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Ephesians 2:11-22

Paul now brings us a most important section. He tells us about our reconciliation to God:

·         What it was like before we were reconciled to him

·         What it is like now

·         And how this reconciliation is now ours.

Eph 2:11-22 NIV) Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- {12} remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. {13} But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. {14} For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, {15} by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, {16} and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. {17} He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. {18} For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. {19} Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, {20} built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The section applies not only to Jews and Gentiles but in our day to those with and without God.

Our Prior Condition

We were aliens

By aliens I mean those excluded from citizenship (not the bug-eyed variety). We have a vivid image of this today in California. Consider those illegal immigrants who stand on the street corners, waiting for someone to come by and hire them for the day. They see the Cadillacs of the rich go by, and dream. They live from day to day, not seeing a way in which things can get better but hoping against hope that they will. Disaster threatens if they get ill. Life is hard. Any day the hand of the INS can come, and they are deported back to misery. Can you see what citizenship must mean to them?

We were like that before Christ. Life was day to day; others had spiritual riches, somehow being able to communicate with God, but all we got was an occasional glimpse of God. We lived in fear of "deportation" - death. The life was one of envy, and out of envy came strife. We squabbled over every little thing. If there are no "big things" then the little things are made into big things.

No promises

Think of it this way. Suppose you went to school with a rich man's son. Somebody whose father owned an oil company. You, on the other hand, had no such a father. He looks forward to a great inheritance. It's not just after dad dies, either, for dad is going to make sure that his son can run the business when he's gone. So this kid is going to have all the opportunities, all the benefits that dad's money can buy. You, on the other hand, have nothing. Nothing but envy and despair.

That's the way it is without Christ. Religions other than Christianity, Islam and Judaism explain everything and therefore relieve nothing. Of what use is it to "know" that you're going to be reincarnated? It explains your miserable state of existence (you were a bad beetle in a past life) but it offers no hope. Nirvana is oblivion.

In such a belief, you, the individual bear the burden of life. Everything is on your shoulders. All that happens is somehow (this life, a past life, somehow) your fault and your responsibility to fix. You bear the burden of life; you also bear the burden of death.

No hope

In such a state, it's almost a definition of things that they can't get better. Life is the endless cycle of misery, despair and death. You know why you're miserable, but you also know there's nothing you can do about it.

And you're getting older, too. You are fast approaching death. So what are you to do about that?

Walking without God

What do you do when you walk without God?

·         You walk in despair. You say to yourself, "I just have to adjust to it; there is no hope." Whether an existentialist or a fatalist, or something in between, there is nothing but black despair for some.

·         You walk in denial. Some of us start with, "Well, somehow, things will turn out all right." Unitarianism, for example, is based on such a view. After all, God wouldn't send people to hell, would he? So everything will be OK - I just don't know how.

·         You walk in defiance. If there is no hope, then why should I not eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow I die. Like Invictus, we long to be masters of our fate, captains of our souls. It's just that we keep running into reality.

Our Current Condition

That is who we used to be. Now things are different!

One body

We are said to be one body. No longer are we separated; no longer are we on the outside looking in.

Though we are one body, that body has many "members." Do recall that "member", in its original meaning, means a distinctive part. We still speak of "dismembering" a carcass as being the process of dividing it into its constituent parts. So each of us has a specific function, even though we are one.

Our unity is so important to God that he has made us recall it in the weekly Communion:

(1 Cor 10:17 NIV) Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

We are to remember this fact when we take communion.

A human body is a physical organism with a spirit. Though we are physically separate, of course, we have one spirit - the Holy Spirit of God. The fact that there is one spirit defines one body in the human sense. If you lose a finger in an accident, you do not become two people. So the church is the physical body of Christ on earth - one spirit in many members.

Access to God

We are said to have access to God "through Christ." What does that mean?

·         First, it means that he is the gateway. No one comes to God except through him, and therefore if you want to get to God you have to know Jesus.

·         Next, He is said to be our High Priest. This can be understood in two ways:

·         By example of the Old Testament. Only the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies and communicated directly to God. That function is now gone - but Christ is our High Priest, and therefore performs that function for us.

·         Why would I want a High Priest? Have you ever felt that you weren't holy enough to talk to God? Like you really wanted someone else to go in and speak to the Almighty on your behalf? Christ does that.

·         We have this access because of his sacrifice on the Cross. It is only because of that death we can approach the throne of grace.

We are also said to have access to God "by the Spirit." What does that mean? Paul tells the Romans this:

(Rom 8:26-28 NIV) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. {27} And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. {28} And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

To intercede is to stand between ("inter" = between and "cede" = place). Another way of looking at it is "translate" ("trans" = across and "late" = language). The Holy Spirit takes our words and translates them into things which words cannot express - but which are acceptable to God. Think of our alien who speaks only Spanish; how much would it mean to him to speak English as well.

Our Status.

