20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
The reason there is a new nation and new family called the church is that it is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets.
This verse advances the idea in the previous verse (v.19) that we are members of the “household of God.”
having been built on [edified on]
Paul presented the church as a great building with a cornerstone holding all aspects of the building together. The beginning of the church was built on teaching from the apostles and prophets. Bible doctrine is the construction material for the church.
the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
God built the new entity of the church on the ministry of “the apostles and prophets,” not on the nation Israel. God gave apostles revelation of the New Testament. The church was launched on the day of Pentecost, not in Old Testament times.
“Apostles” are those whom God authorized to found the church and write Scripture. Only apostles had the right to write New Testament Scripture. An apostle must have seen the person of the Lord Jesus personally. There is no biblical basis for apostolic succession today. Apostles also had the authority to initially found the church.
“Prophets” refer to New Testament prophets, not Old Testament (Eph 3:5; 4:11). New Testament prophets preached truth not as yet revealed before the completion of the canon. They received direct revelation from God until the finish of the writing of the New Testament. God limited these prophets to the foundation of the church. Both apostles and prophets received revelation from God of the new entity—the church (Eph 3:5).
Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
Ancient architects built their buildings around a key cornerstone. The cornerstone was placed at the juncture of two primary walls. This stone supported the superstructure. They placed this cornerstone where it held all the parts of the building together. The apostles and prophets had to align properly with the cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isa 28:16). The cornerstone describes what Jesus is to the church (1 Pe 2:7-9).
The true church rests on revelation from the apostles and prophets.
The true church rests on revealed Scripture, not on the foundations of men. The foundation of Christianity stands on the writings of the apostles and prophets who represent the Lord Jesus Christ, our Cornerstone.
All stones of a structure rest on the cornerstone; all teaching of the church flows from Christ through the apostles; all believers adjust themselves to Christ and His precepts.
The church is not Israel; it is a new and separate entity (v.15). Both Jews and Gentiles are members of the universal church. This is an entirely new authority distinct from the nation Israel.