This sermon is number 11 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 11
"From Alienation To Reconciliation"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now let me welcome you to the Iron Hall this evening to our Monday evening Bible study. It's great to see you all out and I welcome you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and hope and trust that - as we've made the effort to leave the sunshine and come in here to look at the word of God - that the Lord, indeed, would bless us and shine His own sunshine upon our hearts.
Ephesians and chapter 2, chapter 2 and we, this evening, are on our eleventh study as it says at the top of your handout and we're hoping to look, this evening, at the subject: 'From Alienation to Reconciliation'. This is a great chapter from a great book, and we've been meditating upon where we have come from in our sin and where Christ has brought us to in His wonderful marvellous grace. So, to recap on all that - because it's important as we look at what we're going to study this evening - let's read from verse 1 of chapter 2.
Paul says: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others", and here's this glorious expression, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them".
Now here's the verses we're going to look at this evening: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father".
'From Alienation to Reconciliation'. If you study the annals of history, and down all the eras of time, you will find that history shows none distinction greater than the one we have just read about within the New Testament. What I am talking about is a racial, national distinction. There are many racial distinctions within our world today and we, in Ulster, know all too well what it is like to have two people fighting over one piece of land, both believing that they own the land, both believing it is their right. You can go through all of history, you can look down every country, and you will find within that piece of land at some time there has been a similar ethnic fight.
We've just read, within the New Testament, about perhaps the greatest of all: a racial, national, political and religious separation. Of course, as we've read, and if you're familiar with the Scriptures, you will know that that was the distinction between the Jew and the Gentile in Biblical times. The distinction is still there today, but during the times of our Lord Jesus Christ that distinction was very acute. You see, to the Jew the Gentiles - and you're a Gentile, for a Gentile is simply someone who is not a Jew - to the Jew the Gentile was simply fuel for the flames of hell. That's all they were worth, that's all they were good for. The common motto for the Jew toward the Gentile was this: 'The best of the serpents - crush them, and the best of the Gentiles - kill them!'. It wasn't even lawful to help a Gentile woman giving birth, for that would bring another heathen pagan Gentile into the world.
It reminds me of the story, in our own wee land, of three men sitting in the waiting room in the Royal Victoria Hospital: one was black, one was a Roman Catholic and one was a Protestant. They were sitting there for a while, waiting on the news of their new born babies, and all of a sudden the nurse came rushing in with bad news. The bad news was that they'd mixed the little nametags of the babies up, around their wrists. There was a terrible panic and a dilemma, and the nurse says: 'What I need is one of you to come in and look at the child, and see if you can recognise any features, and claim the child for your own'. I'll not tell you whether it was the Protestant or the Roman Catholic, but all of a sudden one of the men was seen to be walking down the corridor with a black baby. And you can understand why: for that is the mentality of a nation that is divided - 'We will have anything but the other sort', isn't that right?
That is what is happening in the New Testament. It's so contemporary to our day and age as we live in. The Jews hated the Gentiles, and the Gentiles hated the Jews. And just as the Jews saw the Gentiles as fodder for the flames, so the Gentiles, in turn, could turn to the Jews - and even apart from their own animosity toward the Jew (because they hated them) they even hated one another, and the Gentiles were fighting among one another. Indeed, the great Greeks thought themselves to be the highest pinnacle of all humanity. Plato said that the Barbarians - and that's just a name for anyone who was not a Greek - they were their enemies by nature. It was said that the Greeks waged a truce-less war against people of other races - against the Barbarians. It's the old cry of humanity, isn't it? 'If you're not like me, if you don't have the same colour of skin, the same religious creed, the same background, the same class - well then I cannot accept you, and unless you're born like me I cannot accept you'. To the Jew the Gentile was a dog. To the Gentile the Jew was a homicidal enemy, who went through every race that was not Jewish and slew them. And all of a sudden we have here this political, religious, racial cocktail down in history. We know it so well through reading our Bibles, and all of a sudden Paul comes in here with a new message, something that is totally different. That's why he comes in verse 11 - look at it - and he says this: 'Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands'.
