Former Enemies Made One in Christ (Ephesians Sermon 13 of 54)
September 27, 2015 | Andrew Davis
Redemption, Adoption, Grace, The Purity and Unity of the Church
Well, for the next two weeks, we're going to be looking at this incredible passage of scripture that Chase just read, Ephesians 2:11-17. And it's a powerful text, I think, that gives us hope for some of the most poignant issues that are facing us even in this day. It's the only hope I think there is for racism, for dealing with the issues of racism in our country. We'll talk much more clearly and directly about that next week. But these problems of division in our world, and hatred, and hostility, and what this text calls a barrier dividing wall of hostility. These things can only be removed by the sovereign grace of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They cannot be removed by diplomacy, or government regulations, or United Nations, or any of those things. Those barriers, those dividing walls of hostility, will not come down that way, but only through the Gospel of Christ. The only hope for unity in our world is the Gospel, and this morning we're going to zero in specifically on the division between Jews and Gentiles. The Jew-Gentile division in the scripture and what Christ has done for that.
History of Conflict
And I think the overwhelming majority of us who are here today, are Gentiles. There may be some of Jewish descent here, but the overwhelming majority of those that assemble on Sunday mornings to hear the good news of Christ, and to study the scriptures are Gentiles. And we need to hear what Paul is saying to us. What you just heard in the text. How it was for us as Gentiles. We need to understand the astounding work that Christ has done in bringing us as Gentiles, who were so far away from hope, so far away from God's work in redemption, in the world, and bringing us near in Christ, and we need to celebrate that. It's amazing. And this text has the power to do that. Paul here goes to the root of hatred and hostility between Jews and Gentiles, and shows us how the work of Jesus Christ on the cross has removed that forever among those that believe in Christ.
Gentiles’ Hostility Toward Jews
Now, from the Gentile side, there is the arrogance, and the military superiority, and the vicious persecution, and even genocidal mania that has stained the pages of history. We know that very well from the 20th century from the rise of Nazism, and its virulent anti-semitism, and 6 million Jews slaughtered in what they called the final solution of Auschwitz, and other death camps, but that wasn't the first expression of anti-Semitism in history. It's not the first time we see that hostility or hatred from the Gentiles toward the Jews.
Throughout history, if you saw a fiddler on the roof, for example, there's a pogrom right in the middle of that in Czarist Russia. That gives you a sense of the history there. The Jews have been persecuted throughout the nations of Europe. They were persecuted during the time of the Inquisition. Going further back, the Crusades were focused not just on driving the Muslims out of Jerusalem, but also they were anti-Semitic in nature. And it goes all the way back even within the scriptures to what happened in the Book of Esther, as Haman was seeking some kind of a genocidal work on the Jews, wiping them out entirely. So, Gentile history of hatred for the Jews is well-established, along with their military superiority.
Hostility of Jews Toward Gentiles
But the Bible also makes plain the other side. The hostility of the Jews toward the Gentiles. The Jewish jealousy and hatred of the Gentile world as well. The arrogance, religiously. The fact that the Gentiles were, as the text says, "excluded from citizenship in Israel." They were cast out in effect by the Law of Moses, as we're going to talk about today. They were outsiders, and that had the tendency to make the Jews feel religiously superior to those that were inferior to them. They were the chosen people. Then, in the course of time, when the Jews rebelled against God's covenant, as God said they would through Moses, but when they rebelled in the Promised Land, against God's covenant, failed to keep it, God began to give the Jews over again and again to Gentile conquest.
Again, and again, God would raise up Gentiles to come in from the surrounding nations and punish the Jews. You see this in the Book of Judges, you see God raising up the various nations that surrounded them. The Midianites, the Ammonites, Syrians, the Philistines, the Egyptians. And again and again, God would give the Jews into the hands of the Gentiles. The very thing that God said He would do as a curse in the Mosaic covenant, in the Old Covenant. He said this in Deuteronomy 28:25, "The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You'll come at them from one direction, but flee from them in seven. You will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms of the Earth." And then again in Deuteronomy 32:21, God says this, "They, the Jews, made me jealous by what is no God and angered me with their worthless idols, so I will make them jealous by those who are not a people," speaking of the Gentiles. "I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding." So, you Jews made me jealous by your idolatry, then I'm going to make you jealous by giving you over militarily to the Gentiles. This is the very thing you said you would do in the song of Moses before they even enter the Promised Land. Ultimately, this was completed, consummated in some ways, by the exiles under the Assyrians, and under the Babylonians, as the Jews were driven out from the Promised Land militarily.
