The Gospel Reconciles (Ephesians 2:11-22)

AUDIO:

MOTIVATE

  • Oil & Water[1]: These elements are known not to mix. This reality is often demonstrated with food – cooking pasta, or in a bottle of salad dressing. When you shake the bottle the elements come together, but it is only temporary. When the bottle sits, the ingredients separate.
    However, there is one way to bring together oil & water in an enduring manner. When mixing oil and water with an emulsifier, like an egg, it creates a new solid substance: mayonnaise.
  • Likewise, we live in a world of division and rivalry
    • Republicans/Democrats; North/South; Coke/Pepsi; Microsoft/Apple; Ravens/Steelers; PB Cups/Fools.

 

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is an emulsifier bringing together people of different races. Even though many ethnicities are functionally segregated, the one element that can unite us is God’s grace.

 

  • Not My Experience
    • When we speak about race, we often differ based on personal experience.
    • Seasons change with cold temperatures with some love and others loathe. We don’t dismiss or degrade people who disagree over changing seasons.
    • Reviews of consumerism – restaurants, movies, travels. If we disagree with someone we don’t oppress or abuse another over personal preference.
    • Racial experiences differ, and when someone shares their experience or perspective, we should not ignore or insult.
    • The difference today is white ethnicities commonly say we live in a post-racism society, however non-whites often believe racism still is a frequent experience – either structurally and/or personally.
    • The divisions today exist because people do not empathize with others who share a differing experience. Empathy for others with differing experiences can go a long way toward lowering the tension and increasing understanding, not to mention reducing and eradicating racism.
    • The divisions are furthered in some part due to social media, both raising awareness to issues of corruption and racism, and also fanning the flames of hate and racial angst. The latter is certainly not to dismiss the reality of the former.
    • Race relations go beyond “black-white” to other ethnicities and complexities. We can/will not cover all issues beyond a general exhortation of gospel reconciliation.

 

  • Race discussions can be uncomfortable and even painful, but when and where the Scripture speaks, we should speak and submit. And there is no question of…
    1) Bible addresses and is against racism.
    2a) Early Christianity was ethnically diverse with roots in Middle East and Africa. Christianity arrived in Africa several hundred years before Europe. So, ideas of white Jesus and only black slaves are inaccurate.]

2b) Even in modern times, Christianity has changed with in 1900 over ¾ of world Christian population was Caucasian but early 2000’s there are now more practicing Christians in Africa than all European countries combined. [2]

  • Heaven will be populated with people more than just America and the language will sound very different from English than many expect.
  • Today more Christians in Kenya than Kentucky; more Anglicans in Uganda than Britain-Canada-US combined; Brazil sends more overseas missionaries than does Britain or Canada; China has more Christians than USA; Largest church in Korea has more than 10 largest churches in Canada combine. Christianity has never been a Western religion but started Middle Eastern and is moving around the world and as it returns to the East we are seeing a final push to completing the Great Commission.[3]

3) Christians have had both a positive and negative impact on racial issues.

  • Negative: Slavery, Structural & Overt and Unintentional Racism
  • Positive: John Wesley, William Wilberforce, MLK Jr, etc.

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EXAMINE           Ephesians 2:11-22 / The Gospel Reconciles

The gospel recognizes our diversity.

 “Therefore”

Paul writes the continued implications of the gospel.

  • Makes alive (2:5)
  • Raised up & seated with Christ (2:6)
  • Saved by grace & sent for good (2:8-10)

Paul recognizes the diversity by addressing the differences between Gentiles and Jews. He asks the Gentile believers to remember who they were

  • “called the uncircumcision” Physical sign of God’s covenant; somewhat comparable to baptism.
    • Faith precedes baptism (Abraham credited faith before circumcision; Rom 4:9-11; 9:6-8)
    • Works do not create salvation, so circumcision, or infant baptism are irrelevant (Deut 10:16; Gal 6:15).
  • “separated from Christ” Apart from Jesus we are in Adam – dead in sin (Rom 5:17-18)
  • “alienated from commonwealth of Israel” Not a citizen but an outsider of Israel.
  • “strangers to covenants of promise” Underprivileged to God’s blessings.
  • “having no hope” Absent salvation, eternity is established as condemned in hell without hope.
  • “without God” Apart from God there is no life.
  • Summary: Faithless / Christless / Stateless / Hapless / Hopeless / Godless

 

The divide between Jew-Gentile was not just religious but cultural. People from different races were unhospitable and hostile towards each other. They were two-uniteable entities who could not bond or believe together. Yet, Paul explains the power of the gospel is to reconcile the un-relatable and unite the unexpected. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). The very body and blood of Jesus binds us together in a way nothing else can.

  • Where the world says – “How can those two work & worship together?” The gospel says: “Grace reconciles!”
  • They say “blood is thicker than water” to imply family relationships are stronger than other type relations. In the gospel, we have divine blood infused in our spirit with His grace washing over our bodies. God is creating a new person – “one new man in place of the two” (Eph 2:15).
  • Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
  • Colossians 3:11 “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all.”

