The precise phrase “household of God” is used only once in the New Testament, in Ephesians 2:19 (oikeioi tou Theou). In 1 Timothy 3:15, we find oikoo Theou rendered “household of God” in some translations but more accurately it is “house of God.” Paul also writes “household of faith” (oikeious tees pisteoos) in Galatians 6:10. Did Paul write these words? Some scholars believe one of Paul’s students wrote Ephesians late in the first century. I will have more to say about authorship in a couple of posts, but suffice to say that I’m not thoroughly persuaded. I suspect Paul was the author.
The key passage from Ephesians for our discussion (apart from the household code portion, which we will turn to shortly) is Ephesians 2:11-22:
11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision" -- a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands -- 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens 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 is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. NRSV
As with the undisputed letters of Paul, we once again see the fictive family metaphor used to signify the unification of Jews and Gentiles into one community. There are multiple metaphors at work and they are all woven together to make their point. Verse 14 says Christ had "broken down the dividing wall,” an allusion to the wall which separated the Gentiles from the Jews in the temple, God’s House. Verses 15 and 16 tell of the creation of a “new humanity.” Verse 19 speaks of Gentiles becoming citizens of the commonwealth of Israel and of becoming members of the “household of God." But then the description takes a different twist. The idea of a living building emerges with Jesus as the cornerstone. The foundation is made up of the apostles and prophets. The stones are the new people being added to the community, “joined” together in Christ. This “living building” is the structure where God lives.
So not only is the Church a fictive family but it is also a living temple where God dwells, with each member as one of the stones. The church is both the household of God and the house of God. This not the only place we see this imagery presented. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:
1 Cor 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Cor 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?
Also, in 2 Corinthians 6:16
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God …
So we see evidence of this thinking clearly exhibited in Paul’s writing. But it is not Paul who gives the most elaborate articulation of this idea. For that we must turn to 1 Peter.