A Christian couple told their sons to be kind to the boys next door but not to become close companions with them. They explained that these boys could get them in trouble because of their dirty talk, their fighting, and their disrespectful attitude. When the father of those boys learned this, he was angry. "You think your kids are too good for mine," he said one day to the other father. "No," the believer quietly replied. "My kids have so many bad traits that they need all the encouragement they can get in the right direction. In fact, we too are sinners who need forgiveness. That's why we believe on Jesus Christ. We're not better than you or your boys." Even the best among us, young or old, think and act in sinful ways. We need the forgiveness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, and we need Him to help us live a life that pleases God. Before Christ came and the gospel penetrated our hearts we were many things before Christ brought us near and made us part of the church.
Look what Paul says here in (v11-v12)
Who we once were…..Alienated
Paul paints a picture of what life apart from Christ involves. We were spiritually alienated from God and the people of God. Although there is no moral difference between the Jews and Gentiles there was a difference in God dealing with them as men. In the eyes of the Jews anyone who was uncircumcised was to be separated from the Lord. That’s what made them different from all other people groups The Jews were the people of promise, but the Gentiles were cut off from God in multiple ways. They were Christ-less….meaning they had no Messianic hope of a Savior. Their history had no purpose, plan and no destiny, other than the exception of God’s judgement. They worshipped pagan false deities…the goddess Diana was a patron deity of Ephesus. Who depicted not as a beautiful and gracious creature but as an ugly beast. See, to be separated from God was the understanding to be separated from His salvation. Paul warns the Gentile believers about who they were again in chapter four “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Eph 4:17-18
Think about that what Paul is saying here! Is there anything more terrible than this?
Being spiritually alienated from the grace of God. They were foreigners ….meaning they were excluded from the citizenship of Israel. They were strangers to covenants of promise.
“Covenants” implies a series of covenants.
The covenant with Abraham “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,” Gen 15:18
The covenant with Isaac “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.” Gen 26:3
The covenant with Jacob “And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Gen 28:13-15
The covenant with David “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Sam 7:12-13
To be separated from the covenants promise meant they were missing the covenants that promised the Messiah.
They were hopeless and godless….meaning while God planned to bless all nations through Israel, the Gentiles did not know this.
And because they did not know the promise, they did not know the God of promise.
So what does a person like that do?
They turn to idols instead of God.
Again Paul spoke of this in the Book of Romans “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Rom 1:18-23
Think about it! Before we trusted in Christ for salvation we were in the same tragic condition and position. Remember that you were hopeless!" It is not something that Paul found people doing, and then said, "Stop doing that. It is bad for you." They had no eternal promise and wandered this earth without or care in the world for a Savior. This is the beauty of God’s grace and His invitations to come dine with Him, but in order to dine with Him we have to die to self.
Here is the good news!
What Christ Has Done…… Reconciliation
“But” the beautiful word that changes everything that has been said leading to (v13) There has been a dramatic change to our lives and the establishment of the church. The Cross and the Blood change everything for us, both Jew and Gentile alike. In Christ alone we experience the effects of the Cross through our union with Christ. The Cross is central and without it we are doomed to face the judgement of God. The blood reminds us of what God has done and it reminds us of the gravity of our sin and the cost that was paid through Christ on our behalf. The cross has to at the center of what God has done for us. This is the expression of His grace of our blood soaked and reigning Savior. It’s like the Hymn song we sing “It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.” Stuart Townsend song “How Deep”. This is where our peace begins and ends! As C J Mahaney said in his book “Cross-Centered Life” to his son. C J said “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 the entire wrath as He hung on the cross, so people like us could be completely forgiven.”
