- First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi - https://fpcjackson.org -

The Whole Body Together

The Lord’s Day

May 1, 2005

Ephesians 2:21-22

“The Whole Body Together”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Please turn with me to the second chapter of Paul’s letter
to the Ephesians, and from this section that we are about to read. And as we
work through this passage together this morning, I want to draw your attention
to four descriptions of the church, because in those descriptions Paul is
telling you something of God’s agenda for His people; that is, what God intends
to make of His people. And this is vitally connected to this challenge that the
elders have made to us as a congregation about expanding this house of worship.

First, I want to draw your attention to
verse 19, where Paul speaks of us as “fellow-citizens.”
Now, that’s the
image of a kingdom, and I want to talk with you this morning about what God is
doing to make His people a kingdom.

Then if you look at the end of that verse,
verse 19, you see him speak of us as a “household.”
That’s the picture of a
family. Paul is saying that the church is not only the Lord’s kingdom, it’s the
Lord’s family. And I want to talk about how this project that the Elders have
set before us is meant to serve that important reality of the church: that we
are the family of God.

And then if you look at verses
20 and 21, you’ll see the imagery of “building” and of “temple.”
We’re told
that we are being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets; and
then in verse 21, “in whom the whole building [is] being fitted together,
growing into a holy temple in the Lord….” And so there is the picture of the
church as a building or temple. We’re not only the Lord’s kingdom and the Lord’s
family; we’re the Lord’s temple, or building. We’ll talk about what that means.

And then finally, you’ll
notice in this passage at least twice the reference to the fact that we are the
Lord’s body.
Look, for instance, at verse 16, where we’re told that the
Lord Jesus through the cross has reconciled us in one body to God.

And then again, if you look
forward to a passage that we’re not going to read
(to chapter three, verse
six), these Ephesian Gentile Christians are being reminded that the Gentiles
are fellow heirs and fellow members of “the body

And so we’re going to look at
each of those themes and see how they pertain to this work that is before us
Before we read God’s word, let’s look to Him in prayer and ask for
His help.

Our Lord and our God, this is
Your word. We ask that by Your Spirit You would enable us to behold and believe
and embrace wonderful truth from Your word. Change our hearts. Grant, O God,
that we would long more than anything else, with the whole of our selves, to be
a part of the furtherance of Your grand design. This we ask in Jesus’ name.

Hear the word of God from Ephesians 2, beginning at verse

“Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are
called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in
the flesh by human hands–remember that you were at that time separate from
Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants
of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ
Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of
Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke
down the barrier of the diving wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity,
which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He
might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might
reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to
death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and
peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one
Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you
are fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been
built upon 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.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

One hundred and sixty-two years ago, to this
very month, the Reverend L. J. Halsey preached a message calling for the
building of a Presbyterian meeting house here in Jackson.
It was May 21 of
1843, and that meeting house was built. It was built just a few blocks down
North State Street, right on the northwest corner of North State and Yazoo
Streets. Interestingly, before he knew it, Derek chose as his passage to preach
from tonight the very passage from which Reverend Halsey preached, just a few
blocks down the street, so many years ago.

Now, why was it important to Dr. Halsey to call
the Presbyterians of Jackson, a small group then, to build a Presbyterian
meeting house? Surely he understood, as our elders understand, that you
are the Lord’s house. This is a wonderful place for the Lord’s house to meet,
but you, as the people of God, are the Lord’s house. You are what
the Lord is building, and it is the job of your pastors and your elders, as we
are equipped by the Lord and by His word, to edify you as the building which He
is building. The church–the very word means “the Lord’s house,” and it refers
to the Lord’s people.

And the elders are calling us not
to build that house, but to build the house in which the Lord’s house meets!
You see, we’re building a house for the Lord’s house! That’s what Dr. Halsey
was calling his congregation to do in that day–a house for worship, a house for
discipleship, a house for outreach. And the reason the elders are calling us to
expand and enlarge this meeting place, this beautiful sanctuary, is because the
Lord’s house has outgrown the house that we built for the Lord’s house! Some
two or three times the numbers of people are numbered amongst the Lord’s house
called First Presbyterian Church/Jackson, than can fit in the house for the
Lord’s house that meets here at 1390 North State Street, and so the elders are
calling on us to enlarge this place because the Lord’s house has outgrown the
house for the Lord’s house!

But more than that, we’re doing
this for those who will be the Lord’s house in the future. It’s very
interesting. Dr. Halsey didn’t know it, but he was starting a tradition. Every
fifty years…over the one hundred and approximately seventy years of the life
of this congregation…every fifty years this congregation has embarked upon an
adventure to supply the need for a place to worship for the next two
generations, for the next fifty years. When Halsey called the congregation to
build this Presbyterian meeting house, that house lasted for about fifty years;
and then in 1892, another one was built–for the next fifty years. And then in
1951, another one was built for the next fifty years. And now again, for the
fourth time in the history of this congregation, this congregation is seeking to
supply not something for ourselves, but something for our children and our
grandchildren, and for those who are not now here with us. We’re not building
this for ourselves (we’re already here!), but for those who are not sitting in
the pew next to us now. We’re doing this for those who will be the Lord’s house
in the future.

