- A New Nation (verse 19a)
- A New Family (verse 19b)
- A New Temple (verse 20-22)
Let's come before the Lord before we open the word of God tonight, and ask His help as we turn to His word - that He will bless us and speak to us in a mighty way. Let's bow and let's pray together. Please pray also; don't just be waiting on me praying, we're praying together to the Lord, so let's bow before Him now.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the privilege of being numbered in the church of Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that we are lively stones making up that building and built upon the Living Stone, the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, we bless Thee for our Lord, for the Captain of our salvation, for the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith - the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that He bought us, not with corruptible but with incorruptible - His very own blood, there where He shed every ruby drop for us in love. We thank Thee that He shed it for us who were sinners - alienated from the commonwealth of Israel - those who were doomed and damned in their sin, yet what a miracle: that we have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Lord we thank Thee, we ask tonight that we would have our appreciation deepened of what the Lord Jesus accomplished for us there at Calvary. Oh Lord, come among us and be one of our number and show us the Lord Jesus. Holy Spirit, we ask Thee this evening: reveal Christ to us from the word of God, show us He whom our souls desire and love. Come and show us Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour and Intercessor. Lord, there are many with varied needs in this place tonight and we just pray that the word of God may meet their need. Whatever the message is - that it would be for them, that they would find food, satisfaction, refreshment from the preaching of the living word of God. We pray for all those who are sick at this time. We think very especially of those who are just after operations, those who are facing treatment in the days that lie ahead, those who are bereaved and still sorrowing loved ones - some of them here with us tonight. Lord, we pray that they may know the word of God to be an encouragement to them, to uplift them, to sooth and succour their hearts. And after they see the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that they would know that their Redeemer liveth and that He is there to help them in their time of need. So Lord, we need Thee now - preacher and people in the pew alike. We ask for Thy Spirit and we ask for Thy help. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Turn with me to the book of Ephesians again and chapter 2, Ephesians chapter 2. Now, I've a touch of the cold again, so if you don't mind a few funny noises, I don't mind at all. So if you can bear listening to me tonight, hopefully the word of God will be a blessing to your hearts. Now, we're almost finished (not Ephesians now, don't jump ahead of yourself) Ephesians chapter 2, and we're going to read from verses 19 to 22. Hopefully you will remember from the last study that we had, from verses 13 to 18, the subject that we were upon. We thought about the alienation of the Gentiles and we looked at the fact that, of course, we are Gentiles because we are non-Jews. We were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. We were outside the promises of God that was given to His race: the Jews.
So not only have we learnt that we were dead in our trespasses and in our sins, but we were also separated from God in the fact that we were Gentiles. So the plot deepened, didn't it? It got blacker and blacker - the predicament that we were in. But twice we have already come across a phrase that has warmed our hearts: 'But God'. Wonderful, isn't it? 'But God who is rich in mercy' - and then we learnt again - 'But God' has brought us nigh. He has demolished the middle barrier, wall of partition between us, between us and the Jews, and between us and the Jewish God. He has brought together the two enemies of all time: the Jews and the Gentiles, and He has made - and note this - 'one new man'. Not something that the world has ever seen before. It's not the Jews dressed up. It's not the nation of Israel. It's not even 'spiritual Israel'. It is one new man.
So we're going to look, this evening at verses 19 to 22, and what Paul seeks to do within these verses is give a further explanation of what he has been saying already in the verses that we looked at in our last study. Verse 19 of chapter 2: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit".
In our very first study in the book of Ephesians, we saw how Paul obviously was writing to the church in Ephesus. Of course, you know that the Ephesians were Gentiles, they were not Jews. Now Paul, we have noticed, differentiates when he's talking about the Jews and when he's talking about the Gentiles in this little book. When he talks of the Jews he talks of 'we' - 'We were privileged to first have the gospel of Christ' - do you remember that? But then, when he turns to the Gentiles, he changes and he talks to 'you' - 'You who were dead in trespasses and in sins. You who were strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, foreigners, aliens, cut off from the promises and the covenants of God'. Do you see the difference? Now again, in verse 19, he says it again: 'Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God'.
