Summary: Jesus brings down the dividing walls of prejudice. As believers brought into the family of God, what unites us is greater than what divides us. We belong to something much greater than ourselves. And we glorify God through our unity.
God’s Construction Plan
The September 29, 2006 edition of “Our Daily Bread” documents Julius Caesar’s invasion of the south coast of Britain in 55 BC. He met resistance from warring Celtic tribes, but a century later, Roman control had extended all the way north into what is now Scotland. The conquest took 30,000 Celtic lives, but the Roman victory was short-lived. Surviving clansmen soon began a fierce guerrilla campaign against their occupiers. So in AD 122, Emperor Hadrian ordered a wall constructed to separate the Romans from the barbarians to the north. Hadrian’s Wall stands to this day.
In Paul’s day, a barrier stronger than Hadrian’s wall was erected between God’s people and the Gentiles who were not part of their religious community. It was the barrier of ethnic prejudice. God’s plan was to use his chosen people, the Jews, to bless all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3) and to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6). But instead of this, the Jewish nation became self-centered and prejudiced toward anyone not like them. Someone once said, “Prejudice is a lazy person’s substitute for thinking.”
As we continue our walk through Ephesians, we’re going to look today at a passage where God says through Paul to bring down the walls of division and prejudice. Picture the great Temple in Jerusalem with its outer Gentile court, then an inner Jewish women’s sector, then an inner Jewish men’s sector, then the priestly area. In 1871 archaeologists actually found the dividing wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of Women. On the wall was a sign that read, “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” Ironically, this is the offense that has landed Paul under house arrest. He was falsely accused of allowing a Greek to enter to Jewish part of the temple. Figuratively, the wall comes down in today’s chapter. All are welcomed into God’s family.
Consider on your outline some of the phrases Paul uses to describe who we once were, before we knew Christ:
What we were:
• Separated from Christ (v. 12)
• Excluded from citizenship in Israel (v. 12)
• Foreigners to the covenant of promise (v. 12)
• Far away (v. 13)
• Foreigners and strangers (v. 19)
• Without hope (v. 12)
• Without God (v. 12)
Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews were God’s chosen people, as they still are today, even though many of them don’t realize it. The rest of us were far away, separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in God’s family, without hope, without God. But then comes two very important words. Paul has shared all these negative things about our outsider status, and then he starts verse 13, “But now...” Something has changed. In fact, everything has changed! Look what he says about our status now:
What we are:
• Brought near by the blood of Christ (v. 13)
• Part of a new humanity (v. 15)
• Reconciled to our brothers and sisters (v. 16)
• Accessing the Father by one Spirit (v. 18)
• Fellow citizens with God’s people (v. 19)
• Members of God’s household (v. 19)
• Being built together to become a dwelling where God lives (v. 22)
Folks, we have come so far. Sometimes we don’t realize how far we’ve come. Sometimes we take our salvation for granted. Paul says, “Remember! Remember how far Christ has brought you!” I want to share with you three implications of our new status as believers in God’s family.
What it means:
1. What unites us is greater than what divides us
I’ve heard this saying a lot. Yet, it is radically true in the church of Jesus Christ. What unites us is Christ himself. Listen to verse 14: “For [Christ Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” The way to find unity in our diversity is to focus on Christ, who is our peace. He has destroyed or demolished the insignificant barriers between us.
Our nation has struggled with this in race relations. We have struggled with this in politics. We are a divided nation in so many ways. Yet, our coinage says “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of many one.” That was the vision of the founders, and it should be our vision today.
And the church should lead the way. Sadly, what Martin Luther King, Jr. said back in the ‘60s is still true, that the Sunday morning 11:00 hour is still the most segregated hour of the week. Churches should reflect the diversity of their communities. And of all places, church should be where skin color doesn’t matter. Church should be where bank account size doesn’t matter. Church should be where branch of service doesn’t matter—well, maybe that’s going a little too far!