Ephesians 2:11-22 Peace and reconciliation

Sermon preached on 12th February 2012

Peace and reconciliation

This passage, titled “One In Christ” in the NIV, is about reconciliation and peace.  The passage teaches us what God has done to bring about reconciliation and peace between God and human beings, and human beings with human beings.

Psalm 33 says,

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity … for there the LORD commanded his blessing, even life for evermore.” [Ps 133:1,3]

Reconciliation and peace – true unity – is a blessing in itself, and the means by which God blesses us.  This has application in our marriages, our families, our church, and between nations.

Billy Graham once said, “The number one problem in our world is alienation, rich vs poor, black vs white, labour vs management, conservative vs liberal, East vs West.  But Christ came to bring about reconciliation and peace.”

We only have to open our newspapers, or turn on the television news, and we might well wonder if it will ever be possible for people to live in peace.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Well-intentioned people step out to try and help those in trouble to find a depth of hostility and hatred which is surprising and often intractable.

Sadly churches are not immune from argument and division. Individuals hold grudges against others; invisible walls can exist between us.  I came across this testimony:

“In a church I used to attend, two friends of mine had a broken relationship.  One did some work for the other, and it wasn’t acceptable when it was finished.  They haven’t spoken since, and they attend the same church.  I don’t know who is right and who is wrong or at fault.  The Bible doesn’t mention who is right or wrong, only that reconciliation is necessary.”

When there is argument, often we settle for a truce rather than real peace.  The American, General McArthur said, “A truce just says you don’t shoot for a while.”    But a truce isn’t the same as peace and true reconciliation.  When the issue surfaces again, it’s all too easy to start ‘shooting’ again.  Unresolved conflict brings alienation; alienation brings loneliness; and we live in the prisons of our own making.

Our passage in Ephesians addresses one of the deepest hatreds and separations ever to exist, the distinction between Jew and Gentile.  This was a major issue in the New Testament times because many Gentiles were responding to the gospel.  Jews and Gentiles, who never talked to each other, found themselves in the same church.

In 2:11 Paul refers to the Gentiles as the “uncircumcised”, and Gentiles as the “circumcised”.

In 2:12 Paul makes clear that Christ, and the covenant of promise – the blessing of the LORD – belonged to Israel.  But the alienation between Jew and Gentiles was never God’s intention. God blessed Abraham to bless all nations (the Gentiles.)  Abraham’s descendants were called to be a light to the nations that God’s salvation might come to the ends of the earth [Is 49:6].

In 2:13 we see Christ fulfilled this purpose by bringing this blessing to the Gentiles

But Israel had completely missed this true call of God.  The Jews considered the Gentiles as dogs, less than human.  They believed the Gentiles were created for the fires of hell.  A Jew was not allowed to help a Gentile woman give birth because this meant bringing another heathen into the world!

In 2v14 Paul talks about this barrier, the dividing wall of hostility which existed between Jew and Gentile.

There was an inner hostility of hatred and fear, but it’s possible Paul had another meaning in mind as well.  In the Temple there was a physical wall which separated the Gentiles from entering any further.  Archaeological stones from Herod’s Temple have been found with the inscription: “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure.  Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”  The inner barrier of hostility was represented by a physical barrier.  Instead of the Temple being a light for all nations, it was surrounded by a wall of hostility!

Paul not only identifies the problem, but he explains what God, in his grace, has now done to bring peace and reconciliation.  For Paul it is a spiritual problem which requires a spiritual solution.  The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has reconciled us to God and our neighbour through the cross:

In 2v14,15, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.”

The solution was not for Gentile to become Jews, or for Jews to become Gentiles.  Through the cross God has done something completely new, thus making peace.

2:16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

True reconciliation with others comes only as we are reconciled to God.  The need for reconciliation between Jew and Gentile is put in the context of reconciliation with God.  These are two sides of the same coin.  The separation wasn’t just due to Jewish exclusion and hatred; it wasn’t just a Gentile problem due to their immorality and decadence.  Both Jews and Gentiles were sinners, and through the cross Christ reconciled both to God.  When we are reconciled to God, then we are reconciled to one another.

What is this ‘one new man’ Paul is talking about? It is the church; imperfect, but nevertheless a place where we can find peace and reconciliation.  It became the place where Jews and Gentiles could be reconciled and find peace.  Hostility dissolves because in Christ we find the love of God; the rules and regulations of the ceremonial law (rules concerning the Sabbath and ceremonial washings,) which were such a barrier are abolished; and this new body is a spiritual body; there is no longer even need for a temple, because this “one new man” is the temple where God lives by his spirit:

2:21 “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”

This is a new and living way, a new way of worship in spirit and in truth.  In Jesus all our hatred and fear and prejudice and grudges and bitterness must come to the foot of the cross.

2:17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away (Gentiles)  and peace to those who were near (Jews).

Jesus is the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6].  When Christ came to earth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests” [Luke 2:14]. On the eve of his death, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” [John 14:27].  After his resurrection Jesus came to his disciples through locked doors and said, “peace be with you” [John 20:19,20].  This isn’t a peace we have to work up but is a peace we receive from God, who is the God of all peace.

So how can we get on with others?  How can people of different culture or politics or even religion, get on?  One of the classes at a school produced an amazing piece of art work.  It is a cross with small plastercine children of all the different cultures and religions in the school.  It is beautifully done, and it is quite moving, and it provides a symbol of unity at the cross.

In the Book of Revelation we are given glimpses of the future, when there will be peace and reconciliation across the world:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” [Rev 5:9]

One of the great things about being a Christian is that you can meet a Christian from a different culture and immediately there is a recognition we are of the same family [3:19].

In 2:18, For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

When we are in contact with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we have peace with all those who also are in contact with them.

However being a Christian does not immunise us from sin.  There are times when we need to put things right.  We need to repent for our wrong, and forgive from the heart, and move on – even if the other person doesn’t.  In this way we maintain the peace of God in our lives.

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2 Responses to Ephesians 2:11-22 Peace and reconciliation

  1. Pingback: I am the Lord « master of life in earth, sky and sea

  2. Pingback: My Special Relationship With Osama bin Laden « catholicboyrichard

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