Wasn't it beautiful to see how God has done a new thing? God has taken people who were archenemies down all the eras of time, and He has united them together in one new organism: the church of Jesus Christ. We've seen how we're saved, brought near to God. In the last study we looked at how we have been brought near to one another - the Jews to the Gentiles - and we have seen how the mystery that Paul had seen for the first time ever in all of history. Remember, we said that a mystery was something that had never been revealed before. It was not found in the Old Testament scriptures. It's not found in the Gospels, but it has been revealed now through the writings that we are reading. All of a sudden he sees, from the eye of God, this new thing: the church of Jesus Christ.
Now, we read within the New Testament that the church of Jesus Christ is described in two aspects. The first aspect comprises all the believers from Pentecost to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the air, to the rapture - all those who are born again, from that point in this present dispensation, when the Holy Ghost came to when the Holy Ghost will go again, and we will go with Him. But then there is a second sense, for in the book of Corinthians we read about an aggregate church. In other words, the church of Jesus Christ made up not only of those who are alive at this moment upon the earth, but made up of those both militant upon the earth and those resident in heaven already. Have you got it? So there are two senses of the church in scripture. There is a sense that the church is made up of all the believers who are now upon the earth and alive, and also alive in Christ. That can be described as the church, but there is a greater sense also: that the church is all those who have died in Christ, and are asleep in Christ and have gone to be with Christ, and one day will rise again - and we that are alive and remain will be caught up together with the Lord in the air. That's another sense of the church of Jesus Christ.
But the point that Paul wants us to get is that there is this body of Christ - a new thing, a mystery, God's masterpiece, God's poem. We've seen that in the body of Christ there are no distinctions. There are no national distinctions, no racial distinctions, political distinctions are eradicated and destroyed. Right throughout the whole world all distinctions, all barriers, have been broken down, done away with. That is why Paul, continually, if you look at the passage, repeats this word 'one'. 'One man' - to emphasise the unifying work of Christ. Look at verse 14: 'He hath made both one'. Verse 15: 'One new man'. Verse 16: 'One body'. Verse 18: 'One Spirit'. He is trying to get across, and the Spirit of God is getting across, this fact: that it's no longer two. It's no longer 101 nations in the world, for when you come to faith in Christ you become a member of the church and effectively, and spiritually, you lose your nationality and your political allegiance, and you become one in Christ. Isn't that marvellous? All - now listen! - all spiritual division ends with Christ. Kent Hughes (and I'm very fond of writings and I would recommend them to you) says this: 'The death of Christ has created a new humanity - a third race, as it has been called from the early centuries'.
Think of that! A third type of people, a new creation, a new race that is different, that the world has never seen before or will ever see again. Can you think as these Ephesians read about this and as they were sitting in their Gentile flesh, what it meant for them? The stupendous significance of the fact that those - they who were cut off from God through all time - had now been brought near, had now been glued to the Jewish nation, God's chosen race. They had now entered into the promises of God's people of old, they had become a third race. He puts it like this: 'Interlopers became insiders, aliens became heirs, and the lowest class became the first class'. We saw that the Gentile was in a place of hatred, wasn't he? He was despised, he was cut off, he was alienated from the very centre of all God's promises and purposes and plans. The Gentile could never enter into them or touch them, but now through this miracle of grace, through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through God's new creation of the church of Jesus Christ - now they have been brought right into the dining table of God's goodness and grace. Calvin put it like this: 'Those who were formerly profane, formerly unworthy, have now become partners with the godly. They have now the rights of citizens along with Abraham, with all the holy patriarchs and prophets and kings. Nay, better than that - with the angels themselves!'.
Now I want us this evening to enter in a little further into the significance of what it means to be one in Christ. Now, I've got to confess something with you, that I feel in Ulster, and indeed in the church of Jesus Christ at large, and in my own personal life - that I do not come to grips satisfactorily with the implications of the word of God. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying I don't understand the word of God. I'm not saying I don't know the word of God, or I don't read it, or I don't study it. What I am saying is this: we often do not come to grips, practically speaking, with the implications of what the Holy Ghost tells us through the word of God. We are told to work out our salvation, but that entails and presupposes that we think out our salvation. You don't do before you think, or at least you ought not to do. So if you're going to do, and you're going to work out your salvation, and try to live for God, what are you going to do? What steps are you going to take? And what are those steps in relation to what Paul is talking about here 'in the unity of the church of Jesus Christ'? Now, I want you to think about this - really think about it! All the barriers are down - that's what Paul says - Christ has demolished, with the dynamite of the cross and the Gospel, the middle wall of partition dividing God from men, and dividing men from one another.
