Ephesians: A Holy Temple


It’s time to begin our service. I am glad to have you here with us.

In case this is your first time joining us, my name is Charles Paisley. I assume most of our listeners are formerly members of the cult following of William Branham, known as “the message.” This is a little mission we operate here in the Jeffersonville area, right where the message started. Our purpose is to help people who are escaping the message and healing from the bad effects it had on their lives. In that respect, we have been very successful, and I thank God for that. We have made friends all over the world who are on a similar journey, and together we are encouraging people towards Christ. Greetings to you all.

We have been on a series of messages working our way through the book of Ephesians since October. Today, we have finally reached the very end of chapter 2, and Lord willing, we will finish chapter 2 today. I invite you to open your Bibles and turn there with me. I will read from verse 18 down to the end of the chapter.

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.

Ephesians 2 English Standard Version

Let us pray.

Lord God, we thank you for the Bible. Bless our reading and open our understanding as only you can do. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Paul’s Analogies

Well, brothers and sisters, as we approach these scriptures, let me briefly remind us all of the overall context of the second half of chapter 2. Paul has been describing how unity was created in the church. Jesus Christ made peace between all the different parties and united us all into one new community. Here, at the very end of chapter two, Paul has been giving us three different analogies of what this new community of people is like. No single analogy is really adequate to describe the church, so Paul is drawing elements from several different examples to help his readers understand.

In the first analogy, Paul compared the church to a new family that you might join by adoption or marriage. Then, in his second analogy, he compared the church to a new country where we all share citizenship together. We looked at those two analogies in our prior lessons.

Now, Paul gives a third analogy, as we began to explore in our last lesson. In this third example, Paul compares the church to a building constructed of different parts being joined together.

So, we realize Paul is not pulling these analogies out of the air. He is using the very analogies that Jesus Christ used. I think that is something important for us to notice because I have many times heard preachers use analogies for the church or for the Christian that you can’t find in the Bible anywhere. That is not to say there is no value in it, but we should be careful about how far we take analogies we can’t find in scripture. With Paul, we see he really only used the analogies Jesus used before him, and there is safety in doing that because Jesus knew what he was doing when he chose to compare the church to a family. You might not know what you are doing when you compare the church to something you can’t find in scripture. I have heard preachers go to some really harebrained places doing things like that.

So, as you think back on maybe all the analogies you have heard preachers use in the places we come from, if those ever come to your mind, think about if those actually came from scripture. If they didn’t, they might not really be worth very much, and you would be a lot safer sticking with the analogies of the Bible.

Those are the three main analogies Paul is using here for us to understand the nature of this new community which Jesus created. This new community is the church, and we will be looking more at this third analogy today.


Before we delve into the text, I want to point out that we are still in the first half of the book of Ephesians. In all of Paul’s pastoral epistles, he consistently begins with doctrine, explaining the Christian faith. After sharing his doctrine, he proceeds to practical application of the doctrine. Doctrine is about how to think, and application is about how to act or behave.

In this section, Paul is still dealing with doctrine, focusing on the right way to think about these things. It won’t be until chapter 4 that Paul starts to provide practical application. As we read this, we might be tempted to dream up applications for what Paul is saying, but let’s hold back on delving too deeply into that yet.

Let’s first understand the way Paul wants us to think about this because, where we come from, many people approach this totally backward. They come to these verses on doctrine and immediately provide application. Then, they move into chapter 4, which is application, and turn that into doctrine. It’s a total reversal. However, this is a natural consequence of jumping around without considering the whole context of everything.

So, before we think about chapter 4, let’s first digest chapter 2. Chapter 2 is teaching us the right way to think about unity, and chapter 4 will teach us the right way to behave as a result of that unity. Chapter 2 is also instructing us on how to think about holiness, and chapter 5 will guide us on how to behave in light of this holiness.

Before we conclude our exploration of Ephesians, Paul will tell us how to carry this unity into action and how to carry this holiness into action. However, that is not his focus right here in chapter 2.

So, we will get to all of that before we finish looking at Ephesians.

The Church as a Building

Today, we are focusing our attention on verses 21 and 22, where Paul elaborates on his very last analogy of this new community—the comparison of this community to a building made up of many different parts.

In verse 21, Paul points out that this building, referred to as the church, is built on a foundation, and the cornerstone of that foundation is Jesus Christ. This signifies that the entire building is aligned to Christ, and it rests on Him. Paul is drawing these analogies from Jesus Christ Himself, who compared the church to a family, a country, and a building.

The building analogy presented here is powerful. Both individuals and the church as a whole are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. The apostles and prophets laid down that foundation through their teachings, which we have in the Bible. The entire foundation is present in this book, with Jesus Christ as its centerpiece—faith alone in Christ alone. This has been Paul’s refrain throughout chapters one and two: It’s all in Him.

