August 14, 2022
Made One
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 2: 11 - 18

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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

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Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians 2. We’re in a series on the book of Ephesians called Life Together. Life in the church, united in Christ: I think that’s one of the big themes of the book of Ephesians, and we’re getting into the heart of that with verses 11–18 in chapter 2.

Why don’t you stand with your copy of God’s Word open and follow along. A message I’ve called “Made One.” And you’ll see the significance of that hopefully before we’re done. “Made One.” Ephesians 2:11–18, reading from the New King James translation of Holy Scripture:

“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from 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 both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

So reads God’s word. You may be seated.

I don’t think you need me to tell you that the world that you and I live in is constantly in strife. As the world turns, there is this depressingly, relentless cycle of political bickering, social unrest, military conflict, and religious wars. Wherever we look on planet earth, in the world, there’s a need for peace and reconciliation.

Listen to these words by Derek Tidball, a British evangelical: “Whether it is the gender divide between men and women, the industrial divide between managers and employees, the social divide between rich and poor, the political divide in Northern Ireland between Unionist Protestants and Republican Catholics, or the racial divide between Black and white, everywhere there is need for reconciliation.”

“On the international front, the need for reconciliation is just as evident between Israeli and Palestinian in the Middle East, Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda, Bosnian and Serb in the former Yugoslavia, Kurd and Turk in Turkey, Russia and Chechen in Grozny, Muslim and Christian in Indonesia, Pakistan and Northern Nigeria. The list goes on. The need for reconciliation is high on the world’s agenda.”

It’s true, and I lived it for many years during the troubles in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants fought each other, where the city of Belfast was divided by what was called the Peace Wall. How ironic? It was there to stop us murdering one another. The joke at the time of the Northern Ireland troubles was about a group of men who accosted a stranger on the Shankill Road in Belfast and asked that stranger what church he went to, to try and establish Protestant or Catholic. The man said, “I don’t go to church.” They looked at him and asked a further question: “We know that, but which church don’t you go to?”

Division is so inbred. Conflict is so real all across the world. Ours is a divided world in need of reconciliation. Now, we know that the final solution to that conflict, to all that fighting, is the return of the Prince of Peace. Amen? When the Lord Jesus returns, all the bickering kingdoms of this world will become this one kingdom under this one King in the millennial age. And Christ will “reign where’er the sun does its successive journeys run.” And we know from the prophecy of Isaiah that at that time, at the end of history, within history, swords will be beat into plow shears. Lions will lie down with lambs—an age of tranquility, prosperity, and peace. We await that.

But let me say that in the meantime, there is hope. And hope is found in the church. If you go to Ephesians 1:10, Paul talks about that big picture: “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He [God] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” That’s the final solution.

But, in the meantime, there’s hope in the church because the church is a new society awaiting a better world. And, in the church, you’re going to find people reconciled to God and reconciled to one another through the peace that Jesus made on the cross. That’s where we are at in Ephesians 2:11–18. God is already, in the church, creating a society for a new creation. The church made up of Jew and Gentile, men and women, blue collar and white collar, living together in harmony due to their oneness in Christ. The world is in need of reconciliation, and the church ought to be an expression of a community of people reconciled to God and each other. The church is the world’s best hope.

One writer I read, Paul Mallard, an English Baptist, said the church is the movie trailer. Now, I don’t know about you, but I get a little annoyed when I go and watch a movie today where I’ve got to enjoy like 15 or 20 minutes of trailers; and, most of them are not very good. So, for the most part, I skip them and try and time it just for the start of the movie I want to see. But I love his analogy. What is a movie trailer? A lot of money goes into movie trailers because the movie trailer is meant to get you excited, to give you a little taste of what’s to come, to whet your appetite, to build anticipation.

And you know what? The church ought to be an outpost of the kingdom to come. We ought to be a movie trailer for a better world, because in the church there’s neither male nor female. There’s neither Jew nor Gentile. There’s no white collar, blue collar. There’s just brothers and sisters in Christ, in love with each other, showing grace and acceptance, reconciling each other when differences appear because they’ve been reconciled to God. And the cross teaches us how to be reconciled. Go to the conference and learn about conflict resolution.