Then one succession of Gentile overlords after another rose up to dominate them even when a small remnant under Ezra and Nehemiah, came back to rebuild the Jewish presence in the Promised Land, they were still, as was said in those books, slaves in their own land. They were under Gentile domination. And that was very, very difficult. So you see some of that hatred in that history. It's interesting, even this morning I was looking at a couple of verses in Ezra and Nehemiah. It says in Nehemiah 2:20, as Nehemiah's just beginning his work of building the city wall around Jerusalem, some Gentiles come and show up and begin talking to him about that project, and this is what Nehemiah said to these Gentiles. "You have no portion, no right, and no claim in Jerusalem." Well, praise God we do have a portion, right, and claim in the New Jerusalem. Amen. We were outsiders. What was Nehemiah building? A wall. What was that for? To keep them out.
And then again in Ezra as they're starting to build the temple, in Ezra 4:3 says, "You have nothing to do with us in building this temple for our God in which we will worship." Again, spoken to the Gentiles. “You're outsiders.” Well, this attitude, this hostility, Jew toward Gentile, which is made much more fierce because they were, in effect, under Gentile domination, and slaves in their own land, came to a fever pitch in the New Testament. When God raised up Saul of Tarsus, converted him, made him the Apostle to the Gentiles, and he began to go from place to place, teaching that in Christ, the very things he's saying here in Ephesians are true, “we gentiles have become sons and daughters of Abraham. And that we're now included in the covenant, the new covenant in Christ.” The nationalistic Jews were extremely angry about that, those that had not yet come to faith in Christ. And they were enraged actually. Started riots in many cities in reference to Paul's ministry to the Gentiles. Well, you see that in Acts 21, when Paul's there and he's with a Gentile, and they assumed that he had brought this Gentile into the temple area, which was absolutely forbidden. And they started to try to kill him, and started a riot and all that. The Romans came in and rescued Paul, and they're bringing him to the barracks where they're going to beat him. Paul had a hard life. I mean really. What a ministry. But here he says, "Just a minute, I'd like to speak to the crowd." I just think that's amazing, Acts 22, it's a witnessing moment. A chance to share the Gospel. I mean, how he thought was amazing. But he stands up and he's sharing his testimony and for the second time in the Book of Acts.
We get the story of the road to Damascus, and how he's converted, and they're listing quietly, until he gets to one word. One word. And this is what it says, "Then the Lord said to me," this is Paul talking about his own testimony. They'd been quiet up to this point. "Go. I will send you far away to the Gentiles." The crowd listened carefully to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices, and shouted, "Rid the earth of him. He's not fit to live." And then they're shouting and throwing off their cloaks, and flinging dust in the air. One word sent them into anger, “Gentiles.”
So there's that Jew Gentile hostility. We've seen it both sides of the equation. Now, it is true that God had chosen the Jews and blessed them. They were in a very special way, the focus point of his redemptive work on Earth. He said at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:5-6, to the Jewish nation, "Now if you obey me fully and if you keep my covenant, then out of all the nations, you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole Earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." But it was for the purpose of blessing the entire world with the Abrahamic blessing. "Through you,” Abraham, “all peoples on Earth blessed," and I don't think they understood that. They didn't see that. And that theme had long since disappeared from the Jewish mindset, and from the Jewish way of life. In Christ, it is fulfilled. In Christ, it is consummated. “We Gentiles, who were once so far away have now been brought near” and are included in what God had always planned to do through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Well, that's all by way of introduction.
