Who In This World Can Bring Peace? Ephesians 2b
Stephen Caswell ©1999
The Berlin Wall
Shortly after the fall of communism and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, a newspaper editorial headline in the United States announced, " Peace Breaks Out All Over! " He claimed that the great Berlin wall had now come down paving the way for peace. Peace is what all men want, but can they really find it outside of Christ? While it is true that people in East Germany now experience greater freedom, the editors claims were very optimistic. Bosnia shows that men cannot find peace without Christ no matter how hard they try. True peace cannot be gained easily. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is only one who can bring real peace.
Last Sunday morning we went on a spiritual journey. We saw the our true spiritual condition when God first found us. We saw how and why God saved us. Then we saw the purpose that God has for believers. In today's passage Paul reflects on God's great Peace Mission. Through Jesus Christ, He has reconciled men to each other and to Himself. This peace mission has special significance to Gentiles. Because Gentiles were separated from from God's people. They had no future or hope. We will see what God has done through His Son. Paul's desire is because of what God has done, Gentiles will serve the Lord out of love and gratitude. I want to look at 3 things:
Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—
Having highlighted the spiritual position of all men in Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul now commands the Gentiles to remember their former position of being separated from God's chosen people, Israel. He refers to circumcision because this was an outward sign that formed a barrier between Jew and Gentile. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant that God gave to Abraham when He chose Israel. Israel was to be separate from the world so that God could reveal His salvation through them to all men. Unfortunately the Jews looked down on Gentiles and considered them unclean. They missed the point that God blessed them so that He could reach out to all the nations. God had to correct the Jerusalem church of this same error. They wanted to make the Gentiles become like Jews through circumcision. But God made no distinctions of this kind anymore. Previously uncircumcised Gentiles missed out on five blessings that Israel received. Ephesians 2:12 That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
a. Without Christ
Without Christ is the key distinction that all the others in verse 12 fall under. Before the Gentiles received the Gospel they were without Christ. They didn't have the hope of the coming Messiah. They didn't know of God's plan of salvation until the Lord sent the apostles to tell them.
b. Without Citizenship
The Jews were God's chosen people, His holy nation. Before Christ came the Gentiles were aliens and strangers. God cared for them but they had no national identity as Israel did. Gentiles could become proselytes through circumcision and observance of the law. But they never attained the status of the children of Israel.
c. Without Covenants
God made covenants with Israel only. The Gentiles could receive blessing through the covenants like the Abrahamic Covenant. But the Gentiles had no covenant with God. God's promises of blessing came through the covenants and the Gentiles were excluded.
d. Without Hope
It is a recorded fact that a great cloud of hopelessness covered the ancient world. The traditions, philosophies and religions of the world were empty. They promised no hope for the future or for life after death. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 tells us that unsaved people have no hope. The Gentiles longed for hope beyond the grave, but they had none.
e. Without God
Although the Gentile nations worshipped many gods, these were dead and could not help. The Gentiles were truly without God and the life that only He can give. The sad fact is that the nations at one time knew God but chose to live apart from Him. They then corrupted themselves worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. Romans 1:18-23 gives us this sad account of mans fall into depravity. Before Christ came to save us, this was the position of the Gentiles. Separated from God and God's people because of sin. Is this your position this morning? Are you without Christ and without hope? If so I have good news for you. You can find:
a. Jew To Gentile
Ephesians 2:13-15 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
From being without Christ, the Ephesians were reconciled in Christ. Paul says that Christ has reconciled Jew and Gentile to God. The word peace is used three times in these verses because reconciliation brings peace. The word reconcile means to restore, to bring together. The Gentiles were once afar off, but now in Jesus Christ they have been brought near. What is the middle wall of separation? How did Jesus Christ break it down? The temple was divided into sections. Depending on your race, sex and religious position you could enter so far.
