Summary: He Himself tore down the wall. He Himself abolished the enmity. He Himself made us one. (#21 in the Every Spiritual Blessing series)
As I sat contemplating what title I should give this sermon, I asked myself, as is my usual custom when staring at a blank page on my computer screen waiting for inspiration, ‘what title would address the real meat of this passage; the crux; the primary truth being conveyed?’
I read the verses several times. Then I read verses before and after these verses several times. Then I looked at each phrase of these verses individually and pondered them. Several catchy titles came to mind.
But in the end it seemed to me that although there is much to say from Ephesians 2:13-16, if all of it was swirling around and down into an ever tightening vortex, like a funnel or a whirlpool, down there at the narrowest point where it all comes together, would be the words “He Himself”.
I see that we were shut out by the super-religious and kept ignorant of the covenants and the promises. I see that we were far off.
Then I scan verse 14 and learn that there was a dividing wall. A barrier between man and man, and man and God.
But at the center of it all what stood out in sharp relief against this dark and hope-denying backdrop, were these two hope-restoring, life-promising words; “He Himself”.
I want for us to focus today on why God, and only God could have wrought change in these circumstances. I want us to see that He is the only Being in the universe who was in a position to come to our aid, and I want us to see clearly the dear price He was willing to pay to make us one with Himself.
The first obstacle was PRIDE
I’d like to read an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” Book III; a chapter entitled, ‘The Great Sin’.
“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison; it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind...If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature - while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”
I think a rephrasing of this last line could be very appropriately applied to the attitude of the Jews; the ones Paul refers to in verse 11 as “the Circumcision”. Pride gets no pleasure in the possession itself, but in the fact of possessing it.
It was not to be a symbol of national pride, but that is exactly what they made it. If you were circumcised, you were acceptable to them. If you were one of the uncircumcised masses outside of their religious elite, you were a ‘dog’.
In the act of idolizing the Law and the rite of circumcision they were entirely missing the point and the intended purpose of them.
Paul clarifies for us in Philippians 3:3, that true, spiritual worship is that which glories in Christ, the giver of the Law and the fulfiller of the type of circumcision, not putting confidence in the flesh ~ meaning, thinking the carrying out of religious duty and exercise is what saves.
God gave them circumcision as a sign of an inward truth. They were to be separated unto Him, as His own possession and as the nation through which He was to bless the nations by the coming of His Promised One.
The primary reason they became so murderously enraged at Jesus, was because He talked of letting in the gentiles. He indicated that salvation was for all people and nations who would believe. He told them that many would come from east and west (indicating the gentile nations), and sit at His Father’s table. This outraged them.
But the pride of the Jews wasn’t the only pride God had to deal with, was it? As Lewis indicated in the quote I read, Pride is universal. It is an entity that has insinuated itself into the very core of our being and the very fabric of human history.
Look at every war fought, every law suit filed, every failure of any type of relationship, from business to marriage, and at the base of it you find Pride.