The Distance Between Gentiles and God
Remember What You Were, Gentiles
Let's look now very carefully at these verses that teach so much about our condition as Gentile believers in Christ. Let's begin in verses 11 and 12 where it makes it very plain that Gentiles, who are formally excluded and without hope, have now been brought near. We were formally excluded. We were on the outside, and without hope. Look at Verse 11-12, "Therefore remember that formally, you who are Gentiles, by birth, and called uncircumcised by those who call themselves the circumcision, that done in the body by the hands of men. Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
So Paul here calls on the Gentiles to remember what they were formally. We've already seen that earlier in the worship service today. The benefit of going back and remembering how it was. Now, Ephesus, these Ephesians, they were from the city of Ephesus. It was in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. And that was a Gentile region, a Gentile city, and a Gentile region. And they worshiped Pagan deities, like Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, whose image had supposedly fallen out of Heaven. And they built this huge temple to her, that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There was paganism, it was a pagan place, they worshiped idols. Their men were uncircumcised, as Paul mentions in this text. They were seen by Jews, by some Jews anyway, to be unclean dogs. "They were," verse 11, "Gentiles by birth” or more literally “Gentiles in the flesh." Their genealogy, their racial lineage, was Gentile, not Jew. Paul wants them to look back and to remember how it was for them as a nation, and group. Why is that?
Well, it's just a truth. And we've been seeing this again and again. The more you realize what you were before you were converted, the more joyful and thankful you'll be now and energetic in service to Christ. The more you know just how black, and dark, and distant all of that was, the better it is for you. I just love singing that song, Jesus, Thank You. Don't you? I leaned over to Daphne this morning? I said, "I love this song. It gives me a chance to tell Jesus, ‘Thank you.’ Just to say, ‘Thank you for saving me.’” And we've already seen this already, this morning, and earlier in Ephesians 2, how Paul has already brought their minds back. In verses 1-3, look, "As for you," he says, "You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live. When you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Spirit who is now at work and those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” That's what we were. Remember how you were. Look back at how you were. Understand that condition.
Formerly Called “Uncircumcision” by the Circumcised
Now, he wants to tell these Gentiles even more about their situation. God had begun a work of redemption through the Jews. Think of the world like a dark howling wasteland. Like a blizzard in some mountainous region, and there's some light shining and a fire that started, and there's some food cooking, and there's this place of warmth, and you're in the blizzard. But it's like you can see the light, and then as you draw nearer you find that there's this huge wall erected around it. You are on the outside and there was a wall there preventing you from coming in. You couldn't be included, that's what he's saying. You were on the outside. Now, Paul himself was raised in a Gentile region. He was also raised in Asia Minor. He was in the city of Tarsus, 700 miles to the east of Ephesus, right along pretty much the same latitude, right across. And he knew what it was like to be surrounded by Gentiles. He himself was a Roman citizen and he understood this situation. So, he doesn't know how much these Gentiles knew about Jewish laws and regulations, but he's going to tell them. He's going to say, "Remember that formally, you who were called the uncircumcision." Alright, “Gentiles in the flesh and called uncircumcised, by those who call themselves the circumcision.” You're seen to be outsiders by these Jews, “called uncircumcised by those who call themselves as circumcision.”
Now, to some degree, this statement here is a bit of a digression an aside. Paul's interrupting his thought and said, "There are some people who think hard thoughts about you and they call themselves the circumcision. These Jewish nationalists. I understand them, I was one of them myself at one point. And they call themselves the circumcision. They have a sense of spiritual superiority to you, hostility toward you. They have a certain hatred toward you, but their circumcision," Paul alludes to this, "their circumcision is merely external, and physical, it's not spiritual." He's going to talk about this in Romans 2:28 and 29. He says, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly. Nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise does not come from men, but from God." So that's a true Jew. Okay. They've had that inner-work of transformation by the Holy Spirit. It's a circumcision of the heart. They've been transformed. The very thing that happened in Ephesians 2:4-5. Go ahead and look at it. "But God made us alive even when we were dead in transgressions, it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up." That's another way of saying the same thing. That spiritual circumcision, by the Spirit, not by the written code, that hasn't happened to these people, they call themselves a circumcision and they're only focusing on the physical.
Six Facts About the Gentile Condition
Okay, well anyway, you Gentiles, alright, what should we remember? Well, let's remember six devastating things about you in that condition. “Remember that at that time, when you were not a Christian. Back then, before you were converted, alright, you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the Promise, without hope, without God in the world.” Six different things that Paul says was true of us as Gentile, unconverted people.
