Ephesians 2:11-22: Unity and Peace in Christ
Prepared and preached by Rev. Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, July 30, 2017
God’s view of Christ is the only accurate standard by which to measure Christ’s worth.
I once read about a conversation in the Louvre Museum in Paris. One of the curators of the museum, a man with great appreciation for art, overheard two men discussing a masterpiece. One man said to the other, “I don’t think much of that painting.” The curator, feeling obliged to reply to the man’s statement, said to him, “Dear sir, if I may interrupt, that painting is not on trial; you are. The quality of that painting has already been established. Your disapproval simply demonstrates the frailty of your measuring capability.”
Similarly, Jesus is not on trial before men; men are on trial before Him. He has already been approved by the Father. Those who arrogantly dismiss Him as unworthy of their devotion simply demonstrate their inability to recognize the most precious treasure of all.
Let’s begin to look into what Jesus has to share with us today from His Word.
Remember the Berlin Wall? Remember President Reagan saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” I am amazed by the separation created by the Berlin wall. Families could be separated for life. A society that was once the same country was now separate. I have thought about that because my family is in western, Ohio. If we were invaded and the other country set up a wall in Columbus, I would likely not see them again. Unless… I make a hot air balloon. True story. In 1978 the Strelzyk and Wetzel families began sewing and creating their own hot air balloon to escape. After a few failed attempts and almost being arrested on September 16, 1979, attempted escape from East Germany to West Germany in a homemade hot air balloon and they succeed. They wanted to get out of the dividing line created by the Berlin Wall.
Today, I wish to talk about the unity amongst Christ’s people.
My theme is that we have unity and peace in Christ.
My application: Let us act like we are one people group. Bring down our Berlin Walls.
Let’s read Ephesians 2:11-22:
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.17 And 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 our access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
There are three subsections:
- Unity of Christ’s People 11–13
- I love how Paul begins this section writing with some sarcasm.
- Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which isperformed in the flesh by human hands—
- MacArthur Shares: Gentiles (the “uncircumcision”) experienced two types of alienation.
- The first was social, resulting from the animosity that had existed between Jews and Gentiles for thousands of years. Jews considered Gentiles to be outcasts, objects of derision, and reproach.
- The second and more significant type of alienation was spiritual, because Gentiles as a people were cut off from God in five different ways: 1) they were “separated from Christ,” the Messiah, having no Savior and Deliverer and without divine purpose or destiny. 2) They were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” God’s chosen people, the Jews, were a nation whose supreme King and Lord was God himself, and from whose unique blessing and protection they benefited. 3) Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants of promise,” not able to partake of God’s divine covenants in which he promised to give his people a land, a priesthood, a people, a nation, a kingdom, and a King—and to those who believe in him, eternal life and heaven. 4) They had “no hope” because they had been given no divine promise. 5) They were “without God in the world.” While Gentiles had many gods, they did not “they did not recognize the true God because they did not want him (see notes on Rom. 1:18–26).
- But notice the contrast in verse 13:
- But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
- We see the idea of unity as a common theme in Paul’s letters.
- 2:11-12 is good: and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
- Ro 9:4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,
- 1 Co 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
- Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Col 3:11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
- Christ Our Peace (14-18)
- Read with me these verses again: 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups intoone and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.17 And 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 our access in one Spirit to the Father.
- There was an inscription on the wall of the outer courtyard of the Jerusalem temple warning Gentiles that they would only have themselves to blame for their death if they passed beyond it into the inner courts. Paul may or may not be alluding to this wall, but it well illustrates Christ’s reconciliation of all people into a new humanity (see v. 15
- Barclay: “The Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. The Gentiles, said the Jews, were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations that he had made. The best of the serpents crush, they said, the best of the Gentiles kill. It was not even lawful to render help to a Gentile mother in her hour of sorest need, for that would simply be to bring another Gentile into the world. Until Christ came, the Gentiles were an object of contempt to the Jews. The barrier between them was absolute. If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death.”
- Chrysostom’s illustration of the two becoming one: “‘Let us imagine that there are two statues, one of silver and the other of lead, and then that both shall be melted down, and the two shall come out gold. So thus He has made the two one.'”
- Jesus brought us unity.
- Jesus brought us together. The more I studied this the more awesome this became in my head.
- Remember the show Get Smart? They had this “Cone of Silence.” If Maxwell Smart was talking to the chief they had the bubble that would come over their head to block any sound from escaping. The problem was usually they could not even hear themselves. It created a division, a barrier between them and the outside world. Likewise, we had a barrier between us and God. Then there was an added barrier between the gentiles and the Jews, but Jesus took care of it.
- Jesus made both groups, Jews and Gentiles into one.
- He abolished in His flesh the enmity.
- Through the cross He reconciled us.
- He made us into one body.
- We both have our access in One Spirit to the Father.
- IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary: 2:14–16. Paul writes this letter from prison because he has been falsely charged with taking a non-Jew inside the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 21:28). Taking a non-Jew beyond a particular dividing point in the temple was such an important breach of Jewish law that the Romans even permitted Jewish leaders to execute violators of this law. Paul’s readers in Ephesus and Asia undoubtedly know why Paul is in prison (Acts 21:27, 29); thus for them, as well as for Paul, there can be no greater symbol of the barrier between Jew and non-Jew than “the dividing wall” of verse 14. But Paul says that this dividing wall is shattered in Christ. “He is our peace” might (but need not) reflect the Hebrew of Micah 5:5.
- “Access” translates a Greek word that only appears three times in the New Testament. In ancient Times a related word described the court official who introduced strangers to the king, thus providing access to the Monarch. Before Christ, only Jews had limited access to God through the sacrificial system, which offered gentiles none at all. But Christ’s sacrifice on the cross gives believing Jews and gentiles free access to the Father forever (John 10:9; 14:6; Romans 5:2; Hebrews 4:16) (David Jeremiah Study Notes).
- We are united in Christ.
- This is an awesome Theological Truth.
- Christ Our Cornerstone 19–22
- Paul uses three metaphors to illustrate the unity of the body of Christ.
- As fellow citizens Jews and Gentiles have become part of the same Kingdom.
- As members of God’s household, all believers become part of one spiritual family.
- And as a holy temple, all believers together become a habitation for God (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17).
- Paul uses three metaphors to illustrate the unity of the body of Christ.
So, think with me about the value of unity.
Christians, Jews and Gentiles, every tribe, tongue and nation are united in Christ. “In Christ” is a powerful term in Ephesians and in the New Testament. We are one because of Christ. All this happened in Christ.
If we are In Christ, we are one and we have direct access to God the Father. We are part of His family.
I think we need to act more united. We need to love more, we need to share more, we need to be more united. Christ makes us united.
The Bible says a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:12) and you know that I knew someone who had a rope making machine. The irony, it takes multiple people working together to make rope.
Let’s be encouraged as we are united and let’s act like it.
Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)