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Ephesians 2:11-22: We Are the Dwelling Place of God Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 October 2017

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Five hundred years ago this Tuesday, Martin Luther put forward his disagreements with the Roman Catholic Church concerning the selling of indulgences. It did not seem like that big of a deal at the time, but looking back, it is hard to calculate the impact of that action for the Church. Being so removed from life before the Reformation, it is hard for us to even understand what it was like before Luther took his stand. But it is good for us to try and understand. It is good for us to remember what was at stake during the Protestant Reformation lest we take for granted the privileges we enjoy today (like all having bibles in our own language)! Our focus is not just Luther and the other reformers, who were all flawed like us. Our focus is the change that God brought about through their lives. Changes that we still enjoy.

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Paul teaches us the value of remembering in Ephesians 2:11-22. In fact, the only imperative, or command, in all of chapters 1-3 is Paulís call to remember in verse 11. Look at that with me. Over the first chapter and a half, he has been describing our identity in Christ (and will continue to do so in chapter 3). He has told us that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3-14). In his prayer report (1:15-23), he told us that we know God and that he was praying for the Ephesians that they would know Him more. Last week we saw that even though we were dead in our trespasses and sin, God has made us alive through faith in Jesus (2:1-10). These are amazing truths! Everyone who has repented and believed in Jesus now have this same identity: blessed with every blessing, know God, and made alive through Christ! That is who we are in Jesus. And Paul commands us to remember this identity. In our passage today, he calls us to remember who we were before Christ and who we are in Christ so that we can see the power of Godís amazing grace at work in our lives. In order to see this, I want to break up the passage into three sections and see in each of those who we were and who we are now through faith in Jesus. Letís consider these together.

From far off to brought near (v. 11-13)

Paul wants his readers to remember who they were before Christ. Look at how he describes this in verses 11-12. In particular Paul is addressing Gentiles, or non Jews, in our passage this morning. They were not born among Godís people. They did not enjoy the privilege of having the Old Testament scriptures and this left them in a terrible position. I think we sometimes view the Jews as the Ďbad peopleí in the New Testament because of how many of the religious leaders treated Jesus in the Gospels. But that is a wrong way of thinking. Many Jews did reject Jesus in the Gospels and Acts, but others did not. Jesus came as a Jew to be the Jewish Messiah in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. In this way, the Jews were in a position of privilege.

Yet, the Gentiles did not enjoy these particular privileges. They were separated from Christ, or separated from even the hope of a Messiah. They were alienated from Godís people and strangers to the covenants of promise. They werenít even looking for a Messiah or a Savior or a new covenant with God. They didnít have the hope of these promises. So Paul concludes that they had no hope and were without God in the world. These are sad realities. And if you are not Jewish this morning, then these were true of you before Christ. We shared this hopelessness.

But the great point for Paul is that God did not leave us in that position. Look at verse 13. What glorious good news! The Jewish Messiah has brought the Gentiles near. We are no longer separated and alienated. We are no longer on the outside looking in. We have been brought near! And how have we been brought near? It is the blood of Christ that brings us near. Jesusí death on the cross has made us the people of God. Now anyone who has faith in Him, be they Jew or Gentile, can be a part of Godís people. Once we were without hope and without God in this world, but now we have been brought near!

From hostility to peace (v. 14-18)

Paul continues to remind us of who we were before Christ in verses 14-16. Look at those with me. Like trying to understand what the church was like before the Reformation, it is hard for us to understand the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. The two groups did not get along very well. They had different beliefs and different cultural practices and those differences lead to great division between the two. Some of these differences were part of God setting apart the Jews to be His people. Yet, it seems that at times, such differences were taken too far. Paul speaks of the dividing wall of hostility that stood between the Jews and Gentiles. There was in fact a literal wall in Jerusalem at the Temple that kept Gentiles out of certain areas on threat of death. The division and hostility were real. But the hostility was not just between two groups of people. There was also hostility between God and man. We had done our own thing. We had rebelled. We were by nature children of wrath (v. 3). As Gentiles, we were hostile toward humanity and hostile toward our Maker. We were desperate for peace.

