Adapted from a Jim Black sermonhttp://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly.asp? ContributorID=&SermonID=54536
Ephesians 2:11 NET Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh — who are called "uncircumcision" by the so-called "circumcision" that is performedon the body by human hands — 12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship 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 used tobe far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition,the hostility, 15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees.
He did this to create in himself one newman out of two, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to Godthrough the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preachedpeace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of Godshousehold, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holytemple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Jesus has brought peace; destroying thewalls between us and making his people ONE in him. Christians are encouraged with the message of reconciliation in Jesus, vertically (with God) and horizontally (with fellow mankind.)
They don‟t have cows anymore that mightstray onto the other‟s property! Just trees.So why is the wall there? Hasn‟t the time come that its purpose no longer exists? Yet, it remains . . . why? Because it‟s always been there?
The truth is, it‟s human nature to construct walls, isn‟t it? In our neighborhoods, webuild our houses and then hold up inside ofthem rarely venturing out to get to know our neighbors. I mean really get to know them. In society in general, we construct walls. There are the walls which still divide black and white even 149 years after The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in America.
There are walls which divide gender, menand women; there are walls of social status,the divide of affluent and the poor. Walls are all around us! And for many, perhaps they help us feel comfortable, protected, unchallenged. Surely that‟s how it was for1st century Gentiles to whom Paul is writing his letter of Ephesians! We see in todays text this divide between Jew & Gentile!
Ephesians is about the church. Paul is writing it to the saints who make up thechurch at Ephesus to be circulated amongother area churches to show them how tobe the church! He will concentrate later onsome of the moral implications of being in Christ.
He has emphasized the blessings that are found in Christ, the power that is found inChrist; & he has reminded these Christians from whence they came, “you were dead…in your sins.” (Eph 2:1) But ALL ofTHIS has been to show the church how to be the church! God is about building His church! But, as any good construction worker can tell you, before you can build, some things have to go!
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh — who are called "uncircumcision" by the so-called"circumcision" that is performed on the bodyby human hands — 12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated fromthe citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Paul starts out this passage by saying, “Remember the WALL!” Paul is talking to Gentiles, here, (like us) "uncircumcision" was a typical &disrespectful term used by the Jews (“The Chosen”) "circumcision" to describe theGentiles. They were heathens, clearly NOT the people of God! It would be hard to adequately describe in today‟s terms thedisdain that Jews had for Gentiles (& vice versa- no doubt).
As wide as the divide has been between whites & blacks in America– I don‟t thinkthat quite does it justice. As bitter the divide right now between some fundamentalist Moslems and Christians – that‟s not the same thing either! The divide was racial- but extended far beyond race. It waspolitical- but extended far beyond politics. It was religious- but extended far beyond religion.
Josephus the Jewish historian wrote about the warning signs that were on the barrierthat separated the court of the gentiles from the other courts in the Temple. Not until recent times did archaeologists actuallydiscover one. Its seven-line inscription read as follows: Here‟s a picture of an actual stone the warning was written on.
This was a serious divide! Imagine howdifficult it must have been for either group to extend the other the right hand of fellowship! But remember, Paul is talking to Gentile CHRISTIANS! They were Gentiles in theflesh but they were now Christians and now a part of the church at Ephesus. Paul tells them to remember when they were separated from God!
Remember when that wall had separatedthem from God! Separation from Christ/Godis the very definition of spiritual death! They were excluded from citizenship amongGod‟s chosen people; „foreigners,‟ strangers to the covenant, the promise of God. They were without HOPE because they were without God!
Why does Paul want them to remember?Because a person needs to remember „how bad it was before Christ‟ before they can appreciate „how sweet it is in Christ.‟ There was this bitter wall which hadseparated them (not just from the Jews) but from God!
In 1949, following the defeat of NaziGermany in WW II and the re-organization of Europe, the nation of Germany was divided into East & West. In the East acommunist government was set up under the influence of the Soviet Union. In theWest a free, democratic government was set up and benefitted greatly from the Marshall Plan & the economics of free enterprise.
Life became much better in the West forGerman citizens. The city of Berlin becamea crucible where these divided philosophies would literally divide the city. Fearful of losing many of its citizens, East Germanyclosed the border between the two states in 1952.
But that didn‟t keep an estimated 2.5 million East Germans from fleeing to WestGermany between 1949 -1961. So, in 1961 the East German government built the Berlin Wall and strictly enforcing such defections. The wall stood for almost 30 years as a very real and symbolic divide between the East & the West.
When you hear those words do you recallimages just a few years later when the wallwas quite literally torn down? In Novemberof 1987, the East German government held a press conference and lifted travel restrictions between the two Germanys. And Germans (both from the East & the West) scaled the wall and danced incelebration! Today nothing of it remains in a united Germany. The wall is just gone, a thing of the past.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used tobe far away have been brought near by theblood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility,
15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through thecross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18 so that through him weboth have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Christ has torn down the wall that had divided for so long! We typically think of„Peace‟ as the absence of war; especially inour time when that peace is threatened and the issue of war is a reality.
When I think of „peace‟ my mind conjuresup images of those who were protesting the war in the 60‟s who created their own sub- culture and came to be known as „peaceniks‟. That‟s NOT the kind of peacethat Paul is talking about here! Peace is not JUST the absence of hostility, it is much more!