Christ has brought us peace, true peace that is only found in Jesus Christ. “For Jesus is our peace” (v14) this peace only comes when self-dies, and that only truly dies when it’s at the foot of Calvary. Jesus came as babe to this earth and His sacrifice on the Cross became our peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
This peace is not temporary it is permanent and this has opened the door to Jew and Gentile alike. For we are saved by sovereign grace and as far as religion is concerned since A D 70 when the temple was destroyed, true religious Judaism ceased to exist. Not only was their place of sacrifice destroyed but so were all the genealogical records on which priestly descent was based. The barriers and the walls have been torn down by His grace through His shedding blood on the cross…that is good news. Act 2:38 tells us “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself." Acts 2:38-39
Who We Have Now Become…..Identification
We are no longer who we use to be and now we have a new name and identity and have the same access as believing Jews. Paul says we are “fellow citizens” don’t take this lightly. What Paul is saying is this “Emphasize that we have been synced not only to Christ but also to other Christians.”
To illustrate this identity, Paul uses three words pictures…..
We are citizens of God’s Kingdom (v19a)
We are no longer strangers to or second class citizens in someone else’s territory. We are equal full members of the same Kingdom. See! Being or becoming a Canadian citizen is a wonderful experience and to be a part of a nation is something to be proud of. You even have a birth certificate or a passport that reaffirms this truth so that other people know who and where you come from. And we have to keep those papers on us at all times. Sometimes this can make a person feel vulnerable especially when you travel into a strange land that you’re unfamiliar with. What Paul is saying is to us this morning is that we are part of the Kingdom that has no end. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Phil 3:20. But to be a citizen of the Kingdom far exceeds our citizenship here in Canada.
We are members of God’s family (19b)
This is a game changer for these two people groups. One might imagine Jew and Gentile together in one kingdom, but to think of them as one family is stunning. This isn’t a one-time use of this phrase, Paul use these words in 1 Tim 3:15 “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God,…...” We are one family and we have the same Father. As if being members of His divine kingdom were not enough, God graciously works in Christ by drawing us closer and makes us members of God’s household. What is God’s household? The place where Christians reside and come together because we have a lot in common with one another. We have a loving Savior who died for us to reconcile us to Him. And He has adopted us into His family to worship and love Him and those whom He adds to the family of God. The church is a family that has a responsibility to one another to serve, love and share those responsibilities. It’s like coming home for Christmas where the whole family is there and there is going to be a mighty feast set for kings. And NO! You don’t sit there like a guest until dinner is served; you roll up your sleeves and ask “What do you want me to do to help?” You do this because you are a part of a household and this is your family. We are fellow citizens and fellow family members equal in every spiritual way before a holy God. And if God accepts each of us, how can we not accept each other?
We are stones in God’s temple (v20-22)
For over a thousand years the temple has been the focal point for the nation of Israel. From Solomon to Zerubbabel to Herod the King. Now there is a new temple and it’s not made of bricks and mortar, it’s made up of people who are saved by sovereign grace. And this foundation for this new temple is built on the Word of God. The church stands or falls based on its faithfulness to God’s Word. In the book of Acts we read this “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42. All this laid on the only foundation in which we are able to stand and is Christ Jesus. “Christ being the Cornerstone” see in ancient times the cornerstone was a major structural part of their buildings. It had to be strong enough to support what was built on it, and it had to be precisely laid, because every other part of the structure was adapted to to it. The cornerstone was the support, and the unifier of the entire building. It’s all on Jesus alone to make the whole building possible. The whole community is built upon Him alone. While the apostles’ teaching emphasizes Christ they also teach us that this is how a church grows and is held together. There is and will be no unity or growth if Christ is not the cornerstone. The greatest example of this is in Jesus “Sermon On The Mount” Matthew 7:24-27 reminds us of this truth "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Through His blood, His suffering, the cross and the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection we who were….
Aliens become citizens
Strangers become family
Idolaters become temple of the true God
Hopeless people inherit the promises of God.
Those who are without Christ become one in Christ.
Those who are afar off are brought near
The godless re reconciled back into the loving Saviors arms that overflow with grace.
People with a variety of backgrounds, abilities, interests, and needs make up Christ’s church, so uniting in a common purpose is not an easy process. Yet when we let the Lord do His work among us, shaping us and assigning our place in the structure, we become part of a strong, solid association…..that’s what makes the church the church!