So Jesus became our peace. Look again at verses 14-16 and note the work of Christ. He is our peace. Jews and Gentiles are now one through faith in Him. He fulfilled the law by His perfect obedience and substitutionary death on the cross. In doing this He created in Himself one new man in place of the two. Through Jesus, Jews and Gentiles can come together as one. And how exactly does that work? How does Jesusí death and resurrection bring us together? It reconciles us to one another by first reconciling us to God. Look at verse 16 again. Through the work of Christ, Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled to God. In His death He killed our hostility with God and with each other.

Such peace is realized through the proclamation of the gospel. Look at verses 17-18. Brothers and sisters this is what we need today: people who will preach the peace that can only be found through faith in Jesus. What a powerful thought. Think about all the division that we are seeing on display in our country right now. People divided over race and nationality and politics. Can you imagine peace sweeping over one of those rallies or protests? Can you imagine a place where blacks and whites were joyously working together for the good of others? Can you imagine such peace? It can only come through the proclamation of the gospel. Sure we can reach some Ďpeaceful agreementsí at times, but they are usually just temporary cease fires. Why? Because the hostility still rages on in our hearts. The only way to truly have peace is for someone to kill that hostility. And only Jesus can do that. I believe that we can and should fight for social justice on every front. But we must always remember that our greatest weapon in the battle is the gospel of peace. Only through repentance faith in Christ can the hostility truly be removed.

From strangers to members of the household of God (v. 19-22)

Paul finishes up this section with three more analogies about who we are in Christ: citizens, members, and stones. But he again begins with who we were. Look at verse 19a. We are no longer strangers and aliens. We are no longer outsiders. We are no longer men without a country. Rather we are citizens in Godís kingdom. Look at verse 19b. Through faith in Jesus we are now fellow citizens with the saints. How amazing is that! But thatís not all. He moves to the second analogy at the end of verse 19. Look at that with me. We are not just citizens in Godís Kingdom, we are actually members of His family! God is not just our King, He is also our Father! We are His subjects and His sons! This is who we are in Christ!

Building on the household idea, Paul introduces the third analogy: we are Godís building, in particular, His temple. Look at verses 20-22. Paul mentions three participants in this structure. First, the apostles and the prophets are the foundation. We affirm Ďsola scripturaí because the witness of the apostles is found in the Word of God, which is the foundation of our faith. Second, Jesus is the cornerstone. The cornerstone was the first stone to be put in place in a building. It served as the guiding stone for the whole structure. Jesus is our cornerstone. He hold everything together and without Him the building would not exist. Finally, Paul includes us as part of the structure being built. Through faith in Jesus, we also are being built together. By turning from our sins and trusting in Jesus, we have a part to play in this new temple where God dwells. This is who we are in Christ. Through Jesusí death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, we are citizens and family members and stones! This is our identity in Him.

Before we leave Ephesians 2, I want to draw your attention to the transforming power of grace that takes place in this chapter. Look again at verse 3. We were children of wrath. We were justly deserving of Godís wrath. As was said last week, we earned it. But God! God had different plans for us. He made us alive in Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenlies. He made us a part of His people and gave us peace with Himself. He included us in His family. And look again at where we end up in verse 22. From children of wrath to a dwelling place for God. What transforming grace!! So let me ask you: where are you this morning? Are you still a child of wrath? Are you a stranger and an alien? Are you without hope and without God? Then I plead with you, turn from your sins and believe in Jesusí death and resurrection. You can have peace with God through Him! You can be brought near! The good news is for you! If you have trusted in Christ, then I challenge you with Paulís command in this passage: remember. Remember who you were and who you have become. Remember your identity in Christ. Paul gave us these first three chapters so that we could remember who we are in Jesus. By doing that, we can then walk in a manner worthy of the calling that we have received. So letís remember who we are in Jesus. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 10 November 2017 )

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