Today we continue our message series about Life in Christ and the difference that is made by an encounter with Christ Jesus and his wholly holy goodness…
We’ve been looking at the letter to the Ephesians to see what the Apostle Paul declared about this Life in Christ. For previous messages, please go and review past blogs.
Let’s read Ephesians 2:11-22
11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh — called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands.
12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.
14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, 15 He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.
16 He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.
17 When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.
21 The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord.
22 You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
So this leads us to our investigation of the Scriptures that brings us to some further questions.
- What does God to draw mankind to Himself?
- Why does He do this for mankind?
- Why are these acts of importance to mankind today?
We see that God works to give His life to mankind in order that we would be His living eternal declarations of His love.
Let’s look first at what God does…
I. God Works By His Grace. (2:1-4) see blog post here for further notes.
II. God Works Through His Gospel. (2:4-9) see blog post here for further notes.
III. He works For His Glory. (2:8-10) see blog post here for further notes.
IV. God Works Bringing His Goodness. (2:11-22)
God brings about this work of goodness in all Christians by doing a few things…
A. Christ brings His prohibition to our separation.
- Because we were without Christ.
Every human being that has ever walked this earth was once separated from Christ by his or her sin. This separation has created a distance between God and man.
The person that is distant from God is called a pagan… a heathen …and irreligious. The pagan life is a Christ-less life.
No one likes to be known as a pagan, or a heathen, or a sinner. We like to think the best of others. We also like to think of people as mostly good. And while there are good things that are accomplished by people that are distant from God, these good things are not the holy things.
The sinful choices of our lives leave us separated and in enmity with God. It is this enmity and lack of righteousness that brings us to condemnation.
But while we are not wholly good God does not abandon those He loves. He brings His wholly holy goodness to those that were not wholly good.
God works bringing His goodness in spite of this separation to draw us to Himself. God is the one who removes the prohibition of being without Christ to those who receive His good holy gift.
- Because we were without citizenship.
Another title that Paul uses in this well penned treatise is the term Gentile. To be a Gentile meant being born as anyone that wasn’t ethnically Hebrew. It meant there was a lack of citizenship in God’s promised kingdom community.
The Hebrews, the children of Israel, were peoples and a nation that God chose for the special honor or making Him known to the other nations. They were promised a significant role in God’s kingdom community. A part of this promise was that they were the people that would use in His providence to bring about the lineage that would ultimately lead to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus, in God’s perfect timing.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you were born Jewish that you automatically get some kind eternal hall pass. Anyone who is Hebrew must now submit to the fulfillment of the new covenant found completed in the Messiah. They still must place their faith in God who saves through Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah that is actually fully God Himself. The Hebrew and the Gentile alike must recognize by faith and follow-ship that this Jesus is both the provision of God and the King who is God.
Now, back to the Gentile identity. A person who was a Gentile could become a proselyte follower of Yahweh God. He would not however be able to carry the blessing of being born naturally into this family. They would never be considered able to receive the full benefit and blessing of being a full kingdom community citizen.
All of mankind is in need of the citizenship that only God can and does bring making us all His kingdom people.
God works bringing His goodness in spite of this lack of citizenship to draw us to Himself. God is the one who removes the prohibition of being without kingdom citizenship to those who receive His good holy gift.
- Because we were without covenant.
While the blessing of the Gentiles was certainly included in God’s covenant promise to Abraham, God never made any covenants with the Gentile peoples themselves. He would make pronouncements to His people, the Israelites, to deliver to the Gentiles.
But the Israelites would at times make the Gentiles remember that they were strangers, foreigners, and, aliens to the promises that God had made with the Israelites.
This was even evident in the construction of the Temple courtyard in Jerusalem. As Paul wrote this letter, the Temple was still standing so the reports about it would have passed through the other regions of the Greco-Roman world. This would have bee especially true in the Ephesian world, as they would have heard of the comparisons between this Hebrew Temple and their local landmark, the Temple of Artemis (Diana).
The Hebrew Temple itself separated peoples from each other by multiple dividing walls.
- There was the place called the Holy of Holies. It was in this place that the Ark of the Covenant was kept and the High Priest only entered this room once a year on the Day of Atonement. It was separated from the rest of the Temple by a large veil. This veil was torn from top to bottom on the day of Christ’s crucifixion.
- There was the Holy Place were the altar of incense; the table for the showbread, and the lampstand burning by oil was kept. Only the tribe of Levi could enter this place as priests to continue the service of worship.
