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Christ died to sin, and since followers of Christ have identified with Him, we have also died to sin. But does this mean that we no longer sin? No, it means rather that we have the choice not to sin because we are no longer mastered by it. We should be asking other followers of Christ what they see in our lives and allow the Spirit to transform us when needed.
Believed the Truth? Received the Life? Then Walk in the Way.
Getting a Grip on What it Means to Love God
Believe What He Has Done, Be Living Like He Has Done It
The Blueprint of the Church, part 2
The Blueprint of the Church, part 1
A Reasonable and Right Response to His Radical, Redemptive Love
The Divine Dimension of Love
The Breadth, Depth, Width and Height of Puppy Love
A Suffering Steward in a Cell: What was True of Paul Ought to be True of Us
Things into Which Angels Long to Look
Father, thank you for your Word, which you've given to us. Thank you for minds that you've given us to think, so we don't commit intellectual suicide when we become believing people, and that you've given us a faith that goes with reason. We thank you that you're a God worthy of worship, even as we've just modeled, that our faith goes beyond reason. So we ascribe to you greatness and honor and glory. We thank you, Father, that you have not made it go against reason, that everything we can check and everything we can scrutinize, we find your Word to be true and sure.
Thank you for that great confidence, that gift, that you have given us. May we now pay attention to it, and not only for the sake of increasing in knowledge, but to increase in relationship with you, and to be reminded of the great and good things which you have done for us that we might respond properly. In Christ's name, amen.
Turn with me to John 17. I want to read to you a prayer lifted up by the one we just got through singing so much about, our Lord. What we're going to look at tonight is (really in Ephesians 2:11-22) an answer to this text. Look at verse 13 with me. This is when Christ is in Gethsemane. He's about to go and endure the cross. He's about to go and be falsely and inappropriately accused, tried, beaten, scoffed at, spit upon, raised up, staked to a tree, and killed.
As he approaches this coming death, though, his mind is not on what he is about to endure. His mind is on those who would come after him who would follow his words and would follow his hope and his teachings, and in doing that, would be hated even as he was. So this is the prayer that he has for us. We're going to look at his prayer, and then we're going to see how God has honored his prayer as the Father does completely what the Son asks. Look at verse 13 in chapter 17. It says,
"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them [speaking of the Twelve] into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself [make myself right with you] that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word…"
That is you and me. That is the High Priestly Prayer of Christ. He prays not only for the Twelve and the 70 and the multitude that he had sent out, but he prays for those who might come to believe through him. This is where Christ first intercedes for us. We know he continues to do that as our mediator before the throne.
Look at verse 21. Here's his final prayer. "…that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." What in the world is he saying right there? He's saying, "I pray you would take these self-centered people, these folks who are acting contrary to how we first and initially designed them to act."
If you remember, there was not always disunity and discord and self-centeredness in this world. When God first introduced creation, there was perfect harmony. It was good. In fact, when he created male and female, he said, "It was very good." There was love and fellowship between man and woman and between man and God and between woman and God and between God and man and God and woman.
As a result of something called sin being introduced into the world, there became alienation between us and God and between us and each other. So what formerly had been multiplicity, plurality, and dwelling in unity became multiplicity, plurality, and dwelling in conflict. There was no longer harmony amongst many. It had become divisive; it had become self-promoting; it had become self-concerned. In other words, self-centered.
See, what God intended for us to do and part of what he wanted us to have in creating us in his image (that means a whole lot) was that we would be concerned for that which he put us over and that which he put us near, even as he was. In the way that we rule over the earth that he has put us as vice-regents on to rule over in submission to him, and as we care for it…not abuse it, not suppress it, but as we serve it, till the land, and work it so it would become full and produce all that it intended to…we would become a picture of him even as he's concerned for his creation.
That he would sacrifice one for another, even as he has sacrificed one for us that he might meet our needs. But sin comes into the world, and that has alienated us from two things. It has alienated us from God, and it has alienated us from each other. You will see as a result of us choosing by the beckoning of the Evil One to rebel against God's intended purpose, which is multiplicity, plurality, and dwelling in unity…
If you will, that is a picture of what Jesus is saying right there when he says, "They would dwell together. They would be as one even as we are one, I in you and you in me." It scrambles our brains to understand the Trinity. I cannot explain it to you any better than this. There is one God who is three persons who are subordinate in the way that they relate to each other, but they are all one, all equal, eternal, and powerful (all God). It is multiplicity and plurality dwelling in unity.
Jesus says, "God, I pray now that through this sacrifice I'm about to offer, this perfect sacrifice, that you would reinstate…in fact, make it even better than it originally was…and as a result of us taking away the effects of sin, that you would then allow people to see that I indeed am who I claim to be."
Ultimately, what Christ is saying here is that people would begin to love one another in such a way that just makes people shake their heads and go, "You're not like everybody else. You are not self-centered, self-concerned, and self-promoting. You are others-centered and self-sacrificial. You are a servant to others. You are not concerned with protecting self because you have a confidence somebody else is caring for you."
