God's Church: Its Doctrinal Foundation (the Indicative) - 1:1-3:21
A. Prologue 1:1-2
B. Praise 1:3-14
C. Prayer 1:15-23
D. Our Salvation 2:1-22
1. its individual implications 2:1-10
a. our condition before conversion: dead in sin 2:1-3
b. our condition after conversion: alive in Christ 2:4-10
2. its corporate implications 2:11-22
a. Gentiles before Jesus 2:11-12
b. the barrier abolished - 2:13-18
c. Gentiles after Jesus 2:19-22
In 2:1-10 Paul explained the meaning and spiritual mechanics of salvation in relation to the individual, whether Jew or Gentile. Death in sin is common to all, irrespective of ethnic origin (2:1-3). Likewise, none is saved but by the grace of God in Christ (2:4-10). This salvation of the individual, however, also has social and corporate implications. The redemptive work of Christ has forever abolished the inequalities that once existed between Jew and Gentile. The latter, at one time both physically and spiritually far away from the blessings of God, have now been brought near. Christ has abolished the barrier that not only separated God from Gentile but also Jew from Gentile. Through the blood of Christ the believing Gentile has been incorporated as a fellow-citizen into the household of God, receiving equal status with the believing Jew, the two together forming one new man in Christ, the Church. In describing this great event, Paul first portrays the condition of the Gentiles before the cross (2:11-12). He then explains what Christ has done to reverse their lost condition (2:13-18), and finally he describes what we, as believing Gentiles, in conjunction with believing Jews, have become: the Church of Jesus Christ, a holy temple in the Lord (2:19-22).
It would also appear that 2:11-22 sheds light on the meaning of God's eternal purpose to sum up all things in Christ as stated in 1:10. "Two obstacles need to be overcome before the divine purposes would reach their fulfillment the subjection of the powers (representing 'the things in heaven'), and the church, particularly the relationship of Jews and Gentiles (representing 'the things on earth')" (O'Brien, 183).
A. Gentiles before Jesus 2:11-12
1. uncircumcised 2:11
The label "uncircumcised," used by Jews of Gentiles, was one of derision and scorn. Yet, referring to Jewish circumcision as so-called may be Paul's way of pointing to the worthlessness of the physical rite as a guarantee of acceptance with God (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 1 Cor. 7:19; Phil. 3:3; Gal. 5:6 ['for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love]).
The word translated "by human hands" (cheiropoietos) and its opposite are used in the NT to contrast what is made by humans with what is made by God. It also points to the contrast between the external material aspects of the old order of Judaism under the Mosaic covenant and the internal spiritual efficacy of the new order under the New covenant (Mk. 14:58; Acts 7:48; 17:24; Heb. 9:11,24). Thus, to speak of something 'not made by human hands (acheiropoietos) is to assert that God himself has created it (e.g., the temple that Jesus would build in three days in Mk. 14:58; the heavenly house [i.e., body] which believers receive at death in 2 Cor. 5:1; and that true, spiritual circumcision of the heart which comes through the death of Christ in Col. 2:11). Paul's point is that the circumcision performed in the flesh with human hands is no longer the real or spiritually meaningful circumcision.
2. unprivileged 2:12
a. separate from Christ
The word translated 'separate is used in only two other places (Eph. 4:18; Col. 1:21) and means alienation or estrangement from God. But now they are "in Christ!" The question is raised: How can it be that having been separate from Christ is parallel to having been separated from Israel? It would appear that Paul 'can make this point because he conceives of Christ as the Messiah belonging to Israel [or, as Best says, "the Messiah for whom Israel hoped" (241)]. His thought here, and later in this verse, appears to be dependent on Rom. 9:4,5, where Paul could say "and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ" (Lincoln, 137).
b. excluded from the commonwealth of Israel
The word translated "commonwealth" has the idea not only of a state or government but even more so of the rights extending to its citizens, i.e., privileges, blessings, resources, duties, etc. During that age God had restricted his elective purposes to Israel, but now, with the coming and cross of Christ, they are "fellow-citizens" (v. 19).
