This week’s theme is Jesus the true king.
- The call to worship psalm, Psalm 89:20-37, pairs with the story in 2 Samuel 7:1-14, which recounts Nathan’s prophecy of the shepherd David being chosen as king to rule over God’s people along with God’s affirmation and confirmation of it.
- The Gospel reading in Mark 6:30-34,53-56 also draws on the shepherd motif where those “like sheep without a shepherd” and shows the true shepherd king providing compassion and healing to the people.
- Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians announces Jesus as our peace who has broken down the wall of hostility that divides.
Reverb of Sermon for July 18, 2021 …
Jesus Is Our Peace
Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV)
A sermon titled “Jesus Is Our Peace” may perk our ears in hopes of hearing some encouragement to counter all the division and polarization we see in our world today. Maybe this is the title that will relax deeply held loyalties and differences that divide us. Perhaps the mere announcement that “Jesus is our peace” will help pacify and alleviate the hostility built up between people. If that is what you hope this passage will do, you may want to choose another passage to read.
Let me explain. It may escape our attention when we read Paul’s announcement, “Jesus is our peace,” that in Paul’s context he has made one of the most politically charged statements someone could make. For the church in Ephesus, the tension in Paul’s letter would not have gone unnoticed. Instead of alleviating tension, it probably raised it. If you were living in Asia Minor during Paul’s day you would be living under the iron fist of Rome’s rule. More to the point, you would be very familiar with phrases and terminology that would be considered “fighting words.”
For example: Rome’s emperors—Augustus in particular—saw themselves as the divine saviors of the world who were bringing “peace” to their newly conquered domains. They were self-proclaimed inaugurators of a worldwide peace that would once and for all settle the disputes between rivalries. Their concept of “peace” of course was proclaimed with a sword. The blood of their rivals paved the way to unity. Using their military power, and more specifically, the terror of crucifixion, the Romans declared peace to all who would bow to their rule, or death to those who would not. The proclamation of peace by the emperor was an ingrained rhetoric all would know. Elaborate celebrations, like the emperor’s birthday, would have public speeches that praised the emperor’s “lordship” and lauded him as the “peace-bringer.”
Paul brings up other terms that would draw on very sensitive issues in their culture like “strangers,” “aliens,” and “citizens.” Citizenship for example was highly valued by foreign people who had been conquered by Rome. Citizenship would bring many benefits from the emperor and it would bring you some sense of peace now that you are not marked as an “outsider” of the state. Citizens were treated very differently than foreigners. The dividing wall between the two was significant.
So, imagine now that you are gathered in someone’s home to hear the letter that has just arrived from Paul. As you are listening to the letter being read out loud, Paul proclaims, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace…” Fighting words. You may be tempted to tell the reader to whisper or skip over that part. You may steal a glance at the door to see if it was locked. To be listening to such a proclamation could land you in treasonous waters. And that, brothers and sisters, is the text we have before us today.
The language in Paul’s letter may not rile up the political elites of our day like they would in Paul’s. But the content and message of his letter still does. Any proclamation of another Lord than the idols the rulers of our day would have us bow down to will be a threat. Like it or not, to proclaim Jesus as Lord, the one who is our peace, is to become an outsider in a world bent on control and power. We would be naïve to think it will not. But we have no control over how the world and its self-appointed leaders will respond to the gospel. We have only ourselves to respond with. After all, this letter was not sent to Augustus—it was sent to believers like you and me, in a small church gathered to hear some good news. And let’s face it, we are not far removed from the divisive and controlling ways of the world. Here too, we would be naïve to think our culture does not rub off on us. Paul has some reminders we need to hear today just as much as our brothers and sisters in Ephesus needed to hear in their time. Notice how Paul begins this section:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12 ESV)
Paul begins by reminding the Gentiles where they had come from. He is trying to guard them, and us, from making the same mistake the Jews did with their differences. The Jews were called to be a blessing and a light to the nations. This is why they were made to be “different” or set apart. Their differences were never intended to become walls of division that separated them from the Gentiles. But that is what happened. The Jews made their distinctives as a dividing point between them and those they were called to bless. Instead of being a light to the nations and pointing them to God, they instead pointed to themselves as the “circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands.” They saw themselves as special. Everyone else became in their eyes, “the uncircumcision.” Anyone different from them got generalized with a label that indicated that they were not one of them.
