Citizens and Members of God’s Household

“…So then, you are… fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2:19)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:19-22

 A second benefit that believing Gentiles (like most of us) inherit in Christ is that we become “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).

The term “saints” in this context refers to Israel as God’s holy nation, and the term “citizens” has reference to nationality. Earlier, Paul had said the Gentiles by nature were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” (v. 12). That is to say, they were not members of the nation of Israel, and could not claim any of its privileges and rights. They didn’t belong to “God’s people” (1 Peter 2:10).

But now they do. Believing Gentiles are as much part of God’s true Israel as full-blooded believing Jews. As Paul puts it in Romans 11, we Gentiles are like shoots of a wild olive plant that have been grafted into a cultivated olive tree (Romans 11:17-19). As such, we can call ourselves children of Abraham and claim the promises given to him as our father in the faith (Galatians 3:29).

But more than that, our union with Christ raises our citizenship above any earthly nation or identity to a heavenly one. For, as the same apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

When Paul goes on to say that believing Gentiles are also “members of the household of God” (v. 19), the imagery changes from national identity to that of a family. Members of a household in Paul’s day were usually immediate family members and servants (slaves). All, whatever their status, were under the protection of the household owner and were provided for by him. So it is in Christ – we become part of the family of God and enjoy his care.

This household, Paul says, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (v. 20). He is referring to the church that the apostles of Jesus established and organised after Jesus’ return to heaven. They were given authority by the Lord to do that, and along with the prophets who communicated messages from the risen Lord, laid a “foundation” for the church of all ages.

While apostles and prophets may have been responsible for laying the foundation, the Lord Jesus himself was the “cornerstone” that gave it shape and form. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus’ teaching and example were to give form and substance to the church and must still today be our ultimate point of reference.

We need to remind ourselves of the privilege of being citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom and members of his household. The two ideas bring immense hope for the future and assurance of blessing in the present.

 Closing Thoughts:

  • Do you see yourself as one with the people of God in all ages – a true descendant of Abraham and citizens with the saints of the Old Testament – through Christ?
  • What benefits do you associate with being a member of God’s household?

– Andrew Young