Upon this foundation, something is being built. It’s crucial to recognize who is doing the building on this foundation—the general contractor, the one ensuring all the stones are aligned. Verse 22 reveals that the Holy Spirit is the one building the structure on the foundation laid by the apostles. This underscores the truth that it is ultimately God who is constructing the church.

Additionally, verse 22 emphasizes that all the joints, all the intersections holding the building together, are in Jesus Christ. This puts God in the driver’s seat of the entire project. Men are not the chief builders; it is not men who direct this affair or prepare the bricks and timbers—it is God. The Holy Spirit, being God, is the one building.

What is being built? It’s not beams of wood and blocks of stone—it’s people; it is lives. Verse 22 explicitly states, “You are being built.” This building involves individuals, and in a very personal sense, it is us. Upon coming to faith in Christ, our lives are placed on this foundation, and the Holy Spirit starts working to build us. It is not a preacher, the church, or things of man that build us—it is the Holy Spirit.

As we progress into chapters 4 and 5, Paul will elaborate on how this building process works in practice. However, in this passage, it is evident that Paul is emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s role in building us on this foundation.

In verse 21, it also mentions that we are growing on this foundation. This building and growing are essentially the same thing. We are not, of course, being treated like construction materials with mortar or hammers. In fact, that approach is incorrect. When Solomon built the natural temple, God prohibited the use of hammers; it had to be done gently, with care and craftsmanship. Likewise, the holy temple was not constructed with rough and tumble methods; it was a holy affair done with precision and perfection.

Growth or building, as presented in these verses, can happen in two ways. The more apparent way in these verses is the numerical growth, adding new blocks and beams to the building—new people to the church. Although the scripture does talk about personal growth, the primary emphasis here is on the addition of new members to the church.

Let me read the passage again, and notice how Paul’s emphasis is on people as part of the building:

18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you [people] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you [people] 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 [people] also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 2 (English Standard Version)

A Holy Temple

So, I think it’s very clear; Paul is talking about people.

Now Paul, in these verses, is comparing the church to a building. But he is not comparing it to any old building. Paul is comparing the church to a very specific building, and we see that in verse 21. He is comparing the church to the holy temple.

And once again, as with every aspect of what he says here, we can find that in the words of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said, tear this temple down, and I will build it again in three days, referring to the temple of his body. So, it’s Jesus Christ who first compared the body of Christ to the temple of God, and Paul is merely repeating what Christ said.

And as Paul does, we can go back to the things Jesus said about this, and it will help inform us with more context.

And I really think this is a beautiful analogy. It is one that should make us feel very privileged.

We know that the Jewish people had a beautiful temple of gold, built on top of Mount Zion to replace the tabernacle God had them build in the wilderness. This temple was the holy place where God dwelt.

Paul compares the earthly temple to you and me as individuals, and I already mentioned how, when the temple was built, God gave very specific instructions about how it had to be done. You can read it in 1st Kings, chapter 6. But God commanded that they could not use any hammers, axes, or tools made out of iron at all. And that speaks something to us about the care and gentleness around the way this building is being put together.

But in thinking about the Holy Temple, we can understand other things too about this building. And one thing about the Holy Temple is—just what is it that made the holy temple holy? And I will ask that to you as a question. What made the holy temple holy? Was it the gold? Was it the people who worshipped there? Was it the sacrifices on the altar? What made the holy temple holy?

And if you went to Exodus chapter 29, where God gave Moses the blueprints for building the tabernacle, God told Moses what it was that made the temple holy. God told Moses what sanctified the temple.

And do you know what made the temple holy? It was God. God is what made the temple holy. The temple was holy because God’s glory was there.

The thing that made the temple holy was the fact that a holy God was dwelling in that temple. And when we put that with Paul says here in these two verses, we can very quickly understand what makes this building holy. Let me read it again. Paul writes,

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.

God dwells in this building. God dwells in this temple that Paul is speaking of. God dwells in the church, and that is not a building of stone and wood. It is hearts and lives of people.

God dwells in the hearts of Christians. And just like His presence made the Holy Temple on Mount Zion holy, His presence makes our Temple holy too. There will be more on that as we go through the book of Ephesians. But I wanted to share that part right here.

And I want to point out to you, again, that verse 21 and 22 are in Christ. This building, this holiness, this growing, this being joined together—every stitch of this is possible because we have union with Christ, because we have unity with Christ.

Let me read it again, to point that out to you. Verse 21,

21 in whom [that is in Jesus Christ, in whom] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Where is this happening? In the Lord. It is happening in Him, as through union with Him. Verse 22 says,

22 In him [there it is again, in him. This only works if you are in union with Christ… In Him] you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

What Paul is talking about here is not creating unity. Unity was created by Jesus back in verse 14. You already have unity before you ever get to verse 21 and 22. And then in Him, in that union with Christ, we are being built into a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.

When did you become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit? When did that happen? It happened the moment you were saved. It happened the moment you were laid down on this foundation of saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul here, in verse 22, is not describing advanced levels of holiness. He is describing the natural result of what happened to us when we responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we responded to the gospel truth that is in the foundation of this building, we were added as a block upon it. And from that moment, we were part of this temple. And from that moment, we were a dwelling place for God, by the Spirit.