Now, if that is so I want us to look at some scriptures. Turn with me to Ephesians 2, where you are, but verse 12 this time. We're going to get this at the background before we look at any of the other books or scriptures, to see what Paul is driving home here. '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' - so he's starting at that premise. Chapter 3 and verse 6: 'That the Gentiles' - talking about salvation now, and this is the outcome - 'That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel'. You see now what's happened - the middle wall of division has just fallen down.
Now let's see the implications of this. Turn with me to Galatians chapter 3 and verse 26 to 28. Now we can't go into the whole gamut of what these verses really mean this evening, but what I'm wanting you to get is this: the barriers are down! Verse 28, chapter 3: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise' - divisions that men make. Turn back to Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 11 - what is he saying? He talked about the Jews as being the Circumcision and the non-Jews, the Gentiles, as being the Uncircumcision but what is the little parenthesis that he puts on at the end of what he calls the Jews the Circumcision? He says the Circumcision 'made by the hands of men'. What are the divisions we have read about in Galatians chapter 3? 'Neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female' - divisions that were hijacked by the religion of the day, divisions that were made by men. So not only has the division come down - that wall of partition between God and men, between men and one another - but also that wall of rules that divided the clean from the unclean, the rules that we find within the word of God, the rules of cleanliness. But we must go further, because Paul talks about it as the 'things made by the hands of men'.
Let's go to 2 Corinthians this time and chapter 5. Now this - now come on, let's think about this now, these words, because these words have rattled me in the week that has gone by. Verse 16 is absolute dynamite - wait till you hear this! 'Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh" - now what does that mean? You know what it literally means? We don't look at anybody now in a worldly way. Do you do that? You don't look at a person as what religion they are. You don't look at a person as whether they're black or white, whether they're poor or rich - because there's no barriers anymore. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that everyone has entered into salvation because of this. Just wait for what I'm going to say to you, but let's look at this: 'Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God'.
What is Paul saying? What are all these verses saying? Well, perhaps we can answer them by me posing to you a few searching questions. Now, let's try and answer this: have we, as evangelical believers, erected barriers to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have we? You see, if you search the New Testament you will only find one barrier to coming to Christ, and that is Christ. That is the gospel, that is the stumbling block, isn't it? That is the rock of offence, that is the thing that men ought to stumble over - but what we ought not to do, and what the New Testament forbids us doing, is putting other little stumbling blocks in front of those things, or after that thing. Do you understand? We are not to erect any additional barriers to people coming to Christ, other than Christ Himself, His claims and His Gospel, His cross and His blood.
Now, second question: do we judge how spiritual other Christians are by how much they're like us? Do we? Think about that! Thirdly: is our ministry one of reconciliation? Paul says we are ambassadors - ambassadors of reconciliation. It's as if we were standing in God's place, in Christ's stead, pleading: 'Be ye reconciled to God'. What he's saying is this: we have been reconciled by the blood of Christ to God - there's no more enmity between us and God - and we have a message of reconciliation to men, that they can be reconciled to God. But if they are reconciled to God, there is the opportunity and the potential for them to be reconciled to one another.
Now, I have been struck by the relevance of this message to our wee land. Because I am reconciled to God, I can be reconciled to those I am trying to spread the gospel among. I can potentially be reconciled to everyone in the world! Have you, and have I, and have we in our little land become so familiar, so eloquent with the gospel that we know so well from the word of God, that we have become ignorant of one of the crux things about it - that it is a message of reconciliation.
Now, how do you know whether that's the case in your life? Well, I begun to think about this and I thought to myself: well, if I'm hindered going to a certain district with the gospel because of a political allegiance or religious allegiance, or if I can't bring myself to speak to an individual because they have a certain political or religious persuasion - do you know what I believe the New Testament teaches? That we are seriously compromising the gospel! Now, I know that this isn't very popular perhaps where we live, but I'm not really concerned about that. I'm concerned about what God says. And the chances are down all of history, the message of God isn't very popular, sure it's not? Now, let's think about this in our minds - the implications. Do you remember Paul had to stand in front of Peter to his face and rebuke him, because he was the one who talked about the great things that God was going to do with the Gentiles? He was the one who was given the vision. Remember the vision? 'All of what you see, Peter, you go and eat'. But he was the one that wouldn't eat with the Gentiles, isn't that right? What did Paul say effectively he was doing? He was compromising the gospel!