Let's go back to the garden to think about when Adam and Eve sinned for the first time. Before that, they were naked and unashamed. I think one of the reasons they were naked and unashamed is not because they had a seared conscious, but because there was no sin that was ruling over them. They had the capacity to sin, but they had not yet chosen to. They were concerned with what God had asked them to do and being faithful to him. Part of that included loving one another.
God created man to go and dwell in the land and develop it, if you will…to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. As a result of sin (you'll see this happening and affecting marriages and relationships), men no longer come to dwell and develop. We now come to dominate and desert. Woman, on the other hand, God created initially to compliment and to complete and to encourage.
As a result of sin, women no longer complete; they now compete. They no longer encourage. Now they condone. A woman will either compete against man and try and take part of what God intended man to do, or she will let man rule over her in a way that is not proper, allow us to hurt her, if you will, because she doesn't want to lose what she has come to love, that her desire says would be for us.
What God does though…we're going to get to this and spend a whole week on it in Ephesians 5…after he gets all your doctrines straight and takes care of the alienation that's between us and him and us and each other is he says, "Now you have to hope we can take away the effects of the fall, that men no longer have to be dominators and deserters. You can go back again, men, and in your marriages and in your relationship you could be dwellers and developers where you go, and you do indeed cultivate and cherish and honor.
Woman, you don't need to be concerned anymore. You don't need to compete because you have an ugly, self-centered man over you. You can now compliment. Also, because you're not scared of losing him because you're secure in Christ, you can now confront sin, expose it when it exists there because you love him and are not controlled by the desire to keep him near you."
When you see a Christian marriage or when you see a Christian friendship operating like that, it makes people cock their heads. You don't see it a lot, but when you do see it, it's a beautiful thing, and it gives honor and glory to God. What happened with Adam and Eve is they were having a right relationship with each other, they were dwelling, they were developing, they were completing, and they were encouraging toward each other. Then sin entered the world, and instead of being focused on the other one, I believe they became self-centered beings instead of others-centered beings.
Like most of us, we don't like the way we look, and are concerned that we would not be ashamed before another. As we look at ourselves in our nakedness, we hide. That exactly what Adam and Eve did. God intended for us to be in unity with each other. But we then ran and hid, and we covered ourselves because we were ashamed in our nakedness.
What God did, you'll see from the very beginning in Genesis 3, is a picture of what he will one day do through this man who is praying in John 17. It says, "He covered them with skins. He gave them clothes to wear." He took an innocent animal that was hopping through Eden that day, as every day before. God said, "Hey, come here for a second. Let's step behind this bush. Let me slit your throat."
Cute little Bambi who had done nothing wrong except prance around to eat, and God said, "Listen, I intended to do with man what I said I would do with man. I will reinstate him to where he would be, but innocent blood must be shed now to cover his sin." Right away, you see a blood sacrifice that is made. Innocent blood is shed to cover the nakedness and sin that man had introduced into this world, and alienation now exists between us and our God and us and man.
You have a story beginning in Genesis 3 that finds its culmination only in Jesus Christ. We are a picture of, one day, what will happen for eternity that the Bible says will ultimately find its culmination in history in Revelation 19 and 20 when all the world can see it in him and not just in us. Until then, we're to be a people, a picture, of the reconciliation that happened between us and God and between us and each other.
Jesus prayed, "Father, I would ask that you would take these self-centered people and that through my model and my provision and sacrifice they will no longer have sin reign over them as master because I've paid the wages of sin. By faith, they will identify with me in death, and because they are now dead to sin, they can live again in newness of life, even as you'll raise me from the dead. You will then give them the power of the resurrection to choose life over death and obedience over sin. In doing that, that they would love and not hate."
He says the way they'll do that, the euphemism he uses in verse 21, is "…that they may all be one…" **and that unity you and I intended from the beginning would be reinstated."…even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You…"** This shows multiplicity and dwelling in unity. That ought to be the mark of a New Testament church.
It is not speaking in tongues; it is not healings; it is not miracles. It is love. That is the mark of a Christian. It is not love that is profitable. It is love that is self-sacrificing; it is love that is painful; it is love that takes into concern, "How can I, as one who sees you as a valuable person made in the image of God, come before and encourage?"
Flip with me to Ephesians because what the apostle is going to do here and what we want to take a look at beginning in verse 11 is this story. When you get to verse 11, you see the word, therefore. That word, therefore, throws you back to the first 10 verses. What he's saying is the Christian is the workmanship of God.
Do you remember he took and he made something out of nothing? He took one who was a slave, and he made him free. He took one who was in the graveyard of sin and exalted him to the throne room of heaven. He's saying, "You are God's workmanship." He took chaos and brought in order and his masterpiece, and someone who God has brought a great deal of care, concern, focus, and attention on.
It says, "He has made you for good works." Part of this works you're going to see which he prepared beforehand is that we should be one and we should be loved. It is evidence of the fact that he has made us new again. So it says, "Therefore remember…" We're told to forget a lot of things in Scripture, but specifically, here we're told to remember this. As it says in verses 1 through 10, "Remember how he took care of the alienation that existed between you and God." If you will, let me do this.