This building will grow. There will be more blocks, more people added to it. This church is still under construction. But our block is already on the foundation today if we have come to saving faith in Christ. And we are already a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, if we have come to saving faith in Christ.


The Mountain You Worship On

And I bring this lesson to a close.

I can’t help but think again about how this relates to what Jesus told the woman at the well. That woman was concerned about what temple to worship at, what mountain to worship on. She lived at Mount Ephraim, and they had a temple there. She was a Samaritan, which was a perversion of Temple Judaism, like a false denomination of the Jewish faith.

She asked Jesus where she should worship. Should she worship on Mount Ephraim? Should she worship on Mount Zion? And Jesus told her there was a day coming when it wouldn’t matter what mountain you worship on because what God wants is people to worship Him in spirit and truth. You can do that on any mountain, in a valley, or at the seaside. The place does not matter anymore.

Whether you are on Mount Zion surrounded by Pharisees or on Mount Ephraim surrounded by Samaritans, even if every person around you may well be a pagan, if you worship in spirit and truth, that is what God wants.

We are not defined by the people around us in terms of our salvation. The relationship that defines us is our relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the relationship that counts. Jesus said, “The words I speak, they are spirit,” and “I am the truth.” And when you are in Christ, you are in spirit and truth, and you are this holy temple Paul is talking about.

22 In him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

May I paraphrase that with what Jesus told the woman at the well?

22 In Jesus, [who is the truth] you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

It’s not the mountain you worship on. You are the temple of God now. And if you are in Christ, if you are in the truth, if you have the spirit, you are right in the place Jesus was talking about.

Now, of course, we should seek fellow believers to have community with, and we should avoid places that are nests of apostasy. We don’t want to endorse apostasy or heresy. But my point is, if I went and sat down in a Catholic church, I am still going to be okay. I have one time, went into a really old cathedral on a tour where they showed how the building was constructed. But walking through that tour didn’t make me unacceptable to God. I was the temple of God when I got there, and I was the temple of God when I left. And people around me didn’t pollute me. Do you understand what I mean? If I got invited to a wedding, and it was at a Jehovah Witness church, I would not feel bad to go. I am the temple of God, and you are too. And it is God that makes us holy, and it’s not the people around us that define us in that way.

And just as much as that is true for me, it’s true for others. If they are on the foundation, if they are truly in Christ, it doesn’t matter what mountain they are on. They are on the same foundation as me, and I can’t judge the hearts and souls of the people around me. God knows their hearts, and if they are on the foundation, and they are serving God as best they know, then, brothers and sisters, we are going to see them in glory.

And I have to say, I really truly believe the church and the family of God is much bigger than I thought when I was in our doomsday cult. You might say how big, and I don’t know. I still think there are a lot of false churches out there, but I used to think they were all false churches, and I don’t see it that way anymore. Some percentage of them are authentic Christians. And when I read the Bible, I have come to believe, because I don’t see any other way to take the plain reading of scripture than to say, anyone who has genuine saving faith in Christ will be with us in glory, regardless of anything else. Genuine faith in Christ saves to the utmost, and nothing else can hinder that.

That I believe most strongly, Pharisee of the Pharisees.

22 In Jesus, we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

It’s all in Him. The joints of unity are in Him. The building into the temple is in Him. The promise of glory is in Him. It’s all in Him.

And brothers and sisters, He is a genuine savior.

“Whoso commeth unto me, I shall in no wise cast out,” said my Lord Jesus.


As we get into the next chapters, there is more to be said on holiness, more to be said on unity, more to be said on the life we are called to live. We will get there.


But let me end on this note, with a word of encouragement. As Christians, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of a church, a community. And this church is like the holy temple of God. We have a privilege, as individual members of the church, to be stones in that temple. God, the Holy Spirit, is dwelling in our hearts. God is dwelling in our temple of flesh and blood. This is an individual thing because God wants to be near to us as individuals. God desires a relationship with us, desires a relationship with you. And He has chosen you for that purpose.

Even though you may not see or understand just how it is, the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. The Holy Spirit is building and bringing this thing all together. In this life, there is only so much we can see and understand, but in the world to come, the one we read about in the book of Revelation, it talks about the Holy Jerusalem and how God will dwell among them, and they shall be His people. There is no more need for a natural temple because God is right there with them in a very present, personal way. We have just a taste of that today, just what Paul calls the down payment on it, which is the Holy Spirit dwelling within. But then, in the world to come, we will have these things in their fullness.

Amen. Let me close here in prayer.


Lord God, we praise you for your goodness towards us, your people. We thank you for these words written by the Apostle Paul. We find strength and comfort knowing we are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and that it is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives as the builder. Help us, as both individuals and as a church, to grow. We look forward to the day when we, in glory, may experience the fullness of all these promises we read of in scripture. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.