We see this same dynamic played out in our world today. Labels are used to draw lines in the sand between anyone we see as different from ourselves. Think about some of the labels floating around today that shut down conversation and reduce people to simple categories. “Democrats and Republicans.” “Liberals and Conservatives.” “Pro-Trumpers and Never-Trumpers.” And that is just some current American political labels. I’m sure you can think of many others that may be even more divisive. If hearing those labels made your blood pressure rise a little, then maybe you are seeing why Paul needs to address the issues. This type of division should never be taking place in the church. But it does, and Paul is addressing it here.
Do you see how Paul addresses the issue? He doesn’t tell them to stop being divided, but he reminds them of who they are in relationship to God. He reminds them that they were once separated, alienated without hope and without God. That sounds harsh, but it is an important reminder of God’s grace to us. No one is included or special by the works of their own hands. Paul goes on to tell them and us:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-16 ESV)
Notice that Paul is not talking about something they should strive for or telling them about some potential or possibility if they would just work hard at getting along. No, he tells them what is true. He tells them what has already been accomplished in Christ. There is no room for pride here. It is a gift of grace to be received.
Here are some of the things Paul wants us to take seriously:
First, everything he is speaking of is “in Christ Jesus.” We will not find a solution to our divisions and conflict anywhere else. The church need not follow the ways of the world in attaining peace. Peace has been obtained by the blood of Christ. Notice the contrast here between how Christ establishes peace and how the Roman emperors sought to establish peace. The elite rulers of this present evil age, like Augustus, will require your blood for peace whereas Jesus gives his own blood to establish peace. Peace comes by grace, not by the works of our own hands.
Second, in Christ Jesus we “have been brought near.” Paul doesn’t say how we can be brought near or how we can bridge the gap between us and God. Again, he states what is already true in Jesus. This is a gift of grace to receive, not a task to achieve. This may offend our pride as we want to have peace on our terms. But that is not how Jesus brings peace. As Paul emphatically states, “For he himself is our peace.” Again, peace is not found anywhere else—it is to be received in Christ.
Also, in Christ Jesus, he “has made us both one.” Paul also includes that Jesus creates “in himself one new man in place of the two.” So, this is something new that Jesus has done. We often think the only way to peace is that one side comes over to the other side, like the foreigners under Roman rule would try to become citizens of Rome. But Jesus does not establish peace by having one side join the other, creating winners and losers. He creates a third “new” place of peace in himself for both sides to flourish and be a blessing to the other. He is not trying to do away with differences. Differences are meant for blessing.
The church will become better as we come to “remember” that each of us and our God-given differences, not differences “made in the flesh by hands,” are blessings for the other. Whatever group you are in, do you view the other groups as blessings? Do you seek to be a blessing to them? To be Black or White, for example, should not be a point of division but a distinct gift for the other. The same can be said of all nationalities. Also, male and female are differences that are intended for blessing. These differences should not be smoothed out in some androgynous pursuit to peace. This is one reason it is critical for the church to maintain the distinction between male and female. It’s not a political thing—it’s a reality thing. If any of this language makes you uneasy, just remember, Paul is not trying to smooth out feathers here. He is making a clear distinction between what it means to be the church in the culture of the Roman empire. A little discomfort is par for the course in this text.
One further thing to bring out is that Paul reminds us the “dividing wall of hostility” has been broken down. Further, Paul says the “hostility” has been killed. Notice it is not the differences that are destroyed but the hostility we have over those differences. What a wonderful reminder of reality we have from Paul’s provocative letter. We do not have to cling to any hostility we may have over our differences. Differences are no threat to who we are in Christ. Instead of fighting others to acknowledge and praise your differences or to denounce theirs, in the church we can be thankful for one another in Christ. We can accept one another as the gift we are from God to the other. Any hostility we may have has been destroyed, so don’t try to hang on to it. It’s going away. Like holding on to a sinking ship, holding on to hostility will only drag you down with it.
Let’s finish the passage:
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17-22 ESV)
The peace we have in Jesus adds up to a beautiful picture to live out as a witness to a hurting and divided world. In Jesus we all “have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Now there’s some unity for you that runs deeper than anything we could accomplish ourselves. This means we “are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens.” This means we acknowledge that Jesus is the chief cornerstone of this spiritual temple.
This is a great picture of the permanence of belonging we have in Christ. This is a belonging that cannot be shaken. When we see each other in Christ, with all our God-graced differences, we can look each other in the eye with thankfulness and call each other brothers and sisters. What refreshing good news this is for all who are “strangers and aliens” in this world! What a refreshing call to belonging for any who are labeled as outsiders and feel “far off” from belonging. Paul may be agitating some sore points, but he does so to call us to a family where lasting peace is enjoyed. We will not find it anywhere else. Only in Christ can we be “built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Small Group Discussion Questions
- How did the understanding of the “fighting words” in Paul’s letter strike you?
