First Baptist Church
Wed March 31st
      • Bible Trivia
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  • We live in a world of rivalries: Republican vs. Democrat; North vs. South; PC vs. Mac; Coke vs. Pepsi; For Auburn fans, it is Alabama. For Michigan, it is Ohio State. For Duke, it is North Carolina. Then there are violent rivals who kill each other due to cultural and racial hostilities.
    In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul describes a deep, complex, hostile rivalry between Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles are non-Jews. The Greek word is ethna in verse 11 (non-Jewish ethnicities).
    This rivalry was religious: Gentiles did not know the God of Israel. It was cultural: Jews had rituals, feasts, and ceremonies that distinguished them from the nations. It was racial: the Jews could boast of having the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob flowing in their veins.
    Yet through Christ these two enemies have become friends.
    Ephesians 2:11 CSB
    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.
    Paul addresses the readers by saying, “You were Gentiles in the flesh” (v. 11). He is highlighting a real physical difference between Gentile and Jew. He goes on to note how, through the work of Christ, their physical difference is of no ultimate significance. It is not about skin; it is about the heart.
    He goes on to note how the Jews looked on the Gentiles as “uncircumcised.” They dismissed the rest of the world as uncircumcised not because the Jews were the only ones who practiced it but because it was a physical sign of their covenant with the Lord. To be uncircumcised was to be separated from the Lord.
    Paul then says circumcision is “done in the flesh by human hands” in order to drive home the point that it belonged to the old order of Judaism with its external features.
    Ephesians 2:12 CSB
    12 At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.
    First, he says they were Christless. They were “without the Messiah.” The Gentiles were separated from the Messianic hope of Israel.
    True, some Jews were and still are separated from Christ, but they have been told in their Scriptures of Messiah. The Gentiles were foreigners to these things.
    To be separated from Christ personally, that is, separated from His salvation, is to be “excluded from the life of God” (Eph 4:18). Is there anything more terrible than this?
    Second, Paul says they were foreigners. They were excluded from the citizenship of Israel and were strangers to the covenants. The Gentiles were alienated from God’s people. Israel was a commonwealth or nation under God, a theocracy. Gentiles were foreigners (v. 19).
    They were also not part of a covenant people. The term “covenants” implies a series of covenants: Abraham (Gen 15:7- 21; 17:1-21), Isaac (Gen 26:2-5), Jacob (Gen 28:13-15), Israel (Exod 24:1-8), and David (2 Sam 7). The word “promise” probably has to do with God’s promise to Abraham. To be separated from the covenants of promise meant they were missing the covenants that promised the Messiah (Rom 9:4).
    Third, they were hopeless and godless. While God did plan to bless all nations through Israel, the Gentiles did not know this. Because they did not know the promises, they did not have the hope of the promises, nor did they know the God of the promises. They had opted for idols instead of God, suppressing the truth revealed to them (Rom 1:18-23). Because they did not know God, they did not know hope.
    Before we trusted in Christ for salvation, we were in the same tragic position. We were separated from God and His people. We too need to “remember” this fact! You at one time were separated from Christ and gospel community. If we continue to remember where we came from, we will live with constant gratitude toward God and love toward His people.
    Ephesians 2:13 CSB
    13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
    “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah” (v. 13). By the blood of Christ we can be brought near to God. Only by His blood can we be reconciled to God.
    So the cross is central. There are many who do not like all of the “blood language” in the Bible, but blood reminds us of what God has done for us in His great love. Blood also reminds us of the gravity of our sin. One hymn says, “It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished” (Townend, “How Deep”). Consider the wretchedness of your sin and the amazing grace of your blood-soaked, but now risen and reigning, Savior!
    Some think the cross is overemphasized. They think evangelicals are too “atonement centered.”
    Others think the cross is too violent.
    In Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, Joel Green and Mark Baker think the cross is irrelevant. They say, “We believe that the popular fascination with and commitment to penal substitutionary atonement has had ill effects in the life of the church and in the United States and has little to offer the global church and mission by way of understanding or embodying the message of Jesus Christ” (Recovering, 220–21).