c. strangers to the covenants of promise
The plural "covenants" points to a series of covenants: with Abraham (Gen. 15; 17), Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5), Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15), and David (2 Sam. 7). These covenants were all characterized by or based on "promise," i.e., God's pledge to be faithful to his people and to fulfill his word to them. One might even translate the phrase, 'the covenants which embodied the promise of God. Though Gentiles had no part in this promise they are now co-heirs with Christ. See esp. Gal. 3:16,29.
d. having no hope
e. without God in the world
The word atheoi can have several meanings: (1) not believing in God; (2) godless, in the ethical sense; (3) forsaken by God himself.
In sum: they were "Christless, stateless, friendless, hopeless, and Godless" (Hendriksen, 129).
B. The barrier abolished 2:13-18
1. what Christ has done vv. 13-14
a. He has brought us near by his blood - v. 13
"Now" contrasts with "at that time" of v. 12. 'In Christ contrasts with "apart from Christ" of v. 12. "Near" and "far" have both a geographical or spatial as well as spiritual meaning. See Deut. 4:7; Ps. 148:14; Dan. 9:7; Acts 2:39; 22:21. The spatial distance of the Gentiles was symbolic of their spiritual and moral separation as well (see Deut. 28:49; 29:22; 1 Kings 8:41; Isa. 5:26; Jer. 5:15).
b. He has made both Jew and Gentile into one v. 14a
Paul's emphasis on peace is unmistakable: he uses the term 4x in vv. 14,15,17 (twice), as well as related concepts of reconciliation (v. 16), making the two into one (v. 14), creating one new humanity (v. 15), etc. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in Eph. 6:15 Paul will refer to the message of Christianity as being 'the gospel of peace. That peace should now exist between the two is remarkable, given the fact that
"the Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. The Gentiles, said the Jews, were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations that he had made . . . It was not even lawful to render help to a Gentile mother in her hour of sorest need, for that would simply be to bring another Gentile into the world. Until Christ came, the Gentiles were an object of contempt to the Jews. The barrier between them was absolute. If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death" (William Barclay, 125).
Observe that Jesus doesn't merely create peace, he is peace!
c. He has broken down the barrier wall, i.e., the enmity v. 14b
This double alienation of the Gentile, from God and from the Jew, was symbolized by the "middle wall of partition" (v. 14; KJV) or the "dividing wall of hostility" (RSV) or "the barrier of the dividing wall" (NASB). Translation options: (1) "dividing wall that has the character of a barrier" (genitive of quality); (2) "the dividing wall made from a barrier" (origin); (3) "dividing wall belonging to the barrier" (possessive); or (4) "the dividing wall which is a barrier" (apposition). The latter is most likely. There are three possible interpretations of this phrase.
(1) "Some argue that this refers literally to the temple balustrade which separated the court of the Gentiles from the inner courts and the sanctuary. It was a notable feature of Herod's temple in Jerusalem. The temple itself was on an elevated platform. Around it was the Court of the Priests. To the east was the Court of Israel, and further east was the Court of the Women. 'These three courts for the priests, the lay men and the lay women of Israel respectively were all on the same elevation as the temple itself. From this level one descended five steps to a walled platform, and then on the other side of the wall fourteen more steps to another wall, beyond which was the outer court or Court of the Gentiles. This was a spacious court running right round the temple and its inner courts. From any part of it the Gentiles could look up and view the temple, but were not allowed to approach it. They were cut off from it by the surrounding wall, which was a one-and-a-half metre stone barricade, on which were displayed at intervals warning notices in Greek and Latin. They read, in effect, not 'Trespassers will be prosecuted' but 'Trespassers will be executed," (Stott, 91-92).
