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Reasons for the Incarnation — Reconciliation

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Reasons for the Incarnation — Reconciliation
Text: Ephesians 2:11-22
Date: 12/11/14 File name: Incarnation3.wpd ID Number: 95
Theme: Sin created a ‘Wall of Hostility’ between men and God. God came in the flesh to destroy that wall of hostility. Reconciliation with God frees us to be reconciled with each other breaking down rigid national, psychological, social, racial and religious barriers.
Some of you have seen it ... the December 19th cover of TIME Magazine. It surprised no one that the editors chose Donald J. Trump as their “Person of the Year” — the single qualification being the individual chosen was the biggest influence upon the news over the last year. The subtitle on the cover is what was most interesting. It dubbed President-elect Trump as “President of the Divided States of America.” The issue of course being is the title descriptive of where the nation is, or prescriptive of where the editors believe a Trump administration will take the nation. I’ll leave that debate to the pundits. That TIME Magazine would describe America as a nation divided is also not surprising. That seems to be the common sentiment among most of our fellow citizens. In July, The Washington Post ran a front page story titled, “America Really Is More Divided than Ever” and reported on a Washington Post-ABC News poll finding that 55 percent of Americans believe President Obama had done more to divide the country than bring it together. A Gallup Poll conducted just two weeks ago (Nov. 21, 2016) reported that a record-high 77% of Americans perceive the nation as divided, and less than half believe President-elect Trump’s future actions will help unite the country.
At a time such as this, the Church needs to step into the breech with a message of what can reconcile us ... His name is Jesus, the Anointed One of God who can reconcile men to God, and men to men.
Men have always been good at erecting walls that separate themselves from others. The ancient world of Paul's day was full of divisions. The highly civilized Greeks considered every other race inferior and referred to them as Barbarians.
The Romans thought themselves superior to other cultures and ethnic groups and looked upon others a Pagans.
Masters looked upon slaves as property.
Even the Jews perceived all others — the Gentiles — as "unclean" and people best to be avoid.
But the greatest division that existed in the ancient world is the same great division that exists today. Sin creates a wall of hostility that divides men from God, and men from men.
Into this world of division God came in the flesh. No other world religion makes such an audacious claim. He came minister the five Incarnational-R’s — Redemption ... Revelation ... Reconciliation ... Righteousness ... Resurrection.
• He came to reveal God’s character and person to men. To know God the Son is to know God the Father.
• He came to redeem us from sin and death. He was the spotless Lamb of God who died for our sins.
• And, as we will discover this morning, He came to reconcile us with God and make it possible for us to be reconciled with each other.
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye 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:” (Ephesians 2:11–12, KJV)
1. that is the stark spiritual epitaph of the lost man
1. because of sin men are estranged from God
a. when Paul reminded the Gentile converts of their former state of life without Christ,
he used language that his readers clearly understood
2. in verses 11-12 Paul lists five characteristics of their lost, unregenerate nature
a. 1st, We Were Without Christ
1) their spiritual life was like a large, empty expanse a wasteland
a) if you are not united with Christ, then you are separated from Christ
b) there is no middle ground of almost being a Christian
2) men who are separated from Christ have nothing about their character or
conduct that commends them to God
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6, NASB95)
b. 2nd, We Were Aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel
1) the word commonwealth recalls the concept of ancient Greek city-states,
whereby a city or country provided numerous valuable advantages, benefits, and privileges for its citizens, but withheld them from foreigners
2. in other words, the Gentiles had no rights to the spiritual blessings of God that
He had so abundantly bestowed upon Israel
c. 3rd, We Were Strangers from the Covenants of the Promise
1) out of His sovereign grace God elected Israel to be His chosen people
a) that choice began with the calling of Abram and was re-emphasized again and
again through God's covenant promises to Israel
2) under the Old Testament covenant, the Gentile nations had been excluded from
that covenant relationship
a) they were spiritual strangers and alienated from the love and grace of God
b) they were like aliens in a foreign land who have no legal or social standing
d. 4th, We Were Without Hope
ILLUS. In John Bunyan’s allegory, “Pilgrim’s Progress” there is a scene where
Christian, the story’s central character, has entered the House of the Interpreter. The house is a place of respite, built for the relief of pilgrims who are on the road to the Celestial Kingdom. It’s a place to find rest, but also a necessary stop where pilgrims learn about the “deeper things” of the Christian faith.
There are many rooms in the Interpreter’s House, and Christian learns many valuable spiritual lessons while he is there. There is, however, in the house, a room — a sad room — where Christian sees a man locked in the Iron Cage. The man in the cage appears sad with downcast eyes and folded hands. He sighs as if his heart is breaking. The Interpreter does not openly explain the meaning of the man in the cage to Christian, but encourages him to speak with the him.