- Can you think of ways the gospel in our culture also creates this tension?
- Discuss Paul’s approach to dealing with divisions. Instead of rallying them to unite, he “reminds” them of who they are in relationship to Jesus and to one another.
- How might we do this today in our churches?
- Can you think of other labels that are used to generalize people where differences are ignored?
- Can you think of labels we may have even in the church that need to be repented of?
- Discuss how differences are meant to be a blessing to others and how they often get turned into lines of division.
- What are some ways we can remind one another that we are blessings to enjoy rather than differences that annoy?
- How does the reality of Jesus destroying our hostility change how you want to relate to others?
- In the church, why do you think we respond to differences with hostility?
- Discuss what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ.
- How might knowing this and being reminded of it affect our relationships with one another in the church and with those who are not yet believers.
Perseverance of the Saints
|Five Points of CALVINISM|
Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God.
The Father chose a people; the Son died for them; the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel.
The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone.
Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.
|Total Depravity or Total Inability
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel.
The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt.
His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not — indeed he cannot — choose good over evil in the spiritual realm.
Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ — it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature.
Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation — it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.
Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation.
Before the foundation of the world, God unconditionally chose (or “elected”) some to be saved. Election has nothing to do with man’s future response. The elect are chosen by God.
God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ.
Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.
|Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement
Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only … and His work actually secured salvation for them.
His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners.
In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him.
The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.
|Efficacious (or Irresistible) Grace
In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation.
The eternal call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion.
By means of this special call, the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success.
The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ.
God’s grace. therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.
|Perseverance of the Saints
All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved.
They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
- What is our inheritance (that Peter speaks of)? See Psalm 16:5; 2 Timothy 2:10
- Where is our inheritance secured?
- What do you understand “kept by the power of God” to mean?
- What are we being kept for?
John 10: 27-29 (NKJ) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
- Who hears Christ’s voice?
- Whose hands are Christ’s sheep in?
- Who can snatch them out those hands?
- What has Christ given to His sheep?
- What does “eternal” mean?
- Whose responsibility is it to keep the sheep safe (i.e. to save them)?
- How come?
- What does “never” mean?
- The speaker is Jesus. He declares that He’s the One who gives His followers eternal life.
- Because Jesus is the one who gives His sheep eternal life, they shall never perish.
- How long is never?
- The Perseverance of the Saints emphasizes not what man does to keep his salvation, but what Christ has already accomplished! Paul addresses this with respect to the question of how many sins are forgiven through the atonement. To the Colossian church he declared:
Colossians 2:13 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” ~
- How did God view us – what were we – when we were in our trespasses?
- What did God do with us?
- What made it possible for Him to do that?
- How many of our trespasses did God forgive?
- What does that mean?
- Whom has God made us alive together with?
Romans 6:4-5, 8-11 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, … 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- The fact is that when Jesus Christ made His sacrifice, all of our sins were in the future. That is why Paul, writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, used the past perfect tense (in Colossians 2:13) “…having forgiven you.”
- If you truly have believed on Jesus, then you are one of those given to Him by the Father. And when He died He paid for ALL of your sins (every single one) — past, present and future!
- Many people tend to think of their conversion as a moment when all their past sins were forgiven and washed away. But their post-conversion sins are somehow different. Consciously, or more often subconsciously, there’s a sense that they must somehow atone to God for these particular sins.
- However, while atonement “man-ward” may be necessary to restore relationships and preserve the integrity of human culture, “Godward” our post-conversion sins are washed away in the same way as those that preceded our relationship with Christ — through His sacrifice on the cross.
John 17:12 (NKJ) “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
- Whom does the word “them” refer to?
- How did Christ come to have them?
- What did Christ do with them?
- NKJ – He kept them (safe)
- RSV – He guarded them
- NIV – He protected them and kept them safe
- Why are they safe?
- So whose responsibility is it to keep them safe?
Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” ~
- What kind of work is Paul referring to?
- What is the “good work” that Paul is referring to?
- Paul says the good work “has begun” in believers. Who began the good work?
- “Who will continue the good work?
- The text does NOT say that because sinner began the good work and then God would join in the work and continue it.
- The text SAYS that “He” (God) began the good work and . He also will perfect or complete it, continuing His work throughout the now regenerated sinner’s life.”
Romans 4:7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”
- What happens to a person’s sins when they are forgiven?
- What does that mean?
- If there were conditions, then salvation would be earned by obedience to those conditions.
- Salvation then would not be by grace, but works!
- God would owe you salvation because you did something to earn it.
- And if you earned it, it would stand to reason that you could unearn it.
John 6:39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.