Josephus describes this barricade in his Antiquities. He writes that the temple was "encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription which forbade any foreigner to go in under pain of death" (XV, 11.5). The partition was "made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits. Its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars at equal distance from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek and some in Roman letters, that 'no foreigner should go within that sanctuary" (Wars of the Jews, V.5.2).
Two of the Greek signs have been discovered, one in 1871 and the other in 1935. The former, now housed in a museum in Istanbul, Turkey, is a white limestone slab approximately one meter across. It reads: "No foreigner may enter within the barrier and enclosure round the temple. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death." See esp. Acts 21:27-31. Says Stott:
"This, then, is the historical, social and religious background to Ephesians 2. Although all human beings are alienated from God because of sin, the Gentiles were also alienated from the people of God. And worse even than this double alienation (of which the temple wall was a symbol) was the active 'enmity' or 'hostility' (echthra) into which it continuously erupted enmity between man and God, and enmity between Gentiles and Jews. The grand theme of Ephesians 2 is that Jesus Christ has destroyed both enmities" (92).
The principal objection to this view is that Paul's Gentile readers living in Asia Minor would have no knowledge of such a barrier. It makes little sense for him to base his argument on a concept that few if any of his readers would have had opportunity to see or understand. Best also points out that nowhere else is this wall termed a "dividing wall" (mesotoichon).
(2) The second view is that the barrier Paul mentions is the Mosaic Law itself which functioned to protect Israel from Gentile impurity. The first phrase of v. 15 thus parallels the last phrase of v. 14. Therefore, "having broken down the dividing wall, the fence" (v. 14) = "having abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments" (v. 15). According to this view, the Mosaic Law was a sign of Jewish particularism and created a fence around Israel thereby separating Jews from Gentiles both religiously and socially. This contributed to the deep-seated hostility between the two groups. "The laws which forbade eating or intermarrying with Gentiles often led Jews to have a contempt for Gentiles which could regard . . . [them] as less than human. In response, Gentiles would often regard Jews with great suspicion, considering them inhospitable and hateful to non-Jews, and indulge in anti-Jewish prejudice" (Lincoln, 142).
(3) Ernest Best argues that it may "simply be that we have an ordinary metaphor of a separating wall and are wrong to look for recondite [i.e., secret or hidden] meanings in it. It is not unnatural for people when they disagree, or when they see others disagreeing, to speak as if there was a separating factor ('I can't get through to them; it's as if there was a wall between us'). The wall could then be regarded as purely metaphorical and not indicative of some theological idea" (256).
2. how he has done it v. 15a
a. by means of his flesh, i.e., the offering of himself upon the cross
b. he abolished the law of commandments in ordinances
The content of the Law = commandments, and the form of the commandments = ordinances. Thus the Mosaic covenant and its law no longer carry immediate authority for the believer. This is not to say that nothing in the Law is relevant today (see Eph. 6:1-3; Rom. 13:8-10). It is to say that the OT law must be interpreted and applied christologically, i.e., in view of what Christ has done in fulfilling the law and inaugurating a new covenant.
Snodgrass suggests that "Paul does not abolish the law as the Word of God or as a moral guide . . . . What is abolished is the law as a set of regulations that excludes Gentiles. The moral instruction of the law continues, but Paul will tolerate no practice of the law that excludes Gentiles or forces them to become Jews" (133).
3. why he did it vv. 15b-16
a. in order to create one new man v. 15b
By "new man" he means the Christian community in its corporate identity, the Church. This new man is not simply an amalgam of the old in which the best of Judaism and the best of the Gentile world are combined. This is a completely new creation in which distinctives of Jewishness and Gentileness are irrelevant. Thus, as Lincoln says, "they have not just been brought into a mutual relationship, but have been made one in a unity where both are no longer what they previously were" (cf. vv. 15,16,18). In accomplishing this, Christ has transcended one of the fundamental divisions of the first-century world (140-41).
