Our text this morning is found in Ephesians 2:11-22. (14-18)
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 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 us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
In Ephesians 2:1-10 Paul focused upon the fact that God saves individuals while they are in a helpless situation.
In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul reminds us that God reconciles these individuals out of a hopeless situation.
In doing this He creates one new person out of them in Christ. Our text says, “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 us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
In the Old Testament God had chosen Israel to be His people. What a blessing, honor and privilege for them! Let me remind you of a passage that we read last week from Ezekiel 16:8-14 which expresses the beauty of the relationship that they had with the LORD.
When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.
This passage is just one of the many scriptures that speak of the special relationship that Israel had with the LORD.
However, the Gentiles never had a special relationship with the LORD like Israel enjoyed.
As I read this did you find yourself longing to hear God say, “You are mine”.
As we begin this morning I would like to go to John 4. It is there that we find a story that reminds us of the importance of the work that Jesus came to do in reconciling the whole world to God through Himself.
Immediately we are told that Jesus had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4 – And He had to pass through Samaria.). Yet, because of the enmity between the Jews and Samaritans most Jews would not pass through their territory.
When Jesus arrived at a well that was outside of a Samaritan city...
He rested there because He was weary from the journey. (4:6)
His disciples left to go into the town to get some food (4:8)
while they were gone a woman arrived to draw water. (4:7)
Jesus asked the woman for some water and she was surprised by Jesus’ question and said, “How is it that you; a Jew ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (4:9)
Then John adds some helpful words concerning the disposition between Jews and Gentiles, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (4:9)
In this story we see that there are a lot of societal tensions between many of the people in this story.
There are tensions between the Jews and the Samaritan’s
There are tensions between this woman and the other women in her city. She comes by herself at an odd time of the day which leads many to believe that she was also rejected by those in her own town. Typically women would come to the well to draw water at the cool time of the day and they would socialize together. However, this woman comes at the hot time of the day by herself, as if she had no friends.
There are tensions in this woman’s own personal relationships (4:18 - ...for you have had five husbands, and the one you have is not your husband.)
We also see that there is tension between how men and women were to interact together. For example, when the disciples return from the city with food, we read in John 4:27 these words, “Just then His disciples came back. They marveled that He was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”
Shortly after Jesus’ disciples arrive the woman leaves and begins to tell the people in her town about this man who may be the Messiah. She says, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (4:29)
The townspeople come out to see Jesus and they ask Him to stay with them. Jesus spends two days with them and many Samaritans believe upon Jesus.
This story shows us several things. First, this woman came to believe upon Christ and she received eternal life. By the end of this story we find that most of the people in this town believed upon Him. John 4:41-42: They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’
This woman came alone to the well but now she was part of a very large group of believers. This woman has been given two things; forgiveness of her sins and she has been granted fellowship in a body of believers. That is one of the most beautiful things that I see in scripture. And it is also this very gift that we can so easily take for granted.
Secondly, consider the powerful witness that these Samaritans give concerning Jesus when they say in John 4:42, “...for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” They recognized that Jesus did not just come to save Jews, or only the good people, or the rich people, or the wise people, or the noble people. He came to be the Savior of the world. Do you have this view of Christ and His work of Salvation?
Thirdly, we find that Jesus’ disciples are still not fully aware of the fact that He was going to break down these strong barriers between Jews and Gentiles. It was going to take some time for these disciples to see that they were to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. (Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.)
We see in this story that Jesus can save an entire Samaritan town, but can he save a diverse group of people, bring them together and unite them in some profound, meaningful and permanent way?
We find the answer to this question in Ephesians 2. It is here that we find that Jesus saves individuals and He unites them together by creating one new person in Himself. He is the Head and Christians are His body. Christ is the foundation and the chief cornerstone and we are the stones that are being built into a dwelling place for God by His Spirit.
In our text we quickly discover that the rift between Jews and Gentiles is anything but superficial. Paul will describe two different aspects of this alienation.
The Division Between Each Other and God
Dr. William Barclay describes the division between Jew and Gentile in this way, “The Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. The Gentiles, said the Jews, were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations that he had made...It was not even lawful to render help to a Gentile mother in her hour of sorest need, for that would simply be to bring another Gentile into the world. Until Christ came, the Gentiles were an object of contempt to the Jews. The barrier between them was absolute. If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death.”
