Recently, the terrorist group ISIL has released propaganda footage of themselves blowing up the temple at Palmyra. Ornate stone buildings that were built during the lifetime of the Apostle Paul and had lasted through much of human history were destroyed when radical Islamists strapped bombs to and destroyed it. These buildings may have caved to the pressure of dynamite, but their existence there prior to the destructive work of ISIL was a testament to the incredible work of the Roman engineers who built it. Architecture during the First Century Roman Empire was equal parts art and genius.
I imagine that when Paul is writing to the believers in Asia Minor about a building that is “fitly framed together” he does not have a modern wood and sheetrock home in mind. Rather, based on the language used, Paul is describing a building much like the temple of Herod or other ancient Greco-Roman temples to other gods. These buildings were not just awe-inspiring and breath-taking, they were truly works of master engineering.
Stones would be chosen, measured, cut, and re-measured before being fitted into place in the final structure. All of the dimensions must be just right in order for the building to be structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. As Paul makes the analogy between the beauty of Roman architecture and what God is accomplishing in the church, he uses a few words that I think we would do well to see.
First, Paul uses a few phrases to describe the construction of this building – “are built,” “fitly framed together,” “ye are builded together.” The language here indicates that there is Someone doing the building. The architect and the construction crew is one and the same. And while the truth of God’s working is not the primary point of this text, or even of these phrases, it is a reality that is never lost on Paul in his writing. He easily could have written using only language that says, “you are all stones in the same building,” but instead, he uses distinctly theologically consistent language to describe the work of God in fitting and building this building together.
Second, Paul describes this building as the “household of God,” and a building that is “together.” The point that Paul had just finished making in the paragraph prior to this one was that the wall of division has been torn down and now in Christ all are joined together in the blessing and peace of God. Here that same thought pervades the entire analogy. There are not separate buildings for Jews and Gentiles, rather all are together blended and forming the building that God Himself builds. This idea of a building speaks of the fluid and natural blending that should occur amongst believers when there is true spiritual unity.
In unity, those who were once enemies have become the very habitation of God. Those who were self-serving and self-seeking had been chosen and used by God to build His building. This thought takes us back to language Paul used earlier in Ephesians 2:10, “for we are His workmanship.” The unity that should exist among brothers and sisters in Christ should reflect this imagery that Paul uses. There should be no quarrel, and there should be no fighting. Rather, as perfectly as a beautiful temple is formed and fashioned by the very hands of God, we should be “fitted” and “built” “together” for our joy and for God’s glory.
Reflect: What other analogies can you see between the church and constructing a building?