Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: There is a sad tendency on the part of all churches. That some people become regarded as a spiritual elite. That they, in some way, have more of an expectation to be heard by God and to have a say in the church’s operation than everyone else. This is a mi

No Spiritual Elite

Ephesus - Year 10

Ephesians 2:11-18

There is a sad tendency on the part of all churches, including Ephesus and Norma. That some people become regarded as a spiritual elite. That they, in some way, have more of an expectation to be heard by God and to have a say in the church’s operation than everyone else. This is a subtle mistake.

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) — 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 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, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:11-18 (NIV)

There is no "Christian Elite"

In the book Animal Farm by George Orwell, the pigs are in power and have a saying:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The Jews in Ephesus knew so much more about the Scriptures than the Gentiles it was hard to see everyone on equal footing. How could a person who had been worshiping idols only a few years ago be as righteous as someone who had grown up in the shadow of the Torah? It only makes sense.

This sort of thing need not be fed by either side of the equation. Jews may not have felt spiritual superiority or have tried to encourage that kind of thinking. On the other hand, the Gentile believers might have felt that the Jewish relationship to the Scriptures made them natural leaders of the assembly. Out of humility and respect, They may have given Jewish believers places of honor.

Paul sees this as a rise of a spiritual elitism and warns against it. In Christ all are equal, Jews and Gentiles. He carefully explains that things are different than they used to be, for Jews and Gentiles. He explains it using an illustration. He refers to it as a dividing wall.

The Jerusalem Temple was divided into courts. The outer courts were for anyone. Jewish men and women were allowed in the inner courts, but courts were separated by a wall. It stood 4 1/2 feet tall and was topped with pillars that supported the porch roof. On this wall were 13 plaques that said this:

No foreigner is allowed to enter within the balustrade surrounding the sanctuary and the court enclosed. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his ensuing death.

Symbolically, the closer a person got to the Holy of Holies, the closer he was to God. Only priests could actually stand in the Presence. Gentiles were not allowed to even approach the sanctuary without being killed by a mob. Paul is saying that God is destroying the wall. All can be close to God ... as close as priests. The Jews and their relationship to the Scriptures are not closer to God than the Gentiles.

It may have been intentional power grabbing on the part of the Jews, or it may have been deference on the part of the Gentiles, but elitism was happening. Paul is not denying that some people are more spiritually mature than others, but he is denying that race determines power.

Some people just seem to have an inside track to God

As a minister, I encounter this all the time. People think that if they ask me to pray, God will hear me better ... because I am a minister I have some kind of privileged place. Not true.

I am more spiritually mature than some of you. And some of you are more spiritually mature than I. This is our personal walk with God, and helps to define our reactions to the world around us, but it does not make me more precious to God or give me greater access.

• Faith in Jesus Christ to save us, in contempt of any other god, aside from our own good works

• A pursuit of prayer to keep an open line of communication with God

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