And as we do this, I think it’s
important for us to consider what God tells us that He is doing in us as His
people called “the Lord’s house,” and I’d like to consider four things with you
from this great passage in Ephesians, chapter two.


The first thing I want you to
note, you’ll see in verse 19, where God stresses that we are His kingdom.

The Lord’s house, God’s people, is the Lord’s kingdom–the place of God’s rule;
the people in whom God’s rule is publicly and visibly manifested. Listen to
what He says:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens
with the saints….”

Now, this idea of being citizens of a kingdom is an idea
that stretches all the way back to the Old Testament. God’s rule of the world
was manifested in His rule of the nation of Israel, but God no longer groups His
people together in the institution of a nation-state; He groups His people
together in the church. The church, which is the Lord’s house, is His kingdom.
And the idea of “kingdom” here is not geographical or governmental in the
administrative sense; it’s active and dynamic. It speaks of the ongoing
manifestation of the rule of God in our lives, so God’s purpose is to make His
people (the Lord’s house) His kingdom: the place where His rule is manifested to
the world.

Now, the elders know that we need an enlarged
house, not because the house that we build is God’s kingdom, but because the
house that we build will provide a place for those who will be the Lord’s house
in future generations to learn what it means to be His kingdom.

The highest legal officer in Britain, the Lord
High Chancellor, was a number of years ago a very faithful Scottish Presbyterian
minister. Under the prime ministrants of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, Lord
Micaiah Claisfairn was the Lord High
Chancellor of Britain. It’s almost a combination of our Attorney General and
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, all wrapped up into one. And he loved the
Lord Jesus Christ, and he loved his local congregation in Edinburgh, but for
over a decade he served in London. And one of the ways he manifested the rule of
God in his life was that every Saturday afternoon he got on a plane in London,
and he flew to Edinburgh. And then Monday morning, about four o’clock in the
morning, he got on a plane and he flew back to London. And he worked all week
long. Why did he fly back to Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon and back to London
on Monday morning? Because he wanted to be worshiping in the little sixty-member
Presbyterian congregation of which he was a part, and to which he had made vows
of membership, every Lord’s Day morning and evening. Though he was the highest
civil judicial officer in the land, he showed that the ruler of his life, that
the Lord of his universe, was the living God–even in going back to Edinburgh to
church on Sundays.

Well, there are hundreds of ways that we can
manifest the rule of God in our lives: through loving our neighbor; through
keeping the Ten Commandments; through being men and women of integrity in our
professional dealings; through keeping our word…there are a hundred ways that
we can manifest the rule of God in our lives. But it is this place above all
else that we gather as the Lord’s house to learn what it means to be the kingdom
of God, and the elders want to make sure that there is room for those who are
not with us today, that they might learn what it means to be the kingdom of


But look at the second phrase
that’s used in verse 19. We are “of God’s household,” Paul says.
family language. You’re in God’s household, you’re in God’s family, Paul is
saying. In other words, he is saying that the Lord’s house, the church, you,
gathered as the people of God, you are the place of God’s fatherly favor. You
are the people who enjoy together the privilege of calling God “Father, Abba.”
You gather Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, as we sang in the opening song, To
God Be the Glory
, to come to the Father in the name of the Son, and to give
Him praise. We are the family of God. But do you notice how the New Testament
stresses that our experience of God as Father is especially in the context of
the family of believers?

Think of it: does Jesus teach us
in the Lord’s Prayer to pray “My Father, who is in heaven….”? No. He says
pray, “Our Father, who is in heaven….” Now why would Jesus do that? To stress
the reality of the communion of the saints: that if we’re united to Jesus
Christ, we have God as our Father. But if we are united to Jesus Christ, then we
are also united to all those who are united to Jesus Christ, and so come to the
One who is not simply “my Father,” but “our Father, who is in heaven.” Think of
what Paul will say in Ephesians, chapter two, to the Ephesian Christians. He
wants them to experience the greatness of the love of Christ…how? “Together
with all the saints.”

One of the ways that we are
challenged in the experience of what it is corporately to be the family of God
is that your pastors can’t be with you on Sunday morning. We have two services,
but we have three rooms where we’re meeting, and there are literally some
Christians with whom I cannot join in the same room for worship every Sunday of
the year. Some of our church family are so desirous that other believers who are
worshiping with us or visiting with us can come into the sanctuary that they
themselves go to Hutton Chapel or Lowe Hall, and as hard as I try, I can’t see
them. I can’t be with them. We cannot as a family, in the same room, go to the
Lord in worship. And our elders are saying that it’s time that we provide a
facility that will allow that family to come together–still have to do it twice
on a Sunday, but at least we can be in the same room together, lifting up our
praises to God, who is our Father.