Therefore, it is not as though Gentiles are transformed into Jews or Jews into Gentiles. Rather "the resulting new humanity transcends the two old entities, even though unbelieving Israel and disobedient Gentiles continue to exist" (O'Brien, 184). For Paul, there are but three groups of people in the world: unbelieving Jews, unbelieving Gentiles, and the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32). See esp. Col. 3:11; Gal. 3:28; 6:15.
b. in order that he might reconcile both in one body to God v. 16
The one "body" is a reference to the church and denotes the same reality as the "one new man" in v. 15. It was "by the cross that this was achieved. Christ in his death was slain, but the slain was a slayer too" (Robinson, 65). The "enmity" which Christ has killed is both vertical (between God and humanity) and horizontal (between Jew and Gentile).
Observe that "both," i.e. Jew no less than Gentile, have been reconciled to God through the cross. If one should ask how Jews are now said to be reconciled to God, Paul would respond that the law which separated Gentiles from Israel, and from Israel's God, also separated Israel from God due to her failure to obey (see Gal. 3:10-22; Rom. 3:19-20; 9:30-10:4). Note also that this "reconciliation" of Jew to God and Gentile to God is not in isolation from the other, but "in one body," i.e., in their new identity as the Church, the new "third race," if you will.
4. the message he proclaimed vv. 17-18
a. its content: peace v. 17
Those "far away" = Gentiles and those "near" = Jews. But when did Christ "come" and "preach this gospel of peace?" Several different interpretations:
* A pre-incarnate preaching by the Son of God?
* The incarnation
* The earthly ministry of Jesus as a whole
* The cross: his death proclaimed peace. However, whereas it is certainly true that by his death he "procured peace," can it rightly be said that the cross "proclaimed peace?"
* The resurrection
* His post-resurrection appearances (John 14:27 "Peace be with you").
* His proclamation of peace through the apostles and the early church by means of the Spirit
The OT text Paul quotes here is Isa. 57:19 which in its original context spoke of God's blessing on Jews in the land ("to those who were near") and Jews of the dispersion ("far away"). Paul appears to believe the ultimate fulfillment is found in peace being proclaimed to Gentiles!
b. its result: access v. 18
For the word "access" see Eph. 3:12; Rom. 5:1,2. Whereas some have argued the reference is to an oriental court scene in which a person is granted an audience with a king or emperor, Paul's imagery most likely derives from the OT sacrificial system in which offerings were brought into the presence of God (Lev. 1:3; 3:3; 4:14). But notice the emphasis: "we both have our access" . . . As O'Brien points out, "it is not simply that individual Gentiles and Jews have unhindered entry into the presence of God, wonderful as this is. In addition, both of them as one new humanity can come into his presence. 'Jew and Gentile stand together as one people in God's presence with old distinctions no longer having significance'" (209).
Notice two additional features of our access:
* It is "in the S/spirit." Is this a) the Holy Spirit; b) the human spirit; or c) the human spirit under the influence and anointing of the Holy Spirit? Probably a). Says Fee: "For Paul it is the common experience of the one Spirit, by Jew and Gentile alike, that attests that God has created something new in the body of Christ (cf. v. 15). Thus, the one Spirit who has formed them into the one body, also brings them together as that one body into the presence of the Father. It is as they live together in the common sphere of the Spirit that they have entrance with God" (God's Empowering Presence, 684).
* It is to the "Father" and not simply to "God!"
C. Gentiles after Jesus 2:19-22
1. we are now fellow-citizens v. 19a
If there is a distinction between the terms "strangers" and "aliens" it would be that the former describes a person from another country while the latter points to the stranger who lives in the land as a resident alien. The good news, however, is that believing Gentiles are now neither homeless nor second-class citizens in someone else's kingdom or homeland: they are fellow-citizens with the saints! See Phil. 3:20. But who are the "saints" with whom believing Gentiles now share this glorious privilege?
* OT Jews (i.e., the patriarchs and other famous OT figures)?
* NT Jewish believers?
* Gentile believers?
* All believers, both Jewish and Gentile?
* Glorified saints in heaven?
