on Ephesians 2 :20
And are built upon the foundation - Following the same metaphor, comparing the Church of Christ to a city, and to the temple, the believing Ephesians are represented as parts of that building; the living stones out of which it is principally formed, 1 Peter 2:4, 1 Peter 2:5, having for foundation - the ground plan, specification, and principle on which it was builded, the doctrine taught by the prophets in the Old Testament, and the apostles in the New. Jesus Christ being that corner stone, or ακρογωνιαιος, the chief angle or foundation corner stone, the connecting medium by which both Jews and Gentiles were united in the same building. Elsewhere Jesus Christ is termed the foundation stone. Behold I lay in Zion a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, Isaiah 28:16; but the meaning is the same in all the places where these terms, foundation and corner stone, occur; for in laying the foundation of a building, a large stone is generally placed at one of the angles or corners, which serves to form a part of the two walls which meet in that angle. When, therefore, the apostle says that Jesus Christ is the chief corner stone, it means such a foundation stone as that above mentioned.
on Ephesians 2 :20
And are built upon the foundation - The comparison of the church with a building, is common in the Scriptures: compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 3:9-10. The comparison was probably taken from the temple, and as that was an edifice of great beauty, expense, and sacredness, it was natural to compare the church with it. Besides, the temple was the sacred place where God dwelt on the earth; and as the church was the place where he delighted now to abide, it became natural to speak of his church as the temple, or the residence of God; see the notes at Isaiah 54:11-12. That building, says Paul, was permanently founded, and was rising with great beauty of proportion, and with great majesty and splendor.
Of the apostles - The doctrines which they taught are the basis on which the church rests. It is "possible" that Paul referred here to a splendid edifice, particularly because the Ephesians were distinguished for their skill in architecture, and because the celebrated temple of Diana was among them. An allusion to a building, however, as an illustration of the church occurs several times in his other epistles, and was an allusion which would be everywhere understood.
And prophets - The prophets of the Old Testament, using the word, probably, to denote the Old Testament in general. That is, the doctrines of divine revelation, whether communicated by prophets or apostles, were laid at the foundation of the Christian church. It was not rounded on philosophy, or tradition, or on human laws, or on a venerable antiquity, but on the great truths which God had revealed. Paul does not say that it was founded on "Peter," as the papists do, but on the prophets and apostles in general. If Peter had been the "vicegerent of Christ," and the head of the church, it is incredible that his brother Paul should not have given him some honorable notice in this place. Why did he not allude to so important a fact? Would one who believed it have omitted it? Would a papist now omit it? Learn here:
(1) That no reliance is to be placed on philosophy as a basis of religious doctrine.
(2) that the traditions of people have no authority in the church, and constitute no part of the foundation.
(3) that nothing is to be regarded as a fundamental part of the Christian system, or as binding on the conscience, which cannot be found in the "prophets and apostles;" that is, as it means here, in the Holy Scriptures. No decrees of councils; no ordinances of synods; no "standard" of doctrines; no creed or confession, is to be urged as authority in forming the opinions of people. They may be valuable for some purposes, but not for this; they may be referred to as interesting parts of history, but not to form the faith of Christians; they may be used in the church to express its belief, but not to form it. What is based on the authority of apostles and prophets is true, and always true, and only true; what may be found elsewhere, may be valuable and true, or not, but, at any rate, is not to be used to control the faith of people.
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone - see the note at Isaiah 28:16; Romans 9:33, note. The cornerstone is the most important in the building.
(1) because the edifice rests mainly on the cornerstones. If they are small, and unstable, and settle down, the whole building is insecure; and hence care is taken to place a large stone firmly at each corner of an edifice.
(2) because it occupies a conspicuous and honorable place. If documents or valuable articles are deposited at the foundation of a building it is within the cornerstone. The Lord Jesus is called the "cornerstone," because the whole edifice rests on him, or he occupies a place relatively as important as the cornerstone of an edifice. Were it not for him, the edifice could not be sustained for a moment. Neither prophets nor apostles alone could sustain it; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 3:11; compare 1 Peter 2:6.
on Ephesians 2 :20
2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets - As the foundation sustains the building, so the word of God, declared by the apostles and prophets, sustains the faith of all believers. God laid the foundation by them; but Christ himself is the chief corner - stone of the foundation. Elsewhere he is termed the foundation itself, 1Cor 3:11.