Separate from Christ
So first he says, "You are separate from Christ, you are outside of Christ, you are apart from Christ, you are not in fellowship with Christ." Christ for us is everything. Christ is life, Christ is our hope. We have nothing apart from Christ. And so, when you are not a Christian you had nothing from Christ, you were separate from Him. Christ is the fullness of joy. He is life and power and peace and everything good in the universe. But more than that, you Gentiles, you didn't even have any promises or any hopes or any thoughts about Christ? You didn't have a heritage of waiting for the Messiah. You didn't even know about Him. You didn't know that one had been promised who would come would be the Savior of the world. You didn't have those kinds of thoughts. So you were separate from Christ. You had nothing like that.
Excluded from Citizenship in Israel
And secondly he says, "You were excluded from citizenship in Israel." Citizenship, the language of citizenship is something these Gentiles would have understood, dominated as they were by the Romans, and there was such a thing as Roman citizenship. Paul himself was born a citizen of Rome,. And so being a citizen of Rome brought you certain rights and privileges. Certain advantages and benefits. Well, they were outsiders, they had no rights and privileges when it came to Israel. And why? Because the law of Moses kept them out, it excluded them, told them they were not permitted to enter the assembly of the righteous. They were outsiders. In Deuteronomy 23:2-3, it says this, “No one born of a foreign marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord even down to the 10th generation.” That's right in the law of Moses. “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord even down to the 10th generation.” When they came back under Ezra and Nehemiah, they were all about genealogies. You've read those books. Genealogy all the time. “Are you Jewish?” That's the question. And then in Nehemiah 13:1-3, it says on that day, the Book of Moses was read aloud and the hearing of the people and it was found written, “that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be entered into the Assembly of God.” Now listen to this, the kind of extension of this “when the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent,” everybody. So you might say, “Wait a minute. I'm not Ammonite I'm not a Moabite.” Well, you're included, excluded, included in the excluded. If you're not Jewish, you're out.
What's interesting though is honestly the entire Old Covenant was about exclusion, for everybody. Wasn't it? Wasn't the tabernacle, just a bunch of cloth walls that kept people out? Wasn't the Temple, a more permanent bunch of walls that kept people out? Wasn't it true that you couldn't enter the Holy of Holies, unless you were descended from Levi and descended from Aaron and it was the Day of Atonement, and you brought blood, and you better get out of there, quickly? So there are these barriers, all of this. We'll get back to that in a moment. But God had set this up, He had set up this barrier, He had set up this dividing wall, He had set all of this up with its commandments and regulations. It excluded all uncircumcised people, from the sacred assembly. The Gentiles were outsiders. Look at Verses 14-15. Do you see the words there? “Barrier.” “Dividing wall.” See it? Verse 15, “the Law with its commandments and regulations.” That's what kept us out. The circumcision rule, the dietary regulations, all of the Jewish laws. Kept us out.
Foreigners to the Covenants of the Promise
Thirdly, foreigners to the covenants of the Promise, what is this? Well, God made a promise to Abraham, when He called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. “Leave your country and your people, and go to the land I will show you.” "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So that's a promise. Then He made him even more promises, He says at one very incredible time. It was night time, and He takes him out, God takes Abraham out of the tent and has him look up at the stars and he says, "Look up at the stars and count them if you can", then He makes him a promise, “So shall your offspring be.” “You're going to have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky,” that's a promise made from God to him. The very next verse is key to our salvation. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” So you first have to hear a promise, then you can believe it. But the Gentiles had no promise made to them, none that we could believe. And then, it mentions the “covenants of the Promise,” “the covenants of the Promise,” and so in Genesis 15, that very same chapter He makes him the second word. “I'm going to give this land that you're walking on here to you and to your descendants forever.” So how do I know that I'm going to get it? It's not looking too good right now God. So then God had him make a covenant. He had him have animals, and he sacrificed them, and laid them out and made a path between them, as that was a covenant cutting ceremony, and suddenly, mysteriously, this fire pot, representing the presence of God, moved between the pieces and in effect, God said “May I personally cease to exist, if I don't keep this promise to you, I will keep my promise to you, I will keep this covenant, you will get the land forever.” Well, that was Jewish though.
The Gentiles had no such covenant cutting ceremony, they had no covenant made with them. Nope, no such promises have been made to the Gentiles, their outsiders. God wasn't making them any promise at all. And notice, it's plural “covenants.” The second covenant I think that Paul has in mind is the covenant made with David, that God would raise up one of David's sons and seat Him on His throne, the throne of David, and he would reign forever and ever a king reigning over a chosen people, in an eternal land that would be theirs forever and ever. That's what God was doing through the covenants, but the Gentiles were outsiders. They were excluded from the covenants of the Promise.