We learn that the Iron Cage represents the despair of one who has sinned to the point of losing hope of God's forgiveness and salvation. The cage is made of iron to show how strong the bonds of hopelessness can be upon the soul. Bunyan describes the room containing the cage as very dark. This ominous darkness suggests a lack of illumination and spiritual understanding that has caused this man's drift into hopelessness.
1) there are hundreds of people in our own community who are like the man in the
iron cage
2) without Christ, they are without hope —living in spiritual darkness
e. 5th, We Were Without God in the World
1) the phrase without God is one word in the original language of the New
Testament , and is the word from which we get our word atheist
2) they were not atheists in the modern sense, for the gentiles of that day believed
in many gods
3) they were atheists in the sense that they did not believe in the true and living
God who has revealed himself in Christ Jesus our Lord
3. Sin Separates Us from God and Creates a Wall of Hostility Between Us and the Lord
“ ... God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, NASB95)
1. five-hundred years before the Messiah was born, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied
that a time would come when peace would be proclaimed “to those who were far off”
“ ... Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.” (Isaiah 57:19, NIV84)
a. this was a reference to the Gentiles and predicted that one day, they too, would be
included in God's plan of grace
2. this is the message that Jesus preached during his public ministry on Earth
“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:17, NIV84)
3. Paul now proclaims that this prophecy has come to pass
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13, NIV84)
a. there it is ...
1. our Lord Jesus shuts the door in no one's face who comes to him in faith
“for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13, NIV84) a. as bible-believing Christians, we know that not everyone will be saved, but ...
b. as bible-believing Christians, we have the responsibility of presenting the good-faith
offer of the Gospel to all men, knowing that God will work in the lives of some with whom the Gospel is given, and save them
2. the blood of Christ opens the way for them, and the Apostle invites both Jew and
Gentile, male and female, bond or free, the mighty or the lowly to accept the peace that God offers
3. what does God do in our lives when He reconciles us to Himself?
“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:” (Ephesians 2:14–16, KJV)
a. the Apostle here is talking about Jew and Gentile becoming one in Christ
4. why did God come in the flesh?
a. He came to redeem us – to cover our sins by paying the ultimate price
b. He came to reveal God’s character and nature to us
1) if you want to know all about God, then simply get to know all about Jesus
c. He Came also to reconcile us to Himself — vs. 16, that he might reconcile both Jew
and Gentile unto God and unto each other
d. in vv. 14-16 did you see all the wonderful things Jesus did for us?
1) this passage is rich in descriptions of God’s marvelous grace
6. 1st, in Reconciling Us to God, Jesus Brought Us Peace
14a “For he is our peace, who hath made both one ... “
a. to all men who come to him by faith, God gives a peace that passes all
understanding according to Philippians 4:7
1) it is a peace that guards — literally stands sentinel — over our hearts and minds
7. 2nd, in Reconciling Us to God, Jesus Brought Us into Close Fellowship with Other
Believers Regardless of Who They Are
v. 14b “ ... who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us ... “
a. when men are unreconciled to God, they can never really be reconciled with each
b. Paul speaks of the alienation in verse 14
1) he refers to the dividing wall of hostility
2) this is a reference to a low stone wall that separated the Gentiles from the
Jewish Temple in Jerusalem
3) on that stone wall were warnings to the Gentiles not to go beyond
ILLUS. In 1871 a French archaeologist discovered one of these warning
inscriptions. It read: No man of another race is to proceed within the partition and enclosing wall about the sanctuary; and anyone arrested there will have himself to blame for the penalty of death which will be imposed as a consequence.
4) the Jews took this warning very seriously
5) this wall was a stark reminder of the barriers that existed between Jew and
c. in Paul's mind, this wall was symbolic of the rigid national, psychological, social, and
religious barriers that separates men and fragments the human race
1) until that wall of hostility is broken down, men can never truly love each other
2) Jesus died to break down the walls that divide men so that in the Body of Christ,
the world may see what the brotherhood of man is truly all about
d. how dare we sin against our Lord by re-erecting barriers among the brethren that he
died to bring down?
