BIG IDEA: “Unity” and “peace” can only become true realities when we look beyond them, to a transcendent object, which is the God-man Jesus Christ. It is our “shared love of Jesus” that covers over the hostility which always defines the intersection of our lesser loves (love of religion, nation, people group, or self).
SERIES: We’re back in EPHESIANS!
The book of Ephesians relates God’s plan for creating a new society by his grace and for his glory. It is “…doctrine set to music. Just as [Paul] proclaimed God’s order to the post-Augustine Roman era which was marked by a process of social disintegration, so Ephesians is today the most contemporary book in the Bible, since it promises community in a world of disunity, reconciliation in the place of alienation and peace instead of war” (John Mackay, President Princeton Theological Seminary, 1948).
SCRIPTURE to CONSIDER: Ephesians 2:11-22
 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.  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.  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. (ESV)
- Context: In this text, Paul addresses the conflict between two people groups: the Jews (“the circumcised”) and the Gentiles (“the uncircumcised”). There was a lot of real hostility between these groups, and it was problematic in a way that we (thankfully) don’t often experience in this country.
- Separation: Paul asks the Gentiles to remember that they were once completely separated from God and his promises. The Gentiles were…
- Separated from Messianic salvation.
- Separated from Israel; they were not members of the elected people of God.
- Separated from the promises God made to his people.
- Separated from the hope of the resurrection.
- Separated from the one true God.
- Remember: As we talked about last week, you must remember where you’ve come from in order to fully understand the miracle of where you are now. That’s what Paul is asking the Gentiles to do in this passage. Paul then reminds the Gentiles that they are no longer separated from God, but are now members of his family.
- Before we came to Christ, most of us were once very far from God in the same way that the Gentiles were. This distance is relational, not physical distance.
- God moves first: God always takes the first step towards us, and he has already done so by sending his son into the world. Jesus heals this relational distance. Don’t buy the lie that you are and always will be far from God. You have a choice in the matter.
- True Peace: Jesus is the only way beyond hostility and into true peace, and he establishes himself as our peace by making us one, no longer Jew and Gentile, but one humanity, one salvation for all. A transcendent reality, going beyond the flesh and reaching the spirit.
- A New Humanity: We are a New Humanity covered in Christ’s blood, God’s spirit dwelling within, given the promise of incorruptible flesh.
- Death to Hostility: Jesus tears down the walls between us and kills the hostility. It’s gone and cannot return.
- Hostility Management/Coexistence: We often manage hostility. That’s what walls do (i.e. the Berlin Wall). They facilitate coexistence. But Jesus didn’t come to manage our hostility. He came to kill it. Coexistence isn’t bad, but it is a lesser good than what God wants. He wants a wall-less, fence-less, singular humanity. When we manage peace, that peace is relative and tenuous; it could end at any moment. Jesus’ peace is neither relative nor tenuous.
- A New Citizenship: Another way of looking at this “new humanity” is as a “new citizenship.” Where once we belonged as citizens of a physical nation, now we belong as citizens of Heaven.
- Jesus Abolished the Law: The wall between Jews and Gentiles was primarily due to the Law (the Old Testament, Mosaic law).
- The Law was good, and it was, indeed, intended to create separation.
- But when Jesus came, he abolished the Law by fulfilling every part of it through his sacrifice on the cross, moving us into a new season, called the New Covenant.
- Anyone and everyone is now able to enter into the Household of God.
- The Church and Unity: We, the Church universal, should be a picture of unity in a world that will never be truly united. How do we become that united house? By seeking a love of Jesus because the true love of Him is the only way to true peace.
- Imagine if your love of Jesus was at the top of your priority list. If you loved Jesus more than anything, then that’s the only citizenship that would matter. It would break down any hostility between individuals in the Church. All that would matter is our shared love of Jesus. The rest melts away.
- If you love anything else more than you love Jesus, then eventually you will come into hostility between others who also love Jesus.
- Love: We need to do a better job of loving those who haven’t come to a love of Jesus yet. We have to be careful not to treat people who don’t believe the way that the Jews treated the Gentiles.
- Tear Down Walls: As a church in the city, we are surrounded by people who feel like Gentiles. We must be very careful not to set up walls that keep people from the Peacemaker himself.
- Let’s become a place where a person’s background makes no difference, and all that matters is their love of Jesus.