Imagine that you, a Gentile, are approaching the temple. The first barrier you come to is supposed to stop you, a non Jew, from going further. The section up to this point is the court of the Gentiles. Normally to go beyond this point would cost you your life. But Christ has broken the barrier down, so you continue. You enter the court of the women, an area inside the temple structure but separated from the court of the Israelites, where only men could go [Gal 3:28]. But Christ has also broken this barrier down too. So you proceed up through the Nicanor gate, only to find that just ahead is another barrier separating us from the court of the priests, where only those men who are in the temple service can go. Yet again we find in Christ that this barrier has been done away with [1 Pet 2:5,9]. Finally you come to another barrier where the priests cannot go either into the holy of holies. Only the High Priest can go in here once a year. But this barrier too has been broken down [Matt 27:51; Heb 10:19-22]. The barriers set up because of race, law, sex and religious position have been removed.
But how did God remove the enmity? How did He make peace? He did this through the precious blood of His Son. Jesus Christ canceled out the law. Christ fulfilled the law thus satisfying the Father concerning righteousness. He then died for our sins bearing the curse placed upon all lawbreakers. God has removed the enmity between Jew and Gentile and made peace. He has reconciled Jews and Gentiles with one another. The law is no longer the source of enmity between the Jews who had it and the Gentiles who didn't. It is no longer Jew and Gentile, but one new man in Christ. The Church is made up of both saved Jews and Gentiles. God has removed the distinction He put in place so that He could bring salvation through the Jews. The Messiah, Jesus Christ came through the Jewish nation. Now, in Jesus Christ all believers are equal.
Galatians 3:26-28 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
b. Sinners To God
Ephesians 2:16-18 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Christ has not only reconciled Jews and Gentiles to each other, He has also reconciled them both to God. Although the Jews had the law they did not keep it. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All mankind needs to be reconciled to God. Romans 5:10
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Jesus Christ has removed the enmity created by man's rebellion against God's Law. God's great peace mission has been proclaimed to all. The Jews who were near have received the same message as the Gentiles that were afar off. The Gospel of peace is for all the world. God makes no distinction, all have broken His law, but all can be saved through Jesus Christ. Four times in this passage Paul says that Jesus Christ has made two into one. There is no longer Jew and Gentile but one new man.
Reconciliation, Hand in Hand
There was a little girl whose parents had had a miserable marriage and were divorced, having nothing in common save their affection for the child. One day as the girl was playing in the street she was knocked down by a bus and seriously injured. Taken to the hospital, she was examined by the doctors but was found to be beyond human aid. Hastily summoned to the hospital, her parents heard the sad news and stood silently, one on either side of the bed, looking down helplessly at the little girl. As they stood there, the child's eyes suddenly opened and seeing her parents she tried to smile. Then drawing one arm from under the sheet, she held it out in the direction of her father. "Daddy," she said, "give me your hand." Turning to her mother, she stretched out her other arm. "Mummy," she said, "give me your hand." Then with a final effort of her fast-ebbing strength she drew them close together. This is a picture of what Christ did on the cross. The Savior took the hand of sinful hateful humanity and placed it in the loving hand of God. Jesus reconciled us to God; He broke down the barrier; He restored the broken fellowship caused by sin or turning our backs on God. Just as in this little girl's dying to bring her parents together, Jesus died to bring God and us together, but we have to accept this personally.
Furthermore Jews and Gentiles both have access to the Father. Previously people could come to God through the Jewish temple worship. But now all have equal access. The same Holy Spirit provides access to God. There is total equality in salvation. We have equal access to God in worship and prayer. Romans 8:14-17 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. God's reconciliation in Christ of Jew and Gentile has enabled Him to truly unite His people together. Have you been reconciled to God? Do you have peace with God and your fellowman?
a. One Nation
Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
Under the Old Covenant there was only two distinctions, Jews and Gentiles. Israel was God's chosen nation and the Gentiles were outside, being strangers and foreigners.