2. we are now of God's household v. 19b
The imagery now shifts from the political realm of citizenry and its rights to the intimacy of a family and home. It is not simply that Jews and Gentiles are fellow-citizens under God's rule: they are now children together, brothers and sisters, in God's family. Lincoln's comments are worthy of note:
"As the text stands, the Gentiles' former disadvantages have been reversed, not by their being incorporated into Israel, even into a renewed Israel of Jewish Christians, but by their being made members of a new community which transcends the categories of Jew and Gentile, an entity which is a new creation, not simply a merging of the former groupings. . . . Gentiles no longer lack a commonwealth. Yet this is not because they are now part of the commonwealth of Israel, but because they are fellow citizens with all the saints in the Church [emphasis mine]. . . . [Thus] there is no escaping the conclusion that Eph. 2 depicts the Church in terms of a new third entity, one which transcends the old ethnic and religious entities of Jew and Gentile" (163).
3. we are now the temple of the Lord vv. 20-22
In 1 Cor. 3:9-17 Paul spoke of building on a foundation and of a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In that passage Paul himself and other apostolic leaders are portrayed as laying the foundation, which is Christ himself, on whom/which they continue to build. But here the foundation consists of the apostles and prophets themselves and Jesus is the cornerstone. We should not be surprised or bothered by this, for it is common in the NT for biblical authors to modify their metaphors and apply them in differing (but never contradictory) ways.
a. its foundation and cornerstone v. 20
The "apostles and prophets" are the foundation of the church in that their inspired and revelatory teaching oncerning the person and work of Christ provided the theological bedrock on which all subsequent ministry and spiritual growth occurs. They were "the primary and authoritative recipients and proclaimers of revelation" (Lincoln, 153). See below for further discussion.
The word translated "cornerstone" is somewhat ambiguous:
* Some argue that it should be rendered 'capstone and that it refers to the crowning stone at the top of the edifice, not the bottom.
* In view of the usage of this word in Isa. 28:16 (the only text in the LXX where it is found), Paul most likely means that "Christ is the vital cornerstone on whom the building is constructed. The foundation and position of all the other stones in the superstructure were determined by him. He is 'the one from which the rest of the foundation is built outwards along the line of the proposed walls'. Accordingly, the temple is built out and up from the revelation given in Christ, with the apostles and prophets elaborating and explaining the mystery, which has been made known to them by the Holy Spirit (3:4-11, esp. v. 5). 'But all is built on Christ, supported by Christ, and the lie or shape of the continuing building is determined by Christ, the cornerstone" (O'Brien, 217-18).
b. its formation v. 21
Notice the "in whom" phrase with which both v. 21 and v. 22 open. The point is that this building, this "temple" functions only in relation to Jesus Christ. This formation of the temple is an on-going divine project, a continuous process (see also Eph. 4:15-16). Although it may seem strange to speak of a "building" experiencing continuous "growth," Paul surely wants us to conceive of the church as an organic entity. Recall that Peter also refers to believers somewhat paradoxically as "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5)!
c. its function v. 22
The word translated "dwelling" (katoiketerion) is used in the OT of God's dwelling in the temple at Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:13) and of his heavenly dwelling place (1 Kings 8:39,43). "Now his dwelling place can be said to be neither a literal temple in Jerusalem nor simply heaven, but the Church, of which the Gentile Christian readers in Asia Minor were a part" (Lincoln, 158). What theological and practical (indeed, political) significance is there in the fact that Paul says the individual Christian and the church corporately are the "temple of God?" See 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 6:16-18; 1 Peter 2:4-10; see also John 1:14; 2:19-22; Acts 7:48-50.
One concluding comment is in order in light of what Paul has said in this paragraph concerning the relationship of Gentile and Jew in the body of Christ, the Church. It is my conviction that all distinctions, all spiritual privileges, all grounds for separation and alienation based on one's ancestry have been abolished by the blood of the cross. One's genetic history no longer has bearing or weight or significance in the sight of God. One's ethnic identity no longer has relevance when it comes to the experience of spiritual privilege. The focus of God's presence, the repository of his power, is no more and never again shall be an ethnically united people-group who share a common ancestry, but rather a spiritually united church who share a common faith.