What he does here is he brackets one truth with one another truth. The one truth he brackets is that we should love one another. This is how it's going to be possible. He puts parentheses around that with, "God has made you new again." He has taken away the dividing wall between you and him and, therefore, through that, he can take away the dividing wall between you and another man.
He says, "Once you get the vertical right with me and you understand who I am and how I can reinstate you, that you will model the Master and you will pray for enemies, that you will not take into account a wrong suffering, even as I did, that you will be a missionary going out to those who have offended you and you will reconcile, you will do as I did because you are my people and you'll have my heart. I went to you and made our alienated relationship into one again through my own sacrifice and blood. You now do the same one with another."
He starts with that in verses 1through 10 and will end with that in verses 19 through 22. In the middle, verses 11 through 18, he's going to say, "This how it should change the two of you." He's going to take care of both alienations that happen in Genesis 3. Paul describes them right here in Ephesians 2. He says, "Therefore remember that formerly you…" If you have your Bible, circle the words, "…formerly you…" Drop down to verse 13 where it says, "But now…" Circle that. Then drop all the way down there to verse 19 and circle these two words. "So then…"
There is an outline of the argument we are to follow as a result of what we remember of what God did through that man who bowed in the garden and prayed for you and me and then went to the cross for you and me. He says, "Remember what he did. He took you who were formally dead and made you alive. He took you who were formally far off and brought you near. So then, you do that with one another. Remember."
Now, know this. Paul is writing here to the Gentiles. This is, in effect, our family album. If you are one who is not from a physical descendant of Abraham, or if you are not able to trace yourself back to a Jewish heritage… I'm not sure many of us in here are. I see a lot of blond hair out there. I see some Asian and see some Indian. I don't see many men or women of color. There's Marsh, my brother. I'm glad you're here tonight.
We're going to talk about how God takes all these things, and he makes us one. This is all of our family histories, except for the Jew, that he's going to focus on here in Ephesians 2. This is what he says. He says, "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh…"
I don't care how long your family has been believers. Some of you have great-grandfathers and great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers who were believers in Jesus Christ. You can trace every single one of our heritage back far enough, and you will come to the fact that we are a vile, despicable, rebellious, unholy people. Every single one of us has murderers, gluttons, drunkards, or idolaters in our history. There is not a person in this room, that if you trace your family tree back far enough, doesn't have poison at the roots.
That's exactly what Paul is writing here. "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called 'Uncircumcision' by the so-called 'Circumcision,' which is performed in the flesh by human hands…" Right away what he's going to do is say, "Those of you who were Gentiles, who were called uncircumcision [that was a derogatory name the Jews would use for everybody who was not of the Jewish nation]…"
He says, "You're called 'Uncircumcision' by the 'Circumcision,'' but he's going to say, "Let me tell you something about this name-calling. Those people who call themselves 'Circumcision' are people who are considering themselves better than you simply because something was done on the external part of their body by the hands of men." In effect, he's saying right there, "That's external work of men, that deals only with the outside and not with the inside, does not make you right with God." He doesn't expound on it here; he does in Galatians and other places.
That was what was called the sign of the covenant. All people who were descendants of Abraham were circumcised on the eighth day. That was a sign that they were part of the covenant family and the blessings that came to Abraham. As a Jew, because you were circumcised, you were not saved. What that meant, though, was that you had special privileges.
Those special privileges were that you were born into a family that had been given the very Word of God that had been revealed to your descendants specifically: the nature, the will, and the work of God, who he is and how you should worship him, how you should approach him through blood sacrifice, and even the blood sacrifice of a lamb. That was given to all of you. You were told about the nature of God. You were told about his will for your life. So that was your advantage as a Jew.
To a Jew, just simply being circumcised is not enough. Paul is saying right here, "Don't have great confidence in this. If all you do is look at the external works that are on your body, you don't see what those external works are a picture of. They are a picture of what you are part of, which is a covenant community that is in right relationship to God. You must respond to the teachings that have been given to you as one who was part of this family that is made evident by the sign that you have upon your flesh."
It's the same deal with us as Christians. A lot of us sometimes, or in the religious world, think the things we do, the signs that are at the works of our hands, and the external things we do, are what makes us right in God's eyes. We show up in a certain building with a certain structure on top, and we sing hymns, and we're basically kind to one another, and we drop money in a basket that fires by.
He would say, "No, those are external works of men. That does not make you right before me." We've dealt with this. What makes you right before him is not the work which you have done. It's the work which God will do in you that you respond to. If you are born as a Jew, you have great privilege because you were born into a covenant community, and you were born into a group of people who have God's revealed Word. But that does not ensure your salvation. You must respond to it.
We're going to come back to that with a little application. You can imagine what it might be. Look what it says in verse 12. He says, "But that's not you." Verse 12 says, "…remember that you [the Gentiles, all of us] were at that time separate from Christ…" That simply means this. Christ is not a proper name. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which literally means the Anointed One, that you were separate from Christ, that you were not given a hope that was to come, and an Anointed One who, one day, would be a deliverer in your future.
