Summary: We are the church, the body of Christ based on what Christ has done for us in breaking down the wall of hostility and bringing us who were far very near. Because of the peace of Christ, we are now reconciled both to God and to one another.
Oikos tou Theo: The Household of God
Text: Ephesians 2:11-22
I’ve been sad and disappointed lately...and it has to do with a few families that decided to leave the church and other individuals who are pondering it themselves. And even though some have told me that those people were planning on leaving for a long time, I still took it personally and it got me thinking about something I didn’t notice and care about in the past. And it has to do with this epidemic among American Christians of floating, leaving and switching churches.
• Call it church shopping, hopping or swapping, it seems like thousands or even millions of Christians in America approach the church like they do with buying a home or a car – they look for a place that has great preaching, great people, great children’s ministries, or great looking singles to meet with and hopefully marry. And like the shoppers or consumers that we are, we judge one church or another as being really with it or out of touch or a good place for me – or not.
• Sadly, millions of supposed Christians don’t even go to church at all. If the U.S. Census is correct, it says that over 90% of Americans say they believe in God – that’s about 250 million people. But of those 250 million, how many belong to a local church?
o The Barna Research Group estimates that about 100 million Americans are un-churched (from 2007).
o Americans also approach church in a variety of new and non-traditional ways...a growing number of Christians who attend church do so over the internet or belong to a house church or go to two or three different churches.
And so self-confessing Christians, it seems, tend to float around to different churches or belong to multiple churches or don’t even go at all. And never does it seem that we approach our call to a church as arising from God or as a response to his leading. Instead, we presume that the decision to join or to remain with or to leave a church begins and ends with us and perhaps we might say we prayed to the Lord about leaving, but in reality, it’s still us who decide where and for how long and under what conditions we will be with church A or church B or church C.
And into this reality of church shopping here in America, we see the Word of God speak to us as Paul relates a vision of the church that is perhaps far deeper, grander and more wonderful than we ever imagined. And this morning we want to recover what the Bible says about who we are as the Church, the people of God.
Ephesians 2:11-12 – Remembering Who We Were
Before Paul describes who they are in Christ, he wants them to remember who they were. Before they can delve into the tremendous privilege of being the people of God, Paul points them back to what they were prior to Jesus Christ...
• Speaking to the Gentiles
Literally translated, ‘the masses’ – the word for Gentile among Jews meant the heathen, the hoards, the peoples excluded from God’s promise. The word wasn’t a kind word or flattering in the least bit. It was meant to convey those heathen who are outsiders...
o The Uncircumcision
Not merely a medical procedure for men, but it represented a rejected caste of people who were outsiders of God’s promise. To be a Jew was to be truly blessed of the Lord (common thinking), but to be a Gentile was to be cursed.
• Separated from Christ
The sobering truth about unbelief is that not only does one not believe in Jesus Christ, one is separated from him as well. A lot of people think that belief is something personal without understanding the consequences. If someone doesn’t believe in God – it’s his or her own choice. What they fail to recognize is that unbelief results in exclusion, separation and being cast out of God’s presence.
• Alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel
As Gentiles, they were a people without a promise. They were not set apart and chosen specifically by God as his very own. From the perspective of Jews, the Gentiles were truly the dogs, the wretched outsiders and to be pitied and disregarded entirely.
• Strangers to the Covenants of Promise
As the Jews were a people of promise given to them by Yahweh, the Gentiles had no such inheritance. They were not chosen by God and therefore had no part in his inheritance and blessing. Too bad for them!
• Without Hope and Without God
Just a hopeless, pitiful and pathetic condition. Not only were the Gentiles separate from Christ, but their destiny was one of total exclusion. They weren’t merely sinners, they were also spiritual orphans with no way of entrance into the warmth of fellowship that those in Christ had.