By Lonnie Lane
Once or twice a month I join some friends in their House Church which meets from house to house. In their discussions recently they wanted to further explore Yeshua as being the Cornerstone of the church. This led to several weeks of further discussions and sharing Scriptures, insights and worship songs as each one contributed what they had to offer regarding Yeshua as our Cornerstone. This week the discussions led us to Ephesians 2:11-22 which says:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth…that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who one were far away have been brought near through the blood of Messiah.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the Torah with its commandments and regulations. He purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the Cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Messiah Yeshua Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Eph. 2:11-22)
As is often our perspective, the discussion was about “us” and what we should be doing. These verses meant to them, and in particular to Billy who quoted the verses in his context, that we are to be one with each other, that our differences should not be cause for separation and that we who are the Lord’s must strive to be in love and unity with our brothers and sisters so that we can all be built together into the Temple of God, Yeshua being the Cornerstone. Only if Yeshua is our Cornerstone can we love one another as we ought. While this is unquestionably true, and all present agreed, I was once again seeing it a bit differently from my ever-present ethnocentric perspective as a Jew.
There is, I believe, a wider application to be gleaned here. For one thing, whenever we start with ourselves and what we need to be doing as the central premise, we get no higher than ourselves. If, however, we start with the Lord as the central premise and what God has done, then we can come up higher in our understanding even perhaps to the point of revelation.
Paul in speaking to the Ephesians was not talking just about individuals but two distinct groups of people, those within the Commonwealth of Israel and those outside of it. The circumcised and the uncircumcised, if you will. That is to say, those within the covenant God made with Israel and those entirely apart from it. These two groups can be defined as follows.
Israel already had a 2,000 year history of interaction with God. They knew Who God is, that He is sovereign in the earth, the creator of all things and that it is before Him that they lived their lives. They knew it was to Him they owed their very existence as a nation. And they knew the Land on which they lived, apportioned to each tribe as He dictated, belonged to Him, not them. The Land was a gift, which gift could be revoked if they dishonored their covenant with God. They knew that only too well. Worship of idols and foreign gods had resulted in their being exiled from their beloved Land and subjugated to a Babylonian king.
If God wasn’t enough for them and they wanted things foreign, then things foreign they would get, including servitude to a foreign king rather than peacefully serving God in all His goodness. This was a hard-learned lesson but one learned well as never again have the Jews been enticed to worship idols (read, dead statues). God having restored them to “His” Land, their lives were lived in awareness of God being with them daily in all areas of their lives. His commandments constrained them. Their national identity was that of being the chosen people of God who, like Abraham, were to exhibit a righteousness that was a testimony for God, and which would ideally be visible to the world around them.
King David had exemplified this kind of reverence for God and a jealousy for His honor that was no doubt part of why God called him “a man after His own heart.” Long before he was crowned king, David was incensed by Goliath’s intimidation of the Israeli armies. We can hear the righteous indignation in his voice when we read his words: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” With king-like determination, he accepted the challenge the others, including King Saul, feared and declared to Goliath so all could hear, “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands and I will strike you down and remove your head from you…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:46)
Ah, I love that: “…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” David further went on to make it clear, “that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear, for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you (Goliath) into our hands.” This wasn’t just any god. This is the living God who acted on Israel’s behalf and involves Himself in the destiny of men and of nations, whether they know it or not. Israel knew it. atoday, 2000 years and a half a world from that day, we know the story, in answer to David’s desire, We know what Israel’s God did for them that day in delivering them from the threats and intimidations of a Philistine bully by the hand of one young man who trusted in God.
The other group of folks were those whom Paul said were far from “the commonwealth of Israel.” He even went so far as to say they had “no hope (because they were) without God in the world.” These Gentiles were entirely outside of Israel’s knowledge and understanding of and experience with God. They had no sense of being personally or nationally accountable to God either as Creator or Sovereign, or that they lived under His watch. They knew nothing of the moral imperative fundamental to Israel, nor would they have had a sense of the distinctions God required between clean and unclean, pure and impure which governed Israel’s extensive laws regarding health and worship.
The idea of a covenant relationship with the Almighty, indeed a concept of the Almighty altogether, would have been an entirely new idea to these people. One sovereign and holy God? What a radical new thought, many must have said. But countless Gentiles were pricked in their consciences and felt a stirring within they’d not known before. Fortunately, without God having given them the benefit of 1,500 years of experience with Him as Israel had, through the testimony of a relatively few Jews who did have that background, God made a way for those “far off” to “come near.” Through the death of Israel’s Messiah, by God’s grace, Gentiles began to come to the God of Israel through receiving His Son and the forgiveness He offered into their lives.