There was no anticipation for you, as a Gentile, that one day there would be somebody who would step in and make the horror right. The Jew always had that hope. To the stoic, history was cyclical. They believed every 3,000 years history repeated itself. The Jew though, in the midst of whatever would happen, knew one day God would come, and he would bring this Messiah, this Anointed One, this hope. He would come, and he would take care of their problems.
There was always an anticipation to the Jew. There was always, if you will, a pot of God at the end of that rainbow, no matter how bad the storm. They looked for it, and they waited for it. You as a Gentile did not have that to look for. You were separate from the Anointed One. You had no idea he was coming, and if he did come, he wasn't coming for you.
Look what else you have. He's going to tell you a couple of things. There's one. I'll tell you what else he says. You are, "…excluded from the commonwealth of Israel…" That simply means they had the book. The difference between you and me is we were not born into a family that could teach us truth. We were born into a family that taught us lies. We were born into a family that taught us deception and error. We were brought into a family that had no revealed word from God, and we were separated from that.
Do you remember last week? We looked at a guy named Naaman, who was Assyrian. When Naaman came to Israel to find healing from Israel's God, one of the things that God put him through was say, "You have to identify yourself with the Israeli people. You have to bathe in their river. You have to do as a Jew does, and that's dip in the Jordan."
In the Old Testament, whenever somebody would come to faith, and there was always provision for it, that person had to identify themselves. It was called, "they were brought near to God," through the Jewish community.They had to identify themselves, often by undergoing circumcision as an outward sign of their faith. They would then become proselytes to the Jewish faith, and they would identify themselves with God's people. It was through God's people that they would find hope.
This brings up a good point right here. People would say, "Wait a minute, Todd. If God wanted unity, why did he choose the Jews and put enmity between the Jews and the Gentiles? It seems like this dispersion, which God was frustrated with, was furthered by God choosing Abraham." I'll tell you this. God chose the Jews for one reason. Grace. He did not choose them because they were great. He did not choose them because they were mighty. He did not choose them because they were good.
Abraham was a wandering, pagan Jew in the desert over there by Baghdad, hanging out. God came to him by grace, and Abraham responded by faith. Abraham went forward, and God made a covenant with him. These people were given a promise. We're going to look at that in just a second.
Those people who were given a promise were given a place of privilege. They were never to use that privilege. Instead of seeing that place of privilege as a great responsibility to be a light to the nations, they saw that they had been given a great favoritism by God. They thought they were somebody who could do what they wanted because they were a holy and better people because they had this revelation that others didn't have.
That was not what God intended. God intended them to be a light to the Gentiles and a hope to the nation. He wanted all the nations of the earth to be blessed through them, and they confused privilege and responsibility with favoritism. It says they developed enmity in their heart for all who were not like them.
To a Jew, you were not able to do a lot of things to a Gentile (one who was not like you). If you went and visited a Gentile at his house, which you probably wouldn't do very often, you'd take your sandals off when you left and were 10 steps out of their house. You would beat your sandals so the unholy dust would not cling to your feet. The Jew said that, basically, the Gentile was created for one reason. The Jew thought the Gentile was created to furnish the furnaces of God, that he might fuel hell for eternity.
The Jew said this, "The best of snakes, if you will, crush things." Meaning that they're not vipers. The best kind of snakes are not vipers that will strike you at your heel. They at least give you a chance. They try and wrap around you. They say, "The best of Gentiles are murders." Did you know as a Jew you were forbidden from helping a Gentile woman in labor who was giving birth and suffering? For you to assist her was to assist one of God's unholy and people of wrath to be introduced in this world. So you would let her sit there and wriggle and waggle and die.
You see, there was great enmity between these people. These people, who had been given a great place of privilege and hope, had confused it with favoritism. They then were disqualified by God for service. So he sent himself that Messiah, the Anointed One, who the Jews looked for. He became a hope to you and me as he came to straighten them out.
Flip with me one place. Look at Romans 9 because this is important for what we're studying. Look what he says about the Jews because there's a great advantage to being a Jew. He says in verse 4, "…Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons…" You and I were not sons. We were aliens and strangers. We were children of wrath, not children of God. What, "…adoption as sons…" basically means is they had what we did not have. Which is what? Access to the Father.
A son can go directly to the Father. You and I can't. Before we came into this relationship that Paul talks about in verses 1 through 10, you and I had to hope that somebody else who knew the Father would introduce us to him and give us access. But that was not so for the Jews. They were sons, and they could go right to the Father.
They had the Father's record, the Father's book, and the Father's history. They knew it personally. They had adoption as sons. They had the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law. They had revelation from God. They knew who he was, the greatness of the God of Israel. They knew the covenants.
We're going to take a look at that. It says they knew about the temple service. What happens at the temple service? A temple is a place that you go to learn about how to reconcile yourself with God. So they had been given all that instruction. The Jews had been given a lot of things. Look back at Romans 2. Let's read this for a second.
