Sunday, April 29, 2018
Spring/Summer Series: Connected: My Life in the Church
Connected in Christ
We are beginning our six-week study from the book of Ephesians.
Today we see how we are “Connected in Christ” and to understand that church membership is a privilege made possible through Christ.
We are removed by some two thousand years from the Jew/Gentile divide, so it is easy to forget what a privilege it is to be included into God’s family. We take it for granted. We’ve come to believe that belonging to God’s family is a right that we are born with. As such we don’t appreciate the beauty of church membership—belonging to a local expression of God’s universal family. Yet, if we consider the access that has been granted to us we cannot help but see how we have been privileged.
We have all felt the pain of rejection, isolation, and not being included. And if you haven’t you are at least alone in this. It is never fun to be the kid sitting alone at the lunch table or the only one not asked to senior prom. It is never a happy situation to be the one not invited to hang out with others. At one point—even if it was kindergarten—we have been excluded from the group. During these times of rejection, we vow to improve ourselves so that we get picked for the team, asked to the prom, and invited to the parties.
Those are not necessarily bad desires. God created us for relationship and it hurts when that desire is not met. That is a fact of life. To deny that is sub human. At the same time that our desire for relationship is a reality, so also is the fact that we live in a fallen world. And in this fallen world people get rejected. There were few greater sources of rejection than the Jew and Gentile relationship.
ILL: Scottish pastor, author, and professor William Barclay:
“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.1"
It is against this backdrop that Paul calls the Gentiles to remember the situation that they once found themselves in.
Paul was one who would tell it like it is. This phrase became common with politicians, news commentators, and other public communicators. Walter Cronkite would end his news cast each night by telling America, “And that’s the way it is.”
Not one to mince words, Paul was straight up honest, sometimes what folks would call today “brutally honest”. He was in no way politically correct. But even in his honesty in telling it like it is, Paul would always tell his listeners how it could be.
His letter to the church at Ephesus is an example of that. In chapter 1, Paul greets the church and reminds the them that they were chosen by God for a divine purpose. He stresses that because of the redemption found in Christ, because He has forgiven them of their sins, they are now gathered into on body – the Body of Christ – sealed by His Holy Spirit. He tells of the supremacy of Christ and that He is to be exalted among the nations.
In chapter 2 Paul strongly impresses upon the people that God alone brings redemption because man was dead in trespasses and sin. Paul hits hard the “sin” factor that is often absent in many sermons today. Yes, he points out the problem but also shows us the possibility of liberating change that come from the grace of God through faith on our part to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior and receive His free gift.
Vs. 8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
We pick up the letter to the church in vs. 11-22
I. Unity and Peace of Christ (2:11-18)
Ephesians 2:11-22 is a call to remember. Before the good news, beginning in verse 13, Paul tells the Ephesians to remember five things: that they were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant promises of God, without hope, and without God in the world. In other words, they did not have access to God. There is no worse statement that could be made about someone.
Because of sin and their rejection of God the Gentiles were cut off from all the blessings of Israel. Even the temple structure reminded the Gentile that he did not have unfettered access to the Almighty. Note here the outline of the temple and the “wall of hostility” that divided the Jews from the Gentiles.
Such a perilous condition is contrasted with the wonderful words of verse 18. Here those that once were rejected have been granted full access to God. Every person at one point has been in the same situation— cut off from God. It is only through Christ that we can have full access to God, and this way have by grace through faith.
Do you remember what is was like to be “cut off”? What are the implications of this “full access” for your prayer life?
Because Jesus has reconciled us to the Father, we are no longer estranged from Him. We no longer aliens or foreigners who don’t belong to the family of God. Jesus has made a way for all those who were far away from God.
United us by the Cross – the new humanity where we identify with Christ and other believers
Become our peace – He abolished the enmity (hostility) between us and God
Provided access to the Father – we are free to approach the throne of God
II. Implications of Christ’s Peace (2:19-22)
One of the negative things about not being part of God’s family is that you do not receive any of the benefits of being part of God’s family. Consider all of the benefits of being a citizen of the United States. There are certain privileges that are not yours while you remain a non-citizen. The same is true in the kingdom of God.
Eph. 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
These aren’t yours while you are outside of the family.
What does it communicate about your commitment to a local church if you do not have a desire to join as a member? If God has brought you into a local church family shouldn’t you and I be fully committed to her?
Vs. 19a - We are no longer strangers: In verse 19 we read that those that were once “aliens and strangers” to the kingdom of God, have now been made “citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”. This means that not only do we have full access to God, but we also have all of the benefits of being a member of God’s family. This same thing is true in the local church. It is only when we covenant with a group of like-minded believers that we really enjoy all of the privileges of membership.
Vs. 19b – Members of the Household of God: Paul then extends the picture a little. He says that we (along with all that have gone before us) are being built into a building—a building that is a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. God laid the foundation with his apostles (those sent by God to proclaim the message of Jesus) and prophets (those sent by God to foretell the message of Jesus). And he is drawing people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language and he is grafting them into this building. One brick upon another. Each brick essential. Each with a job. Each for the honor and glory of God.
Vs. 21-22 – A Dwelling Place for God: Christians are the temple of God corporately; belonging to the visible, local church. This is not an option for the followers of Christ. Through Jesus Christ, we have become the new temple where God meets with us in joyful worship and fellowship.
Rev. 21:3 “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
One day this building will be completed. One day we will see the reality of Revelation 7 with our own eyes. (Read Revelation 7).
Step into this scene of eternity. Look around, listen carefully, and then look back on your life to understand what cannot be understood any other way. Revelation 7 allows us to see the Lamb on the throne and hear the voices of the saints who have completed their journey.
Do you see yourself in the crowd? These saints are people just like you and me. They suffered the scorching heat of earthly life. Like us, they went through God’s process of radical change. Now they have reached their final destination. They stand before God’s throne, purified and free, with a full welcome into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords, their Savior, their Shepherd Lamb.
Picture yourself there, because in God’s story, you are there. This is your destination. This is where God is taking you! You will make it through the heat! Someday you will stand before the throne. There will be a moment when your voice will be heard in the chorus of praise that will never end. Someday you will be convinced that it has all been worth it. Life looks dramatically different when examined through the lens of eternity.
What a tremendous privilege that we have been given to be reconciled to God now, and for all eternity. May our love for the local church be a fitting expression of this eternal reality.
Become Connected to Christ and His Church.