Special Study of Ephesians 2:20
The fact that Paul describes the "apostles and prophets" as the foundation of the Church has led some to draw what I believe are unwarranted theological conclusions, specifically the idea that prophecy is a gift that was restricted to the first century and subsequently died out. Richard Gaffin, for example, says that in Ephesians 2:11-22 the church
"is pictured as the construction project of God, the master architect-builder, underway in the period between the ascension and return of Christ (cf. 1:20-22; 4:8-10,13). In this church-house the apostles and prophets are the foundation, along with Christ as the 'cornerstone' (v. 20). In any construction project (ancient or modern), the foundation comes at the beginning and does not have to be relaid repeatedly (at least if the builder knows what he's doing!). In terms of this dynamic model for the church, the apostles and prophets belong to the period of the foundation. In other words, by the divine architect's design, the presence of apostles and prophets in the history of the church is temporary" (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views, 42-43).
Gaffin's point is two-fold. First, he argues that since the 'foundation for a building (i.e., the church) can only be laid once, apostles and prophets ceased to exist or function once this task had been accomplished. Second, he argues that Paul has in view all apostles and all prophets. If that is true, neither apostles nor prophets can be conceivd as continuing in any capacity in the church beyond the first century.
Wayne Grudem has responded by arguing that we should translate the phrase: "apostles who are prophets." His point is that Paul has only one group of people in view ("apostle-prophets," not two ("apostles and prophets"). Thus, there are still other prophets who are not apostles and they continue to function in the building of the church in subsequent generations. Grudem's view, however, is grammatically unlikely. I also believe, with Grudem, that there are other prophets in the NT who are not included in the ministry of "foundation-laying" that Paul has in view here in Eph. 2:20. But I don't believe that one need resort to Grudem's grammatical suggestion to prove it true.
By way of response to Gaffin's first point, he seems to believe that once apostles and prophets ceased to function foundationally, they ceased to function altogether, as if the only purpose for apostles and prophets was to lay the foundation of the church. Nowhere does the NT say this, least of all in Eph. 2:20. This text need say no more than that apostles and prophets laid the foundation once and for all and then ceased to function in that capacity. But nothing suggests that they ceased to function in other capacities, much less that they ceased to exist altogether. Certainly it is true that only apostles and prophets lay the foundation of the church, but it is anything but certain that such is the only thing they do.
It would appear that Gaffin (and other cessationists) wants us to believe that apostles and prophets belong exclusively to the period of the foundation (i.e., the first century a.d.), not the superstructure. But this ignores vv. 21-22 where Paul refers to the superstructure as under construction, so to speak, as he speaks and writes (note the consistent use of the present tenses in vv. 21-22). In other words, the apostles and prophets of v. 20, among whom was Paul, were also contributing to the superstructure, of which the Ephesians were a contemporary part, simultaneous with their laying the foundation on which it was being built. We must be careful not to push the metaphor beyond what Paul intended by it.
To use an analogy, "once a man establishes a company, writes its by-laws, articulates its vision, hires employees, and does all the work essential in laying the foundation for its future work and productivity, he does not necessarily cease to exist or to serve the company in other capacities. As Deere points out, "the founding director of a company or corporation will always be unique in the sense that he or she was the founder, but that does not mean the company would not have future directors or presidents" (248).
Second, on Gaffin's view, all NT prophets functioned foundationally. But there is nothing to suggest that "the prophets" in Eph. 2:20 is an exhaustive reference to all possible prophets in the church. Why should we conclude that the only kind of prophetic activity is "foundational" in nature, especially in light of what the NT says about the extent and effect of prophetic ministry? It simply isn't possible to believe that all prophetic utterances were part of the once-for-all foundation of the church.
