20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
These verses provide us with a very clear picture of Christ and is people. We are like a building. The building has the apostles and prophets as the foundation and the cornerstone is the Lord Jesus. There are two initial questions we need to answer. Firstly, why are the apostles and prophets described as the foundation? Secondly, what does it mean that Jesus is the cornerstone?
The unique feature of both the prophets and apostles is that they received revelation from God. The Old Testament prophets going back at least to Abraham were spoken to by God. Moses received countless messages from the Lord and in particular the Law at Mt. Sinai. This included the Ten Commandments but also considerable detail about ceremonial laws. The later prophets which included the writers of what we often consider to be the historical parts of the Bible provided commentary on the Law and outlined the application of it to the people of Israel. They also received additional material to explain events of their time and to point to the future. This was recorded for us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in what we call the Old Testament. When Jesus made his resurrection appearances, he showed that all of this was pointing to him.
The New Testament apostles were blessed with face to face meetings with Jesus, both in his earthly ministry (for all except Paul), and after his resurrection. They were primarily, witnesses to his resurrection but also related the events of his life and death as well as presenting and explaining his teaching. Through them the world of the first century was able to hear the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ, that is, who he is, what he has done and his significance for all people. That message was proclaimed so they could believe in him and have everlasting blessing. The message of Jesus and the significance of his work has then been recorded for us through the apostles by the work of the Holy Spirit in what we call the New Testament. Foundation is then a perfectly accurate description of the prophets and apostles.
Jesus is then appropriately called the cornerstone because everything is built around him and without him everything about Christianity collapses. He is the starting point for our thought about the teaching of the Bible. The prophets and apostles and the writings they have left for us, only make sense when read in the light of Jesus and his completed saving work. He is the focus of it all.
The significance of this “foundation” that Paul writes of here is that we as his people belong to Jesus. Without Jesus we have nothing. As we try to understand him, we must resort to his word, the Old and New Testaments, as the source of our knowledge, the foundation of our life. We are the people of Jesus Christ which automatically means we are people of his word.
Prayer: Father, thank you that Jesus has saved us and that we have the Bible to give us accurate information about him and his work for us. Thank you that you speak to us in the Bible and give all hope and peace. In Jesus name. Amen.
A song to listen to: Your Word