Fourthly, they, “were without hope.” I would say just like Ephesians 2:10 I would say, there's very few days that go by I don't think about Ephesians 2:10, “that I am God's workmanship created to do good works today, which I want to do which God has prepared for me.” How about this one. That the non-Christians that surround us, the lost people are “without hope and without God in the world.” Think about that every day, think about what it would be like to go through life without hope and without God. It's inconceivable how much misery, human misery, is packed into these words. “Without hope.” What do people do when they're hopeless? Well, some of them kill themselves. Other people drown their sorrows in drugs and alcohol. Or in workaholism or achievements or material possessions, or entertainment, or sports. Because they don't have anything, and as they go on there's more and more sense of despair that just doesn't satisfy doesn't satisfy it's “Vanity of vanities, it's meaningless.”
Now, I think there are three types of hope. I've talked to people, non-Christians and Christians alike about this, and it just has to do with a time frame. Hope always has to do with the future. “Who hopes for what he already has?” We don't hope about past things. Hope always has to do with the future. What is hope? Hope is a feeling in the heart, a positive feeling that the future is bright. “I'm looking forward to the future, the future will have good things for me.” Okay? Time frame. First, let's start with eternity, that I'm looking forward to eternity. I'm not afraid to die, I believe in eternal life, and I think eternally, I'll be happy, eternal hope. No one on earth but Christians has any reason for eternal hope, none. Then there's long range hope. “I like how my life is going.” Might have to do with your career, might have to do with a long-term goal. Maybe you just got married, and you're looking forward to a beautiful life with your wife, with your husband. looking forward to that. Things are looking good for you down the road and from now until death, it's going to be good, long range hope. And then there's that short-term, immediate hope. “We're going out to eat tonight at my favorite restaurant. Looking forward to that! Future is looking bright. Short, short range future.”
What ends up happening is more and more non-Christians get down to that final one. More and more, and they just live for today. “Let us eat and drink and be merry, because I don't even know if tomorrow's ever going to come and if it does, it's probably going to be bad.” So that's what it means to be without hope. We have a God who has gone ahead of us, in time, and has basically said, “Not only have I been to your future and seen it. I've ordained it, I've decreed it, and nothing will stop it. Your future is bright. So be filled with hope. Be filled with joy.” We have that as Christians. Non-Christians, don't have that. “Without hope, and without God” means without God as a blessing. God sees everything they do. He is a constant watcher of men and women, He knows everything that we do, that's not it, that's like Hell. That's God. There to punish. God, there to curse. God, there to pour out wrath, not God to bless. That's what, “without God” means here, that God isn't making any commitment to bless you. He's made no promises to bless you. “Without hope and without God in the world.” The world is just Satan's world where Satan is in charge and dominant.
Can I just stop and just do an application here? Do you not see how we have to be evangelistic in this world? Do you not see how we have got to reach out to non-Christians? We've got to see non-Christians that we live with differently, that these folks have no hope and we have hope in our hearts! Our centers are radiant with hope! By the way, you need to live that out, right? Just live out hope, just speak your hope all the time. Because somebody's going to come and ask you to “give a reason for the hope that you have,” so you have to be putting that hope on display. Amen? So just put that hope on display and hopeless people will say, “What is going on with you?” They're out in the howling wilderness and it's dark and cold and you're like, sitting around a very warm campfire, eating well, and you're protected, and they're like, “I want in. How do I get in?” “Repent and believe in Jesus.” Well, they're “without hope and without God in the world” But now, He says, in verse 13, “In Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. But now,” isn't that almost exactly like, “But God?” Isn't that fantastic just like, “But God”? In verse 4, we have “But now.”
Gentiles Now Brought Near by Christ
You who were once far away you have been brought near, and how amazing is that we're near, near to what? Not so much near to the Jews. Although we'll get to that.