However under the New Covenant this has all changed. The Church is God's new nation made up of saved Jews and Gentiles. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; Gentiles are now fellow citizens with God's people. They are on equal footing. Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Revelation 5:8-10 reveals how wide this scope is: Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
b. One Family
Ephesians 2:19 b but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
Not only are believers citizens of God's Holy nation, they are also members of His own family. Our children became part of our family by being born into it. The same is true of God's family, you have to be born into it. This is why Jesus said, You must be born again. God doesn't have grandchildren, only children. John 1:12 But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: After Jesus Christ reconciled Jew and Gentile through His cross He removed all racial distinctions. God has only one family. Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, Have you been born again ?
c. One Temple
Paul changes the focus now from our new relationship with God as His nation and family to the reason. The church is His holy temple. A temple is a place of worship. It was also the dwelling place of God in Old Testament times. There is only one church as Ephesians 4:4 tells us. The church, God's people are now His dwelling place. Paul teaches us 3 things about God's temple.
Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
Every building has a foundation. In fact it is the most important part. Every builder knows that unless he lays a good foundation the building won't last. God took great care to lay the right foundation. The foundation comprises of Jesus the corner stone and the apostles and prophets. The corner stone is the most important stone in the foundation. Great care was taken to get it right since all the other stones in the building were aligned to it. Our relationship with Christ determines our eternal destiny. Those who line up with Him become part of God's holy temple. Those who reject will stumble and be damned. This temple is made up of Jews and Gentiles. No longer do people worship in a Jewish temple. The church itself is the temple.
1 Peter 2:4-8 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. Are you aligned with Jesus Christ?
God made the apostles and prophets to be the foundation along with Christ. They were correctly aligned with Jesus Christ themselves, except for Judas who was rejected. The apostles and prophets proclaimed the Gospel of salvation. These are New Testament prophets here since the temple is God's people built upon the New Covenant. Ephesians 3:3-5 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: The prophets in the Old Testament did not know about the church. It was previously hidden. Christ first spoke of the Church in Matthew 16:18. Christ built the church on Himself and the testimony of the New Testament apostles and prophets.
Ephesians 2:21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, The Church is growing into a holy temple. It isn't finished yet. People are continually being added to it. Christ places new members into the church in just the right place. His plan is perfect and will result in a beautiful temple. When it is finished He will return to take it to glory. 1 Peter 2:4-5 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Eph 2:22 In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. The main function of God's holy temple is to provide a dwelling place for God. He lives in each believer individually and collectively they form one holy temple. God dwells with His people. Jesus foresaw this when He spoke to the woman of Samaria. She asked where people should worship. John 4:20-24 “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jesus didn't emphasize a physical building to worship in. He emphasized the Holy Spirit as being the place of worship. The Holy Spirit now dwells in His people. The temple now is God's people. When they come together this is the place of worship because God is present in them.
Who In This World Can Bring Peace? The Prince of Peace. It is only as people receive Christ can they know true peace with God and their fellow man. Today we have seen three things regarding God's peace mission!
Separation was our position. We were without Christ. Before Christ came we were separated from God and our fellowman because of sin. We Gentiles were without Christ and without hope. But God sent His Son to reconcile us and bring peace. If you haven't received Jesus Christ as your Savior then you are separated from Him now. But you don't have to stay that way!
After Christ came He reconciled us to God and our fellowman. In Christ we have true peace. The enmity has gone. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. God desires to save people, that is why He sent His Son. But those who reject the Savior will suffer God's wrath! Have you been reconciled to God? If not can I encourage you to today.
Jesus Christ has united all believers into one nation, one family, one holy temple. There must be no division based on sex race or station. Christ has pulled these walls down, let us not put up barriers based on such distinctions. God's word calls for unity based upon truth and expressed through love. As a Holy Temple let us live holy sanctified lives for Him who indwells us by His Spirit. Whatever we do, let us do all for the glory of God.
Numbers 6:24-26 “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’