 

We have one race, the human race where God has appointed different races to relate to Himself and one another (cf. Acts 17:26; Rev 5:9). Our only separation is being in Adam or in Christ – doubting God’s truth or believing God’s promise of grace. For us today and in these passages, among multiple others, the focus is not on color (race) but on the Creator and the cross of Jesus Christ. God as Creator is not color blind but colorful. He made us from every different tribe, language, people and nation. Further, He redeemed us with His very own blood for the purpose of reconciliation, with the cross as a wonderful symbol with vertical and horizontal beams reflecting divine and physical relationships. In the same breath and context Paul speaks of gospel reconciliation, he speaks about racial unity (cf. Gal 2:14). The gospel reminds us there is no room for racism, not even a corner in the closet. no room racism

The Gentiles are us unless of course you are a Jew. We read Bible with the perspective that we are the insider Jews, but instead we are the outsider needing acceptance; which the gospel provided.

Humans have more in common than we can sometimes care to admit. Some action steps for this principle:

  • Fellowship with 1+ unbeliever each week.
  • Host 1+ unbeliever in your home at least each quarter.
  • Host 1+ person of a different ethnicity in your home multiple times a year.
    • Be more careful and compassionate how you speak of people from different countries – even those who may not be “legal” or follow your same morals or faith. God’s kingdom is far greater than a single nation. So, when we focus on earthly politics we must be careful we are not missing out on participating in what God wants to do for His kingdom. And I’m not promoting an anarchist agenda without protective borders and a legal & thorough immigration process. But the way we speak about people and the way we care about the weak and vulnerable of the world matters in God’s eyes (Ps 82:3-4; Prov31:8-9; Isa58:6-7; Mic6:8; Zech7:10; Mt25:42-43; Lk14:14; Ja1:27).

 

The gospel reconciles our differences.

Diversity creates differences with Christian love not forcing uniformity but instead forming unity to complement our contrasts. Christ has created a new person/body where our identity is not in our skin but in salvation apart from human affinity or ability.

In the gospel:

  • “Christ is our peace” Imagine world to disagree w/o being disagreeable & divided, and still have peace.
  • Christ makes us one, breaking down the dividing wall of hostility.
    • Temple courts divided for Jews to come near but Gentiles to remain outside temple; Josephus reports of signs warning Gentiles anyone who enters will have themselves to blame for ensuing pain or death.
    • MLKJr: “It is appalling that the most segregated hourof Christian America is 11AM Sunday.”
  • Christ creates in himself one new man in place of the two
    • καινός – new in quality and kind/category
  • Christ brings us near
  • In Christ we are not strangers but fellow citizens and family of saints.
  • Built on foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ – the cornerstone…
    • Common foundation is Scripture not stylistic preferences that should be contextualized to each culture. Music, Preaching, Art & Décor, are all secondary but still to be considered fitting for the sake of love of neighbor (1Cor 8:13) and advancing the gospel (1Cor 9:22-23).
  • Whole structure being joined together, grows into a holy temple… built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
    • If we want to know Christ more deeply then we need to experience greater diversity in the body. The body of Christ is made up of many parts, each reflecting the beauty and revealing the mystery of God’s amazing grace. There are things about God that I can know more by relating to you and others, and vice versa. Each of us have life experiences that when blended together create a majestic tapestry to the glory of God.
    • It’s why church membership and participation is so vital to your personal faith and spiritual growth. We need each other to experience the fullness God has to offer.
      See next message in Ephesians 4!
  • At church, make it a goal to speak to 1+ new persons each week; do it with your family.
  • Pray for and participate in a greater influx of non-whites to feel welcome and become family at SPBC. Instead of “Black/White/Hispanic/Asian churches” let’s be a grace church believing God wants to extend grace to every person from everywhere.

APPLY/THINK

This weekend Nov 9-11, 2018 is significant because it marks two anniversaries:

  • 100th anniversary of ending WWI (1918) or “Armistice Day.” After WWI, Germany was weakened and vulnerable for revolution, leading to rise of German nationalistic policies.
  • 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (1938) or “the night of broken glass.” This was the event where a Jewish citizen responded in anger toward German persecution and shot a Nazi officer. The Nazi government responded with a wave of violence attacking and demolishing Jewish homes, hospitals, schools, and synagogues. Ultimately, it would begin the turning point for Nazism to arrest 30K Jews and expand its persecution and elimination of thousands of Jews through a national Holocaust.

During this time, the Christian church had the opportunity to confront racist attitudes and actions toward the Jews, but instead they chose indifference. Likewise, today there are groups that seek to persecute people based on their ethnic identity than equality as every person is made in the image of God.

“The Holocaust did not start with gas chambers. It started with politicians dividing the people into “us” vs. “them.” It started with intolerance and hate speech. It continued when people stopped caring, became desensitized and turned a blind eye. Our choices in response to hatred truly do matter. If we are sincere when we pledge “liberty and justice for all” and truly believe in and practice the Golden Rule, we can help fulfill the promise of ‘Never Again.’”[4]

Repent of pockets of racism…

Love God and live loved

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 

[1] Adapted from Tony Evans, Illustrations: Race Relations.

[2] Mark Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sheldon “Shelly” Bleiweiss is a son of Holocaust survivors, a liberal Reform Jew and a Holocaust educator. http://intersectproject.org/faith-and-culture/the-night-that-paved-the-way-for-the-holocaust/

 

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