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The Church as Unified Temple


St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine, was originally a medieval cathedral. In the 18th century, gates and a bell tower were added; the architecture of the exterior was Ukrainian Baroque, but the interior retained its original Byzantine architecture. In the 1930s, the church was completely destroyed and was restored only after Ukrainian independence in 1999. Today this striking church blends centuries of history and different architectural styles.

In today’s reading, Paul reminds us that the living church is Christ’s body, now made up of both Jews and Gentiles from different backgrounds throughout history. Gentiles were once “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). Yet in Christ, that all changed. Those who were once far away “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13).

With the coming of Christ, peace and reconciliation with God also brought reconciliation between these two different groups. Jews and Gentiles, once opposed, have now been made one. Christ has “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14). Now, there is “one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (v. 15). Both “have access to the Father by one Spirit” (v. 18).

Indeed, Scripture uses the metaphor of a unified building. The church is described as being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (v. 20). It is a “holy temple in the Lord” (v. 21). Although made up of a variety of ethnicities, backgrounds, and personalities, the church is unified as “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (v. 22).

Apply the Word

God calls us to be a unified temple where His peace dwells. How can you work toward reconciliation in your church? In this Christmas season, ask God for the spirit of peace to prevail, whatever tensions, hostilities, or animosities exist. Be willing to confess your own bitterness or prejudice that prevents fellowship, and be part of Christ’s body on earth.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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