Dakota Community Church
October 16, 2011
Unity of the Body - 1
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
To this point in the letter to the Ephesians Paul has been defining the gospel, clarifying exactly what it is and what it is not. He will continue to add reminders – to keep the gospel central throughout the rest of the writing but now he begins to put meat on the bones.
What do business relationships look like in light of this gospel?
What does marriage look like in light of the gospel?
How do parents and children interact with each other in light of the gospel?
First though; beginning in the verses above, Paul starts to describe how we relate to each other believer to believer. Paul starts now – in light of the gospel – to describe the Church, to lay down the pattern of behavior for the Body of Christ.
To do this he begins by reminding the Ephesians of the way things used to be:
…at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
In order to reveal the miracle of unity that exists in Christ, Paul lays down the harsh reality of how divided the fall has left us.
He doesn’t want the Ephesians (or us) to miss the weight of this thing.
He doesn’t want a “no big deal” attitude to arise where the unity of the Body is concerned.
In an old Peanuts cartoon Lucy says to Charlie Brown, "I would have made a great evangelist." Charlie Brown answers, "Is that so?" She says, "Yes, I convinced that boy in front of me in school that my religion is better than his religion." Charlie Brown asked, "Well, how did you do that?" And Lucy answers, "I hit him over the head with my lunch box." (Convinced against his will…)
Then there’s the man who was rescued after being stranded all alone on the deserted island. His rescuers asked him what the three structures were that he had built on the island. He said one was his house, one was his church, and one was the church he used to go to.
There are so many things that threaten and sometimes destroy unity within the Body of Christ and Paul wants us to know that in light of this great gospel these things should not be.
Jesus has paid a great price to make us one body.
Consider where we come from and realize what God has done to unite us.
1. Divided by circumcision
…remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) Eph. 2:11
The Jews had great contempt for the Gentiles, and considered them fuel for the fires of hell.
It was unlawful to assist a gentile woman in childbirth because that would helping to bring another gentile into the world.
If a Jew married a gentile many families would hold a funeral for that individual because they were now dead to them.
To go into the house of a gentile rendered a Jew unclean.
As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Before Jesus – the walls were up!
The gentiles were “foreigners to the covenants of the promise“– Israel His chosen nation were forbidden from mixing with them.
Then he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
When the Jews referred to the uncircumcised they said it like a curse.
Samson - Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”
David - Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?
Jonathan - “Come; let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”
Into this setting Paul – a Jew – comes announcing this gospel of Unity in Christ
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
2. Divided by hope
…excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world Eph 2:12
The gentiles had no hope of a Messiah.
The Israelites faced many hardships, they were continually suffering the consequences of violating the covenant and repeatedly found themselves under attack, under foreign rule, and exiled from the land of promise.
Through it all the Jews always had the hope of a coming Messiah – the gentile did not.
For the people of God history was (and is) always going somewhere.
To be without God is to be without hope whether you know it or not.
What gives life ultimate meaning?
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
This letter was written to give living hope to people facing dire circumstances.
The early church face severe persecution and immense suffering – and grew through it because of this hope we have in Christ.
With the hope of this we can face circumstances we otherwise could not.
Jesus is the first-fruit, the first born from the dead – we are in on this too!
We long for it even if we cannot put it into words. We are hoped shaped creatures.
I took Kathy and the boys to see CFB Petawawa where I grew up – it had shrunk.
Continued Next Week...
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