Look at verse 17 of Romans 2. Paul simply says this. "But if you bear the name 'Jew' and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law…" In other words, if you take advantage (in verse 18 of chapter 2) of what has been revealed to you, "…and [you] are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth…"
Do you see all those things that had been given to a Jew? To be a Jew meant greatness in every respect. You had been given incredible privilege. But that privilege was never to be confused with favoritism and with hatred towards those who had not been given what you had been given. What was true in the New Testament was true in the Old. To whom much is given, much is expected. Those who do not do much with much that has been given will have much to contend with on that day.
You'll see a parable in Matthew 21. It's called the parable of the vineyard. When the one who owns the vineyard sends his prophets, or his workmen, which are the prophets, ahead of him, time and time again and the people who own the vineyard are killing this guy's workmen who come in order to bring forth the produce that is rightly his from this vineyard.
It says after a while, the owner of the vineyard (meaning God) quit sending his workmen (meaning the prophets), and he sends his son. The workers in the vineyard (meaning the religious leaders, people who have control over the nation of Israel, or the men who have stewardship over the vineyard in the parable) say, "Here comes the son. If we kill the son, then there will be no one left to take over this place, and we ourselves can become the heir."
So Jesus tells this parable that the rulers took this son, and they killed him. They killed the son of the owner of the vineyard. Then Jesus looks at the Pharisees and says, "Let me ask you a question. What will the owner of the vineyard do when he comes to these stewards?" The Pharisees respond, and they say this. "He will tear those wretched wretches to a wretched end."
Jesus says, "That's exactly what he'll do. He'll take away the authority he gave you, and he will give it to another people (singular), another nation (singular) that will be faithful in the stewards with the very Word and revealed truth of God. Somebody who will take the covenants and the truth of God and be faithful with it." That is a reference to you and me, the church.
That's why it's singular. Not too many nations. Not taking away from Israel and giving it to all the other nations of the world but taking it away from Israel and giving it to another nation as of now that we knew nothing about. It is the church. It is a mystery in the Old Testament. It's a mystery because now God is no longer working through these people who he chose by grace in the Old Testament because they have violated their place of privilege.
He's going to sub them out and put in somebody who will be faithful. It is a body that you're about to be introduced to here, and it is the church. You who were formerly separated from Christ, you who formally were not a part of the commonwealth of Israel, you who formally were not born into a family that knew truth, you were born into a family that suppressed truth and unrighteousness.
Look what it says back in Ephesians 2. Look what else you were. You were, "…strangers to the covenants of promise…" Do you know what a covenant is? A covenant is where God swears to a people. He says, "I swear I will do this." You and I had no idea what God had sworn. It says, "…the covenants of promise…"
In Deuteronomy 30, God promises land to a people. In 2 Samuel 7, he promises to the nation of Israel a king. In Jeremiah, he promises them that he would give them a new heart. When you were born into Israel, you were born into a people who had been given the covenants (plural) of promise (singular). The reason that's singular is because it can all be traced back to another promise he made to a Bedouin traveler who was a Jew (eventually). His name was Abraham.
That one promise that appears in Genesis 12:1-3 is the father of all covenants. Every single one of them that comes forth from there, the land promise and the king promise and the new heart promise, are all a result of what God initially promised Abraham. If you were born into Abraham and you were circumcised as a sign of that, then you were born into a nation that had been given a very contract with God, and that was a great blessing.
You and I didn't have that. We had no hope of a land, we had no hope of a king, and we had no hope of a new heart. But you're going to find out what happens. Look what else it says. Not only were you separate from Christ, not only were you excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, not only were you strangers to the covenants of promise, but you were people, "…having no hope…"
The reason we had no hope, like I said, was because we had nothing to go by. We thought that glory led nowhere but to the grave. We thought that all we had was to live for this life. It's like Woody Allen said. I've shared it with you before. Before us stands two roads who still stands separate from Christ. Ironically enough, he's a Jew.
Woody Allen, who is maybe of the circumcision of Abraham but only externally and not of the heart (which is what Jesus was concerned with), says this. This is what it's like to be as we formerly were and as he currently is. As all Jews and as all non-Jews always have been and always will be, they do not respond to the truth that God gave to Israel. He said that before us stands two roads. One leads to hopelessness and despair, the other to destruction and death. I pray we have the courage to choose wisely.
I'll tell you, that is not hope. There is not a lot that is there. Plato in 3 BC simply said we must go through life looking for truth in the best opinions of men as a ship goes through storms until we have a more sure word from God. Did you catch that? One of the brightest men who ever lived, people say. As he was excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, he was a stranger to the promises of God, and he was without hope, he said the best we can do is look for truths in the best opinions of men as a ship struggles through a storm until we receive…what? The more sure word of God.
Guess what Paul says you're about to get? Through the grace of God, you who formerly were far off have been brought near.There are two words that now bring us, and I'm awful glad are in our Bible. It's, "But now." Look what it says. "But now in Christ Jesus…" It is no coincidence that he slips in Jesus after Christ. Christ is a purely Messianic term. Jesus is his common name for all men. There's a reason Christ was up there and no Jesus and that Jesus appears now, I think.