We can also have Christian barriers - not just barriers between us and the world that don't need to be there, but I don't know whether you've heard of black churches. That's - what I mean is not black on the outside but the people that go to them are black - ethnic churches. Maybe it's in a multi-cultural society, and all the black people go to one church, the Indian people go to another church, the white people go to another church. They're all believers, born-again, but they all segregate into their different races and cultures, and the teaching of the word of God and the teaching of the apostle Paul clearly states that this is a failure of the mystery of Christ. Now I know that like attracts like, I know that! I know that we are more comfortable with them that we know, than them that we don't know - but the New Testament isn't into being comfortable, the New Testament is into truth. And the truth is this: that when Christ died at the cross all barriers came down. For anyone who receives Him, it doesn't matter whether they're white, whether they were a Protestant, whether they were a Roman Catholic, whether they were Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, whether they were poor or rich - no matter what they are they are all one in Christ! Now, that's the message. If you take away from it, it's not the message. If you add to it, it's not the same message. You've got to keep it pure, the way it has been given to us in the word of God. Now this shakes me, because a monolithic church - that simply means a one-cultural church - in a multi-cultural society is a failure!
Now, listen! This is upon my heart. We pride ourselves here in Ulster for the heritage that we have, don't we? Often when we're evangelising we say that people here have heard it that much that they don't want it any more, and we'd be better going to Africa or somewhere to take the gospel to people that have never heard it before. I wonder, are we committing this sin at times? Because there are 46% of the population of Ulster that perhaps have never heard the gospel once - almost half of the population. A few hundred of them are about 500 yards down the road. Now, let's get to grips here. I don't know whether religious or political heckles, or hairs on the back of your neck are starting to come up - and if that's so, that's good because you're starting to interchange and interact with the word of God and what the Spirit of God is trying to bring to your heart now. It can be in our attitude to those outside the church. It can even be in our attitude to those within the church. If you go to America, you can go early in the morning for the old folk's meeting, then you can go a little bit later for the middle-agers, and then later on in the morning you can go for the young people's service. That's the same idea: they have not grasped the concept that the church of Jesus Christ is all different types of people joined together in Christ! You can't dilute it. You can't sever it. It's one new man. It's something different. It's something that God wants to do.
Now the challenge - come on! What about our wee land? People in Ulster that have never heard the gospel? Yes! People in Ulster that are likely never going to hear the gospel, because many of us aren't taking it to them. Isn't it interesting that in 1859, and in other awakenings where the Spirit of God came in a mighty way in salvation in Ulster - it only hit the Protestant community. Now, you might say: 'David, you're confusing a lot of things here. Paul's talking about unity in Christ with those who are saved'. I know, but don't you say that when you preach the gospel, or when you talk to a soul, you look at them potentially as someone who can be saved, don't you? No matter what you believe. Now, therefore you must look at a person you are witnessing to and preaching to as potentially someone who can be reconciled to you. Are we getting to grips with what the Scripture says? If Ephesians tells us nothing, do you know what it does tell us? Christ is all we have. Nothing less, but nothing more! It's not Christ and the law - that's what Paul told the Galatians. It's not Christ and circumcision - he told them that as well. It's not Christ and your church, or Christ and the Mormon church, or the Jehovah's Witnesses - it's Christ alone!
Our value, and our status ladder, and the things that we think are important, really don't matter too much, because it's not simply down to what is truth - it's down to who is the truth, and if we have Him we have the truth, and everyone who has Him has the truth. Do you understand? We are united with Him, that is the only thing that brings us together. It's not whether we're Baptist, or whether we're Methodist, or whether we're Presbyterian or Episcopalian, or whatever particular denomination we are - that's not what brings us together in common. All we have is not a name, but the name of Christ! Therefore, in order that Paul brings home to us this real, new thing, this mystery that God has done, this one man that He has brought to being that can revolutionise a nation like Northern Ireland. Where we can go to someone who was born in a different way than you were born, and say: 'Listen, I have a Saviour that died for sinners, and you're a sinner - and I don't care whether you go to chapel or church - you need to know that Christ loves you! And I'm not going to let any political or religious barrier stop me telling you that!'