Can you imagine that the Jews could have adopted such an attitude towards the Gentiles in light of what we considered in Ezekiel 16? “And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.” (Ezekiel 16:4-5)
God had intended something far different than this from Israel. He intended that they would be a blessing and a light to the nations (Is 42:1-6).
Genesis 12:1-3 – “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
Isaiah 49:6 - “He says, ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Dr. Harold Hoehner says, “They were to keep the law which provided opportunity to witness to their Gentile neighbors of God’s wonderful deliverance and care. Rather than using the law as a witness, it became the tool that enabled them to look down on the Gentiles whom they considered sinners. Hence this caused hostility between Jews and Gentiles.”
Dr. John Stott says, “The tragedy is that Israel forgot her vocation, twisted her privilege into favoritism and ended by heartily despising-even detesting-the heathen as ‘dogs’.”
Paul reminds these Ephesians that they were at one time ‘far off’, ‘strangers’, and ‘aliens’. He reminds them that before they came to know Christ there was hostility between them and God and His people Israel. They had no access to God’s blessings. The Ephesians are to remember that they were at one time…
separated from Christ
alienated from the commonwealth of Israel
strangers to the covenants of promise
they had no hope and without God in the world
This is one of the main points that Jesus discussed with the woman at the well. She had to come to realize just how far away from God the Samaritans truly were from God.
Paul reminds the Ephesians that they were without Christ and alienated from the citizenship of Israel. Dr. Donald Hoehner says of this, “The Gentiles were not only separate from Christ personally, which was true also of many Jews, but moreover they had no national hope of the Messiah as did Israel. Israel had this hope because of Old Testament revelation of the promised Messiah.” To emphasize this hopelessness even more, Paul reminds them that they were alienated from the special privileges that Israel received from the LORD.
Paul reminds them that they were strangers to the covenants of promise. Most believe that ‘covenants of promise’ that Paul refers to here are the unconditional covenants that were given to Israel through the Abrahamic covenant, Davidic covenant, and the promise of the new covenant. In these three promises Israel was promised…
the promise of a Messiah,
and promised the blessing of a New Covenant where they would would know God and have the law written on their hearts.
Because the Gentiles were unaware of the covenants and the promises of God they were without hope and without God in the world.
They did not have Israel’s privilege of God’s revelation, they had nothing to look forward to.
They had no expectation that God would work in their lives.
They had no knowledge of salvation that would include a future resurrection and eternal life.
They had no idea of future messianic deliverance and blessings.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson says, “By nature, then, we were Christless, stateless, friendless, Godless, hopeless; in a nut shell, ‘we were not God’s people’ (1 Peter 2:10).” As Gentiles, our situation was helpless and hopeless. Our situation resembled nothing like the relationship that Israel enjoyed with the LORD as it was described in Ezekiel 16.
Paul reminds these Ephesians that all of this has changed because of Christ. They are no longer Christless, stateless, friendless, Godless and hopeless. He says, “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 us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:13-16)
The Samaritan’s testified of Jesus saying, “...we know that this is indeed the savior of the world.” They had come to know two things about Jesus.
First, Jesus and His work is central to man’s salvation.
Secondly, that saw that Jesus was the savior of the world.
Jesus would save a diverse group of people and bring them to the Father by His own blood.
Jesus would remove every commandment that made us liable before God.
Through His sacrifice Christ would be their peace.
Jesus would create in Himself one new man in the place of the two.
This morning, because of the quarantine, we will partake of communion in the presence of our own families and in the comfort of our own homes. But our text reminds us that communion is a time to remember that God has brought together a large diverse group of people. As we come to communion we reflect upon the fact that “in Christ Jesus we who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
We celebrate the fact that God has through Christ saved men and women, Jew and Gentile, young and old, republican, democrat and independent, He saves the religious, like Paul, and the idolaters, like the Thessalonians. He saves the rich and the poor. And in Christ, He makes them all one new man!
Consider these words form Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
We come to communion this morning to look at Christ. And by looking at Him and seeing the work that He has done we are aware of the fact that we have received a ministry of reconciliation. Today we have been reminded that Christ is the Savior of the world and we want to join him in that work.
When we looked at Ezekiel 16 we should have found our hearts longing to be a part of that special relationship. When the world looks at Christians they ought to see in us something that makes them long to be part of this special relationship with Christ.
So let us come and celebrate. Let us recognize the privilege of coming to the Father past the dividing wall of hostility. Let us rejoice in and strive to remain together in the unity and peace that we have in Christ. And let us cultivate our passion to share this hope with others.