And so, we’re going to come to this passage. This is a passage that deals with a real rivalry. The world was as divided in Paul’s day as it is in our day. The Jew and the Gentile were at each other’s throats. They despised one another. The Jew especially looked down on the Gentile. And then, the Gentile looked down on other Gentiles they considered barbarians.

When it comes to this rivalry, you know that the Jew viewed the Gentile as a dog, an unclean animal? The Jew believed that God had created the Gentiles to fuel the fires of hell. In fact, if a Jew married a Gentile, it was seen as a death within the family, and a mock funeral took place for the person that they had lost.

We could go on. I think you get a flavor of what’s going on as Paul writes this. And he writes it to a predominantly Gentile audience in the city of Ephesus. There’s very little reference to the Old Testament in the letter to the Ephesians because Paul’s dealing with Gentiles. There are some Jews there, and Paul wants to remind them both that they’re united and ought to be at peace with one another. They ought to be the new society, awaiting the new world. They ought to show the world the way to go.

John Stott, in his marvelous commentary on Ephesians, talks about the fact that Paul uses this language: the “new man.” See how he describes the church in verses 14–16: the new man, the new body, the new society—Jew and Gentile reconciled to God.

That was the language of Karl Marx. If you read Karl Marx, he talks about the new man, the new society. And millions, for a time, caught a vision of it and dedicated themselves to the realization of it. They thought that the human problem was economic, and if you could get a classless society, then some kind of nirvana, some kind of utopia, some kind of millennium might be realized. It never was, by the way. Millions died in the process. Blood was shed that would fill an ocean. I want to remind Karl Marx, and I want to remind anybody that might follow him, and I want to remind us, that Jesus beat Karl Marx to it. The new man, the new society, the new humanity. Jew and Gentile, one in Jesus Christ.

Let’s delve into this text. The context is very clear. Look at verse 11: “Therefore . . .” We’re picking up the thread of verses 1–10. Paul has talked about being saved by grace through faith. And Paul now, in verses 11–22 [we’re looking up till verse 18], is reminding them that once you have been saved by grace, you’re now in union with Jesus Christ—which means you’re in union with everyone else who’s in union with Jesus Christ. And, if you meet someone who’s in union with Jesus Christ, you’re united to them. That’s your brother, that’s your sister because you’ve got the same Father.

And so, there’s several things. Number one, the alienation. This is verses 11–12. There’s a lot here, so I’m going to kind of hop, skip, and jump. I hope I’ll give you the bones of this passage and apply it pastorally. The alienation. Now, here’s something very interesting to see. The structure of the first part of chapter 2 is the structure of the second part of chapter 2. If you look at the opening verses of chapter 2, Paul talks about what they once were: hopeless, children of wrath, belonging to the world. But then he goes on to say, “But God changed all of that through His great love and mercy.” And he went on to explain what that means in a person’s life, that we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works.

And he does the exact same thing here: what you once were, but now here’s what God has done, and here’s what it looks like. You see that? Same kind of language. Verse 12: “You were without Christ.” That’s what you once were. You had no hope. You didn’t know God; you were in the world. But look at verse 13: “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near.” And here’s what this looks like in community.

Since most of the believers in Ephesus came from a Gentile background, as I’ve just noted, Paul wants them to appreciate anew and appreciate afresh the amazing grace of God in their life. They were once far. They’re now near. They were once outside the covenant blessings of God as communicated to Israel. Now they’re enjoying covenant blessings. They were once on the outside looking in, but now they’re on the inside, and things are looking up. He wants them to appreciate that. He wants these Gentiles to appreciate that.

But, before we get to that, let’s just outline several layers of alienation. Number one, they were without circumcision (v. 11). They were called the Uncircumcision by the Circumcision. The Jew spoke derogatorily of the Gentile, the uncircumcised. And the circumcision was the outward mark of belonging to the covenant people of God.

