This sermon, “United through the Gospel: Once Separated, Now United” (Ephesians 2:11-22) , was originally preached on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at English Worship Service of the North Toronto Chinese Baptist Church-Melville Mission in Richmond Hill, ON.
Introduction: Do you remember? Do you remember that you were before living apart from Christ; do you remember how you once did not know God–maybe you knew of him, but you did not know Him personally? How at one time you were without hope, and without God in the world?
I want you to remember 2 things this morning:
Remember how you were separated.
I don’t see any Jews in here, so it seems that this passage is very applicable to us. Because we are Gentiles too, like the Ephesians Paul was writing to: they were not Jewish. It wasn’t just because they were living in sinful lives per se (we already talked about that in the first part of chapter 2). Race was the reason why the Gentile Christians in Ephesus were (verse 12) separated from Christ, why they were excluded from citizenship in Israel, and strangers to the covenant promises God made to Israel.
And so without these things: without citizenship in Israel and the benefits of being an Israelite, the Gentiles were as a result without hope and without God!
The problem was racism. The Jews thought they were better, and far superior to everybody else, to those Gentile “non-Jews”! And the main difference the Jews picked on was circumcision, verse 11. This was the outward covenant sign that the Jews were God’s own people. And the Gentiles didn’t have it, and so they were considered inferior to the Jews, who thus treated them with hostility!
[…] But my point is that like it was almost 2000years ago, racism is prevalent today as it was back then. The Gentile Christians in Ephesus were experiencing discrimination from Jewish Christians. These Jews looked down on the Gentiles and considered them uncircumcised heathens, who should not be considered part of God’s people. We all know that it is wrong, to judge somebody by their skin color, nationality, ethnicity or language. Judging people by their bodies and not their hearts, is a superficial thing to say the least, and quite frankly, it is unbiblical and unchristian. It creates hostility in people, causing us to do stupid things, to do hurtful things against other people who are not like us.
And it’s not just racism that is an issue today: It’s…
-I’m better than you because you’re old, and I’m young; because I have this iPod/iPhone, and you don’t;
-I’m superior than you because I live here, and you live there; because I wear this brand of clothes, and you don’t;
-I’m cooler than you because I hang out with this group of people, and go to these places for fun, and you don’t. OR…
-You’re inferior to me because you’re one of those pagans who eat this kind of food, who doesn’t obey the Sabbath and who isn’t circumcised.
This could come from a sense of wrongful superiority over others, or from a sense of fear or insecurity. And when this happens between Christians, between those who have been born again in Christ, it divides the church and causes separation between Christians who are otherwise brothers and sisters in Christ. Verse 14 tells us of the dividing wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles was the Mosaic Law with all its commandments and regulations—like circumcision.
So today, in our society, in our church, what is that dividing wall that separates you from those others? from those you don’t normally hangout with or talk to? Do you have an underlying sense of superiority or hostility towards them?
2) Secondly, I want you to
Remember how you were united.
Here, let us focus our attention on verse 13 and verse 19.
Verse 13 says “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” In other words, once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through Jesus death on the cross. Don’t you see the huge contrast this is from verse 11 and 12!? The Gentiles Christians were in the past so far away from God…but now, since Jesus had died for them, and they trust in Him, they are now like the Jews—near to God like never before.
Illustration: Have you ever been far away from home for a long period of time? Maybe a few days, a week or two, or even a year? Like the time when you were on vacation, on a mission trip. If you haven’t experienced, I’m sure you will once you go away for school, or get married and move out of your parents roof!
What happens after you’ve been away from home for awhile, is that you feel homesick; you miss your parents, your brother and sister, your friends from home. You miss your parents home cooked free meals; you miss your bed; you miss free laundry machines; and the clean washroom. You miss the people and the benefits of being at home, with your family.
And this was the situation the Ephesians found themselves in, if it wasn’t for the precious blood of Christ that united them to God and with Jewish Christians, and brought them “home”. Verse 19 makes this even clearer: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”
So before, you were a stranger and an alien. […] We like the Gentiles were, in a sense, also foreigners/strangers to the land of Israel. The Gentiles were aliens too; they were temporarily living in a land that is not theirs—spiritually speaking. In the land of the Jews, in the land original allowed only for God’s chosen people.
How does God resolve this problem of alienation, of separation? How does God unite us to Him and to other Christians?
Verse 14 tells us how: When Jesus was nailed to the cross, he actually broke down the wall of hostility and division that separated the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians—and Christ accomplished this by making the old system of law (the Mosaic Law) inoperable (verse 15)—he made it legally null and void. Christ fulfilled the Law, so making it inoperative. So that we are not under Law, but under grace!
Because on the cross, Jesus himself is our peace, he has made peace, and by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles Jesus is preaching peace.—It’s the complete opposite of hostility, of alienation, of separation…peaceful fellowship with God himself and with fellow Christians. Unity in diversity!
That’s why Paul can say that You are no longer foreigners or aliens–but you’re citizens along with all the fellow believers.
And more than that just citizens… You are members of God’s household, God’s family. God is not only a King who just watches the citizens of his country from his high and lofty throne; He is our Heavenly Father who has adopted us as his children and is kneeling down to embrace us as members of His family, so that we can have direct access to Him—face to face, heart to heart! Through Jesus Christ, we can talk to him directly and have intimate fellowship with him.
Even though–by your race, by your nationality, by your skin color— you are not Jewish—it doesn’t matter! What matters is your heart—if you’ve put your faith in Jesus saving death on the cross for your sins, you can be reconciled first to GOD, and as a result, reconciled to other believers! The cross removes the superiority complex, it changes our hearts, and reminds us that we all were alienated and separated, and that through nothing of our own doing—we were brought near to God!
Application: I must say that his has a lot of application for us today. Verse 20 to 22 is all about how God is building for himself a church—a body of called out believers, who are growing into his holy temple. Like in the Temple of the Old Testament where God’s holy presence and glory dwelled—God is making for himself ONE new people from the TWO groups: a dwelling place that is raceless. A church who’s only biological lineage is from Adam but who’s spiritual lineage is in Christ Jesus. I want to give you a few practical points of applications, a few things I want to challenge you to do in response to God’s message:
- Welcome newcomers every week.
Make a weekly effort to talk to someone you don’t know, or somebody you don’t normally hang out with. The loneliest place in the world can sometimes be a church that doesn’t welcome new people.
- Invite people to go to church with you.
During the week, you’re probably talking with your friends about all kinds of things, and in one way or another you’re soon going to get to the topic of spirituality. So tell them about your hope in Christ, how He is given you hope and peace in life… and how you want your friend to have that same kind of joy in life. And then just invite them to church. It is amazing what a simple invitation can do—it’s non-confrontational, it’s open-ended, it’s a free offer!
- Grow into a holy temple.
I want to encourage you to make the best use of your time at church, during the worship service, in Sunday School, at fellowship. You are here already, so why don’t you just get the most bang for your buck, spiritually-speaking! Learn as much as you can, and be sharing and challenging each other about spiritual things!
- Ponder the cross of our Lord Jesus and what it means for racial harmony. Pray for more wisdom and sensitivity towards those who are unlike you, that we would learn to appreciate our similarities instead of hating our differences.
So that when you do these things– When you welcome newcomers every week; When you invite people to go to church with you; When you grow into a holy temple and ponder what the cross means for racial harmony–you will remember how you were separated… But unlike Katy Perry today–you will remember and know to the very core of your being, how you were united—how GOD has reconciled you to Himself and to each other!
Let us pray.
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