Sermon: Christ’s Work of Reconciliation (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Christ’s Work of Reconciliation

 

Ephes. 2:11-22 (ESV) 

    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- [12] 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.  [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility  [15] by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

As we begin to unpack these verses, let’s notice together how the Apostle Paul is moving us along. In this section of Scripture he wants the Ephesians to remember where they once were. Like the section found in Ephesians 2:1-10 where he taught that we were once dead and God brought us to life. Here, he wants us to see that we as Gentiles were once separated from God, alienated but because of Christ we are reconciled to God.

The key focus in this text is reconciliation. Wayne Grudem defines reconciliation as…The removal of enmity and the restoration of fellowship between two parties. In our text today, restoration happens between man and God and between man and man. Christ has removed the enmity between us and God. He has taken our sin away and He has performed His mediatory work bringing us back into fellowship with God.

2 Cor. 5:18-19 (ESV) 

    All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 

As believers, we have experienced the joy of reconciliation. With this blessing comes responsibility. We are to be ministers of reconciliation. We are tools the Lord uses to bring people to Him and to bring human enemies together. 

1. Who We Were (Ephesians 2:11-12)

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- [12] 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. 

Not only were we dead as we have already learned but the apostle goes on explaining to the Ephesians and to us that they had No Past, No Present, No Future, No God and No Hope. They were a people who were under God’s wrath.

As we consider these words we should see the staggering truth that is presented here. There is not one single gleam of hope for someone without Christ. Prior to meeting Christ ourselves this was our lot in life. We as well were without hope before we met Jesus.

To be without God is to be without hope.

I believe one of the great torments of hell will be that there is no hope. Can you imagine being forever assigned to a place of torment without any possibility of ever finding relief?

An example of true hope that God brings to His people is the hope of heaven. In this hope we are not hoping it happens someday. When the Scriptures speak of hope they speak in terms of a guarantee. The truths of Scripture and the love of Christ give us hope when facing the death of a loved one.

 

1 Thes. 4:13 (ESV) 

    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 

We have a for sure hope because of the work of Christ for us, reconciling us to God.

Why is it vital that we share the Gospel with others? It’s so important because they are without hope right now. Apart from the Gospel those people who are currently without hope will forever remain that way.

The Gentiles, those without hope, of Paul’s day had fabricated an array of god’s to worship. They had manufactured hope and they had given themselves a past, present and future. However none of these were real. They were all figments of their imaginations. In the ancient word there was no shortage of things to worship. People, like today, bow down to just about anything. This hope is imagined. It is not real.

If we are to be consistent witnesses for Christ it’s important that we remember where we came from.

The purpose of remembering is thanksgiving, leading to service. We should thank God everyday for such a great salvation as He’s given us.

Romans 15:8-13 (ESV) 

    For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,  [9] and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

 

    “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,

        and sing to your name.”

 [10] And again it is said,

 

    “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

 [11] And again,

 

    “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

        and let all the peoples extol him.”

 [12] And again Isaiah says,

 

    “The root of Jesse will come,

        even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;

    in him will the Gentiles hope.”

 [13] May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

2. Christ’s Work of Reconciliation (Ephesians 2: 13-22)

            A. He is Making One People (Ephesians 2:13-18)

[13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility  [15] by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 

Now the whole situation has changed. No longer can Jews rightly shun the Gentiles. Christ has taken away all the things that divide those two people.

Gentiles have been brought in to where the Jews are. They are now experiencing the family relationship with God as Father and Jesus as Brother.

Paul uses two interesting phrases I want us to look at. First he says you who once were far off have been brought near… Second, broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

The blood of Christ has brought us near and in His flesh He has broken down the dividing wall

Both of these phrases refer to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem during the time of Herod. In that temple was the court of the Gentiles. This was a place where the Gentiles could go and worship but it was far away from the Holy of Holies. The Jewish men were given access to an area quite a bit closer and then the Jewish High Priest on the Day of Atonement was given access to the Holy of Holies.

Between Jew and Gentile was a dividing wall. The wall that separated Jew and Gentile has been removed. The blood of Christ has taken it away. No longer can a Jew claim to have access to God simply because of his lineage. Now both are required to access God through Jesus Christ. The cross is the great leveler. All people are now granted access to God through Jesus Christ alone.

Jesus tore down the wall, abolished the Jewish ceremonial law, and preached peace to both.

[18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Another similar event that took place when Jesus died on the cross was the curtain of the temple being torn in two. Matthew, Mark and Luke report this event.

Matthew 27:51 (ESV) 

    And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 

There is significance here for us, especially as we look at the work of reconciliation. Jesus’ death has made the temple and the sacrificial system obsolete.

What divided people has been broken down because of Jesus. What divided God from His people has been ripped in two. The curtain is no longer needed because we don’t access God through that curtain any longer but through Christ.

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV) 

    Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  [20] by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  [21] and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  [22] let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  [24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

There are a lot of people today waiting and watching the events in Israel. When will they start sacrificing again? When will they gain control of the temple mount area? When will all these things happen? They ask these questions as if they are to start back up again. Jesus is superior to the sacrificial system. That’s why when He died the curtain was torn in two. That’s why in 70AD Titus and his army tore down the temple and it has never been rebuilt.

The OT sacrificial system was a picture or a sign of the reality that would come later. The blood of bulls and goats covered sin…Jesus’ shed blood takes sin away. The High Priest could access God once a year…Jesus our Great High Priest is seated at the right hand of God. Hebrews chapter eight takes up this subject.

Jesus has done the work of reconciliation for us.

B. He is Making One Kingdom (Ephesians 2:19-22)

[19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Now we have access through Christ. Jesus opens the gate and invites us to enter into His Father’s Kingdom.

Throughout history there have been great and mighty empires. As with anything that man does, they come and they go. Jesus, on the other hand, is building a kingdom which will endure for ever. He is bringing people from all different kingdoms and placing them into His Father’s Kingdom.

Paul uses the imagery of the Holy Spirit as a block layer. The Holy Spirit takes His tools and mortar and lays one block at a time. Every person who is converted becomes another brick in the temple of God. This is the true temple. This is the temple which will never be torn down.

Why? Because… Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together,

The foundation of this structure was laid by the apostles and prophets. This building is not finished yet. Jews and Gentiles alike are being brought into the Kingdom of God…one at a time.

One at a time we are being reconciled to God through Christ, Strangers to Citizens and Foreigners to Family.

Paul uses a progression here. First he writes that we were strangers. In ancient times these were the people who came into a walled city to conduct business but they had no legal right to stay. Jesus brings strangers into the walled city of God’s Kingdom and makes us citizens. Then He goes even further. Paul explains that we were aliens. These were those who may be permitted to reside for a short time in one’s home, but they were not family members and after a short time passed they had to leave. But Jesus Christ makes us members of the household of God.

We were illegal aliens made citizens and then foreigners made family. For us the Holy of Holies is God’s house. We can access our heavenly Father all the time because of what Jesus did for us.

Praise the Lord for His wonderful work of reconciliation.

We were a people with No Past, No Present, No Future, No God and No Hope. We were a people who were under God’s wrath.

Now because of Jesus, we have a

-Past… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

-Present… are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God

-Future… being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

-We have a God… Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) 

    But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

-We have hope… Romans 15:13 (ESV) 

    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

 

 

 

 

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