Now we read together from verses 1 to 10, we recapped our memory about what we have been learning - about how man came from deadness, being quickened by the Holy Ghost of God through regeneration upon the work, the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, and this dead sinner has become alive to God. Right? We learnt how verses 1 to 10 are universal, didn't we? Paul wasn't talking about Gentiles, was he? Or he wasn't talking about Jews, he was talking about both. He was talking about all humanity - that they are altogether counted as such: dead in sin, and they all need to be made alive by the regeneration of the Holy Ghost. But now Paul goes a little bit further, and in verse 11 he shows: 'Yes, I did say that there's no difference, that we have all sinned, we have all fallen from the grace of God and God's standard of righteousness, but', he says, 'if you think about it - you Gentiles - you were a little bit worse off. In a sense, Gentile Christians in Ephesus, you had a greater alienation from God than even the Jews'. Now what is he talking about? This is the first thing that I want you to notice on your notes: alienation, in verses 11 to 12. Look at verse 12: 'That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world'. Paul says: 'the Circumcision call you the Uncircumcision, you're alienated from God and all the blessings that God gives to His people'.
If we had time this evening we could go into the book of Genesis, and you would see there how God chose and called one man - Abraham - Abram and then Abraham - and he was called out of the nations of the world. Now Abraham was a Gentile, and then he became the first Jew by being called of God. Do you know why God called him? Simply to become the partakers of the promises of His grace. Isn't that wonderful? After Abraham, then came Moses. God then gave Moses the law of God, which was a picture - like a mirror image - of the standards that God required of a man to be acceptable with Him, and they were told: 'If you obey everything in this law you shall live'. At that moment, when Abraham was called of God, when Moses was given the law of God, the Jews - the Israelites - were separated, sanctified unto God from every other nation upon the face of the earth.
You can read the Old Testament and you will find that God never ever made a covenant with a Gentile. Look for it! Now I'm not saying that He didn't make promises that affected the Gentiles - that's not what I'm saying - but He never ever made a specific promise directed towards the Gentiles. Why? The first reason we find in (a) on your notes and verse 11 is this: that the Gentiles were hated. Paul says in verse 11 that the Circumcision called them the Uncircumcision. Now, you see, to be called the Uncircumcision was a name of disdain, because the Gentiles didn't have the surgical sign that marked Israel as God's covenant people. It was a term of reproach, a term of disdain to show towards them: 'You don't belong to God. You're not God's chosen people. You have not been given the law of God, and the prophets of God, and the writings of God. You're rejected. You are a Gentile dog. You are the Uncircumcision!'. It's a similar name that people would call other races today that they didn't like - a racist name. We can almost feel something of the sting when we hear David within the word of God - and you remember he heard about Goliath, and Goliath was willing in his proud arrogance to stand up to the people of God, and ultimately to stand up to the God of the people. Do you remember what David said? 'Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Lord God?'. Do you feel the sting? 'Uncircumcised Philistine! This unclean pagan! This atheist! This false religionist!'.
Of course, the Jew spoke of himself as the Circumcision, and the problem that Paul had here was that they were using this term in a proud arrogant way. 'We are the Circumcision, you are the Uncircumcision, unclean!'. They became so proud of it that Paul seems to take exception to their boasting, saying that their circumcision was - look at the verse 11 - only in the flesh: 'in the flesh, by hands'. Do you see what he's saying? 'You boys that are priding yourselves in being circumcised because it's the sign, the covenant sign, of being part of God's holy nation - you've only it in the flesh! It's only an outward sign! It can only be seen by the physical eye', Paul is saying. But there need to be more than that - they didn't have the inward reality of faith in the Lord. Turn with me for a moment to Romans chapter 2, and it's important that we understand this. Romans chapter 2 and verse 28, and Paul expands upon this and he says: 'For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God'.
Do you see what they were doing? They were praising themselves in the fact that, outwardly speaking - not just through their circumcision but by their way of life, by how long their beard was, by what they ate, what they drank, the 600-odd rules that they kept, added to the Scriptures - because they were Jews they prided themselves in the outward appearance of their religion. Paul says 'No! No, not a bit of it! You've totally missed the mark. Oh, you've the truth of God's word. You even have had God's prophets speaking to you by the Spirit of God down all the ages, and it was right in the beginning for you to obey and to circumcise the child. But now what has happened? It has become an outward show and you don't have the inward reality of having a circumcised heart'. Now, what does it mean to have a circumcised heart? It simply means this: in the same way as outward circumcision represented dedication to God, you need dedication to God in your heart. My friend, listen: it's your spirit and your heart - it's the inward man that matters! Now, I'm not saying that the outward doesn't matter, but it doesn't matter as much. Because we are so physical people, maybe even carnal and fleshly people, we judge everything on the outward appearance and sometimes we can get by because we fool everybody - but God knows what's in the heart. God knows whether the hearts are circumcised. Do you see what was happening here? There was a pride, and even if you were a true Jew in the fleshly sense by birth, you could not be a true Jew toward God unless the heart was right. Even with the true Jews who were worshipping God the way they thought was right - even they hated the Gentiles!
