Verse 22. "In whom ye also are builded" - The apostle now applies the metaphor to the purpose for which he produced it, retaining however some of the figurative expressions. As the stones in a temple are all properly placed so as to form a complete house, and be a habitation for the Deity that is worshipped there, so ye are all, both believing Jews and Gentiles, prepared by the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, under the influence of the Spirit of Christ, to become a habitation of God, a Church in which God shall be worthily worshipped, and in which he can continually dwell.
1. MANY suppose that the apostle in the preceding chapter alludes to the splendour of the temple of Diana at Ephesus, which was reputed one of the wonders of the world. But to me this opinion does not seem sufficiently founded. I believe he has the Jewish temple continually in view; for that temple, above all in the universe, could alone be said to be a habitation of God. Both in the tabernacle and temple God dwelt between the cherubim; there was the symbol of his presence, and there was the worship performed which himself had prescribed. After the model of this was the spiritual temple, the Christian Church, constructed; and God was to dwell in the one, as he had dwelt in the other. This simile, drawn from the temple at Jerusalem, was alone worthy of the apostle's design; to have alluded to the temple of Diana would have disgraced his subject. And as many at Ephesus were Jews, and well acquainted with the temple at Jerusalem, they would both feel and venerate the apostle's simile, and be led to look for the indwelling of God; that which distinguished the Jewish temple from all others on the face of the earth.
2. The Church of God is very properly said to be a most noble and wonderful work, and truly worthy of GOD himself. There is nothing, says one, so august as this Church, seeing it is the temple of GOD. Nothing so worthy of reverence, seeing God dwells in it. Nothing so ancient, since the patriarchs and prophets laboured in building it. Nothing so solid, since Jesus Christ is the foundation of it. Nothing more closely united and indivisible, since he is the corner stone. Nothing so lofty, since it reaches as high as heaven, and to the bosom of God himself. Nothing so regular and well proportioned, since the Holy Spirit is the architect. Nothing more beautiful, or adorned with greater variety, since it consists of Jews and Gentiles, of every age, country, sex, and condition: the mightiest potentates, the most renowned lawgivers, the most profound philosophers, the most eminent scholars, besides all those of whom the world was not worthy, have formed a part of this building. Nothing more spacious, since it is spread over the whole earth, and takes in all who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Nothing so inviolable, since it is consecrated to Jehovah. Nothing so Divine, since it is a living building, animated and inhabited by the Holy Ghost. Nothing so beneficent, seeing it gives shelter to the poor, the wretched, and distressed, of every nation, and kindred, and tongue. It is the place in which God does his marvelous works; the theater of his justice, mercy, goodness, and truth; where he is to be sought, where he is to be found, and in which alone he is to he retained.
As we have one only GOD, and one only saviour and Mediator between God and man, and one only inspiring Spirit; so there is but one Church, in which this ineffable Jehovah performs his work of salvation. That Church, however scattered and divided throughout the world, is but one building, founded on the Old and New Testaments; having but one sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
3. Of this glorious Church every Christian soul is an epitome; for as God dwells in the Church at large, so he dwells in every believer in particular: each is a habitation of God through the Spirit. In vain are all pretensions among sects and parties to the privileges of the Church of Christ, if they have not the doctrine and life of Christ. Traditions and legends are not apostolic doctrines, and showy ceremonies are not the life of God in the soul of man.
4. Religion has no need of human ornaments or trappings; it shines by its own light, and is refulgent with its own glory. Where it is not in life and power, men have endeavoured to produce a specious image, dressed and ornamented with their own hands. Into this God never breathed, therefore it can do no good to man, and only imposes on the ignorant and credulous by a vain show of lifeless pomp and splendour. This phantom, called true religion and the Church by its votaries, is in heaven denominated vain superstition; the speechless symbol of departed piety.