Ephesians 2:1-22 (Reconciled to God and to one another)
“It can’t work” don’t even try- I yet again came across these words in a counseling session with a believer this week whose marriage was facing some storms. It can’t work- These words are far becoming too common even among Christians in describing the state of many relationships around us. Even though we speak of a faith that forgives and restores completely, our hearts have not yet truly experienced reconciliation with those who have hurt us. While we loosely speak of forgiving them, we know we have put up the wall so that they don’t come back ever again. The choice to walk away, to look away never to return to this place is often easier, but usually not the best in the long run.
Our society is full of people walking in the pain of un-forgiveness and bitterness. Angry, bitter and hurt people chose to walk away from those they consider to be the cause of their trouble and in search for hope meet others without knowing that they meet others like themselves- wounded, hurt and bitter and think they will find happiness. It can’t work.
Now please don’t get me wrong- there are times when walking away can be considered, but this must be on the basis of biblical counsel and not just because it feels like ‘the right thing to do’
I came across this story and would like to share with you, what may seem like it can’t work?
Imagine you were this lady- After the killer is@ found, she had the choice to kill this man for taking the life of his son- That is called Vengeance.
She had the choice to let the authorities take the murderer and put him away for good and execute him for good in a fair trial- That is called Justice.
But she made the choice – almost pleading for the pardon of the murderer, forgiving him completely, inviting him to her home, becoming a neighbor and adopting him as his own son- That is called Grace
This year we are going Exponential reloaded, Much Deeper, Much Farther, Much Wider, Taken from Ephesians 4:13 It is our prayer that we will all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. As the body of Christ we believe we are made for more.
This month we are looking at the Church of Christ- You and I as believers we are made for more. More of Christ, More of each other and more of others. While we seek to grow exponential and reach out for more, Un-forgiveness is like a leak in our bucket that is counterproductive to what we are trying to do as the body of Christ.
We are yet to understand Reconciliation as the core of our Christian Faith. Christianity is a ministry of Reconciliation. The Bible is a big reconciliation story, a reconciliation that doesn’t just bring unity between people, but unity between enemies. Today my thesis is that: We have been reconciled to God by Grace so that we can be reconciled to others.
We are studying and learning through the book of Ephesians, written by Paul who seven years later was killed in Rome. He writes to a metropolitan church that, because of their faith in Jesus; was grappling with a new unity of those from a gentile back ground and from those of Jewish background. People from a hostile background now united in Christ.
The Jews and gentiles had a history of hostility for generations. There was nothing they held in common, considering each other as enemies. You did not have to do anything to be an enemy to the gentile except be born a Jew and vice versa. The hostility was in their blood.
Unfortunately, this is what tribalism can do to us as Africans. We are almost born with enmity to some tribe- even without them doing something against us now
Let’s turn to the Scriptures in Ephesians
In the first chapter Paul speaks of spiritual blessings in Christ in the heavenly realms, but in this chapter, he begins to speak of spiritual blessings and how they apply on this earth. In this chapter, Paul descends on the church to address them on the basis of their unity and fellowship together as believers. Again this basis is that because we have been reconciled to Christ by Grace, we are therefore able to be reconciled to each other in Christ. First he states what they were;
What they were- Deserving Wrath (1-3)
Dead spiritually – alienated from God
Dominated physically – by the “course of this world” (world views?)
Disobedient morally – sons of disobedience
Selfish mentally – not persuaded by God, and
Condemned judicially – children of wrath
We too often sing of God’s Amazing Grace and not see ourselves as described here. Romans puts it another way you were by nature objects of God’s wrath. For all have sinned and fallen short.
We live in a world that is too quick to point fingers. A harsh world that sees the wrong in others and sees ourselves as the innocent victims. A world of self-righteous people, a world of great dichotomies- the good and the bad, the right ones and the wrong ones. We quickly pass judgement on others. We are self-entitled and self-righteous. These 2 make reconciliation impossible.
Scripture here however puts us all on one side, Paul reminds the church that Once upon a time they were all- deserving of God’s wrath but by God’s grace- Reconciliation is possible. We who did not know peace with God now have the peace of God.
The big theme of Christianity is Reconciliation, to be a Christian is to be reconciled to God- For every person is fallen and sinful and therefore needs reconciliation with God. Christianity tells people to repent and promises forgiveness through Christ. It therefore has nothing to say to people who do not know they have done nothing wrong to repent of and who do not feel they need any forgiveness.
Our deadness deserved burial, but by God’s grace we have been given LIFE. None of us can sit as judge over the other. This is the truth we must hold of each other- we are all objects of God’s grace.
Vs 4, – The situation is turns around, perhaps the most welcoming message in scripture- But God…., He wants to show this harsh world the incomparable riches of his Grace- That Grace found in the church. The power to break the enmity and harshness dwells in the church. People saved by Grace, living in thanksgiving and extending Grace to each other.
We see here that God made it possible – It can work. Grace makes Reconciliation possible.
Where there is no Grace there is no Reconciliation- There is no peace.
The Results of Grace: Reconciliation made possible
This is the Grace that fills our hearts with Thanksgiving and makes it possible to extend Grace to others. When we have not appreciated this Grace we cannot experience the results.
A New Proximity
Before Grace- the proximity or closeness they had was defined by human ways. They were close because of common family, residence, common interests, language, customs, experiences, likes and dislikes. Unfortunately these fall short to sustain closeness. As humans we say we are close because we share these things- The Jews shared these things among themselves but they differed from the gentiles. These things often were the cause of division.