    “This is what I hold out to my young son as the hope of his life: that Jesus, God’s perfect, righteous Son, died in his place for his sins. Jesus took all the punishment; Jesus received all the wrath as he hung on the cross, so people like Chad and his sinful daddy could be completely forgiven” (C. J. Mahaney Cross-Centered Life, 29–30).

    Ephesians 2:14 CSB
    14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh,
    Christ Has Brought Us Peace (2:14a)
    Jesus has brought us peace with God and others. Jesus is the peacemaker. “For He is our peace,” Paul says. Peace is found in a person, Jesus. This was described in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa 9:6; Mic 5:5), affirmed in the Gospels (e.g., Luke 1:79; 2:14; 19:42; John 14:27), and explained in the Epistles (Rom 5:1; Col 1:20; 3:15).
    Christ Has Made Us One (2:14b-16)
    Paul says that He “tore down the dividing wall” (v. 14b). Christ’s blood has obliterated the old, long-standing division between Jew and Gentile.
    While Paul was writing this letter, there was a literal wall standing in the temple that excluded the Gentiles. Josephus tells us that attached to this barrier at intervals were messages in Greek and Latin, warning that the Gentiles must not proceed further lest they die. The temple was destroyed physically in AD 70, but it was destroyed spiritually around AD 33 or so, when Jesus Christ died on the cross for sinners. “In His flesh” Jesus tore down the wall that separated these groups.
    While Paul could be referencing a literal wall in the temple, it seems more likely that he is referring to the barrier of “the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations,” the ceremonial law (v. 15). The parallel passage in Colossians 2:11 and 16-21 alludes to circumcision, questions about food and drink, and regulations about festivals, new moon, and the Sabbath. These commandments as regulations put up a huge wall between Jew and Gentile. Jesus set all of this aside by dying on the cross. At the cross Jesus fulfilled all the shadows and types of the ceremonial system.
    Paul might also be saying that Jesus abolished the law as a means of salvation through His death on the cross. As Paul says to the Colossians, Jesus has “erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14). A person is only accepted by God through the work of Christ, not through his own work. Stott summarizes: “Jesus abolished both the regulations of the ceremonial law and the condemnation of the moral law. Both were divisive. Both were put aside by the cross” (Ephesians, 101).
    Ephesians 2:15 CSB
    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.
    As a result, Christ created “in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace” (v. 15). Jesus’ abolishing of something old has led to something new: one new humanity. Christ has created one new man. In Christ and in Christ alone this new man exists. In Christ a new corporate entity exists, which is the church. It is not as though Gentiles have been transformed into Jews or vice versa, but rather God has created one new man.
    They did not merely become one (though that is true); they have become better. Chrysostom said, “It is as though one took a statue of silver and a statue of lead, put them into a forge and they came out a statue of gold” (in Chapell, Ephesians, 110). This is part of God’s plan of summing up all things in Christ (Eph 1:9- 10).
    We like to build fences today. People do it in all types of ways, but the cross of Jesus Christ brings unity. Racism among believers cannot be justified, and it must be resisted. Paul says elsewhere,
    There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
    In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. (Col 3:11)
    Ephesians 2:16 CSB
    16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.
    Diversity in the church is a glorious demonstration of the work of Christ. It is to be celebrated as it pictures heaven. It demonstrates the one new man.
    Paul elaborates: “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” (v. 16). Paul speaks of the double reconciliation that has taken place, stating that the hostility has been put to death. As Stott says, “God turned away his own wrath, and we, seeing his great love, turned away ours also” (Ephesians, 102). Jesus’ death has ended the hostility.
    Consequently, Christians are to be a people who forgive one another because of the forgiveness of Christ (Eph 4:32). Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12). The best antidote to disunity and hostility between believers is a fresh comprehension of the cross of Christ.
    Ephesians 2:17 CSB
    17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
    The cross of Christ is how our peace was achieved, but now it is to be announced. Commentators debate if this refers to Jesus’ earthly ministry of preaching, the crucifixion itself (as a symbol of proclaiming peace), His postresurrection proclamation of peace (John 20:19-21), or the ongoing proclamation through the apostles and now through the church. I am not sure it has to be limited to any one of these. Jesus certainly proclaimed the gospel of peace before the cross, on the cross, and after the resurrection. And now the followers of Jesus must be ready to preach the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). We are to tell the world how people can have peace with God. Paul could have also adopted this phrase “preached peace” from Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things” (Isa 52:7; cf. 57:19; Rom 10:15).