In his own identity as an Israelite and a follower of Messiah Yeshua, Paul knew well that because of Yeshua’s atoning death, all that Israel had known of God to this point was only a hint of the magnitude of what God had done in His mercy, and to satisfy justice, by sending His own Son to die in our stead. The sin that had separated all mankind from God by the tragedy that took place in Eden, was now paid for, washed clean, obliterated, done away with. Sin no longer had the power to keep man separated from God. The dividing wall between mankind and God was done away with by Yeshua’s death once and for all (one time for all people). The forgiveness is available to all who recognized their need, repent of their deeds and previous independence from God, and receive the Atonement by faith: Recognize, Repent and Receive.
Israel, in her prophetic foreshadowing, had altars on which the blood of lambs and goats paid for sins so that the sins did not continue to be held against the worshippers or even the entire nation, year after year. But Yeshua’s Blood was applied to the altar in heaven so that whosoever would appropriate His sacrificial death as being for them personally by faith would be counted by God as a new creation, a person removed entirely from the curse of sin. Those who would accept this as true could now enter into a relationship with God far beyond that which Israel had known thus far, as good as it was. The final and complete atonement was an accomplished fact, available to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles.
Because we today are somewhat familiar with Believers in Yeshua being of many different ethnic groups, let’s not miss the gravity of what took place here. God had told the Israelites to remain separate from the world around them in order to keep them from the influences of pagan cultures which would take them away from Him. Now He Himself had opened the door of the Kingdom to non-Israelites, to Gentiles who knew nothing of serving God as they did.
The most amazing thing is that these two very disparate groups of people became inextricably joined together. As different as they were in culture and identity, beliefs and practices, in Messiah they became one people, each side joined to the other as two walls, one made of bricks, the other of stone, joined together by a Cornerstone which served to keep the whole building lined up and balanced, and anchored to its foundation.
In one sense this was an entirely new work of God. But God had always welcomed Gentiles to join Israel, if they would be willing to follow God’s Torah, God’s edicts upon Israel. What Israel was warned against wasn’t Gentiles per se but against those who would not submit to God’s ways in Israel. Throughout Israel’s history there were those who joined themselves to them, some even being recognized in Messiah’s geneology, Rahab and Ruth being among them.
What is of such great magnitude here twofold: 1) Israel, that is the believing Messianic community within Judaism, opened their arms to those Gentiles who wished to follow Messiah, without the requirement of circumcision or Torah, with certain exceptions, and 2) God invaded the hearts of so many Gentiles to welcome the ways of Israel’s God into their hearts and lives. They wanted to come into the same relationship that the Hebrew Believers had with God.
Through Yeshua paying the price to eliminate what separated them from God they too could come into God’s presence and receive all the blessings and benefits of His covenant promises to Israel. (Be careful here not to read into this, “instead of Israel” as some replacement theologians have done.)
The crowning glory of all this was that in the same manner and to the same measure that the Israelites who believed in Yeshua received the fullness of all He had purchased for them with His life, the Gentiles could now enter into it all too. God had given to them the same heart to follow Yeshua as Lord as the Jewish Believers. There was no difference in access to God or His manifold blessings to them. In that regard, there is “no Jew nor Greek” (Gentile); both have the same relationship with Him.
So to come back to our original topic, we see these two groups being made one, joined by the Cornerstone who is Yeshua. And as Billy pointed out, we are to love one another are even now able to love even those not at all like ourselves, because Yeshua has put us in the same spiritual family; He’s made us related. We are now, as it were, cousins, cornerstone-cousins, in the family of God, related in some cases to those we might previously have had nothing to do with apart from the Cornerstone that unites us. That’s the way it is with God, no catering to the desires of the flesh!
But what about the term, cornerstone. What did Paul see that caused him to ascribe the title of Cornerstone to Yeshua? The first Biblical mention of a cornerstone is by God Himself when he responds to Job in his confusion. God asks Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God (angels) shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 6,7)
The last part about the stars and the shouts of joy give us a peek into the exultation that went on in the heavens when God set this original cornerstone in place in the earth. Assuming, Paul spoke under the anointing of the Spirit when he referred to Yeshua as the Cornerstone, it would appear that God was prophetically setting His Son in the place of being “foundational” for all that would transpire in the earth, long before the incarnation. It would be He that joins together God’s will with God’s people, and He that keeps lined up and true all that is of God in the earth.
It is ultimately through reliance upon Him that what is built prospers and remains, all other labors being ultimately done in vain. Only in Him are we set upon a sound foundation so that the building of God withstands the storms. What is in Him will remain standing “for the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you.” (Is 54:10)
Even while we still live within the confines of this Fallen world for yet a while longer, let’s rejoice with the stars and shout with the angels that Yeshua is our Cornerstone. It is He who has made those who knew God and those who didn’t mutually acceptable to God, in whom we are being built together into the Temple of God in the Spirit. Amen.
Lonnie would enjoy hearing your response to this or her other articles. You may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be glad to respond to you. Use this same address to contact Lonnie about speaking engagements. Please put “To Lonnie” in the subject line.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships one with her brother Michael Lane in the Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked.” She is the Producer of Messianic Vision’s radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision’s intercessors.