* For one thing, the NT nowhere says they were.
* For another, it portrays prophetic ministry in an entirely different light from the one Gaffin attempts to deduce from Eph. 2:20. Surely not everyone who ministered prophetically was apostolic. Therefore, the cessation of the latter is no argument for the cessation of the former.
* To suggest that Eph. 2:20 has in view all possible prophets active in the early church does not measure up to what we read about the gift of prophecy in the rest of the NT. Are we to believe that all those who prophesied on the day of Pentecost, "sons and daughters, young men, old men, bondslaves, both men and women," were laying the foundation of the church?
* Are we to believe that "all mankind" (Acts 2:17) in the early church were contributors to its once-for-all foundation? The cessationist is asking us to believe that the long-awaited promise in Joel 2 of the unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Spirit on "all mankind", with its resultant revelatory activity of dreams, visions, and prophecy, was exhaustively fulfilled in only a handful of individuals whose gifting functioned in an exclusively foundational, initiatory, and therefore temporary fashion! Does this theory adequately explain the text? Is the revelatory and charismatic experience of the Spirit, foretold by Joel and cited by Peter, exhaustively fulfilled in a small minority of believers in a mere sixty-year span in only the first century of the church? It seems rather that Joel 2 and Acts 2 are describing normative Christian experience for the entire Christian community in the whole of the New Covenant age, called the "latter days".
* Cessationism would require us to believe that a group of anonymous disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7) who prophesied upon their conversion (none of which, be it noted, was ever recorded or mentioned again) did so with a view to laying the foundation of the church.
* It is no less a strain to think that the four daughters of Philip were a part of the once-for-all foundation of the church (Acts 21:9).
* On Gaffin's thesis, all prophetic activity is foundation-laying activity. But if it were, it seems unlikely that Paul would have spoken of prophecy as a gift bestowed to common people for the "common good" of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7-10).
* Are we to believe that Paul exhorted all believers in every church to earnestly desire that they exercise foundational significance for the universal church? On the contrary, prophecy is to be desired because its purpose is to communicate revelation from God that will "encourage" those who are discouraged, "console" those who are disconsolate, and "edify" those who are weak and untaught (1 Cor. 14:3).
* Again, I must ask, how does the exposure of an unbeliever's secret sins in the churches at Corinth and Thessalonica and Rome and Laodicea and throughout the inhabited earth, sins such as greed, lust, anger, selfishness, etc., function in laying the once-for-all foundation of the universal church of Jesus Christ? Yet, this is one of the primary purposes for the prophetic gift (1 Cor. 14:24-25).
* Gaffin believes that tongues is also a revelatory, and therefore prophetic, gift (22). If this were true, then we would have non-canonical revelation coming to individual Christians for their own personal edification, not to be shared with the church at large in the absence of an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:28). How could such private revelation in any way be conceived as contributing to the once-for-all foundation of the church at large?
* Paul anticipated that every time Christians gathered for worship that, at least potentially, "each" believer would come with or contribute, among other things, a "revelation" (1 Cor. 14:26). He anticipated that a normal part of Christian experience was receiving revelatory data or insight from God. It is difficult to read his instruction for corporate worship and conclude that he viewed all revelatory, and thus prophetic, ministry as foundational for the universal church. There must have been thousands upon thousands of revelations and prophetic utterances throughout the hundreds of churches over the course of the years between Pentecost and the close of the NT canon. Are we to believe that this multitude of people and their even greater multitude of prophetic words constituted the once-for-all foundation of the church?
In a word, the portrayal in Acts and 1 Corinthians of who could prophesy and how it was to be done in the life of the church simply does not fit with the cessationist assertion that Eph. 2:20 describes all possible prophets, every one of whom functioned as part of the once-for-all foundation of the church. Rather, Paul is there describing a limited group of prophets who were closely connected to the apostles, both of which groups spoke Scripture-quality words essential to the foundation of the church universal.