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AS STRANGERS TAKEN IN – PART 3
Intro: The world in which Paul lived and wrote was, on many levels, a vastly different world from our own. Cultures, languages, ways of life, and many other things, were very different in Pauls day than it is in our day. However, there is one glaring similarity between that world and the one we call home. Their world was a world marked by barriers, and so is ours!
· There were social barriers, where walls were erected between masters and slaves. For the most part, slaves were resentful of their masters, and masters often treated their lives like possessions instead of people. When people form these two groups began to come into the church, it created problems. Getting these two vastly different groups of people to understand that they were one in Christ was a challenge.
While the master/slave relationship does not exist in our day, it does have its counterpart in the employee/employer relationship. It does share some common ground with the relationship between those who are in authority and those who are subordinate to that authority.
· There were financial barriers, with the rich on one side and the poor on the other. The poor were envious of the rich, and the rich were condescending toward the poor. Moving these two groups of people from their respective places on the social ladder, to bring them together in Jesus was also a problem.
Those class distinctions still exist today. Those who lack adequate resources are sometimes resentful of those who have more than enough. Those who have plenty can come to look down on those who struggle to make it day by day.
· There were barriers within family. In the early church, it was not uncommon for a woman to be saved while her husband remained lost. Paul dealt with this in 1 Cor. 7. The husband often came to resent his wifes religious change, while the wife would often drive a wedge between herself and her husband by nagging at him about being saved. Strife in the home created problems for the members of the early church as well.
This problem still exists also. Husbands and wives, parents and children, are often in different places in their spiritual walk. Some have no relationship with the Lord, while other members of the family do their best to live for the Lord. This causes problems for the family, and it can cause problems in the church.
Barriers divided the ancient world. This was especially true with regards to the attitude of the Greeks toward the rest of the world. Cicero said this about the Greeks, As the Greeks say, all men are divided into two classes, Greeks and Barbarians. The Greeks called other peoples barbarians because they could not understand their languages. To the Greeks all other languages sounded like someone was saying, Bar, bar, bar. Thus, they called them barbarians. The Greeks believed they spoke the language of the gods. They looked down on everyone else.
This is the culture in which Paul is writing. This is the culture in which the Ephesians lived.
When the Gospel was presented, it came to all people, without regard to their race, their nationality, their ethnic origin, their language, their social standing, or their sex. The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ died for sinners and rose again from the dead. And, that anyone who believed in Him would be saved.
The Gospel was also the great leveler of people. In spite of whom the person was that believed the Gospel, that person was brought into unity with all other believers in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the great unifier of people!
So, when the Gospel came, it had to break down the walls that existed between the sexes, in which men felt that they were in a different class than women. It had to break down the walls that stood between the slaves and their masters. It had to break down the walls that existed between the nations. It had to break down the walls that existed between religions.
Paul understood this truth. He knew that the Gospel was like dynamite. When it exploded in the hearts individuals, families and cities, it broke down all the walls that existed between people and it brought them together and made them in in Jesus.
· I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, Rom. 1:14-16.
· Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all, Col. 3:11.
Paul also knew that the greatest barrier of all was the barrier that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. We have looked at the division that existed between these two people groups in past messages, let me just remind you that one group could stand the other.
The Jews considered the Gentiles to be filthy dogs. They were worthy only of death and Hell. To an ancient Jew, the only good Gentile was a dead Gentile.
The Gentiles despised the Jews because they were different. They didnt dress, look, eat, or act like anyone else in the world. The Gentiles blamed the Jews for natural disasters, plagues, etc. they hated the Jews and wanted them to be exterminated.
The barriers that existed between the Jew and the Gentile were wide and they were high.
One of those barriers was geographic. In Isa. 57:19, God says, I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him. Did you notice the phrase to him that is far off, and to him that is near? Those who were near were the Jews. They were close to Jerusalem and to the Temple. Those who were outside the borders of Israel were those who were far off. Did you notice that God spoke peace to both groups?
Another of those barriers was spiritual. The Jews had salvation and the Gentiles did not. This created a seemingly insurmountable barrier.
An incident out of ancient Israel puts the attitude of the Jews, and the gulf that existed between them and the Gentiles, into perspective.
A Gentile woman came to Rabbi Eleazer and confessed to the rabbi that she was a sinner and that she wanted to be righteous.
She asked the rabbi if she could be admitted to the Jewish faith. Rabbi, she said, bring me near.
That was the terminology the Jews used for being close to God, or for being saved. They talked about being near.
Eleazer said to her, No, you cannot come near. And he shut the door in her face.[i]
Such was the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles. Such was the wall that existed between them.
Paul is writing to the Ephesians, and to us, to let the church know that, in Jesus, the walls are all taken down. In Jesus, there is no master or slave. There is no male or female. There is no rich or poor. There is no Greek or Barbarian. And, there is no Jew or Gentile. In Jesus Christ, we are all made one! That is the whole point of these verses.
I. In verse 11, Paul reminded us of The Divisions Of The Past. He reminds us of the wall between the Jews and us.
II. In verse 12, Paul reminds us of The Devastation Of The Past. He reminds us of just how bad the situation was on our side of the wall. In that verse, Paul reminds us that we had five huge problems.
1. We were without Christ
2. We were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
3. We were strangers from the covenants of promise
4. We were without hope
5. We were without God
In our lost condition, we were separated from God. We were hopelessly lost and headed to Hell without Jesus Christ. We were in a desperate condition from which we could not save ourselves. In the verse we will look at today, Paul tells us how the wall was broken down between the Jews and the Gentiles. He tells us how we who were on the wrong side of the fence, were brought near.
