In any construction, special attention is given to the foundation, for if it is not well done, the entire structure will be compromised. The same is true in spiritual terms. The church of God is built upon a foundation that received special attention.
“As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone”
Ephesians 2.20 CEB
The apostles and prophets, inspired by the Holy Spirit to communicate the truth of the gospel for all time, fulfilled a unique role in God’s plan, so much so that Paul here calls them the foundation of the church. We do not have apostles and prophets living today because, besides teaching the divine model to people of that time, they wrote the books of the new covenant, which were preserved for us in the New Testament. They have given us “all truth” that Jesus promised and everything that the Spirit reminded them, John 14.26. “God has now revealed [the Good News] to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit” Ephesians 3.5.
In this way, it is not so much the individuals, but the teaching of the apostles and prophets that serves as the foundation. This teaching, as Paul affirms in the verse above, deals with the Lord Jesus Christ as its main theme. He is the cornerstone. So there is no contradiction between this verse and 1 Corinthians 3.11.
Paul tells the Ephesian saints, as children in God’s family and members of the body of Christ, that they are also a building erected upon this foundation.
Some think that the letter to the Ephesians was not written by Paul, since it supposedly shows a later perspective that the early church did not possess. However, early on in the history the apostles were aware of their role, for Jesus himself had told them that they would sit on 12 thrones to judge Israel, Matthew 19.28.
Whoever builds upon another foundation is not building God’s building. It’s necessary to have the right foundation in order for the church of the Lord Jesus to exist. We must remember their words spoken in the past, 2 Peter 2.1-2. These once-for-all words and prophecies stand in contrast to new teaching brought into the church by scoffers, v. 3. So we must “remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” Jude 17.
The verse of Ephesians 2.20, then, resolves the myth
that the New Testament is a product of the church. The New Testament is the foundation of the church. This verse also reveals that any church that departs from the teaching of the apostles has ceased to be the Lord”s church (Dunagan).
All this reminds us that the building of God today has nothing to do with physical construction, but with people redeemed by Jesus’ blood. As Pedro said,
“You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 2.5.
So our efforts should be given toward building living stones on a spiritual foundation.
In a very real sense, then, the apostles chosen by Jesus Christ who sit upon the 12 thrones of judgment continue to be “our apostles.”