Think of our alien standing on the street corner, looking for work. How much better things could be for him if he could become a citizen! Then, at least, he would have the right to work at a permanent job. Perhaps he could even improve his lot in life. There would be hope. The protections of our government would be his; the benefits of our social security systems would be his.

We are like that. We used to be aliens on the street corners; now we are citizens of the kingdom of God. We have all the formal rights and privileges this might grant. But there is more.

We are also said to be of God's household. Think of it this way:

·         If a total stranger came into your kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, taking out something to eat, would you not stop him? Wouldn't you say, "Hey, wait a minute, that's my stuff! You're not entitled to that!"

·         Suppose, however, that a friend came in and did the same. You might not object as much, but you would probably question their manners and insist they ask your permission first.

·         But if you have teenagers in your house, you know that while they never vacuum their rooms, they always vacuum your refrigerator! You almost never stop them; why should you, they're family!

If you think about it, you tolerate an awful lot more from your own dog than you do from a stray. Even for a dog it makes a lot of difference whether or not you belong to the household. Even if you're the least in the kingdom of heaven, you are greatly privileged. But this is still not the height of it.

We are said to be his Temple. Think of that. If you look at the Old Testament, you will see that the Temple had one function: to be the place on earth where God could be found. It is the place where God lives.

It is interesting to note that the Temple was built by Solomon. While he was the richest and wisest of the kings, he was not the greatest. His father, David, was "the man after God's own heart." But the Lord told David he was not to build the Temple, for David was a man of blood. Solomon was a man of peace, not a warrior. So it is for us. The Temple of the living God, his dwelling place on earth, the church (that's us) was not built by a man of blood, but a man of peace - Jesus Christ. Only the man of peace can build the Temple of the Living God.

We Have Been Reconciled

The word is not much used today outside the church, but in its two most common forms we can still find true meaning:

·         We speak of married couples being reconciled to each other. It is an emotional term. We mean that the family has been put back together. Note carefully that this often means that a third party, a mediator, has been involved.

·         There is also the accounting meaning: the books need to be reconciled. That means not only that they balance mathematically, but that the entries on both sides are explained and correspond to each other. Things are in order.

How we are reconciled to God

We can see this in three tenses: past, present and prevention (future).

Past. Christ is our sacrifice, our atonement.

·         In the sense that he has set right our debts, our sins past. Atonement often includes payment for past wrongs. We might call that restitution today, and it is an essential element of reconciliation. We have to "make up for" what we have done. Christ did that for us on the cross.

·         He did that in the sense of fulfilling the requirements of the Old Testament Law. We cannot make restitution in whatever way we feel like, or on a "best efforts" basis. There must be a standard known to the law, and that standard must be met.

·         In doing this, Christ became the bridge between God and man. We see here the sense of a mediator, one who bridges the gap between the parties.

Present. Christ is still breaking down the "wall of hostility." In other words, he is constantly removing the causes of this hostility between us and God.

·         In the sense that he removes the curse of sin, God no longer need look at us as "automatic" sinners.

·         In keeping us from sin he removes the next cause of hostility on the part of God. As we do not sin, God does not need to deal with our sin.

·         But when we do sin (and all do) he is swift to forgive us when we repent. So he cleanses us as we go through life, keeping us acceptable to God.

Prevention (future). He is our "peace." The Christians of Medieval times understood this better than we do. Each man had his "peace." It was a crime to break that peace (hence "breach of the peace" became a crime) and the higher the man the greater the breach. We can gather a sense of that in two ways:

·         Think of a bunch of bickering nobles. Then the king walks in. The bickering dies down, for fear of offending the king. There is something of the same thing between Christians. I might want to snarl at my brother or sister, but because of the power of Christ, his peace, I will not - for fear of offending such a great one.

·         We also have peace with God. By his constant presence and influence in the actions of our conscience, we are kept from sin. And in this we have peace, too.

Reconciliation our duty

All this seems somewhat academic until you realize that reconciliation is not just Christ's function, it is also ours:

(2 Cor 5:18-21 NIV) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: {19} that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. {20} We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. {21} God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Reconciliation is our Christian duty, for we are made in the image of Christ; we are God's body here on earth, the Temple of his Holy Spirit.

·         We are to reconcile one to another, healing the quarrels and factions between us.

·         We are to reconcile others to God, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The process of reconciliation is not easy. It cost Jesus his life on the cross. But I will venture to suggest that it is required. Three final points about it:

·         First, the innocent party must take the first step in reconciliation. We could not approach God while we were yet sinners - but he could approach us in the form of Jesus. In reconciliation, the innocent one moves first.

·         Reconciliation is costly. It cost Jesus his life. It may cost us the delicious sensation of anger remembered; it may cost us vengeance. It is expensive, but necessary.

·         But there is joy in reconciliation. What was lost can be found; what was weak can be made strong again. It is not a question of "can" but of "will."

We are the ambassadors of Christ, his imitators, his body. Let us do as he does, reconciling ourselves to each other and those outside the faith to him.

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