Summary: We are one in Christ, joined together by the Cross
Joined by the Cross
Text: Ephesians 2:11-18
By: Ken McKinley
Not too long ago there was a book that came out and it quickly shot up to the number one position on the NY Times best-seller list. It was one of those so-called “spiritual” books. The man who wrote it wasn’t a pastor, he wasn’t an evangelist, he wasn’t a theologian, or a seminary professor. He was just a “regular” guy who wrote a book hoping that it would give some clarity about the Trinity to his children. The name of the book was The Shack. I actually read this book because someone asked me to do so and tell them what I thought about it. I’m not sure if you’ve read it, I hope that you didn’t. Because what’s in that book is pure heresy. God is portrayed as an African-American woman, who reminded me of Ophra Winfrey. Jesus was a Middle-Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit was an Asian woman. (Those portrayals in and of themselves are nowhere near as bad as what the book actually teaches and implies) And I think that Christians who know their Bible’s weren’t sucked into the false teachings and heresies of this book, but it still made the NY Times best-seller list and sold thousands of copies. It’s not the first book of its kind to do that. There have been plenty of others that were just as heretical that have also been best sellers..
What this tells me is that there is a spiritual hunger in our nation. But the spiritual hunger is not directed towards the traditional forms of religion. Spirituality is in, but religion is out. I have heard it said that a new religion is started every week in the United States. People seem to have the mind set that says, “If I can’t find a religion that agrees with me, then I’ll just start my own.” And what we see today is that people want a worship service that makes them feel good about themselves and the way they live their lives. People want sermons that are emotional, but the truth doesn’t really matter so much. This is not Christianity, its humanism. It’s man making himself out to be God.
Our text this morning butts heads with this kind of thinking. In my opinion, our text this morning is one of the greatest passages in the Bible when it comes to dealing with the Church. But often times we don’t take the time to read what it says, instead we just breeze over it. But mature Christians should desire the “meat” of the word, and not just the “milk.”
Now this passage begins with the word, “therefore,” and what that tells us is that Paul is not offering random thoughts. No; he’s laid out his writing to the Christians in Ephesus in a careful and thought out manner. And since he just talked about how salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, he’s now going to focus on Christ alone. He’s moving from justification to Christian maturity. From justification to joining.
Paul wants his readers to remember what they were before they came to faith in Christ. He wants them to think about the great change which has taken place in their lives, in their thoughts, and in their behaviors. And he wants them to remember that they were excluded from the covenant with God. That’s why he brings up their being uncircumcised. To the ancient Jewish people, circumcision was a sign of being in the covenant with God. And to be quite honest with you, the Jews saw themselves as superior to other races because of it. There was an old Jewish saying that said, “God created the Gentiles so that there would be fuel for the fires of hell.” It was so bad that a Jewish person would not help a Gentile woman who went into labor because if they did it would only bring another “cursed” Gentile into the world.
Now the Gentiles weren’t any nicer to the Jewish people. The Greeks believed that all forms of civilization had sprung from their culture and everyone else was uncivilized at best and complete savages at worst. To the Greeks, to speak any language other than Greek was “bar-bar.” A nonsense language that was similar to a child. That’s where we get the word barbarian. And so there was no association between Jews and Gentiles, and even the Gentiles who believed in God, who had converted to Judaism, were still viewed as outsiders, and were seen to be outside of God’s covenant.
But more importantly than being alienated from the Jews, the Gentiles were also alienated from God. The Bible tells us that before a person comes to Christ, they are an enemy of God. The Greeks were concerned with appeasing their gods, And to the Greeks, Zeus could was fickle. He might help them one day, but the next day he might be on the side of the Persians, or the Egyptians, or the Macedonians, or whoever he wanted. In-other-words; they did not possess the great promise given throughout Scripture where God says, “I will be your God and you will be My people.” So they had no notion, no idea, of what a covenant was all about, especially a covenant with God.