You've been brought near to God. This infinite, high and holy God, the one who, as Daniel quoted earlier, “I live in a high and holy place.” “I live in a high and holy place,” but also with him who is contrite and “lowly in spirit,” “I live with people that are broken-hearted and that come to me through faith in Christ.” You've been brought near. This is the God who sits, “enthroned above the circle of the Earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.” We were as sinners distant from God, and now we have been “brought near” and it says, “through the blood of Christ,” or “by the blood of Christ.” There is no salvation for us sinners, apart from the “shed blood of Christ,” we will never be done talking about the blood of Christ, it says in Leviticus 17, “the life of the creature, of the animal, is in the blood, and I've given it to you to make atonement for your sins.” Well, that was in the old covenant, but we learned in the new covenant that “the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin.” It was just a symbol, And “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness,” but blood has been shed for us, amen? Isn't that beautiful? “The blood of Christ has brought us near.” Jesus died on the cross, He shed His blood in our place that we, who were once distant might be now brought near to God.
Brought Near by Christ’s Bloodshed
Now, here's the key to the “barrier, the dividing wall of hostility coming down.” We're going to talk much more about this next week. This is the key to the end of racism. This is the key to the end of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. This is it. Christ has made us one. Look at verses 14 and 15, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” Well, Christ is our peace. This section here, verses 14 and 15, begins and ends with peace, and so, Christ by His bloodshed on the cross has taken away the wrath of God. So, the peace horizontally takes a back seat to the first, and that is peace vertically with God. God was at war with us, we were His enemies, but now, in Christ, God has reconciled us to Him, through faith in Christ. And so we now have as we saw earlier, Romans 5:1-2, “we have peace with God” through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So vertically, we now have peace with God.
And so what that means is horizontally we are drawn close to oneness with one another. We, having been reconciled to God, we can be reconciled to each other. Look at verses 15 and 16, “His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two,” one out of two, “thus making peace and in this one body, to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility.” So, the war is ended. The war is ended with us and God, and then with us and brothers and sisters in Christ, we are one with each other, we are reconciled to one another, we have been made at peace with each other. So he says that the two, Christ has now made one. Now, the key to that is our spiritual unity with Jesus, if you come to faith in Christ, you are made one with Jesus, look back at verses 4 through 6, “But God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ, with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you have been saved.” Verse 6, “And God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms, in Christ Jesus.” We are one with Christ, And that's true of every single Christian on the face of the earth. We are one with Christ, all of us. It is impossible for two individuals to be each of them, one with Christ and not one with each other. We are in a status of oneness with Christ.
Now, we need to act like it in terms of our walk with Christ, in holiness. We are also in a status of oneness with each other, and we need to act like it and walk like it. And so on that basis, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are made one with each other, as well, one body united in Christ. Now, later he's going to say this in Ephesians 4:3-6, he says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one spirit just as you were called to one hope, when you're called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is overall, and through all, and in all.”
Unity Made Possible Only Through Christ
Now, there are some difficult passages to interpret in the Bible, but what's the main important word there? I think it's “one.” I mean It's kind of like you have to be dense, not to see it. One. There's “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” “One” hope we are one, we have all been made one in Christ. Now the way he does that is by transforming us individually, making us new men and women, new boys and girls. Look at verse 15, "His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, behold everything has become new.” We're changed, we're transformed and we're going to talk next week about racism and all of those issues. So much of it just has to do with the change of the heart, and covering of the history, and forgiveness, and all of those things God has done that for us, he has transformed our hearts and made us into new people. So, no longer Jew, no longer Gentile. Now with a new name Christian, A believer in Christ. Amen? One new man, one new work he's doing, it's the only designation that matters and the Spirit takes that hatred, that bitterness, that's based on history, based on actual sins that have occurred and takes it away.
Christ’s Miraculous Power to Change Hearts
I love the scene in the movie, Ben-Hur, one of my favorite movies, and there Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish man had had a Roman friend when he was a boy, Messala, but when each of them grew up Judah Ben-Hur grew up as it as a Jew, and very nationalistic and caring about his people, Messala grew up as a Roman and grew up very nationalistic, and caring about his people, they came back together after having an apart since they were teenagers, they could not be friends and Messala was bitter and negative toward the Jews, but wanted to use Judah Ben-Hur to betray his people And use him as an informant and all that, and Judah wouldn't do that.
