Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – Don’t Forget
October 5, 2014
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.
As we grow in Christ one of the challenges we face is that we can easily forget where we have come from spiritually. This is always a challenge for us in that it is so easy to become stagnate in our growth because we forget where we have come from. We can become spoiled because we forget all that has been accomplished on our behalf. To forget where we have come from is to forget the blessings of God which He has bestowed upon us. To forget where we have come from is to void the testimony of God in our lives that He uses in the present. To not remember is to forget that we were darkened by sin but through Christ we have been made alive and have been filled with His life and light.
To remember is an interesting concept. It can be challenging for some of us as we can be held captive by the past memories of those who have failed us or wounded us. We are also reminded of our personal failures which seem so hard to overcome. In the first case, we develop a mindset of mistrust where we struggle to trust anyone, especially those that remind us of the person who has hurt us. In the second, we succumb to the lie that we are failures and that we will never succeed because that is just the way things are.
As we look back, we must reach a balance. If we stay focused on the past, we will be unable to move beyond the failures and reminders of where we have been. We will stagnate and become fruitless because we do not have a forward looking perspective. And yet on the other hand, we must look back long enough to remember our life without Christ so that we have a healthy view of where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed. A healthy view of where we are, will be a way to remember that where we have been is not where we are. Where we are, now, is not where we will end up. We are growing and changing daily. We glory in the testimony of God’s work in us and yet we find that we are yearning for continued change and growth.
To help the church at Ephesus to remember where they had been Paul paints a desperate picture of their life without Christ. He was reminding them of the state of their spiritual condition and their life before Christ came to restore them. He reminds them that they were rejected by the Jews. He reminds them that they were separated from Christ. They were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. They were strangers to the covenants of promise. They had no hope. They were without God. This sounds like a terrific place to be in life. The message here is one that sounds desperate and it is.
To fully understand the words of Paul, we need to also understand the atmosphere that was evidenced during this period of history. There was no love loss between the Jews and the Gentiles. To say they despised one another would be an under statement. While the Gentiles had their issues, the Jews made it difficult for the Gentiles to come to Christ. The Jews ostracized the Gentiles from their way of life. The Gentiles were only allowed to worship the God of the Jews from a distance. In fact, in the temple, the Jewish leaders had erected signs which stated that if the Gentile was to enter specific areas of the temple, they could face death.
The Jews of that day had developed a prideful, arrogant attitude toward those outside the faith. They had taken the calling of God to a misguided place where they began to misrepresent the calling of God on their lives. They saw themselves as the elite of God. You see they were effective at bringing up the name of Abraham but they forgot that the promise Abraham had been given. In Genesis 12, God promises Abraham that he will be a blessing through the nations. God promises that… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. How quickly we can forget the purpose of God in our lives.
Look at the place the Gentiles found themselves. They were lost and dead in sin. They were rejected by the religious leaders of the day. They were rejected by those who had the answer. Once again, Paul could have placed a period here but he did not. But rather than putting a period here and closing the book, he makes a transition that changes everything. He transitions this passage much like he does in the earlier verses we studied. He uses this defining transitional phrase “But now in Christ.” From there, Paul masterfully shows the reader what one looks like when they have been impacted by the work of Christ.
We will continue this next week but before we close I want to discuss something I think that is critical for us. One of the things that came from my study and preparation for this message was that we often erect barriers that make it hard for others to come to Christ. Some of these are the same problems faced by those in the New Testament. One of the first things we find is that the Jews were often heavy on the law but light on grace. The Jews were more interested in the sign of the circumcision than what the circumcision represented. They rejected those who had not been circumcised. But when Christ came, He replaced the requirement of circumcision with Himself. You see what Jesus is after is not the foreskin but the heart. The Jewish leaders were masters at forcing others to obey the law when they themselves could not follow their own law.
Now let me give a counterpoint to this as well. We can also come to the place where we are heavy on grace but light on truth. We find ourselves compromising the truth of the gospel in order to minister to others. In our church in New York, we had a young man that was heavy on grace but overlooked sin in his life. He was one that minimized sin in his life to a fault. We found out that his wife had been a man at one time but had a sex change operation to become a woman. You see rather than deal with the truth he overemphasized grace without dealing with the sin with his heart and the heart of his wife. They needed grace but not apart from the Gospel of Christ.
With that said, the Jews set boundaries that kept the Gentiles separated and therefore disconnected from God. If we are not careful we can be in the position to reject those who are not like us, who do not look like us, or who do not have the same social or hereditary background. You see all are welcome at the feet of Jesus but too often we act and live as if we are the only ones called to his feet. The one who had the sex change operation still has a place at the feet of Jesus. This may blow us away but it is true because God came to save those who are lost regardless of who they are.
One of the ministries I admire is Brooklyn Tabernacle. I have had the privilege of meeting Pastor Cymbala and also attending the services at Brooklyn Tabernacle. Over and over again they have shared testimonies of God’s miraculous power to bring healing to the heart of those who were in bondage. They have seen gays and lesbians come to Christ. They have witnessed drug addicts coming to a saving grace with Christ. The lost have been found.
The problem with the Jews is that they were spiritually isolated. They did not associate with those outside their sphere of influence. Do you know any one that is unsaved? Do you have a relationship with those who do not know Christ? Where is your sphere of influence? One of the reasons I have decided to be a part of the SCEMS as a chaplain is that it opens the door for me to associate with those who do not have a relationship with Christ. Recently, I was introduced as the chaplain before a group of about 50 EMTs. During a question and answer period, one of the medics asked how personable I would be. You see the resources of help they have available to them serve them from afar. They do not understand what they go through. I was able to answer the question in a way that I did not understand until that moment. My answer was that is why I ride on the trucks a couple times a month. I listen to the broadcasts on the website. I will be taking the first responders class. Why? I want to know what they experience so that I can be better at pointing them to Christ and effectively ministering to their needs.
Copyright © Robert W. Odom All Rights Reserved
For audio version go to http://www.pccministry.org