Now, we know from the Old Testament and from Paul’s writings that to belong to the covenant people of God required more than just the wounding of one’s skin. There needed to be a circumcision of the heart. And the Jews missed that often, and in Jesus’ time they really missed it. But that’s not really the point Paul’s making. He’s simply making that, you know what, if you’re a Gentile, you’re uncircumcised, which means that you don’t belong to the covenant people of God. And circumcision was a reminder of the social and spiritual barriers that excluded them.

Number two, they were without Christ. Now, just in flat terms, that means they were without the gospel. They weren’t saved. And he’s outlined that in verses 1–3. But, in real terms, in this context, I think it means that not belonging to the people of God, not being part of the covenant nation of Israel, they were without the national hope of the coming Messiah. That was Israel’s hope. One would come through Judah, would be born in Bethlehem, would be a light to the nations. They didn’t know anything about that hope. They had no national hope of the coming Messiah.

Number three, they were without citizenship. Verse 12: “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers.” It’s a lot of exclusion language. You’re an alien. You’re excluded. You’re a stranger. You don’t belong. They weren’t part of the theocratic state of Israel. They were not only alienated from the life of God; they were excluded from the life of the people of God.

Number four, they were without covenants. Verse 12: They were excluded “from the covenants of promise.” They were deprived from direct participation in the unique promises that God made to Israel through Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah about a coming King and a coming kingdom, with real blessings that are spiritual, material, and geographical. Those promises were unique to the nation.

And, by the way, it’s our conviction here at Kindred that God’s going to keep those promises to that people. Israel may be in darkness and blind and set apart at the moment, until . . . There will come a time when God will save all Israel, and those covenant blessings will be fulfilled. Not every promise in the book is yours. Some is unique to the Jew and to the nation of Israel. But, nevertheless, the covenants came through Israel to Israel (Rom. 9:4), and the Gentiles were apart from direct participation in those promises.

Number five, they were without confidence. He’s just piling on, isn’t he? You’re without circumcision. You’re without Christ. You’re without citizenship. You’re without covenants. That leaves you without confidence. You’re without hope, without God in the world. That’s where you were before you became a Christian. That’s where we were, as Gentiles, before we became saved. They were without hope. Their situation was dire. They had no relationship with the God of Israel or His promised Messiah, which left them with a life without meaning and future and purpose.

Eadie, one of the great commentators on Ephesians, says, concerning the Gentile world, “Their future was a night without a star.”

Now, let me say this. They were not without gods. They were just without the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. There were plenty of gods. In Acts 17, they had actually a lot of gods, a pantheon of gods. They had a statue to the unknown god in case they left one out, and they didn’t want to anger him. And Paul says, can I talk to you about that unknown God who has made Himself known in creation and conscience and the law written on the heart and now, in these last days, through His Son, Jesus Christ? Can we talk about the unknown God whom you need to know because He has made Himself known?

It was said in Athens that it was easier to find a god than it was to find a man. And they were without hope. It comes out in some of their poets and writings.

One writer said this:

I will try to have a good time while I’m young, because I will lie under the earth for a long time—voiceless as a stone, and I shall leave the sunlight that I loved . . . then I shall see no more.

Have a good time, my soul, while young; soon others will take my place, and I shall be black earth in death.

No mortal is happy under the sun.

Old Bishop Moule of the Church of England is so good here. He’s got an outline. The Gentile, according to Paul, was Christless, stateless, friendless, hopeless. Now, why would Paul have them dig themselves into that kind of hole? “This is where you once were.” Because he wants them to appreciate the marvelous nature of grace. He wants them to appreciate the centrality of the cross and the implications, massive as they are, of the atoning work of Jesus.