So, Messala turns and punishes Judah Ben-Hur, sends him on a slave galley, takes Judah's mother and sister beloved, mother and sister and throws them in prison with no charges where they contract leprosy. Somehow God spares Judah Ben-Hur, brings him back but he is so seething with hatred at Messala, he can't stand him, he's filled with bitterness and rage over the history and what has happened, And then when he finds out that his mother and his sister have leprosy, and it's Messala's fault, it just goes off the charts. Messala ends up dying in a chariot race, but the hatred doesn't go away. It's like a heat seeking missile, he's just looking for something, and he hates Rome, he hates the world, he hates everything, but he meets Jesus as He's on his way to dying on the cross. He actually watches Him die in the movie.
And he had met Jesus earlier, Jesus had given him some water when He was on His way to the slave galley. Now, he sees Him dying, and he hears Him say those words "Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing", and the blood flows down, and in the movie it was very powerful. And then he comes back, he's just a different man. And he said, "When I heard Him say those words, I felt Him reach down and take the sword out of my hand. That's What happens when Jesus makes you a new man or a new woman. He Just reaches down and takes the sword right out of your hand and you are one with somebody that you, in every other way would be an enemy with. That's the power here. And so Christ has done that, and it says in the text, he's done it by destroying “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Well, this was the last issue in the text. There were laws, there was a circumcision regulation, there were dietary regulations. Jesus, we are told here, has abolished it. Look at verse 15, he talks about the “barrier of the dividing wall of hostility,” verse 15, "By abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.” He abolished them.
Hebrews 8:13 says that in Jesus, “in His blood, there's a new covenant and by calling this covenant new, He has made the old one obsolete.” So the old covenant is abolished. That's the text. It's obsolete. That's Hebrews 8:13. We now no longer are at any spiritual disadvantage uncircumcised we don't have to keep the ceremonial regulations, the dietary regulations. That “barrier, that dividing wall” has been removed. That horizontal barrier has been removed because the vertical one has been removed. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and now “we have access to the Father by one Spirit,” so Jews and Gentiles who have come to faith in Christ, are perfectly one in Him. They just need to act like it, they need to live out that oneness.
Now, we're going to talk next week about how hard that is and more of those aspects. I would say that this text is the most powerful one that I know at getting at the root of racism and bitterness and division. We'll talk more about that next week. A few other applications, then we'll be done.
First, as Gentile Christians. Let's just stand amazed at what He has done. Just do what Paul says. “Remember how it was for you,” formally remember what you were remember the journey that God has taken you from remember how you used to be an outsider, and now you're in. Now, you're inside. Now, you're loved. Keep that in mind and rejoice. If you like, Jesus, Thank You, go home and sing it. Find another song then sing that one. Just praise Him and thank Him.
Secondly, Verse 18 says that “we now both Jews and Gentiles in Christ have free access to God through the Holy Spirit.” Take advantage of it. Come close to God. He has brought you near positionally, now come close in prayer, Bring your problems to Him, “Let us draw near to God, having a sincere heart and pure assurance of faith, as it says in Hebrews 10.
Thirdly, and I've already mentioned this and I'll say it again. Meditate much on the condition of people who are not yet converted. Think about the fact that they're “without hope and without God in the world,” have mercy on them. Last week I challenged the home fellowships to have each member identify five people that they know to be lost, that you're praying for by name. Okay, so I'm ready. Home Fellowship, I've got my names alright, I was busy this week meeting people, but let’s just let's reach out, let's get names of lost people and let's pray for them. And if perhaps you have a chance like Ben and some others of sharing the Gospel and reaching out, let's be bold, let's share.
And then finally, let's meditate on our supernatural unity, in Christ. We're going to talk much more about it next week, but this is the only answer there is for the kind of racial tensions and divisions there are in our country and in the world. Let's meditate on it, let's Get Ready. So I'd urge you just read this text over in light of some of the difficulties that we've been having, even in our nation and around the world and see the answer there. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the truth of the Gospel. We thank you O Lord that apart from Christ we had no salvation but now we, who are once far away have been, “brought near through the blood of Christ.” Lord I pray that there wouldn't be a single person here that would leave this place unconverted, today. I pray that they would trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and find in Jesus, the salvation that they need. And Lord, I pray for all of us who have already found forgiveness and unity and hope in Christ, that we would be filled with thanksgiving and that we would be filled with boldness to take the Gospel to those who are “without hope and without God in the world.” In Jesus' name, amen.