In verse 13, Paul Reminds Us Of The Destruction Of The Past. Notice these truths with me today.
I. THE POWER OF THIS DESTRUCTION
Paul says, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh. As Gentiles, we were shut out. We were on the outside looking into the blessings of the Lord on His people Israel. We were lost, without Christ, without hope and without God in the world. We were in a sad shape, and we could not change our condition. But, God in His grace came to us, drew us to Himself and saved us for His glory. When He did, He brought us into Himself.
Besides that, the Lord tore down the wall of separation that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. We were far off in our lifestyles and religions, but God has brought us together in Jesus Christ. God is not about building walls between people; He is all about tearing down the walls and bringing people together. In grace God took the Jews in one hand and the Gentiles in the other and He has brought us together in Christ, making us one in Him! He destroyed our past! He demolished the walls of separation Ill. Eph. 2:14, that stood between us and made one church in which Jews and Gentiles are equals in His eyes!
The power of God in the destruction of our past is revealed in the fact that He was able take two people groups who would never have come together on their own, and He has made them one in Jesus. That is the power of God. That is the power of grace! We will say more about this coming together as we move deeper in this chapter.
Ill. Paul and Epaphroditus – Phil. 2:25. That is the power of grace! It will make you love people you used to hate. It will make you love those who wrong you. It tears down the walls of separation between people and it brings them together in Jesus Christ. If what you have does not make you one with your brother, then what you have is not of the Lord!
· 1 John 3:14-16, We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
· 1 John 4:20-21, If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
I. The Power Of This Destruction
II. THE PLACE OF THIS DESTRUCTION
Paul says that our pasts are destroyed in Christ. We are not liberated from the past by keeping the Law. We are not liberated from the past by good works. We are liberated from the devastation of the past by being in Christ.
How does one come to be in Christ? Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, the answer the same, the saints are created in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2:10. We get in Christ through the work of Gods saving grace.
He draws us to Himself. He makes us aware of our sins and His holiness. He reveals to us the truth that Jesus is the only Way of salvation. He gives us faith to believe in Jesus, and when we simply look away by faith, we are placed in Christ and we are eternally saved. Ill. Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:13; Rev. 22:17.
When we are saved by the grace of God, we are made nigh. That is, through no effort of our own, we are brought close to God. He tears down the wall that separates us. He reaches down to us while we are still in our sins, He saves us by His grace, and He draws us to Himself. It is all the work of God! It is all the work of grace. That is why He deserves all the glory and all the praise for who we are in Him!
Are you in Jesus? If you are, you are in a good place. You have been brought out of sin, and you have been brought near to God. You have been delivered from sin, and given His righteousness. You have been brought back from death, and made a partaker of His life. You have been saved, changed, adopted, forgiven, delivered, and transformed. Nothing is like it was, nor shall it ever be again!
If you are in Him, you are being made like Him. If you are in Him, your sins are gone. If you are in Him, you are a work of grace, a trophy to His love and power; you are a statement declaring the love and grace of God toward sinners! If you are in Him, the wall is forever gone, and you are one with the Father, one with the Son, one with the Holy Ghost, and one with all the saints!
If you are not in Him, you need to be. Come to Jesus Christ by faith and He will save you by His grace, for His glory. If you come to Him, He will not turn you away, John 6:37, but He will tear down the wall that separates you and draw you near!
Our past, and all the walls of separation are demolished in Christ!
I. The Power Of This Destruction
II. The Place Of This Destruction
III. THE PRICE OF THIS DESTRUCTION
Paul says that we are made nigh by the blood of Christ. In order to bring Jews and Gentiles together as one, the Son of God had to die on the cross of Calvary.
The Jews had their Law and their rituals. Their priests offered goats, sheep, bulls, pigeons and turtledoves by the millions to temporarily atone fort their sins. Their rituals did not take a single sin away. It only rolled them forward for another day, and for another year. When Jesus died, He did what the blood of bulls and goats could not do. When He died, He paid a price that all the religions of all the ages could not pay. When He died, He shed His precious blood to atone for the sins of the lost. When He died, He satisfied the just demands of God for sin, and provided eternal salvation for all those who will believe in Him by faith.
That is why the Bible says what it does about the blood of Jesus.
· Rev. 1:5-6, And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
· 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
· Heb. 10:10-14, By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
· Heb. 9:11-14, But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
· Heb. 9:24-27, For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Thank God for the precious blood of Jesus that makes brings us together in Jesus!
Conc: During World War II a group of Americans soldiers were firing at a farmhouse occupied by the Germans in Europe.
The family had run for its life to the barn.
When the Germans descended upon the house under pursuit of the Americans, they began to fire across an open field.
Bullets were flying everywhere. All of a sudden, a little two or three year old baby girl who was in the barn, somehow slipped out and started running across this open field. She ran right into that storm of hot flying lead.
Instantly an American soldier saw the child and began screaming, Cease fire! and the same thing happened on the German side. Suddenly, both armies stopped firing because while that little girl crossed the field.
What all of the Generals, the leaders of the various countries, and all the soldiers could not do; for a few moments, she brought peace.
Jesus did more than that! He tore down the walls of sin and rebellion that we had built between Him and us. He reached out to us in grace and brought us near. He didnt just bring us, He brought all those who trust Jesus near, and He has made us one in Christ.
Now, it is up to us to walk in the unity God has created!
Ill. Eph. 4:1-7, 13, I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
After all, that is the Lords will for His church! John 17:18-23, As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.