United in Christ - Ephesians 2:11-22
Ephesians 2:11-22 United in Christ 2020-12-06 We are united in Christ as a dwelling place for God Passage: Ephesians 2:11-22 Remember Your Separation (vv.11-12) 1. v.11 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…” - Paul calls on the Ephesians to consider their past. Consider what was their identity prior to their call and conversion. 2. v.12a “…remember that you were at that time separated…alienated…and strangers…” 1. God made the people of Israel his peculiar people, gave them laws and commands to make them distinct and different than all of the nations around them. Circumcision was a primary sign of this distinction. But true circumcision is that of the heart. 2. Romans 2:28–29 “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” 3. Colossians 2:11 “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” 3. v.12b “…having no hope and without God in the world.” - Along with considering their identity prior to their call and conversion, Paul also calls on them to remember the effect of that identity, that they lived without hope and without God. Do you remember what it was like to live without hope and without God? Where did you seek comfort? What kinds of things did you try to tap for peace? I’d venture a guess that you were never successful. Sure, you could distract yourself or numb yourself of the reality for a time, but without God there is no hope, there is no peace, there is no comfort and solace. Transition: This was true for each and every one of us. But there was a change that occurred, which Paul explains next. Realize Your Unification (vv.13-18) 1. v.13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” This is their present state. 1. Far off - brought near. This is what God has been doing all along, working a salvation that would be a blessing for all nations, as promised to Abram. 2. By the blood of Christ. This is what makes you part of the church - Christ’s purchase of you. Not your performance, not your age, not your hair color, your gifts, your education, your money, what kind of car you drive or house you own. Christ’s blood is the uniting factor. 1. Christ’s blood brings us near through atoning. It pays the penalty for our sins and satisfies God’s wrath toward sin. 2. Christ’s blood brings us near through cleansing. Not only does Christ’s blood pay the penalty for our sin, but it also washes us and removes the stain of sin. Revelation 7:13–14 “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” 3. Christ’s blood brings us near through reviving. That is, it gives us life. Many of you will remember our health challenges with Joel back in 2014, when he couldn’t run from one end of a wrestling mat to the other without stopping to catch his breath. We learned his red blood cell count was dangerously low, and we had to take him to Doernbecher’s Hospital for an emergency admittance. It didn’t take all that long before they recognized his dangerous condition and ordered a blood transfusion for him to boost his red blood cell count. Visits to Doernbecher’s for transfusions became the pattern for months, before God healed him and his body was able to produce red blood cells again. This is something of what Paul has in mind here, too. Yes, we are atoned for by Christ’s blood, and cleansed by Christ’s blood. But we also live by Christ’s blood. We can come before God in the strength of Christ, because we are brought to life through his blood (Eph. 2:5). 2. v.14 Dividing wall of hostility - the temple with its courts, dividing priests from people, women from men, Jews from Gentiles. Tablets found with an inscription advising who was welcome to the Temple and who wasn’t read, “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.” Talk about a dividing wall of hostility! 3. vv.15-18 Not folding into Israel, but creating something new. 1. v.14 made us both one 2. v.15 he might create in himself one new man 3. v.16 might reconcile us both to God in one body 4. v.18 through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father 4. Peace, in place of hostility. One, instead of two. This has been accomplished by Christ, who is our peace (v.14). He became the sacrifice that satisfied the law of commandments. By the cross he has reconciled us both to God and put an end to the hostility. Through him we have access to the Father. 1. Of all of the differences that might be in the church, none are greater than what Christ has already overcome. In him we are united. In him we are at peace. In him we are reconciled to God and to each other. In him we draw near to the Father together. Dear church our focus should be, must be, on Christ. Transition: Being unified in Christ, we are then joined together as a dwelling place for God. Recognize Your Identification (vv.19-22) 1. v.19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens…” - Paul makes this abundantly clear. There can be a real tendency to play a script in our minds that tells us we don’t belong, we don’t fit in, that we’re not welcomed or appreciated. “To belong here you need to look this way, talk that way, dress the other way…" Certainly this was the case for a great many Gentiles. As Paul says in Romans 9:4–5 “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” But Paul tells them they are fellow citizens and household members. Not citizens of Israel and members of the Temple, but citizens of heaven along with all the saints through all time, and members of God’s adopted family. 1 Timothy 3:15 “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” This is the church. This isn’t just a carryover of Old Testament religion, but a New Covenant community, bought by Christ, built by Christ, victorious in Christ. 2. Paul uses 3 pictures to illustrate this truth for us. We are fellow citizens of a new society, members of God’s family, and components of God’s dwelling place. 1. v.19 Fellow citizens. Citizenship brings great privilege and protection. Natalie and I attempted a move to Austria earlier in our marriage, until we learned that not being citizens would make it very difficult to make a living there. If you’ve traveled internationally you know the power of a US passport, but also its limitations. But we are citizens of heaven. 2. v.19 Members of the household of God. We are sons and daughters of the King, adopted by the Most High God. Our heavenly Father cares for us, provides for us, protects us, trains us, disciplines us. 3. vv.20-22 Components of God’s dwelling place. This temple isn’t a temple to Artemis, but it is the very dwelling place of God most high, the one true and living God. This is a place where God is actively at work, not a museum or a place of memorial. 1. Exodus 40:34–35 “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” 2. 1 Kings 8:10–11 “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” 3. 1 Peter 2:5 “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 4. This fitting together is not easy. We have jagged edges and pointy corners. But God is working to join us together in Christ, and grow us together into his dwelling place. The foundation of the apostles and prophets means that we are founded on God’s Word. Christ as our cornerstone means that he is the standard and bears the weight of the entire structure. We don’t choose our place in this structure, but we each take our place, uniquely shaped and contributing differently, but all to God’s glory. Conclusion: Let me say I recognize that now is a time that is testing our unity, a time that could lead to factions and divisions. We are all under immense stress and pressure. But let me encourage you in this, that you aren’t going at it alone, but you are living as a part of the body of Christ, with the support and love of the church with you. Doesn’t a passage like this encourage you, and cinch that knot of affection a little tighter toward your brothers and sisters? Christ has accomplished the victory and brought us to peace, with both God and each other. We are united in Christ as a dwelling place for God.