"But now in Christ Jesus (the common man's) you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one…" What are the two groups? The Jew and the Gentile. Look what he says. "… [He] made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…"
Let me explain to you what that means. If you went to Jerusalem, and you would find what is called thedividing wall. It is what separated what was called the court of the Gentilesfrom the court of women. From the court of women, you had the court of Israel. From the court of Israel, you had an inner circle which was the court of Priests, and from the court of Priests, you had yet another inner circle which was the temple proper which is where the Holy Place was. Even inside the Holy Place, you had yet another dividing wall, and it was from the Holy of Holies.
You as a Gentile were not even allowed to go into the court of women. You were not allowed, as a woman, to go into the court, it says, of Israel, which really means the court of the men of Israel. If you were not a Levite, you could not get closer still to God into the court of priests. If you were a priest who was not a high priest, you could not enter from the court of priests into the Holy Place. If you were high priest, you had to be a high priest a certain year and certain part of the year, and you could only go into the Holy Place and Most Holy Place one time a year because you were separated from God.
The dividing wall. If you went over to the temple at the time of Christ and you flew over Jerusalem, and you looked down, you'd see three or four different walls. The last wall that was out there was the wall that was called the soreg. It separated the court of Gentiles from the court of women.
On it, there were signs all the way around it that basically said this. It didn't say "Trespassers will be prosecuted." It said "Trespassers will be executed." If you even stepped inside that from the court of the Gentiles to the court of women and you were found there, you were going to be killed. Paul himself knew this firsthand when he was first put on trial and eventually led him to Rome where he wrote this letter.
One of the reasons he got there is because, in Acts 21, he was accused of taking a Gentile inside that court of women, inside the court of Israel. Interestingly enough, the man he was accused of taking in there was a guy by the name of Trophimus, who was an Ephesian (a Gentile). Now, Paul didn't, but that's what he was accused of. He understood the enmity which was between these people.
Look what it says. He broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. How? "…by abolishing in His flesh the enmity [the hate] …" The hate that's there is the hate that's between a Longhorn and an Aggie, between a mongoose and a cobra, or between a dog and cat. He abolished that hate. Where'd that hate come from? The hate, he says, "…which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances…" That means that Christ came and he abolished what separated you.
When a Jew woke up, the law told them this. How to wake up, what to put on, what kind of cloth your clothing should be made of, how to raise your family, how to treat your wife, how to treat your kids, where to worship, when to worship, how to celebrate, when to plant your crops, what to do with the crops once you harvest them, what to do on a Sabbath day, and what not to do on a Sabbath day.
There were 613 ceremonial laws the Jews had. What to eat, what not to eat, what animals you could tend, and what kind you couldn't. All of these things became a separating barrier between the Jew and the Gentile. Anybody who did not do as the Jew did, the Jews considered as a dog. That was your name. They're not talking about Lassie; they're talking about Cujo. That is not a cute little reminiscent puppy that they want to pet. It is a slobbering, rabid animal when they called you a dog. It's a wild beast that was a threat.
What Christ did is he came and did away with the law. There was no longer going to be a reason for you to be tutored as people. The law, Paul writes in Galatians, was a tutor. What's a tutor do? A tutor teaches. The law that was introduced to Israel was to show them they could not handle the holiness of God. They were people who were in need.
Then he said, "But listen, don't worry because I'm going to meet your need. Here is the way you come and approach me through a blood sacrifice, the blood sacrifice of a lamb, that your sins might be atoned for, that through faith you would believe that I would reconcile yourself to me. As you respond to that in love and are obedient to me in my will and my way, I will prosper you. As I prosper you, and your nation is made great and other nations ask you what the secret is, then you introduce them to me."
The law was given to Israel to tutor them to show them they were not a holy people, and that they fell short of the holiness and glory of God. As a people, they needed a Messiah, one who would come and enable them to be right again with God, a King, who would provide for them. So Christ came, it says, and he did away with that enmity. He did away with the law. He dealt with the need that was there.
Look what it says next. It says he took away the enmity which contained the ordinances. "…so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace…" What he did, is he said, "I'm going to do away with the law now. The law is gone. What is going to be here now is grace. What I'm going to do is deal with the problem a different way.
There's going to be one sacrifice that will take care of all those sacrifices. It'll be a perfect Lamb that is unblemished. When John first saw Jesus, do you remember what he said? "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Jesus says, "I'm that Lamb. I'm that sacrifice. I'm going to go and give myself up, and I will be crucified and buried. Three days later, I'll be raised to show I'm acceptable in God's sight, that the wages of sin no longer exist and that death has been defeated.
So what he says right here is he's going to take those two old men, the Jew and the Gentile, and make one new man. I'll tell you this. Anybody can look it up and figure it out. There are two words in Greek that can be used for new. One is new like you make a new pencil. That is the idea that when I make a new pencil, it is a new pencil but it's not a new creation. There were a thousand pencils before it; there will be a thousand after it. That pencil itself is just new.
There is another word for new, which is like New and Improved Tide. It's like there's never been anything like this before. This is something better. That's the word that's used here. It is a new man. That new man is not a Gentile. He is not a Jew. He is a Christian. He does away with that enmity and that hatred. He says, "You no longer have to worry what your heritage is. You have to worry about this. Are you identified and have you found hope in me?"
