“11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit” (Eph 2:11-22)
The key to unity in the body of Christ is the reconciliation offered by Jesus. Through Jesus all people can be reconciled to each other and to God. The unifying factor is that all followers of Jesus are in Him. The Apostle Paul in verse 21 uses a building metaphor to explain this concept. Ephesians 2:21 declares that with Jesus as the cornerstone, the building rises and becomes a holy temple. The Bible teaches us that all believers are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6:19). Together all believers make up the church, a holy temple.
In the Old Testament the Jews worshipped in a physical temple, a building. The temple was the dwelling place of God on earth and represented his presence with his people. In this temple, access to God and forgiveness of sins was regulated by the priestly system and the sacrificial system. If you want a great explanation of this read Hebrews chapters 9 and 10. In summary, after the death and resurrection of Jesus people are no longer limited to the physical building of the temple. We have direct access to God the father through Jesus. We are invited directly into the relationship of the Trinity.
Eph 2:22 continues this line of thought: “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Because the Holy Spirit dwells in us what was accessible only through the temple in the Old Testament is now present in every believer. People are now the dwelling place of God through the Holy Spirit. Individually we are all temples of the Holy Spirit, and together we make up the body of Christ, a holy temple, the church.
We talk about individual believers, but you can’t have a building made of one stone. You need many stones crafted, shaped and placed intentionally to build the walls. When people accept Jesus as their saviour, to continue the building metaphor, they are like a stone placed in the wall of the building. Many stones fitted together, with different sizes and different roles, make up the building. Each stone relies on every other stone for the building to be stable. Every stone is part of the building that God is creating, the body of Christ. As we are built together, we share in the plans that God is writing. The Apostle Peter writes: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Pet 2:4-5)
Spiritually, Jesus is the master craftsman. We “are being built” into this house, this dwelling place, this holy temple. As people live life in Christ, believers are continually being crafted and shaped together towards maturity by life in Christ. Life in God, with God and through God is what shapes the body of Christ.
So, whether followers of Jesus are called sheep (John 10:14-16), stones (I Pet 2:4-5), branches (John 15:5), or body parts (I Cor 12:12), Jesus is behind it all and each person is invited into the life of Christ that is shared amongst all followers of Jesus. Through Jesus is the life that God has designed people for.