    The application is simple enough. Christ proclaims peace through His followers today. By the Holy Spirit, Christ proclaims
    His peace through ordinary believers like us. The world wants “peace,” and only when we preach Christ can people find out how to have it.
    Paul adds that this good news was preached to those “far away” and those “who were near”—that is, to Gentiles and Jews (cf. Isa 57:19). The whole world needs this gospel. Let us be faithful in sharing it.
    Ephesians 2:18 CSB
    18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
    Those who respond to Jesus’ work and message now have access to God. Notice the Trinitarian language: Paul says it is “through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
    This is what prayer is about. Prayer is conversation with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. The ongoing benefit of Christ’s reconciliation is that we today have access to God. We can now come to God with boldness (Eph 3:12) because of what Christ has done. Marvel at the privilege of prayer and the stunning grace of the Savior.
    However, Paul is not just emphasizing this personal privilege. He is emphasizing that Jew and Gentile together approach God through Christ by the Spirit. We live out our new position in Christ and in our new community by the Spirit of God.
    Before we move to the final point, consider the personal testimony of a faithful saint, Charles Simeon. He had no mother to nurture him. His father was an unbeliever. His boarding school was a godless and corrupt place. And he knew of no Christian at Cambridge for almost three years after his conversion! His acceptance of Christ was a miracle of grace. He was 19 years old,
    sitting in his dormitory room as Passion Week began at the end of March 1779. He wrote,
    But in Passion Week, as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect—“That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.” The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus; and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased; on the Friday and Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday morning, Easter-day, April 4, I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, “Jesus Christ is risen to-day! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul; and at the Lord’s Table in our Chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Saviour. (Moule, Charles Simeon, 13–15)
    Yes, we have sweet access to God through the Savior and peace that flows in abundance because of the Substitute! If you are not a believer, then transfer your guilt to Another! Look to Christ and believe.
    Ephesians 2:19 CSB
    19 So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,
    First, Paul says that they are no longer refugees; now they have a citizenship. This citizenship is kingdom citizenship. The Gentile believers are not second-class citizens in someone else’s territory. They are full members of the kingdom. While in reality God rules over everything, here the kingdom of God refers to where God has special rule over His people, that is, where His privileges are enjoyed and the responsibilities are carried out. We are waiting for the King to return and set up the full realization of this kingdom.
    Paul is writing during a time in which Roman citizenship was prized. Roman citizens had wonderful privileges. Citizenship in a great country is a blessing, but there is nothing like being a citizen of the kingdom of God (cf. Phil 3:20).
    Foreigners in another city or country feel vulnerable. They have to keep their papers with them at all times. But Paul says we do not have to feel this way. We belong. We are part of the kingdom that has no end, the only kingdom that has no end.
    Members of God’s Family (2:19b)
    Paul’s metaphor of God’s new community changes to something more personal: a family. One might imagine Jew and Gentile together in one kingdom, but to think of them as one family is stunning. Elsewhere Paul says we are “God’s household” (1 Tim 3:15).
    How are we one family? We have the same Father. Paul just made that point in 2:18. We have access to “the Father.” We are adopted children, as Paul asserted in 1:5. The church is made up of adopted brothers and sisters. We have responsibilities in the family. We are one family, each fulfilling his role, bringing glory to our Father (Eph 5:1). In 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Paul says we should treat one another like family.
    We have five adopted children in our family. If you visit our home on a Saturday at the right time, you will find all of them doing chores—sweeping, mowing, dusting, collecting garbage, and vacuuming. My wife even has a chore chart for each kid! Everyone is serving, loving, and sharing responsibilities.
    The church is not a building we go to or an event we attend. The church is family, living life together on mission. Be careful not to treat the church as a hotel—visiting a place occasionally, giving a tip if you are served well. Rather, see the church as part of your Christian identity, and understand that we all have a role in God’s household.