Thirdly, notice what Paul
says: we are a building, we are a temple, we are the Lord’s building, the
Lord’s temple.
See verses 20 and 21. We’ve 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 are being built together into a dwelling of God in the

It’s the place of His presence.
We are the people who enjoy the blessing of communion with Notice here it is
stressed that God is building us, His people, into His temple.
God. We just
read from Psalm 11 this morning, and Psalm 11 has one of those…it’s not the
only time it’s repeated in the Old Testament…that phrase that “the Lord is in
His holy temple.” Now, what’s that a reference to? It’s a reference to the
manifestation of God’s glory in the tabernacle and later in the temple in the
Old Testament. The temple or the tabernacle…that was where the people of God
experienced the visible manifestation of the nearness of God to His people.

Well, in the New Testament there
is no building that is the temple of God. In the New Testament, Jesus is the
place where we meet with God and experience the manifestation of His nearness to
His people, and His people gathered in His name is the place where that
experience is entered into by God’s people. You remember Jesus stresses this in
John 4, when He’s talking to the woman at the well in Samaria.

And so, though the elders know
that we are not building a temple of the Lord, yet we are building a place where
the temple of the Lord can meet in spirit and in truth to worship with one
another and to commune with God through Jesus Christ.

But we’re reminded here that it’s
God Himself who must build that temple. We can’t directly build that temple.
First of all, that temple’s built with living stones, not with bricks. We can’t
draw people savingly to Jesus Christ. We can share the gospel, but the Holy
Spirit has to do that. God is the architect and builder of this living building,
this living temple, but what we can do is provide a place where that living
temple can come together to meet with the living God. And the elders are calling
on us to do that.


Finally, look at this language
in verse 16: we’re not only God’s kingdom, we’re not only God’s family, we’re
not only God’s temple, we are the body of Christ.
Listen to what Paul says
in verse 16: “…that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through
the cross….” He emphasizes this in verse 6, that we are fellow members of the
body. Now, Paul uses this to bring into sharp focus what we have in common, and
what we have in common is Christ (if we’re Christians). We may be Gentiles, or
we may be Jews; but if we’re trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are one body,
one family, in one kingdom. We’re one temple. Even, Paul will use the language
“we’re one man.” We maybe have gone to different elementary schools, or we went
to different high schools, or we went to different universities, or we grew up
in different neighborhoods, or we’re involved in different vocations, or we’re
from different cultural backgrounds, socio-economic classes; but the thing that
we have in common is the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re united to Jesus Christ, and
because of this we have a shared life with one another. We’re a body; we belong
to one another. We’re utterly devoted to one another. Our benefits are for one
another’s benefits. We celebrate this in the doctrine of union and communion
with Jesus Christ, and Paul is reminding us of that there. There’s nothing that
is to be allowed to come between the unity that we have in the Lord Jesus

But if we’re the body of
Christ, and if we’re devoted to one another, it also means that we are utterly
devoted to the mission of our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are utterly
devoted to God’s mission in this world: and what is that mission? His mission is
to build His people, to build His house, to build His church.

Stephen Marshall said many, many years ago, that

“…all the glory that God looks for in eternity must arise out of this one work
of building His church. This one work shall be the only monument of His glory to
eternity. This good world, this heaven and earth that you see and enjoy the use
of, is set up only as a ship, as a workshop, to stand only for a week. And when
this work is done, God will throw down the piece of clay again, and out of this
He looks for no other glory. But this piece, the church, He sets up for a higher
end, to be the eternal mention of His holiness and honor. This is His
metropolis; this His temple; this His house.”

Marshall is reminding us that God’s great design, His plan,
His mission in history, is the church. Our homes will go; our universities will
go; our impressive public buildings will go. Even this beautiful sanctuary, or
one that replaces it, will go one day. But the Lord’s house will last forever,
and the question is, will you invest in something that is an investment in that
Lord’s house which lasts forever?

The elders see this as an opportunity for us
to invest in something that will last forever.
Think of it, my friends:
there is only one institution in this world that will last into eternity, and
that is the church, that is the Lord’s house, the people of God. This house is
for the service of that house.

Dr. Halsey, when he was concluding his sermon
162 years ago, finished it with a stirring challenge that puts this in
perspective. He said, “Let us all give something, and our reward shall be in
the reflection of after-years: that whatever good this congregation is able to
do through this house, I have borne a part in that work.” You see the spirit of
that. I invest in this house, so that I have some small part of the ministry to
the Lord’s people that will be done in it in the years to come; because after
all, that will be the only thing that transcends this age and carries on into
the age to come.

May God bless His word. Let’s

Our Lord and our God, we pray
that You would give us hearts to see what lasts, where our investments will
return eternal dividends. We pray, O God, that You would build Your house. We
know that all we can build is a house for Your house. You’re the only one who
can build Your house, but O Lord, we would do what we can to see that Your house
is built up into the people who are Your kingdom, Your family, Your temple, and
Your body. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.