Now, I want you to see the depth of this thing, the pain of it, the severing of the separation, the great gulf that was between the Jew and the Gentile. Even when a Gentile wanted to worship and follow the true and the living God, they had to become a Jew. You can read about Ruth, she had to become a Jew. Rahab had to become a Jew. You couldn't be a Gentile and be saved, you had to change to be a Jew. You see, in the Jewish mind, Jerusalem and the temple was the place, the only place, where God's name was. No other nation, no other people, no other shrine was there but the one to the true and the living God - there in the centre of the universe in Jerusalem. Even the very Gentiles were forbidden to enter into the inner temple area, on pain of death.
Now here's the punchline: you're a Gentile! Have you got it? Now I know there's one that's not a Gentile here, but most of you are Gentiles. Do you know what that means? You are hated! Hated! Hated! In times past, to be born in Ulster, you were hated of the people of God. To be born in Europe, to be born a non-Jew, to be born a Gentile, you were despised of God's people - unclean, you were the dogs of the universe! Then we see in verse 12 (b) that not only does Paul say that they were hated and despised but he says that they were Christless: 'Ye were without Christ'. Now, of course, we all were without Christ before we were saved, weren't we? But that's not what that means. You could read it like this: 'Ye were without Messiah', that's what it means. You see, the Messiah belonged to the Jews. The Messiah was not promised to the Gentiles, the Messiah was promised to Israel. Although it is predicted in the Old Testament, and throughout the word of God, that the blessing and the benefits of Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would flow through to every nation and every man through His ministry - yet He would be born a Jew. He said Himself: 'Salvation is of the Jew'. He said also that He had come primarily to minister to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. I want you to paint this picture in your mind: you were despised! You were Christless!
Thirdly, verse 12 says that we were aliens. We were without Christ: 'Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel'. What does alien mean? Well, it simply means this: one who does not belong. A stranger, a foreigner, a person who has no rights to be in a specific place, they have no privilege of citizenship. Now, do you see it? The Gentiles were hated, absolutely despised. The Gentiles had no hope of Messiah or Christ. The Gentiles were aliens, alienated - they didn't belong to God, they didn't belong to God's commonwealth, God's promises, God's word, God's prophet. They didn't belong! Now get it! You were despised! You were Christless! You don't belong! It's awful, isn't it?
Fourthly, it says, look at verse 12: 'Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise'. Who were the covenants made to? Think about it. Go to the Old Testament: there was the Abrahamic covenant made to Abraham, there was the covenant made to Noah, there's the covenant made to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, to David, to Solomon. There's covenants throughout the Old Testament, right throughout it all, but they were all to Jews - not to those that were hated, not to those who were without the hope of Messiah, who were aliens, who were strangers. What an awful picture it is to think what it must have been like before Christ was born, before the gospel was given, to be a Gentile! There was no hope! There was no gospel! There was no free will or free choice there, because you were rejected.
Then we see under (e) that it was hopeless. You're without Christ, you're aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise: 'having no hope' - hopeless! Can you imagine what it would have been like to live in a nation that was a Gentile nation? You hadn't the one true living God as your God. You would go into battle, and you wouldn't know whether you would come out of it again. You would go to fight for your country, and you didn't know whether your country was going to win or not, because you didn't have the prophet of God to guide you as to what to do. You didn't have any sacrifices of oblation to make to God, to make sure that God's smile was upon you and that you were walking in the will of God - awful! That's what it was like nationally. In the government, and in the country, you didn't know when another nation was going to flood in and destroy and rape and pillage the whole place, and loot it and take over. You didn't know when an empire was going to come and become your dominators in a national, political, religious way. You didn't have any assurance - nationally they were hopeless! Well, what if you were individuals? You were a wee woman in a wee tent, and you couldn't be a soldier, and you couldn't be a politician. You didn't really care what was going on in government or on the battlefield. Well, you had no hope individually! Now picture this: you didn't know what was going to happen to you after the grave. You hadn't God's word to tell you. You hadn't the prophets of Israel, because you didn't belong to the commonwealth or the promises of Israel, and there just this blackness of darkness forever where it was concerned with God.