Paul described the circumstances that preceded a new proximity for the people of Ephesus.
Read —Eph. 2:11-12
Fellowship in the church is not based on this shared life but on the basis of shared LIFE. They were not just stuck to each other but living a new LIFE together.
However, Paul recognized human fragility in two areas of these former associations—self-righteousness and self-centeredness. Human self-righteousness separated people from each other (vs.11). Labels, stereotypes, and fear prevailed. Gentiles were distinct from Jews, good births from bad births, and the uncircumcised from the circumcised. The separating principle of self-righteousness said, we’re right and they’re wrong, we’re good and they aren’t, we count but they don’t. These 2 are at the heart of every argument, opinion, interpretation and human conflict- worldwide. There is nothing more divisive than the division that comes from people at the center.
But the Church’s new closeness- was now to be defined by “we are right they are wrong”- but “God is right and we’re wrong.” They are not just stuck with each other in the name of Jesus.
Paul declared that necessary center for this Closeness. Shared Life brought Christians near to God and to each other.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Human life divided them. The blood of life separated them. Life would always compare itself with other life—competing, complaining, and criticizing while also being indifferent to, suspicious of, and ignorant of neighboring life. Division was within its very nature. Divine Life united them. Unity was within its very nature.
When Christ became part of their lives, previous focus on human life alone had changed forever. Once they were in a blood-bound family, city, community, religion—a life-centered status, now they were in Christ Jesus. They were Christians.
That which had been distant had now drawn near. That which flowed from the Lord’s body became that which formed the church. For all churches, fellowship can come to mean almost any kind of activity. Its biblical significance can be watered down. Without Life, there is no fellowship; there is no significance.
With such proximity there will also be Life-centered peace, the second result of shared Life.
A New Peace
Human-centered peace was well-known to these congregants of the church at Ephesus. They needed it for family, community, and national existence. Such peace was often defined by the absence of conflict, disagreement, argument, anxiety, quarrels, discord, worry, fear and violence. The presence of agreement, harmony, comfort, support, unity, security, and unity defined their experience further. But the in the church God offered a different kind of peace.
He was talking about a worldly peace expected by his listeners but pointing to another kind of unique, divine peace. Let’s call it Peace.
Read- Eph. 2:14-18
Jesus was their peace. He did not just point to peace, advocate peace, or teach lessons for peace. He was their Peace. Paul reminded the church at Ephesus that Christ didn’t just give them peace; he gave them himself, his Life, the Peace of that Life.
People broker peace by making concessions. That is diplomacy. So Counselors, peace-makers, mediators, and reconciliation experts have a hard time to get people to yield their stubbornness and demands based on their self centered interests.
But God brokered for our peace in his blood. In brief- Our 2 bloods could never agree. I am jew damu, you are gentile damu. How God brokered the peace is that we are called to lay aside our damu and take up his Damu- so that there is no more jew or gentile, slave or free, e.t.c. It’s not a negotiation of my terms against yours but we both throw our terms and submit to his plan.
Jesus made the two one, or the two-hundred one, or the two thousand one. It was not just the synergism of two; it was the reality of Life in the lives of two, and three, and three hundred, and three thousand.
Peace did not come by tolerating, ignoring, managing or manipulating differences. The world needed someone who could understand all the differences at a broader, deeper, and higher level and yet one who could bring people together as one. Only Jesus could make such Peace because only he could provide the one ingredient that nothing else could provide—Life.
Christ’s purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace” (vs. 14)
So, Jesus made peace. By his own sacrifice, he offered reconciliation with God, a reconciliation to God that embraced his dream and his eternal plan as well.
When Peace describes a church that would be God’s dream-center, then it can expect Life-centered possibilities. A church is a society that “builds bridges rather than barriers and operates on the basis of service rather than selfishness,” said D. Stuart Briscoe.
Because of this reconciliation there are new possibilities for the church-
First, Paul called attention to their new citizenship surpassing former associations that has within them the consequent terminology of alienation and foreignness: “you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (vs. 19). Us-versus-them terminology was replaced with the new unity terminology of us-and-them. Reference to fellow citizens is as close as Paul comes to fellowship in this letter. Again, the metaphors for their unity reflect family oneness—members of God’s household. The family was defined by Life with Jesus as the firstborn (1 Cor. 15:20-23).
Because of this great Reconciliation – if we are truly in Christ
Forgiveness is possible- If we have been forgiven why can we not forgive.
Restoration is possible.
Cultural Intermarriages are possible in the church
Poor and rich can live together
Black and White is possible
Reconciliation is Possible.
Jesus builds the church from the revelation of himself. He defines the whole structure; the depths of the foundations and the heights and strengths of the walls begin from him. Churches built on the foundations of personalities, the franchises of religious traditions, and the feelings of human-centered needs come nowhere near the dream of God, nor the dream-center of God.
Back to Ephesus. Because God’s dream-center for Ephesus began from Jesus, it was defined by holiness; no human quality could or should add to that definition. This holiness, again, was in him. It was not just a holiness applied by him, nor one managed by him. This holiness was in him and he was in the church of God’s dream. His standards of holiness united them like mortar between bricks.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
His objective was nothing less than a holy temple in the Lord. There would be no holiness until the blood of Christ had brought them near to each other and to God, bringing God’s peace.
Taking the passage as a whole, we can say, grand possibilities become realized in the church when Life-centered proximity and Peace are assured. As Watchman Nee said, “God’s committal to the church is like His committal previously to One Man, Christ – without reservation or restriction.” The whole Life-in-life being of Christ revealed God’s dream.