1) the culture may erect walls according to race, ethnicity, stature, economics, but
among the brethren those wall must tumble
8. 3rd, in Reconciling Us to God, Jesus Slew the Enmity That Exists Between Men and
Our Heavenly Father
v. 15a “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, ... so making peace ... “
a. before we knew Jesus, our basic sinful nature made us oppose God and even be
hostile toward spiritual things
1) the Scriptures tell us that the lost man is at enmity with God
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7–8, KJV )
1) that word enmity means open hostility
2) the lost man is hostile toward God, and God’s ways, and God’s word
ILLUS. How can we know? Simply share with your co-worker, or your friend, or your
classmate that you believe the Bible is true, and see how they respond.
b. God is the one who offers peace and grace
c. when we accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross for our sins, our hostility
toward God is turned into a genuine love
9. 4th, in Reconciling Us to God, Jesus Brought Us into Close Fellowship with God
v. 16 “ ... And that he might reconcile both unto God ... “
a. the word reconcile means to re-establish a close relationship that was broken
1) that is what Jesus has done for us
2) He has re-established the kind of relationship that Adam once knew with God
before his fall into sin
1. this is where the message gets personal and practical
a. when you and I come to the cross of Christ and believe, any and all hostility that
existed between you and God ceased
2. but the cross of Christ goes beyond merely ending the hostility that existed between
the sinner and God
a. the cross that reconciles us to God also reconciles sinner with sinner
b. by destroying the barriers that existed between God and the saint, Christ has also
destroyed the barriers that men — even Christian men — have erected between themselves
3. the one body Paul speaks of in verse 16 is a reference to the church the Body of
a. it is here that men can truly be brothers
b. it is in the church that all who are in Christ, whether they be Jew or Gentile, male or
female, bond or free, the mighty or the lowly can put their difference aside and love each other as equals in Christ
4. that's how it should be and that's how Christ meant for it to be
a. but let's be honest, that's not how it always is
ILLUS. Vance Havner in his book Just a Preacher, tells the story of a congregation which had proudly erected a sign out in front of their church. The first message they placed on it with those changeable letters read JESUS ONLY. That night a storm came through and blew away the first three letters of “Jesus” leaving the message US ONLY.
b. too many churches give that impression to the community in which they reside
ILLUS. For many centuries in most societies The Debtor's Prison was a grim and familiar
institution in the lives of the poor. The concept was simple: If you couldn't pay your bills, you went to jail until you could. But there was a problem with the arrangement. While confined to prison, you couldn't earn money to repay your creditors. So many debtors remained locked away for years, creditors got little, if any of the debt owed them, and the debtor’s family often became destitute.
Happily, debtor's prisons are no longer a legal reality in Western culture. Yet the principle of imprisonment for indebtedness is still present with us as a spiritual reality. The New Testament insists that if someone sins against us, that person has incurred a debt and is bound up spiritually in his relationship with us.
1. this legal/spiritual parallel is drawn most clearly in Jesus' Parable of the Unmerciful
Servant (Mt. 18:21–35)
a. in that story, our sins against one another are explicitly compared with the financial
debts that one servant of a king owes another
1) the spiritual consequences of such indebtedness are characterized as a prison
1. we can be relieved, then, to know that God has provided a way out of the dilemma of a
spiritual debtor’s prison
a. it’s called reconciliation and involves confession and forgiveness
b. two of the New Testament words translated "to forgive" vividly reflect this spiritual
1) Aphiemi means "to remit, to lay aside," and was also a financial term for
cancelling debts
2) Apoluo means "to release, to set at liberty," and was also a legal term for letting
a prisoner go free
c. these word pictures have a clear implication: When someone offends us, we can
absolve him of both the spiritual debt and their spiritual guiltiness by forgiving the offense
1) this is precisely the point of Jesus’ parable, which He told in response to Peter’s
question about how many times he must forgive an offending brother
2. as Jesus pointed out in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, God has forgiven us,
and expects us to do the same to others
a. when the wicked servant refused to forgive his own debtor, his master had him
thrown in debtor's prison until he should repay his own debt, and then Jesus ominously says, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart," ... “ (Mt. 18:35)
b. we are obligated to reconcile not only for our own sake, but I also for the debtor's
ILLUS. Just as it was with the debtors of long ago, the prisoner's ability to repay his
past debt is hindered as long as he languishes in a Debtor’s Prison. In an important parallel, our failure to forgive can deny the offender the freedom he needs to change.
3. we shouldn't be surprised, then, that Jesus made forgiveness and reconciliation a
priority among believers, even insisting that reconciliation with one another must be a precondition for approaching God (Mt. 5:23–24)
Why did God come in the flesh? It wasn’t to give us an excuse for bringing dead trees into our house each winter and decorating it with lights and ornaments and tinsel. Apart from Calvary, the incarnation has no meaning. Merrill F. Unger, a pastor and professor of Old Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, defined reconciliation as "the restoration of friendship and fellowship after estrangement." It’s what God did for us in Christ, and it’s what we do for each other because we are in Christ.
God came in the flesh to reconcile us with Him and with each other. Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; he died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin — the punishment of everlasting destruction, and of being shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by his grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
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