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.”
20 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 (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 (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.
Is it compulsory that one must have personally seen the Lord Jesus in order to be an apostle?
Later in the Scriptures, other apostles are mentioned who were from other places, and were not personal witnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection. Examples of apostles who were not even Jewish are Andronicas and Junias (Romans 16:7) and also Timothy and Silas (1 Thess 2:6 mentioned indirectly).
Carl, yes, it is mandatory that an apostle of Jesus Christ to have seen Christ. There is a difference between the apostles of the church and an apostle of Christ. The apostle of the church is a “sent one,” apostello. apo=to send; stello= to send. That is, an apostle of the church is only a missionary and does not carry the same credentials as an apostle of Christ. Note this study: https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/doctrine/do-apostles-exist-today/
I have another question. In your commentary, you say the “Prophets” in Ephesians 2:20 are New Testament prophets. Does that include the prophets in the local churches such as the Corinthian church? My understanding is that the prophets in the Corinthian church were just ordinary people who had the gift of prophecy; they were not apostles.
Ephesians 2:20 says the “Prophets” are the foundation of the Church. If the “Prophets” in Ephesians 2:20 includes the prophets in the local Corinthian church, it mean these Corinthian prophets are part of the foundation of the Church of Christ. But if the Corinthian prophets are the foundation of the Church of Christ, why is it that none of their prophecies was included in the Scripture? The prophetic messages which they gave to their local church in Corinth were apparently not authoritative enough to be included in the canon of Scripture. In what sense, then, are they the foundation of the Church? Besides, Paul instructed that Corinthians to judge the prophecies given by these prophets and he gave rules to regulate the prophetic activities of these local prophets at Corinth, suggesting that their prophesying was not authoritative or binding.
I’d like to know what you think. How do the prophets in the local Corinthian church form the foundation of the Church of Christ if their prophecies were not authoritative enough to be included in the canon of Scripture?
Carl, there are two basic usages of the term “prophet” in the New Testament, 1) a foreteller and 2) a forth teller. The term for prophet in Eph 2:20 has the prior concept, especially because of the association of the term prophet with the apostle. The prophets mentioned in Acts 2:20 were not necessarily prophets of the Corinthian church but were people with the special gift of founding the universal church, not the local church