This week, Gerry Sandel will be putting out three Sunday School devotionals which pertain to Mark 13. Mark 13:1-2 says, “And as He came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
I wonder how the disciples felt when they heard Jesus’ words?
Were they shocked and saddened?
Were they in disbelief that something like this could happen to the Temple?
Could they even imagine a world where there was no Temple in Jerusalem?
On this particular day the disciples attention had been drawn to the beauty of the Temple on Mount Zion.
They had never considered that there would be a day when there was no Temple.
Yet, that is exactly what Jesus told them would soon happen.
The disciples would come to see that God was creating a new spiritual temple in which His Spirit would dwell.
Therefore, His disciples would not be like Haggai’s generation when God came saying through the prophet, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” (Haggai 2:3)
On the contrary, Jesus’ disciples would come to see that the temple that Jesus would create would surpass the glory of this earthly temple in every way.
The apostle Peter describes this in 1 Peter 2:4-5, “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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.”
He continues in 1 Peter 2:9-10 saying, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
As I considered our passage this week it has made me appreciate what Christ has done in creating the church.
He strengthens the church
He purifies the church
He calls the church out of the world and makes it holy
How the entire Trinity is involved in the creation and life of the church
Our text this morning is Ephesians 2:14-22,
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, Christ 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 Dr. Steven Lawson’s book entitled, ‘The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther’, he begins with these words, “Whenever God moves powerfully in His church, He first raises up a pivotal leader, a chosen instrument through whom He brings needed reformation and revival. Such a heroic figure stands as an evangelical Atlas, uniquely empowered by God to uphold a new work in a new day by giving it spiritual direction and dynamic impetus.”
These introductory sentences compel you to read further.
They make you long to get to know this man through whom God moved so powerfully,
to learn about this man who became a pivotal leader
to study this man who was God’s chosen instrument to bring reformation and revival
Luther was surrounded by large cathedrals, innumerable relics and countless icons. So many people, like the disciples in Mark 13, got caught up in the beauty and wonder of these things. Many thought that these things helped a person to draw close to God. And yet, these things did not give Luther a clearer view of spiritual things. Instead, they hindered him from seeing the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of Christ.
Far from giving Luther any peace, these things made him loath God. He said, “I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God. Therefore I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience.”
Years later, while considering Romans 1:17 Luther’s eyes were opened for the first time to the gospel. It was in that moment that he realized that ‘the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which a merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”
Dr. Lawson began his biography by saying, “Whenever God moves powerfully in His church, He first raises up a pivotal leader, a chosen instrument through whom He brings needed reformation and revival. Such a heroic figure stands as an evangelical Atlas, uniquely empowered by God to uphold a new work in a new day by giving it spiritual direction and dynamic impetus.”
It is marvelous to consider the people that God raises up and who become uniquely empowered by God to bring needed reform and revival to His church.
We should be grateful for such people
We miss their ministry when they are gone
We should desire to see God raise up such men in our day.
In our text this morning we have the privilege of considering Jesus Christ
He died for the church,
He gives life to the church,
He sustains the church,
He will one day return to gather His church to Himself,
He will dwell in the midst of His church forever.
He gathers the church together and preaches peace to her
To this we can only say with the apostle Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!...For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33, 36)
Paul, or Peter, or Martin Luther are simply His servants to the church.
Consider what he says in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.”
We are all Christ’s servants and despite any exploits that we may be used by God to accomplish we must always remain humble. Psalm 149:4 says, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation.”
God has used so many people and to all of His servants He gives His grace to fulfill their calling. (Ephesians 3:2); but Christ is greater than them all.
Christ creates the church.
The church is His body and Jesus is the Head,
The church was purchased by His own blood.
He is the mediator between God and men.
He is the Great Shepherd who cares for His church and Has laid down His life for her.
He is the bridegroom and the church is His bride. (John 3:27-30)
The author of Hebrews speaks of the glory that is due to Jesus in Hebrews 2:3-6, “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
No one else could have accomplished what Jesus has done. As we have seen in phesians, we were all in a helpless and a hopeless condition.
The prophet Isaiah says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned -every one- to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Therefore, God sent His Servant to achieve peace through His suffering and to reconcile Jew and Gentile to Himself. We read of this in Isaiah 53:11 which says, “Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, my Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Ephesians 2:14 begins with these words, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
One of the members of the Ephesian church had experienced the hostility that is spoken of here. A man named Trophimus, who was traveling with Paul, had been accused of passing through the wall that separated the court of the Gentiles from the court of the Jews in the Temple. This was a transgression that carried with it the death penalty. We find this story in Acts 21:27-29.
“When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing Paul in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.”
As Paul sat down to write this letter to the Ephesians he was still in prison as a result of this event that occurred in Jerusalem. Ephesians 3:1 says, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles...”
I can only imagine how grateful Trophimus was as he considered the things that Paul writes about in this text.
First, the Ephesians are told that Christ “has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.”
Christ has freed every person from the law as a covenant of works through which they could or could not approach God.
Christ did this by being made subject to the law and by bearing its penalty on the cross.
Both Jew and Gentile can now draw near to God through faith in Christ and not through the demands and requirements of the Law.
Secondly, these Christians would be encouraged by being reminded that…
they were no longer strangers; but they are now citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
They were no longer alienated from God; but they had been adopted into God’s family.
And they are reminded that they are now a part of the new living temple.
Thirdly, they are being encouraged by being reminded that this temple is holy, that God dwells in this temple by His Spirit, that Christ is the cornerstone of this temple and that the foundation had been laid by the authoritative teaching of the small group of apostles and prophets who taught the church after Jesus’ resurrection.
This is what we see in Ephesians 2:20-22 says, “...built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ 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 His Spirit.”
We read in Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace.”
I benefited greatly by what Dr. Ferguson said of these words, “This is emphatic. Not simply ‘He is our peace’ but ‘He himself is our peace’. Peace is not a commodity given to us by Christ; it is a reality experienced in fellowship with Christ. We are not merely ‘at peace’. Christ Himself is our peace – and we enjoy and share shalom only because we are united together in Christ who is our peace. Faith does not pick blessings from Christ, and thus united to Him all spiritual blessings are ours, including being united to one another in Him. This is shalom.”
Can you imagine the dread that would fill your heart if you were to approach God without being in Christ?
If we found ourselves in God’s presence apart from Christ we would say with Luther, “Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.”
However, Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through Him (Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile) have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
Concerning this access that we now have to draw near to God, Charles Hodge says, “Access is not mere liberty to approach; it refers to an ‘introduction.’ Christ did not die simply to open the way of access to God, but actually to introduce us into his presence and favor. It is a real not a mere potential redemption and reconciliation which the blood of Christ effects.”
Here we find that Jesus does for us what Barnabas did for Paul in Acts 9:27, “And when Paul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.”
Consider Hebrews 4:14-16, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I hope that this has helped us to see the beauty of the church. My hope is that this text has raised your affections for Christ’s church and for His people everywhere.
The Lord promised to the prophet Haggai and to His generations that the temple they were building would have more glory than the former and that in that temple the LORD would grant them peace. The Lord said, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.”
Surely we have come to see that under this dispensation of GRACE we are experiencing an even greater fulfillment of these things. Believers are in Christ and Christ is glorified in the Father. We are now the recipients of a peace that is both vertical and horizontal. We are at Peace with God and we are to maintain peace with one another. The Spirit of the LORD can make this all happen.
I began this sermon by talking about the day that the disciples Marveled at the beauty of Herod’s temple. Consider how much more the disciples had come to marvel at the beauty of the Church that Christ is building.