From Separation - through Reconciliation - to being One Body
- Jan 1, 2005
- Series: Ephesians
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands-- 12that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
God’s People Divided
Ephesians begins by talking about a divide between the Jews and Gentiles.
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—
As a people today we don’t understand this conflict in identifying people as the circumcised and the uncircumcised. If people are fighting over this today we may look at them with an odd amusement but ultimately see these people as weird. But to the Jews association with Gentiles meant to become “unclean”.
28Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.
Paul understands only too well the great divide between the Jews and Gentiles and how to bring these two groups into unity. Jewish Christians had often been against accepting Gentiles into the church except if they came through the ceremonial law of Judaism.
Examples of this conflict: Acts 15:1, Galatians 2: 11-16, Galatians 5: 1-6
1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."
We see Paul rebuke Peter on this issue:
Galatians 2: 11-16
11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
R How do we not admit others into our church unless they conform to our standards & laws?
In the letters to the Romans, Corinthians and Galatians this issue was brought up, even after the Synod of Jerusalem declared that Gentiles did not have to uphold the Judaic law.
Galatians 5: 1-6
1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
R How do we try to justify ourselves in front of others?
The Jews possessed only the sign of God not the thing that it signified. They were circumcised in “the flesh” not “in their hearts”.
15"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
R What outward signs of being “a Christian” have we created?
Remembering our Past Separation
12that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
(1) Christ-less: “without Christ”
We had not atonement for our sinful state.
(2) Stateless: “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”
R Who now is Israel according to the New Testament?
(3) Friendless: “strangers to the covenants of promise”
When we cease to be “strangers and aliens” to the commonwealth of Israel, we become “strangers and pilgrims” to this world. When we find a new identity in Jesus Christ, our old identification with the world rightly changes. As Christ was hated and rejected by the world, so will those who identify with Him (see Hebrews 11:13-17, 32-40; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11-17; 4:12-19).
(4) Hopeless: “having no hope”
Hope is the knowledge of God’s promise plus confidence with respect to its fulfillment.
(5) Godless: “without God”
Worshipping the created not the creator.
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
It should be of no surprise to us why there is so much trouble in this world, between individuals, families, social or political groups, is because each of the parties involved have not found each other at the Cross, which reconciles us.
Sin is the great separator between people. When we sin we often remove ourselves from community.
R Without God, how does the world try to reconcile to one another? Rich/poor, black/white, opposing religions?
R What can we do as a church to deal with sin even if this sin is against you? How does scripture suggest we confront these problems so that we are reconciled?
Only when we have reconciled to God through Christ action on the cross, can we be truly reconciled to one another. For a world torn apart in chaos, the gospel is the only answer.
Verse 14 tells us Christ broke down this wall between us. We are now:
(a) reconciled as one body – or church.
18For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
We are a family of God. This word “household” is family and is only used two other times in Scripture.
10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
1 Timothy 5:8
8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
R Do you feel like Kaleo is your family?
Since we are reconciled to one another we need to be a family together, living as examples of Christ conquering of sin & death on the cross.
(b) reconciled with God. (Verse 14 show us the Trinity)
2 Corinthians 5:20
20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Building the Kingdom
20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
First, Christ is the cornerstone upon which God’s entire Kingdom relies upon.
1 Corinthians 3:10-14
10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
Second, we are building on a foundation of people who have gone before us.
Third, we are to continue the work God gave His people to build His Kingdom.
Lastly, what we build will be tested by God.
God’s Temple Being Built (Quality/Quantity)
21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Growth is increasing, enlarging and maturing. God’s Kingdom is continuously growing. The emphasis is on the quantity and size. But Paul also speaks of it as “Holy” speaking about the quality.
Some of the practices of contemporary church growth fail to meet the standards of the gospel. Some of church growth theology is rooted in secular theory and practice. Thus, “homogeneous” church congregations are the ideal. “Birds of a feather flock together,” we are told, and thus churches grow faster which cater to a particular segment of society. In so doing the principle laid down in Ephesians 2 is denied and violated. Paul seemed to hold the same point of view, because he strongly rebuked those in the Galatian church who hypocritically associated with the Jewish saints, to the exclusion of the Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-21). He saw this as a denial of the gospel.
R How can we pursue holiness?
The ultimate end of Christ joining together the Jew & Gentile into a single holy temple is that they might become a dwelling place of God. Believers are an invisible temple and Body in which God the Holy Spirit dwells.