What Ephesians says about Building Others Up
– By Ron Simkins
We’ve been talking, thinking and praying about the Lord making us a “community of beggars” – people who daily accept as our assignment from God the call to:
B = Build others up
E = Encourage others
G = Grace others’ lives as a gift
As we continue to work on this, I want to think about the scriptural imagery involved in each of these calls to adventure.
The writer of the letter to the Ephesians loved the “build up” imagery and used it both in terms of temple building and also in terms of body building. Here is one of those passages, followed by five points I think we should note.
14For Jesus is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus the Messiah himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
What are some of the points that are important to note?
1. Building sometimes involves tearing out previously built walls, such as those of hostility and prejudice and unforgiveness.
2. The building God wants to build is a “new kind of human race”—one at peace (shalom). This won’t be finished until the new heavens and new earth, but it is our calling to be expressing the reality of this “new humanity” that Jesus inaugurated right now.
3. This building is to be an “accessible” building. Contrary to some of our historical actions, church is not about who should be kept out, but about how to make pathways into God’s building, a place to find access to God and the community of God’s people.
4. If this building of a new human race is to be on a foundation that will last, it needs to be built on what God has done in Jesus. The writer is not trying to say that God only cares for or works with Christians. The Jewish writers of the New Testament knew better both theologically and from personal experience. The writer is saying that God is doing something in history and that Jesus, as a child of the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, is right in the middle of this historical purpose of God.
5. When we emphasize being a community of beggars, and practice the call to “beg” daily, we can be built up into something more—a place where the Spirit of God can dwell more fully. A holy temple for the Lord.
Have you seen evidence of this “something more”—this “new kind of human race?” Or do you have any examples of what it means to build others up?