You can even see it 500 years BC before the Lord Jesus Christ. A man called Theogines (sp?) wrote this - listen: 'I will try to have a good time while I'm young, and I shall leave the sunlight that I loved, then I shall see no more. Have a good time my soul. While young have a good time. Soon others will take my place, and I shall be black earth in death. No mortal is happy under the sun' - that was 2,500 years ago. What are young people saying today? 'Go out and enjoy yourself! Forget about God, and religion, and good living. Go out and enjoy yourself, because one day you're going to die. You'll never be able to enjoy yourself again. Life is just as long as it is, then it ends, then you're buried, dead, and done for. Your life's out like a candle'. Nothing's changed under the sun, has it? You can go to the Roman poet, Callitus (sp?), in 500BC, and this is what he said:
'The sun can set and rise again,
But once our brief life sets
There is one unending night
To be slept through'.
No hope! This is a Roman - a Gentile from Italy. He had no hope of anything before him or after him. There was no God, no Heaven, just like today! The first century was the age of suicide, and Taccidus (sp?) tells of a man who killed himself in indignation that he had been born. Remember Job? He cursed the day of his birth. Do you remember Solomon going through that great book of Ecclesiastes, going into everything that the world, the devil, the flesh, intellect and pleasure could give to him? And at the end of it all: 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!'. This was his conclusion: 'Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die!'. It's all there is! You would think, in all their intelligence, that they could think up something new and better than that, couldn't they? But they can't. There was a Social Darwinist called Herbert Spence, and he wrote this - this is more recent now: 'My own feeling respecting the ultimate mystery is such that I cannot even try to think of it without some feeling of terror, so that I habitually shun the thought'. Have you got it? This is the mind of the Gentile: 'Live on as you're living. Live on in paganism and all your idolatry, all your materialism, and the first feeling or thought of God: shun it! Darken it! Forget about it! Put it into the recesses of your conscience, your mind, your spirit, and bury it!'. Oh, what it would be to be a Gentile!
Paul goes on to say not only were they hopeless, but they were pagan - verse 12: 'Having no hope, and without God in the world'. Now that doesn't mean 'without a god in the world'. Boy, they had plenty of gods! They had gods of stone, gods of wood, gods of the spirit, gods of the forest, gods of the sea, god of the mountain, god of the sky and the clouds. They have so many gods, you couldn't remember them all! Oh, they had plenty of gods, but when it came to the one true living God they were atheists. It's interesting, isn't it, that the pagan world - we tend to think of the pagan world as irreligious, and it's not. It's the exact opposite. The pagan world is intoxicated with religion! They want all the religion they can get, all the temples, all the shrines, all the offerings, all the rules and regulations, yet at the end of it all they were without God! Without the true and the living God. What would it be like to be hated? To be Christless? To be rejected? To be an alien and a stranger? To be hopeless? - and then at the end of it all to realise, as you got to the bottom of the barrel, that you're without God? That's where you would be if it wasn't for Christ. There'd be no hope for you. But it's wonderful - isn't it? - because we turn to verse 13, and in verse 13 we see not alienation but salvation. Paul was saying: 'Yes, the Jews were even closer than you Gentiles because they had the truth, you were in darkness', but even though that was the case Paul begins again to sum them all together as one - and he's almost going into what he went into in Romans 3:23, where he said there is no difference: 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God'.
Now I want to try and put right a mistake that many believe - and some would say that some Bible notes have led people astray on this truth. The Jew was never saved through works! No man or woman is saved in the eyes of God through works! They were never saved through sacrifice, because Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats can never ever take away sin. They were never saved through ritual or through the law, because we read in Galatians that the law was the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. The law was the mirror to show us our dirty face before God, to show us that we had fallen short of the glory of God. But those things, all those covenants of promise and ordinances, could never save the Jew - even the Jew! Before they knew who Messiah was, before they had the light of the knowledge that He would come, where He would be born, what He would do - listen: if a Jew was saved, listen, they were saved by the blood of Christ! Now, we need to get that. You see, the cross, just as it is a tree, the Jews before the Lord Jesus Christ and the cross were leaning towards that tree. Everybody after the cross, if they want to be saved, if they want to go to Glory and have their sins forgiven, must be leaning backward upon that cross. Isn't that right? The prophets, the psalmists, what were they doing? They were looking forward. 'Was it not the spirit of Christ within them', Peter says, 'that was testifying of Christ and the hope that would come through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?'. Oh, that's what this salvation is about. Look at (a): it's in Christ!