    Application
    Let Us Be Part of a “Red Church”
    This passage confronts not only Western individualism, but it also confronts the racist impulse in many believers. Manmade distinctions of a “black church” or a “white church” are not acceptable to gospel-centered people. Let us be part of a red church—a group of people, from every tribe and tongue, that has been redeemed by the torn-apart Christ, who spilled His red blood that we may be reconciled to God and to one another!
    The main way we can work to cultivate diversity is by proclaiming the gospel. When a person understands the gospel, and that the entire human race is fallen and in need of grace, unity comes naturally.
    With that said, I do think it is good for us to think about how we might display our love for the gospel by intentionally cultivating diversity. Could anything be more powerful before a lost world than to see people from all ethnicities united in Christ?
    Ponder the corporate implications of the cross. See what has happened corporately because of the cross. Race is a cross issue. Piper states,
    But let us also dwell on this: that God ordained the death of his Son to reconcile alien people groups to each other in one body in Christ. This too was the design of the death of Christ. Think on this: Christ died to take enmity and anger and disgust and jealousy and self-pity and fear and envy and hatred and malice and indifference away from your heart toward all other persons who are in Christ by faith—whatever the race. (“Race and Cross”)
    Truly value people of other ethnicities. An attitude that says, “They are not my kind,” destroys the body of Christ and reveals a deep sin problem. Welcome new people, regardless of their skin color, every week, in corporate worship and in small groups. Intentionally invest in Christians of other ethnicities. Demonstrate that other groups matter to you. Do not just make this a theory. Practice it. Invite them over for dinner in your home. Invite people of diverse backgrounds to corporate worship. Passionately seek justice and display mercy for other ethnic groups. Love the poor. Seek justice for those sold into slavery. Care for orphans of every skin tone. Gladly work together with those of other nationalities for the advancement of the gospel. Pray for wisdom and diversity in your local church, and be glad when you see new elements in worship. This is hard work, but it is worth it. These intentional acts glorify the crucified Savior, who died to bring us to God and to one another.
    Ephesians 2:20–22 CSB
    20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
    Paul’s third metaphor would have been vivid for his audience. For nearly one thousand years, the temple had been a focal point of Israel—from Solomon to Zerubbabel to Herod. Now there was a
    new temple, made up of people. In verse 20 Paul says the foundation of the temple is God’s Word. The apostles and prophets were teachers, and here Paul emphasizes their teaching. (Paul is probably referring to NT prophets, but even with the range from the OT prophets to the apostles and NT prophets, there was continuity in their teaching.)
    This emphasis should not surprise us. The church stands or falls based on its faithfulness to God’s Word. Luke says the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). That is foundational.
    Next we see the cornerstone mentioned. There is only one cornerstone: Jesus. He makes the whole building possible. The whole community is built on Him. He gives security to the building, and He gives it alignment (cf. Isa 28:16; Rom 9:32; 10:11; 1 Pet 2:4-8). While the apostles’ teaching is being emphasized, Jesus’ person and work are also emphasized. Jesus is also how the church grows and is held together. There is no unity or growth if Christ is not the cornerstone.
    Paul likens the people to stones. He says that in the Lord “you also are being built together for God’s dwelling.” Peter says something like this as well, calling us “living stones” (1 Pet 2:5). We are carefully shaped building blocks fitted to build this temple. Each new member is added to it. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul refers to individuals being a temple of the Spirit, but here (and in other places like 1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16) the people make up the temple.
    By saying, “You also,” Paul is referring to the Gentiles being added to this building. Previously the Gentiles were not allowed to enter the temple, but now they are a part of it! Even though the
    Israelites knew God did not dwell in temples made by hands, they recognized that God promised to dwell in the temple’s inner sanctuary. Now His special presence is not limited to a place or a building or an ethnicity. God’s presence is spread worldwide, wherever people believe in Christ.
    Notice it is “in the Lord” that we are a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Through Christ, by the Spirit of God, God dwells in us personally and as a community. Ultimately, this reality will be fully realized and enjoyed in the new heavens and new earth when God makes His dwelling place with man.