We do, don't we? I thought today - and I know this couldn't happen - but if the apostle Paul came for fellowship here in the Iron Hall, and he became a member. Where would be the first place he would go to? Where would it be? It wouldn't be too far down the road, would it? Do you think we could stop him? No! By all means he wants to save some, and it wouldn't matter whether when he was down there he got a beating, and he was left for dead, because that happened to him! It wouldn't matter if they took him and they pushed him into the docks, tried to drown him, tied something heavy to him - it wouldn't matter because he had a heart of love for the lost! It wasn't just his brand of lost, for there's only the lost.
So Paul is wanting us to see that this great salvation encompasses everyone who is washed in the blood of Christ, no matter who they are, where they come from or what they've done. There's three descriptions and pictures that he gives to show us that. The first you see on your handout is a nation, the second is a family, and the third is a temple. Paul is saying this great new race - the third new race of humanity that is undivided, is reconciled to God and one another. He begins to describe in more depth what they are actually like. The first thing is he says they're a 'new nation'. Let's read the verse together - verse 19: 'Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints'. Now you know what it' like, don't you, when you feel national pride. Maybe you're at the cenotaph and you hear 'The Last Post' being played over a flag-shrouded coffin of one who died for freedom and democracy. There in the depths of your heart there wells up a feeling of national pride. Maybe it's on the sports field and you're watching there, or maybe you're playing for your country, and when they strike up the national anthem you feel that tingle of knowing that you're standing there for your country - and your posture straightens and something indescribable happens psychologically and emotionally. It's called national pride.
Now, in ancient times, and to the people who Paul the apostle was writing to, it was something even greater than our national pride here in Ulster. For in the Greek Roman culture to which Paul was writing to in Ephesus, citizenship was the highest personal thing that you could have. Being linked to a polis - to a city, metropolis - to a city was the greatest thing that you could have. It spoke of your identity in every way. Even the very laws of the city, as far as you were concerned, was part of your being - they defined who you were and what you were. The members of that city - you'd consider as your lifelong friends, and there was never a wrong word as far as could be possible between you and a fellowcitizen. You remember how it was talked so much in ancient days of what it was to be a citizen of Rome - do you remember what a great pride it was? So much so that Paul himself appealed to it one occasion. That is why, in verse 19, Paul reveals something amazing to these Ephesians about the fact that they are no longer simply naturalised. They're not simply any longer Ephesians. The person that is saved who was a Greek is not simply a Greek, or a Roman a Roman, or a Jew a Jew, or an Ulsterman an Ulsterman; but he is saying this: that you become supernaturalised. You become a citizen of God's new city!
Do you see the picture? No longer strangers, no longer foreigners, but fellowcitizens with God's people. They are now, as one writer says: 'Of the supreme cosmopolitan community, the third city of the universe'. There is a teaching that's going round in our nation, and in our city, and in the world, called 'British Israelism'. It says that we here in Ulster, and a few other places, comprise a few of the lost tribes of Israel. Now, see when I was studying this truth of how we are all reconciled in Christ, and we have become one new man, and Paul's saying here: 'It doesn't really matter whether you're a Jew, whether you're Greek, whether you're Roman, whether you're bond or free, because we're all the same, we're all one in Christ'. So why would you be worried whether you were British, or whether you were Israelite, in the first place? Isn't that true? What does it matter? Doesn't matter anything to me! It doesn't add to my blessings, it doesn't take any of my blessings away. Why? Because my blessings are one - Christ! All the blessings that I have are in Christ! You can't get any more than that, you can't take away from that. This is something more than all this arguing over nationalities and politics.
We know from the word of God that Israel was God's chosen nation, weren't they? But what did they do? They rejected God's Christ. They rejected the Redeemer, and we read in the word of God that they suffered for the consequences, and the New Testament teaches us that the kingdom was taken from Israel and, it says: 'given to' - quote - 'a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof'. What is that nation? It is the new nation of the church. As Peter says: 'A chosen generation, a holy nation, a peculiar people'. If you turn to Genesis 10 for a moment - turn to it, for I don't think we're going to get through our study tonight, but it's important that we understand these things. You see that the Old Testament nations were understood by their descent from three men: Shem, Ham and Japheth. On all the nations indeed of the world today, a few of them hybrids and mixtures one with the other, but most of them you could probably trace back (and I would recommend Harry Lacey's little book: 'God and the Nations') to these three: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now if you turn to the Acts - turn to the Acts now - Acts chapter 8. This is wonderful, because in Acts chapter 8 and verse 27 you remember Philip was preaching the word of God, and the Holy Spirit took him and transported him to a place where there was nobody only one man sitting reading a portion of the word of God. Who was he? He was the Ethiopian eunuch, he was a descendant of Ham - right? That's chapter 8. Go on to chapter 9 verse 1, what does it say? 'Saul of Tarsus' - a descendant of Shem. Acts chapter 10, look at verse 1 of chapter 10: 'Cornelius the soldier'. Guess what? A descendant of Japheth! Isn't that wonderful? The Holy Spirit is showing us: Shem, Ham, Japheth - the whole nation of the human race - all of them can be one in Christ!