Verse 13: 'But now'. It's like that other wee verse, verse 4 - isn't it? - where God brings the great transition. Everything looks dark, I love the way Paul does it: he's painting a terrible, dismal, stormy picture of our sin and our state before God and then, all of a sudden, it's as if he just gets the paper and rips it all away and says: 'But God! In Christ, now, He has done a new thing!'. He has brought the Gentile from the place of alienation to be, Paul says, 'in Christ'. Now, this is what this means: because the believer, even the Gentile alienated believer, is in Christ he's as near to God as Christ is. What is he saying? 'But now in Christ ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh', made near, made close, 'by the blood of Christ'. You can read it [in] Colossians 1:21,22: 'You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight'. Paul says it again in Colossians 3:3: 'Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God'.
There was one year at the Keswick convention and there was a speaker called George Silwood (sp?). And a wee man after the meeting came up to him and said: 'You know, it's wonderful, isn't it, to be safe in the arms of Jesus? Isn't it wonderful?'. Do you know what Mr Silwood said to him? 'Son, I have something better than that'. 'How can you have something better than to be safe in the arms of Jesus:', he said. Listen: 'I am safe AS AN ARM of Jesus!'. What does the word of God say? 'We are His flesh. We are His body. We are the body of Christ. We are part of Him'. This is what gets me about this 'saved and lost' doctrine. I can't understand it, for with the body of Christ there's no amputation, there's no decapitation! I am engrafted in Christ and just as a part of His body can never be lost, I can never be lost! It's just as well, isn't it? For I would be lost and the reason why I can't be lost is, as Paul says, that I am saved in Christ: 'who were sometimes afar off', verse 13, 'made nigh' - how? - 'by the blood of Christ'.
The Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest crime that ever took place in humanity. If you were wanting to give it a name you would call it Deicide. It's one thing to lift your hand or to slay another human being, but this was God incarnate. Men lifted their hands, and the greatest demonstration of man's sinfulness was when they slew the Son of God. Yet the word of God shows us the divine sovereignty of God the Father, as we look on the humanity of what is going on, and it seems that these wicked men are lifting Christ and slaying Christ; that we read within the word of God that He was delivered by the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God. This was no mistake. He laid His life down. The miraculous thing about it is this, as the hymn says:
'The very spear that pierced His side
Drew forth the blood to save!'.
How are we made near? You've seen - haven't you? - I hope you've seen tonight how far off from God we were. It's not simply about not being saved. It was the fact that we were not saved and we were Gentiles. But He has brought us near by the blood of the cross, and there at Calvary you can see the wickedness of man - and it's embodied in the soldier taking the spear and piercing the side of the Lord, and the blood and the water flowing. Yet from that wounded side came the demonstration, the greatest of all, of the love and the grace and the mercy of God bringing us near by the blood of the cross. The little hymn says this:
'Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or take away one stain'.
Enoch Powell once gave a speech called the 'Rivers of Blood', but those rivers of blood he talked about were nothing like the rivers of blood that were shed on Palestinian grounds. Think of it! On a daily basis - blood everywhere, blood being shed, lives being taken to sacrifice - as they saw it - to cover over their sin, but the word of God says that none of those rivers and oceans of blood could ever take away sin. Do you know why? Because none of that blood came from a victim that had any intrinsic value. Whatever you do, don't listen to anyone or anything that demeans the blood of Christ. For this is the blood of God incarnate. This is the precious blood of a Lamb without blemish and without spot. This is the blood of the Lamb of God:
'But Christ the heavenly lamb
Takes all our sins away
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they'.
For only the blood of Christ had atoning power. Only the blood of Christ - and I say it reverently - was the blood of God. It took that blood to bring an alienated Gentile close to Christ! The wee hymn says:
'So near, so very near to God,
Nearer I could not be.