    A great temple stood in Ephesus (the temple of Artemis). In Jerusalem they had a great temple. But Paul says, through Christ, by the Spirit, there is a better temple; it is made up of people from every tribe and tongue. We are joined together and built together. Each one is related to the other in a special way, and we are all growing together in Christ.
    Practically, that means every person counts. We need one another’s time, talent, treasure, love, resources, encouragement, and rebuke. We are to live the Christian life together as a multiethnic temple, centered in Christ, rooted in the teaching of Scripture.
    Application
    Let me make a few applications from this important passage. This passage confronts the typical Western mind-set in two major ways, including the way people in the Western church think.
    Let Us Elevate Our Concept of the Local Church
    An obvious implication from these three pictures is that Christ wants to create a people, not merely isolated individuals who believe in Him. This passage confronts Western individualism. To be separate from the church is to say, “I want to be a stone apart from a building” or “a son or daughter separated from my family” or “a refugee away from my country.” Many people treat the church as something that is unnecessary, unimportant, or even a hindrance to doing great things for God. I used to believe this. I did not want to pastor. I felt I was superior to others, not needing the church. I felt I could do more apart from the church. I hopped around visiting different churches, but did not have community. That is not God’s design for the Christian.
    Some think the church is fine for others, but they do not feel the need to take membership seriously. The New Testament positions it as our fundamental identity. Belonging to a local church should be more important than where you go to school, where you work, or to what club you belong. Sometimes people ask whether college students should join a church. I think students should consider the church they may belong to before they go off to school. If we are apart from community, we are not following the New Testament pattern, and we are not helping ourselves. It is not good to be apart from the oversight of shepherds or apart from the accountability and support of brothers and sisters.
    The New Testament assumes every Christian is part of a local church. It knows nothing of lone-ranger Christianity or the position that claims, “I’m a member of the universal church; I don’t need to join a local, visible church.” We show we are part of the universal church by identifying with a tangible people locally. Is this not what we do in our union with Christ? We live out
    spiritual union with Christ visibly. In the same way, we should live out our union with other believers visibly. Identify yourself with a people. Avoid being a “ninja Christian,” just slipping into a worship service and leaving without a trace. Be a family member instead.
    Church discipline assumes local church members are identifiable (Matt 18:15-17). When Paul directs the Corinthians to expel the immoral brother, he assumes there are people who are in and people who are out (1 Cor 5:9-13). In 2 Corinthians 2:6 the “majority” of members voted to remove a man from its membership. The New Testament also mentions lists, which illustrates that people were identifiable (e.g., 1 Tim 5:9). The book of Acts counts people (e.g., Acts 2:41). People knew who was part of the church. The writer of Hebrews says overseers will give an account for their people (Heb 13:17). If there are no identifiable members, then there is no one for whom to give an account. Electing leaders (Acts 6; 13), submitting to them, regulating membership, keeping lists, and voting only make sense if there is an identifiable group of members. The metaphors for the church—stones in a temple, members of a family, citizens of a kingdom, members of a body—all assume individuals are part of an actual church.
    There is certainly flexibility as to how one works out the membership process in a local church, but the New Testament emphasis on the importance of belonging to a local church is abundantly clear. We cannot read this passage honestly without seeing the importance of the church.
    This is how God intends for us to live out our faith and love one another: in community. It is an incredible gift of God’s grace to
    have a family of faith. It is a gift of grace to gather corporately and stir up one another to faith and good works (Heb 10:24-25). It is a gift of grace to love one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35). It is a gift of grace to carry one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). It is a gift of grace to encourage one another and to be encouraged by one another (1 Thess 5:11). It is a gift of grace to be taught and admonished by one another (Col 3:16). It is a gift of grace to be allowed the privilege to give financially to further the gospel (2 Cor 8–9). It is a gift of grace to come to the table for communion (1 Cor 11:26).
    All of these privileges have come to us via the cross-work of Jesus Christ. He has brought us near and made us one.

    Memory Verse Ephesians 2:22

    Next Week Ephesians 3:1-13

      • Ephesians 4:1–3CSB

      • Ephesians 4:4–6CSB

      • Ephesians 4:7–10CSB

      • Ephesians 4:11–13CSB

      • Ephesians 4:14–16CSB

      • Ephesians 5:15CSB

      • Ephesians 4:17–32CSB

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