We've seen in the weeks that have gone by what sin has done, haven't we? How it has separated families, how it has broken up nations, and even churches in the day in which we live. Sin speaks of death, sin speaks of separation - but Christ and His cross speaks of reconciliation. The church of Jesus Christ - and we must never forget this - means belonging. Everybody wants to belong today, don't they? To the fact of what religion you are, what colour you are. To the fact even of what football team you support. It's a sense, believe it or not, of belonging, of wanting to be in the 'in crowd', wanting to fit in. In the church of Jesus Christ, do you know what we have? We have a language of the heart that is common, it is the word of God. We have, like a nation, a heritage and a history that is common. We have an allegiance that ought to supersede all other loyalties of national and political that we can think of. We have a common goal together - the glory of God and the uplifting of Jesus Christ. And to top it all we even all have a final destination: heaven! It's the community of faith, and we have more in common - all of us in this little room who are saved - than all of the nations in the world, yet do you know what the surprising thing is? We still find things to fight about. Isn't that right? We miss the wood for the trees sometimes. We forget what we have had done for us through the blood of Christ in reconciling us to God - that's the greatest thing - and then reconciling us to the person sitting beside you.
In Philippians 3 and verse 20 we read this wonderful verse: 'Our conversation' - or our citizenship - 'is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour'. Or as another translation puts it: 'and from there we eagerly await a Saviour' - from there! The Lord Jesus Christ! Do you know what he's trying to say? I'm not a Jew anymore waiting for a Jewish Messiah to deliver the Jews from the Romans, no! I'm waiting for a Messiah - a deliverer from there, not here. Do you know what Ulster people need to hear? We're not waiting some political redeemer or deliverer for Ulster. We're waiting our deliverer from here. Isn't that what they need to hear? For He is the only deliverer that can save - politically, religiously, socially, in all sorts of ways - He is the only one who can bring hope, and when all the other deliverers of Ulster are kicking up the daisies, Jesus Christ will be on the throne! Jesus Christ is our message, friend. He is the only hope! He is the only one who can bring that deliverance. Listen to what Kent Hughes says: 'We can travel throughout the world, or even track among the stars and sojourn in other galaxies -but as believers, wherever we go, we are free from alienation, for we are reconciled to God and His church and we belong. One day we are going to catapult from this life with a force far greater than any ascending jet, as we are drawn to our city and to our people'. That's where my people are! What does it say of Abraham? 'He died and was gathered unto His people'.
But secondly, the picture that is painted for us first of all was of a new nation, and then secondly he describes a new family. He talks about - verse 19 - 'the household of God'. So Paul is saying that we haven't only been supernaturalised into the divine kingdom of God, but he's being more intimate here. It's a warmer metaphor that he is using, talking about being adopted into the divine family of God, God becomes our Father. The man beside you becomes your brother in Christ, the woman beside you your sister in Christ. We become the saints together, we have a new relationship of a family that is only in heaven and on the earth and cannot be under the earth. Think about it, what did Paul say to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5? He said, 'Rebuke not an elder but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren, the elder women as mothers and the younger as sisters with all purity'. We're not neighbours - we were enemies first of all, we might have been enemies. You see, you could have a Jew and a Gentile sitting beside one another in this church even this evening, when they wouldn't have done a few hundred years ago. It was impossible even a few hundred years ago, because of anti-Semitism and because of hatred of the Jew, and the Jewish hatred of the Gentile. Even a few years ago it couldn't be done! But because of what Christ can do in a life, not only can they become neighbours and live together in peace, but the word of God and the mystery of Christ in the church is that they can become saints of God, and live together in the family of God, in the house of God! You see, when Christ does a work He does it right. And Paul says in Galatians 4 and verse 6: 'Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father'. This is wonderful!
