No longer strangers and aliens on account of the perfect work of Christ, Gentiles who entrust themselves to Jesus are reckoned as fellow citizens with faithful Israelites. Therefore, they are full members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). Like every edifice, this spiritual temple has a foundation that grounds and supports the building’s structure, and in today’s passage the apostle Paul describes the foundation that was once laid.
According to the apostle, Christ Jesus Himself is the cornerstone of this household (v. 20). Today, laying the cornerstone of a building is often a symbolic act, and this cornerstone may play only a small role in the overall structure. This was not true in the first century, however. The cornerstone was always the first stone laid during construction, and every other stone in the building was measured by the standard of the cornerstone to ensure a proper fit. In calling Jesus the cornerstone, Paul explains that those who want to form the stones in the household of God must be conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, we must be disciples who are daily becoming more like the Savior. Of course, perfect conformity to Christ’s image is impossible before we are glorified (1 John 1:8–9); nevertheless, all of those who are in Jesus will have a basic desire to turn from sin and follow Him in a life of obedient discipleship.
Our Savior is the cornerstone of the household of God, but His apostles and prophets make up the rest of the foundation. This is not to say that these individuals are, in themselves, worthy of the same honor as Christ. Instead, the apostles and prophets serve as the foundation insofar as they speak the very words of our Lord. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to write down the teachings of Jesus delivered before His incarnation (through the Old Testament prophets), during His earthly ministry, and after He ascended to the Father’s right hand, thereby giving the church a sure record (John 14:26; 16:12–15; 2 Tim. 3:16–17). The words of the biblical authors are the words of Christ Himself, even if He did not physically pick up the pen. Thus, we must always submit to Scripture as the final, infallible authority, and any failure to do so is really a refusal to bow the knee to Jesus.