“the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone”
I read a book awhile back that was historical fiction, and there was a gruesome passage about a tribe, hundreds of years ago, that believed in the existence of many cruel and warring gods. To curry favor with these imaginary deities, they would sacrifice the lives of their own warriors. And when they moved to a new location, and needed to build a new temple, they would start by sacrificing four warriors: one for each corner of the temple. Then they would bury them, and the corners of the foundation of the temple would be over those four men. In this way they hoped to please the god in whose honor they were building, and strengthen the building itself.
Reading this passage in Ephesians I am struck by the fact that they could be so right, and yet so wrong. The key words are all there: temple, sacrifice, foundation… but the gods that they feared needed to be appeased, and death ~ murder, really, was the only thing way they knew to do it.
Our God ~ the true God ~ desires a temple too. But it is not a physical building. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”
Our God ~ the king of Kings ~ requires a sacrifice, too, but it is a sacrifice each of us must make willingly. Romans 12:1 says we are to “present our bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”
The sacrifice that God requires of us ~ the “death,” is a death of selfish desires: a death of pride, of personal glory, of the flesh. And He asks no more from us ~ less, actually ~ than He asked of His own Son. For His death, punishment taken by a sinless Man, forms the very cornerstone our faith. And the foundation, Paul tells us, is the apostles and prophets who went before us, sacrificing their goals, their desires, their earthly motives, and sometimes their lives… for the will, the plan, the gospel of God; the very avenue that leads to salvation.
And upon this foundation are we. Saints and members of the household of God, fitted together to form the holy temple of the Lord. A temple not built on fear, but on His worthiness. A temple not focused on death, but on eternal life. A temple not based on sacrifices to placate an angry god, but to honor the worthy Lord of lords.
This is our reasonable service.