It has its roots in the Old Testament concept of “shalom”, a fundamental Jewish concept even today. Shalom is a much more comprehensive term for salvation and life with God. It means wholeness, completeness, well-being, prosperity. In other words: Shalom is the way things SHOULD be; the ideal!
The webbing together of God, humans, andall creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom.We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalommeans universal flourishing, wholeness and delight –
a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savioropens doors and welcomes the creatures inwhom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.(Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, Cornelius Plantinga)
Christ has restored the ideal by destroying the wall and bringing Jew & Gentiletogether! Notice, the two are made one in Him! “He did this to create in himself onenew man out of two, thus making peace.” The Gentiles who had been so far away from God, separated by so much, have been brought near!
Israel, too, who had been awaiting this coming Messiah, but had failed him miserably in their keeping of the law.Reconciliation happens thru the blood ofChrist, what God has done in Christ. Paul makes it known, all of this happens INCHRIST! We were walled away from God and Christ tore down that wall!
Notice the fullness of the Godhead in vs. 18– what happens as a result of this reconciliation. through him [Christ] we both have access in oneSpirit to the Father. With the barriers gone,we ALL (Jew, Gentile, male, female, black, white, etc.) have full access to the Father,through him [Christ] because we share the one Spirit. FATHER-SON-SPIRIT
19 So then you are no longer foreignersand noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of Godshousehold, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being builttogether into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.As we said, in order to build, one must tear down first. Now, with the wall torn down,God has built his church; the house of God.Notice who is in this house. “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of Gods household.”
In other words, we‟re FAMILY! An amazingthing happened when Christ removed that barrier between us and Himself! He also tore down the barriers that we build between ourselves and other people!His church is to be a place where all people can come and share together, equally!
Galatians 3:28 NET There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The ground at the cross is level! This „peace‟; the restored relationship; is bothVertical & Horizontal! Between us and God; between you and me! Too many people believe that religion is only what a person does when they are alone with God.
They forget that the vertical relationship with God expresses itself in the horizontal relationships with people. Christianity is to be lived out in community with other Christians!The text did NOT say, “He is my peace,” but rather “He is our peace.”
This house seems to be on pretty solid footing “..built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” As the foundation sustains the building, so the word of God, declared by the apostles and prophets, sustains the faith of all believers. God laidthe foundation by them; but Christ himself is the chief corner (Wesley)
2 Corinthians 5:17 NET So then, if anyoneis in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away — look, what is new hascome! 18 And all these things are from Godwho reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, notcounting peoples trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though Godwere making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christs behalf, "Be reconciled to God!"
The message: Reconciliation– “The Wall has come down!” The messengers: the ambassadors like Paul to whom this message had been committed. But the Cornerstone is Jesus Christ,himself! He is the most important stone inTHIS building! The Cornerstone in ancient buildings were the primary load-bearing stones that determined how solid the building was going to be.
It set the plumb-line (so to speak) for the rest of the building. God‟s church would be built upon the ROCK: Jesus Christ, himself! Matthew 16:13 NET When Jesus came tothe area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked hisdisciples, "Who do people say that the Sonof Man is?" 14 They answered, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 He said to them, "But who do you saythat I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "Youare the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17And Jesus answered him, "You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but myFather in heaven! 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
He sets the standard for the church, the world doesn‟t.He sets the agenda for the church, the world doesn‟t. In fact, the Christiancommunity has no other reason to exist other than Christ himself.
What does this message have to say to us? The only thing Paul tells us to DO in this text is REMEMBER.11a Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh If this is God‟s Word to His church, what does this have to say to the walls that we erect? Among Christians, what walls existamong us? Are there still walls which divide the affluent & the poor? The black & the white?
What about less obvious walls like between the old & the young; or the long-timer members vs. the new comers? Are wedoing everything we can to be welcoming of EVERYBODY? Does everybody find a comfortable place within our family? Who are we walling in or out . . . even unintentionally & unknowingly?
If this is God‟s Word to His church, whatdoes this have to say about our foundation?Who or What is this church founded upon? What is our cornerstone? Is it Jesus Christor ourselves? Our own works or abilities? If tomorrow the very foundations of thiscongregation were shaken to the very core and everything changed...
If all of a sudden the government told us that it would be illegal to worship our God and our building was burned down in front of us...if our church leaders were arrested and hauled off to prison...what would be left? Could this church survive being shaken to the very core? I know that it would if it is built upon the chief cornerstone: Jesus Christ! But if it‟s justbuilt upon men, -even elders & deacons, orpreachers- or programs, or traditions– what would happen?
This text is a call for the church to be the CHURCH! TO BE: *family! *A place of reconciliation!*A place where the walls are let down and open & honest, real relationships are formed! *A place where Jesus is central & at the heart & core of everything we do!
And it‟s a call for US to be the type ofChristians that can form a church such as this! The invitation of Jesus is offered to you today. It‟s an invitation that is ALWAYS open!
Have you had the dividing wall between you and God broken down? Have youcommitted your life to Jesus Christ who SO wants to destroy that wall for you? Have you turned from the sins of your past, named Him as the Lord of your life and committed your life to Him by being baptized into Christ, having your sinswashed away? If not, let us encourage you to do so today!