You have one new man. This one group is made into one new man, "…thus establishing peace and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." That one body is the church. The one man is a Christian. Look what it says. "AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR [to the Jew who was near and the Gentile who was far away] ; or through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father."
That word for access is a word that was also used in that day for one who served in a royal court, who would be the gentleman who would make the decision as to whether or not you could come before a king. We both have our access. We both have our appointment set up and executed by this Jesus. See, this is an amazing thing that but God, by grace did this for you. You who were formally far off who had no hope.
I'll give you an instance of this. You who was weary, who was near, who had been striving by law to make yourself righteous. You found peace in this Christ. You found rest in him. You, who was a Gentile wandering in the desert, looking for direction, looking for best opinions of men and truth in it, you found rest where? In the revelation of Jesus Christ when he came to you.
Here's a picture in the Old Testament. There was one whose name was Noah, whose name literally means rest. There were people or animals from all over the world. They're sitting around, and Mr. and Mrs. Platypus one day are flopping around in the mud. Mr. Platypus looks up over at Mrs. Platypus and says, "Let's go." She goes, "Where are we going?" He says, "We're going to Noah." She said, "Who's Noah?" He said, "I don't have a clue, but we have to go."
"Where are we going?"
"I don't know. We just have to go because it's going to rain."
"I'm not really sure. We have to go get in a boat."
"What's a boat?"
"I really don't know."
All of a sudden, Mr. and Mrs. Platypus started walking. On the way, they bumped into Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe. There they go. By the way, Noah did not go out and get the animals. The animals were called, and they came to Noah. When they got to Noah, Noah received them. He said, "All you that are weary from your travel and your journeys who need rest, come to me."
These animals who had come to Noah, all different kinds of animals, that normally there is enmity between them, were brought to one whose name meant rest, and they were lifted up by the grace and provision of God and delivered from judgment. In that ark of hope, there was one voice that was lifted up and one voice that was given praise. It was Noah's. There was one salvation among them. It was Noah. All those people were brought together, and there was a common bond. So they did not devour each other because of Noah.
It's a picture of you and me. We are a new man, and we are no longer in enmity with one another. Why? Because we have a common bond, a common Savior. It is Jesus Christ. So I no longer hate you. It is no longer the Jew and the Gentile.
Paul is sitting there having quiet time, and he looks over at Trophimus. He doesn't say, "Hey, dawg. What are you doing over there?" He says, "Hey brother in Christ, the one who has one hope even as I do, who has found rest where I've found rest, and who has dealt with all the enmity between us. I was striving by the law to be made righteous, and I knew I couldn't do it, and I found one who met me in my area of greatest need."
Trophimus would say, "I'm reading about one that in my wanderings out in the desert without hope that was suppressing all truth that had been given to me that God made one man come who offered to me hope and reconciliation that was so obvious that I could do nothing but respond to the call he put on my life when I saw and heard what he did."
It was the same man. Now, you no longer have a Jew; you have a Christian. You no longer have a Gentile; you have a Christian. You no longer have a people who are part of a nation; you have a people who are part of new citizenship, who are part of God's household. That's what it says in verse 19. Read. Formerly you were like this, but God did this. He brought you near through Jesus.
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints…" Did you catch that? You're no longer outside of God's Kingdom, but you're now brought near. You are citizens of the Kingdom of God. You're no longer an American. I'm a citizen of the United States of America second, and I'm a citizen of the kingdom of God first and foremost.
I cannot forget that, right now, I have dual citizenship, and I have responsibilities here, and God calls me to be faithful to them. But I am now a citizen of God's household. Even as my brother in Cameroon or in Baghdad is who trusts in Jesus Christ. Look what else I am.
It says I'm not only a citizen of the kingdom of God, but it says I am of God's household. I am now his son. I can go directly to the Father. I don't have to go through Saint Francis. I don't have to go through Mary. I can go right through the Son to the Father because I too am a son, co-heir with Jesus Christ. I need no other. I can go right to him. I'm his son.
It says, "…in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord…" What is the temple? Again, it's the place that you go for enlightenment and reconciliation. All of us, as we come together, and we love each other, and we fulfill the commandment of Christ, there is no longer circumcision or uncircumcision.
There is no longer Gentile and Jew. There is no longer barbarian and Scythian. There is no longer slave and free man. There is no longer black and white. There is no longer male and female. It is all one. There is no longer Arab and white man and Indian. We are all one in Jesus Christ. The way that we love each other in and through that alone ought to be the mark that we are sharing a common Savior on a common ark that God has lifted up to save us from judgment.
There are brothers out there who are very different than me, who look different and eat differently. My idea is not to conform them to me (the white man). My idea is to conform them to Jesus Christ, to the one man who made me a new man and who is my hope. There can be zero racism in the body of God. There can serious problems when you have intolerance with somebody who trusts in Jesus Christ simply because they look different, eat different, act different, smell different, walk different, or talk differently than you.
Any denominationalism, any racism, or any elitism is a mockery of what Jesus Christ did for us. He says, "You model me, and what I did is I went, and I sought reconciliation." If you have a problem with somebody in this body, then you better reconcile.
