds us together. He binds us together in Christ (Don’t forget that part. Christ is the cornerstone and we are just as much fused together with him as we are with each other). But this is the point, there is a supernatural power that fastens us together.
I know that this goes against what we commonly see in the church. When we look around we usually see the church as something that is quite different. People leave one church and join another. People break off from one denomination to form a different one. And we break into all kinds of independent churches.
And this is wicked. Let’s not make any bones about this. And this is one of the reasons that the Roman Catholic church is seeing an influx of people in our day. A lot of people are turning to the RC because of the Protestant world is so fragmented.
Now this is not to say that the RCC is by any means unified. You could say that they are unified in name only. There is about as much diversity in it as the Protestant world. They have your liberals and conservatives and Pentecostals. It is filled with all kinds of evil.
But they have one thing right: They are right to say that we are sinfully factitious.
But this is the mysterious wonder of it all. Despite all the sins that separate us, there is this spiritual realty. God has mysteriously and mystically created a union that supersedes our denominations and fragmentations. He has bound us together as his singular temple.
Which brings us to our next point. We are the united people because God dwells within us.
IV. We share a common divine indwelling 
Look at verse 22. He repeats the idea of our being built together but he adds one thing. He adds the fact that each of us has become a “dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
We each share an identity. That is amazing. We share a body of truth by which we live. We share in the experience of being joined together. All these are wonderful things. But they pale in comparison to this. God, perfect and holy, the great infinite and glorious one, condescends to the point of taking up His residence within us.
This, you might even say, has been what this whole passage has been driving towards. Think about it again. He started out talking about us being citizens. That should have been an amazing thing. But it wasn’t enough. He then converted the imagery to that of a family. He made it more intimate. Citizens, technically, can live all over the world. They could be spread out and detached to some degree. But a family is a family no matter where they are. Families are known to be right up in each other’s faces. And, you can stop being a member of a country. But you can’t stop being a member of a family. That’s how close you are.
But even that imagery wasn’t enough. After all, families often grow apart. Kids grow up and they move away. Some family members are estranged. Even though they continue to be family, they might drift apart. So he changes the imagery again, to that of a building. One might say that it is a step backward, going from a family to that of an inanimate. It is a bit cold; it’s lacking that relational warmth. But when you talk about the bricks of a building, you cannot deny the fact that they are closely knit together. Bricks do not leave each other. But they are always packed closely together.
And to understand that these bricks are part of the very sacred temple, and that we are built upon the cornerstone of Christ, this reminds us that we have a great intimacy with God.
But even that imagery, was not enough. Even though he’s communicating a depth of closeness to God, it is not enough. He goes yet one step further to say that God has come to dwell within us.
And herein lies the greatest argument for our unity. If God is living in you and God is living in me, how then could we rebel against each other? Each of us has to be drawn that much closer to each other. If God is this close to us, is it possible for him to repel himself? Absolutely not. If God lives within us, then we must be bound together in the utmost purity.
And let this be what fills our minds the rest of the day. God has not just given us a common identity. He has not just given us a body of truth to share. He’s not just working upon us through His Spirit to bind us together. But this is what should produce awe and wonder: that He has seen fit, not just to come to us, but to actually enter into us and make His home within us.
When the reality of that hits home—when we really understand the depth of communion we have with the Lord, our communion with each other will be all that much sweeter.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.