For in the person of His Son,
I am as near as He.
So dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I could not be.
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me'.
Hallelujah! What a salvation! Then thirdly, there's alienation, salvation, and then Paul talks about reconciliation. He says in verse 14: 'For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us'. He is our peace. Now notice it doesn't say this, it doesn't say: 'He makes our peace'. Now He does make our peace, but that's not what this says. He, the person Christ Jesus, is our peace. How is he? This is the first thing, (a) by union: 'He is our peace who hath made both one'. This is hard to say in Northern Ireland, it's controversial, but when you get saved you lose your nationality. You're not a Gentile any more. You're not dying or fighting for any flag in particular - it's the King of kings and the Lord of lords you follow now. Christ has brought these two warring factions, these two combatants together - sworn enemies, Jew and Gentile - and made them one, because now He has a chosen generation, a royal priesthood and holy nation - and it's not the United Kingdom! Then He talks about demolition. He says not only has He made both one, but: 'He hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us'. What Paul is alluding to here is [that] there was a wall within Herod's temple, and it was the wall that separated the Gentiles from the outer court to the inner holy place - they weren't allowed in. If you look into the history books you find this: that Josephus writes, and indeed archaeologists have found it in 1871 and they found another inscription in 1934, that upon that wall separating the Jew from the Gentile was written this - listen: 'Let no one of any other nation come within the fence and the barrier around the holy place. Whosoever will be taken doing so, will himself be responsible for the fact that his death will ensue'.
Isn't that powerful? But what does Jesus do? There on the cross He lifts His holy hands and He demolishes by the dynamite of the cross any wall of separation between us and God, between us and God's people. Then, in verse 15, he says that He has abolished [in His] flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in the ordinances. What's He talking about? He's talking about there at Calvary's cross, the Lord Jesus Christ abolished the law. Now, the law was good and the law was holy, because the law was from God, wasn't it? But you see, sinful men had lifted the law and made it a badge for religion, and said that unless you had been given the law you couldn't know God. So Jesus Christ, on the cross through His blood, wiped it away! The word of God says that for us Gentiles and for the Jews that couldn't keep the law anyway, He was made a curse. He was cursed by the curse of the law, that we would be free from the curse. Then further on, verse 15 (d), you see creation because Christ has made one new thing, He has made the church of Jesus Christ. This is a thing that had never happened in history past, and don't believe the false doctrine that Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures is the church, and that the New Testament church is the continuation of Israel. God had never done this before! Never had He united Jew and Gentile. Never had He made them unique. Never had people on the earth lost their national identity. Never could people become the body of Jesus Christ. Never ever could the Jew be free from the law and never could they reign with Christ on the earth in a millennial reign, they were always the subjects.
He brought pacification - peace between them, reconciliation through the blood of His cross. Not only have we been reconciled to one another, but the word of God says we have been reconciled to God. Verse 18, one of the greatest things of all, through His living resurrected life, His ascension to Glory, and His intercessory ministry we can come - both of us, Jew, Gentile, ex-Protestant, ex-Catholic - can come to God by one Spirit.
'The veil is rent, our souls draw near
Unto a Throne of Grace.
The merits of the Lord appear,
They fill the Holy Place.
His precious blood has spoken there,
Before and on the Throne
And His own wounds in Heaven declare:
The atoning work is done!
'Tis finished! Here our souls have rest,
His work can never fail.
By Him, our sacrifice and Priest,
We pass within the veil.
Within the holiest of all,
Cleansed by His precious blood.
Before the Throne we prostrate fall,
And worship Thee, oh God!'.
Do you believe you have a wonderful salvation? Do you? You do! And if it wasn't for Christ we would have no hope!
Our loving Father, we thank Thee for the Lord Jesus Christ who has given us Gentiles hope. Oh God, we so often think how we've been saved from sin, but we never ever think of how we've been saved from being despised and aliens and strangers to the commonwealth of God. But yet a God of grace and mercy loved us: for God so loved the world that He gave His Son. We thank Thee, dear God, that we have entered into these blessings. Help us never to be unthankful - and we say, Lord, hallelujah, what a mighty Saviour we have! Take our thanks, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eleventh tape in his Ephesians series, titled "From Alienation To Reconciliation" - Transcribed by Trevor Veale, Preach The Word.
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