If you're a husband and you're a wife, and you start to isolate yourself, it's double jeopardy. As a Christian, you have a responsibility to be a minister of reconciliation. As a husband and as a wife who gets married and takes on the very picture of God in what the marriage covenant means, you're violating his desire and will for you in two areas. That's why divorce is such a serious thing. That's why he says he hates it.
I know some of you out there have experienced that, and you're already on the backside of it. I will tell you that God is calling you to do all you can to reconcile. When that becomes an impossibility through either death or the remarriage of your previous spouse, then you have to go forward. Until then, you go through great sacrifice to reconcile because that's what he did, and you are his people with his heart. One who would go to great lengths to reconcile others, even death, expects no less from us.
Do you understand what's comfortable to us may not concern God as much as what's glorifying to him? It's uncomfortable for us to worship differently than maybe we're used to worshiping, but there's a need to do that sometimes. It's uncomfortable for us to reach out across a culture we're not familiar with, but we do that for love's sake.
Our doctrinal statement…we're clear in our doctrine, and I think we should be…simply says this. We will ultimately hold to it, and in a very few areas are we going to be divisive. Of those areas, I would personally say one is on the work and deity and sole sufficiency of Jesus Christ. The person of God (that he is three in one) is another. I would say, on the inerrancy and authority of God's word is another.
After that, everything else in our doctrinal statement that I hold to and believe in should not separate me from a brother. I should bring them in. I should do all I can to reconcile with them and worship with them because they are for the same Savior I'm for. In the essentials for our doctrinal statement: unity. I think I just listed them. In the nonessentials: understanding.
I have a very firm eschatology. I have a very firm idea of what the use of the gifts are. I have a very firm idea of what God meant when he spoke to the nation of Israel and what he's doing with the church. Those to me, ultimately, will become nonessential.
I want to know who do you believe Jesus is and how sufficient is he for your life? I want to know who you believe God is and how he's revealed himself to us. I want to know what you think about his Word. Is it spoken to us perfectly, and can we rely on it as the authority in our life? I would say in the essentials unity and the nonessentials understanding and in all things charity and all things love.
It says simply this as we end. "In whom the whole building being fitted together as growing into a holy temple in the Lord where you go to find reconciliation and enlightenment about God." That should be here. "…in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." Guess where God is today? He's where he's always been. He is in the temple dwelling with his people, and the temple today is here.
What did God promise the Jew in his covenants? He promised to give them a land, a king, and a new heart. What has he promised you? A land. Where's our land? It's coming. It's a new heaven and a new earth. Who's our King? It's coming. It's Jesus Christ. He will return. What about the new heart? You have it. The old is gone. The new has come. He's taken away your heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh.
You who formerly were unfamiliar with the covenants of promise, who were outside of the commonwealth of Israel, who were children of wrath, have been brought near. Should we do no less than he has done? Do you see why strife and divisions among us are so intolerable and why hatred is so unacceptable? Do you see why love really is important?
I'll tell you what. The Word of God must first be pure and then peaceable. Paul's not saying this is just some hunky-dory love. This is a love that is based on truth. That truth, having been revealed, that Jesus being lifted up, and us having looked to him and saying, "He is our Savior. He is our King. We must come to him and hold to him and sing praises to him alone." Let's pray.
Father, we look here at your Scripture, and we see the very prayer of our Noah, the one who has given us rest. We see that it was his desire that we would be one even as Christ is one, and the Son is one with the Father, and the Spirit is one with the Son, and the three are one together.
Us, in this room, who in many ways are so different, from different heritages, different cultures, who look different, who talk different, that we would love each other, that we would take care to serve each other to reconcile when there are difficulties between us. It's always our responsibility to model what you have done. I pray that you would help us.
I pray that you would motivate us by helping us remember what you have done for us. Therefore, remember that God, by grace, has brought us near, so then let us love one another. Father, we do pray that you would enable us to not grow weary in doing good. For we do believe we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we still have the opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
To those who are not, to those who are our enemies, to those who hurt us, we thank you, Father, that you have given us the ability to stand against them and to not allow them to sin but to expose it. But having done that, I pray to not hate them because they do not have the enlightenment that we have. To those of us who have the privilege now of having God's Word, that we wouldn't scoff at them as the Jew did to the Gentile, that you would not find us wanting so you have to sub us out and sub somebody else who is faithful in.
I pray that you would say, "There is my faithful servant that now is bringing forth fruit in my vineyard. There are my people who love each other, who love my creation, and seek to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." We thank you, Father, that that is possible. I pray that you would motivate us to love, not because it's easy, not even because it's fun, but because it's what you have done for us. So then we must respond in like manner.
We thank you that you can use us as ministers of reconciliation. I pray you help each of us be convicted about how we can stand with a brother who we're uncomfortable with. Pray that you bring to mind right now faces that we don't want to reconcile with and humble ourselves with, that if we need to go to, maybe, a husband with a wife, that you would burn that into our minds and our hearts now, and we would go forward in obedience as evidence that you have indeed made us your workmanship. In Jesus' name, amen.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 3:1 through Ephesians 4:32.