- There was the outer courtyard that was only for Jewish males to enter in a way to present their offerings and sacrifices for the brazen altar that was in from of the temple.
- Beyond this courtyard there was a wall with another courtyard beyond it. This was the court of the women. Both Hebrew men and women could meet here for prayer and teaching, but the women were prohibited from going further into the temple.
- Beyond this courtyard there was yet another wall with another courtyard beyond it. This was the court of the Gentiles. This would be the place where those who were proselytes could come to pray and submit their offerings. There was a strong warning to any Gentile that would dare to go further than this wall allowed. Summarized, this sign would read… No foreigner may enter within the barrier that surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.
God works bringing His goodness in spite of this lack of covenant to draw us to Himself. God is the one who removes the prohibition of being without covenant to those who receive His good holy gift.
In His wholly, holy, goodness God works so that we are no longer strangers and foreigners to Him, but those who can draw near to the throne of grace in Christ’s new covenant.
- Because we were without hope.
The promise to the Jewish people was that God was bringing about a fulfillment of all things, a provision for salvation, and the promise of His blessing. In other words… that all of history, everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will be is moving toward something.
For those who were not of the Hebrew nation… this worldview wasn’t a mainstream idea. Many of the philosophies of that day did not include such a hope. In fact, some philosophies believed that there was no real future and nothing that we could do to fully make a mark on the future. In other words… the only thing you could do was to live for today because it didn’t really make a difference on tomorrow.
All people need hope that life is going somewhere and that this life has a purpose that God will fulfill.
God works bringing His goodness to give us hope as He draw us to Himself. God is the one who removes the prohibition of being without hope to those who receive His good holy gift.
God not only makes the promises of hope…He provides the provisions for hope. This promise, this provision, this presence is found in the wholly, holy goodness that is Jesus Christ.
- Because we were without God.
The plight of the Gentiles was not caused by God, but by their willful sin. This is a story of de-evolution where the truth of the one true God was made known and history shows that man went their own way.
Now not every man rose up and intentionally shook their fist at God, but they did turn aside to their own way and miss the wholly, holy standard that God has set for all man. Man missed out on his best when they chose to depart from God’s best. However religious, man has distanced himself from God.
Only the wholly, holy goodness of God can destroy the prohibition between man and God and draw us to Himself. And God has done this so that we would have…
- Christ brings His reconciliation to our situation.
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.” v.13
Reconcile means to bring together again something that was once apart. We were separated from God and from the covenants of God… But now Jesus brings God’s plan of reconciliation. We must realize the need for reconciliation and see the great goodness of God that makes it possible.
This reconciliation is a free gift to us but a costly gift for Christ.
- This reconciliation is one unites us with Christ’s kingdom There is no longer two different parties when it comes to the provision of Christ and His covenant.
- This reconciliation unites us with Christ’s kingdom… by taking those that were once enemies in a kingdom of darkness and bringing us into the kingdom of His marvelous light.
God works bringing His goodness to give us as He draws us to Himself. God is the one who removes the prohibition of being without hope to those who receive His good holy gift.
- Christ brings His unification to cure our divisions.
Christ’s work of goodness on the cross brings about a new creation out of the old that reveals His grace, gospel, glory, and goodness. The mold is broken and a new masterpiece comes to life.
- He makes us into a new nation (v. 19a).
- The church is the uniting of the many peoples of the world, that were divided at Babel because of sin and are now united by the Spirit. We were once divided from God and each other, but now we are His kingdom community.
- He makes us into a new family (v. 19b).
- Through faith in Christ, we enter into God’s family, and God becomes our Father. It is a family that is found in both heaven and on earth. God doesn’t make a nation of strangers, but a family of brothers and sisters connected in Christ. We were once strangers from God and man but now we are His family.
- He makes us into a new temple (vv. 20-22).
- The temple is the place of God’s dwelling. The church is the people among whom the Holy Spirit dwells (individually as disciples and collectively as the church).
We were once without God’s presence in our life…but now we are the dwelling place of God.
God works bringing the wholly, holy, goodness of His reconciliation to give us a new identity as He draws us to Himself.
Life in Christ is made possible by His wholly, holy goodness. Now let us #FollowJesus and live the wholly, holy life that comes.
By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory. In His Goodness.
The topics discussed are taken from the sermons during the Worship Gathering at Eastgate Baptist.
To listen to this sermon or other past messages…please go to this link.