The third description that we have: first of all of a nation - a new nation - then a new family, and then a new temple. Verse 20 to 22: Paul considers our relationship now not so much to one another but to the Holy Spirit of God. He says, verse 20: 'You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit'. Do you see what he's saying? The church of Jesus Christ has now become a building, a place where God dwells. Now I'm not talking about a physical building, I'm talking about you and me, and all of us put together, as the church universal. God has come to dwell among us!
We haven't time to go into all of this, but in the scriptures you have two dwelling places of God in the Old Testament. You have the tabernacle, which just means a tent, that's where God dwelt. Then there was the temple and that was a more robust form, it was more permanent where God dwelt. There were three temples. First of all there was Solomon's temple, then there was Zerubbabel's temple, and then there was Herod's temple. Zerubbabel's temple was the temple we thought about when we were looking at the book of Haggai. You all know about Solomon's temple, and Herod's temple was the temple that the Lord Jesus Christ was familiar with, and the one He talked about when He was using it figuratively for His body - how it would fall again and rise again. Now, I want you to see this: we spoke in days gone by about the Jewish psyche and what it meant to have a temple for the Jew. So much so that when David was fleeing from Absalom, his son who wanted to usurp him, remember in Psalm  he cried 'From the ends of the earth will I cry unto Thee'. As far as he was concerned because he wasn't in Jerusalem, because he wasn't near the temple, and because he couldn't worship God, life wasn't worth living.
I was reading today, I think it was the 85th or 86th Psalm, where David lifts his voice again to God and says 'How lovely is thy dwelling place O Lord of hosts to me. My soul longeth and fainteth the courts of the Lord to see'. The courts of the living God! You see, that's the key! For the Jew the tabernacle and the temple was the place where the living God dwelt, and if you weren't near the tabernacle or the temple it didn't matter. Now, if you were to turn to Genesis 5 (don't, we haven't time) but Genesis 5 you read this: 'Enoch walked with God'. That's the first thing: God, first of all, walked with men. If you go further into the book of Exodus He tells Moses: 'I'm going to dwell with you' - no longer walk. You can walk away but, no, this is more permanent so he tells Moses: 'Build a tabernacle. I'm going to dwell with you'. But the word of God teaches that because of Israel's sin, the glory departed. So God told them to build a temple - a more permanent structure, but because of their sin, again the glory departed. And then the Lord Jesus Christ came, and John 1 verse 14 says that God came and tabernacled amongst men, and what did they do? They took Him and nailed Him to a cross!
They all wanted God's presence, but when they had it they didn't know what to do with it. Now, this is wonderful, because the word of God teaches that now God no longer dwells in buildings made with hands. He even says through the word - Acts 7: 'Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?'. But the word of God teaches - listen: God dwells in your heart! Isn't that remarkable? If I'm out of Belfast I don't need to worry whether I'm away from God or not, because God's here. I don't care whether I'm in Jerusalem, or Rome, or Timbuktu, because God is in me by His Spirit! This is the miracle, we could go on here, how Peter talks about the lively stones.
I'll leave you with this little thought that blessed me immensely today. Peter talks about how we are built up as lively living stones together, and we make up the body of Christ, and we are built upon the living stone - the Rock who is Christ Jesus. When the first temple was built that was Solomon's temple. It was built on Mount Moriah, but there was something very peculiar about it, unlike other buildings. It was this: that each rock and each boulder that made up that temple had to be made before it was brought up. There was not to be a sound of a hammer, or a chisel, or a workman, around the temple. In fact, if you watched it being built there wasn't a sound. They were just carrying up these rocks to the temple. It was all done at home. It was all hewn away. Isn't that beautiful? That when God saves us, we're added to His temple, and there's nothing more for us to do. It's all done! All the hewing and all the chiselling was done by the Spirit of God when He was chiselling us out of the darkness of the quarry of our sin and our iniquity, and our separation from God.
Oh, there's so much I'd love to say to you tonight but, Lord willing, we'll continue next week. But let me just say this to you: the Lord Jesus is described as our chief cornerstone. Do you know what that was for? They measured all the other stones by the cornerstone. When He is in the right place in His church, all the other stones will fall into place.
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 twelfth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "God's New Home" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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