One in Christ-April, 22, 2012
In looking at the scriptures for today’s sermon it is helpful to be reminded in chapter one who Paul speaks about how it is the purpose of God to gather up all things in Christ for his glory. Verse 11 of chapter 2 Paul reminds the Gentiles in the flesh were called “Uncircumcision”, by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed by human hands. This message really seems to be for both groups, the Gentiles who were outside of God at the time not knowing him or his ways, and to the Jews who thought of themselves more highly than they ought, and in so doing rather that being the people of God to bring the message of God to the world, they used the law as a barrier to “better” themselves and keep themselves from the world. Those who so-called believed they were at a better standing before God, then stated that you were not with God because of an outward marking of the flesh.
Unless God circumcised the hearts of people, they are not his. Until are hearts our broken and God takes his proper place in our lives, there are no amount of symbols or physical appearance that can change the reality of a stubborn, hard, or arrogant heart. Psalm 51 speaks of this broken and contrite heart. Paul continues to remind the Gentiles that they were, at one time, separate from Christ. Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel (the people of God), and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. In the time before they came to know Christ the Gentiles did not have a connection with the people of Israel, and now they have a citizenship in heaven. They did not know the covenants and promises of God, having no hope and without God in the world, but now in Christ they have a new hope in the promises of God and in this world they are not without God.
Thinking to our own lives as believers, those who have followed him and know his promises, there are still tough days. There are days when we feel like we can’t get by in this world and all hope seems lost. Even as believers we have difficult times and days. I personally do not know how those who are without God in the world, have hope in this life, or hope for any life everlasting. What a condition to find oneself in, and as a believer, what a responsibility we have to share the good news of the gospel with those who are dying in this world and do not have the hope of Christ in their lives.
The theme of gathering up continues in verse 13, for now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. We are in the blood of Christ brought near to God. In Christ Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
The law and commandments were used by the Jews as a wall or dividing barrier between them and the Gentiles, and in this new establishment of peace, there is more here than just accepting Gentiles, it was that as fleshed out more in Acts 15 was that the Jews themselves were recognizing themselves as sinners and acknowledging the way was Jesus. This puts them on equal footing with the Gentiles in regards to their salvation. Christ breaks down the barriers that separate, putting enmity to death in His flesh, that in him the two would be as one new man. Bringing both near to God through the same means, bringing peace, and reconciling them in one body, His, through the cross. No more excuses over who was better or more right, only one body brought salvation and it is only in living as that body today in this world can we hope to share it with others. The importance of being one can not be emphasized enough. We are one in him, we live in him, serve in him, share the gospel in him, grow into maturity together in him, and find our hope and peace together in him. Anything less than what we find in him will not last or bring glory to God.
For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then Gentiles (that includes us as non-Jewish people) where strangers and aliens but not citizens and are of God’s household. We are citizens of the kingdom of God together. The church universal and throughout the generations is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you are also being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
We go from being aliens, to citizens, citizens to family, and as a family those who are being built up as a dwelling for God. The temple was seen as the dwelling place for God and Paul here redirects that thought and brings in the foundational teaching the apostles and prophets, and the cornerstone Christ, and the structure would not be brick and mortar but human lives fully devoted to God in unity. The foundation will not change, the cornerstone holds the structural integrity, but the rest of the building must be formed to plan, each life finding its place in the unity of the whole, bringing glory and honor to God.
Can we each say today that we are living in peace, wholeness, and as one, not because things are always right or perfect but because we believe that God desires it and allowed His Son to put these barriers to death in His body that we may live for God.