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Citizenship in God’s Kingdom: Devotion for St. Philip and St. James

Jesus called Philip to follow Him in John 1:43, and Philip told Nathanael about Jesus. James is “the less,” the one who is not the son of Zebedee. We remember these two apostles today through the Epistle with a devotion from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians.

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 30:18–21
Psalm 36:5–12
Ephesians 2:19–22
John 14:1–14

Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.

Devotional Reading

Ephesians 2:19 fellow citizens. Paul alludes to Roman citizenship, which was a prized possession in his day and carried with it significant privileges under the laws and governance of the Roman empire. Just as there is a “body of citizens,” so also the Church is a “body” of which Christians are members. The allusion could be readily understood by Paul’s readers. The comparison would have been especially apt in light of the tension often existing between Jews and Gentiles in the Pauline churches. As Acts and Paul’s Letters show, Paul labored continuously to make the Gentile believers welcome in the largely Jewish-Christian churches of the first century. The Gentiles together with their fellow Jewish Christians are full-fledged citizens of God’s Church, with all of the rights and privileges that Christ has gained for His people. Christians no longer live on a passport as travelers without permanent residency. They have their “new birth” certificate (Baptism) and can be certain of their citizenship in God’s heavenly kingdom together with all of God’s saints.

2:20 built on the foundation. The Church resembles a building that has been erected upon a foundation. A foundation provides the basis for the structure to come into being. Believers in Christ, the members of God’s family, come into being as the Holy Spirit works faith through the preaching and teaching of the apostles and prophets. The Gospel they proclaimed and taught has been preserved in the authoritative writings of the NT. For us these writings are the normative source for the church’s proclamation and teaching.

cornerstone. The term (combination of the two words “extreme” and “corner”) occurs elsewhere in the Bible only in Is 28:16 and 1Pt 2:6. Paul alludes to Is 28:16 where the text speaks, literally, of a stone “for the foundations.” This implies a cornerstone that supports and joins together walls of an edifice.

2:21 grows. Christ’s body, the Church, as a living organism grows to maturity “into Christ” (4:15–16). In this text God’s Church as a structure grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Whether “body” or “structure,” God gives the growth. The apostle Peter develops the picture of a building being constructed by God when he writes, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” (1Pt 2:5). Growth takes place when members of the church speak the truth in such a way that love is maintained.

2:22 dwelling place. These words translate a term that occurs quite frequently in the OT for the temple as the place where God dwells. Paul now calls the Church God’s “dwelling place,” just as the temple was the place where God was present in the midst of His people. “We are the temple of the living God,” writes Paul to the Corinthians (2Co 6:16; 1Co 3:16).

Prayer

Lord, forgive my prejudices and teach me to reach out to all those I meet and know with the message of Your grace. Amen.

Devotional reading and prayer are adapted from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, pages 122–24 © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

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