Before we leave that and get into that stuff, I want you to notice verse 11 again: “Therefore remember.” That’s the first imperative in the book. This is the first command Paul makes of the Ephesians. I want you to remember what you once were: without circumcision, without Christ, without covenants, without citizenship, without confidence. We are prone to amnesia. Have you noticed that, how forgetful you can be? I’m noticing it the older I get. “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed,” said Samuel Johnson. And that’s why you’ve got this emphasis in the Bible. You read the book of Deuteronomy, the great emphasis on remembrance, a big word. The Lord instituted an ordinance in His church, and the whole focus of the ordinance is what? Remember my body broken, remember my blood shed to fulfill the new covenant and ratify it. Remember, because you have a tendency to forget. And, if you don’t remember, then bad things happen.

But, remembering what you once were, remembering what God has done in your life, will shield you from pride. It will foster humility. It will magnify Christ. It will create a heart for Israel—lest you forget the covenant people of God, through whom the covenants came, and we were grafted in. And it will fuel worship. If you look at these verses, they were to remember what they once were. They were to remember what Jesus did. And they were to remember the implications of it in their unity and community.

Now, before I leave that, I’d guess you’ve got a question of Paul. This is like his first command: it’s important to remember. But hold on a minute. Wasn’t it the same Paul who told us in Philippians 3 to forget? Forget those things which are behind. Which one is it? Now, I could say, “You tell me,” but it’s my job to tell you. So, here’s what I would say. It depends.

I find John Stott helpful. When we did our series on the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor—the first letter is to Ephesus—remember what Jesus said to the church at Ephesus? Remember from where you’ve fallen, repent, and do the first works. John Stott says about this idea of remembrance, “To look back can be sinful; but it can also be sensible.” There’s the answer to the question “Which one is it?” Depends. Looking back can be sinful. We shouldn’t do it. That’s probably what Philippians 3 is about. Looking back can be sensible and helpful. That’s what Revelation 2:5 is about.

Stott goes on: “To look back with lustful eyes, as Lot’s wife did, to the sins of Sodom from which we have been delivered, is to court disaster. To look back wistfully to the easy-going comforts of the world once we have put our hand to the plough is to be unfit for the kingdom of God. But to look back along the way that God has led us is the least that gratitude can do. To look back to the spiritual heights that once by the grace of God we occupied is to take the first step along the road of repentance.”

That’s good stuff. Be careful in looking back. Don’t make it sinful; make it sensible. And Paul wants them to look back and appreciate what God has done. They were once Gentiles—the uncircumcision, outside the covenant people of God, far from God, without hope. Now? In Christ? Get to that.

Did you know that Blaise Pascal—the great French philosopher, 17th century—when he became a convert to Christianity, wrote out his testimony on a piece of paper and put it in his jacket. In fact, I think he sewed it in the lining of his jacket. And it went from jacket to jacket for eight years. One Christian pastor and writer in a book on union with Christ, Rankin Wilbourne, says this: “Pascal kept this parchment on his person for eight years, moving it from coat to coat, so that it was literally next to his heart wherever he went. Pascal knew that while God would never forget him (Isa. 49:15), he was prone to forget God. So he sewed a reminder into his life, a daily tutorial. . . . And if Pascal, a genius, needed a reminder . . . how much more do we need . . . reminders?”

So, you need to remember. That’s the alienation. We’ll speed up now. The atonement. Verse 13: “But now.” Love that. Something completely different has taken place. Remember what we said about this structure between the first half and second half of Ephesians 2? Very similar. This is what you once were, but God, in His rich mercy, loved us. This is what you once were, but in Christ, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Looking back prepared them for the glorious gospel wallop of verse 13. The contrast is temporal. This is what you formally were. This is what you now are. The contrast was positional. You were once separated from God and outside the covenant blessings, but now you’re in Christ, who’s made a new covenant. The contrast is relational, even spatial. You were once far, and now you’re near. What a fabulous transformation—all grounded in, based on, because of the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. But now, in Christ, you’re near—by, through the means, on the ground of the blood of Christ. He Himself is our peace. It’s through His death in the flesh, through His cross, that all this enmity and animosity between God and man and between man and man is being dealt with.

So, we’re here at what we call the atonement. They had come near to God. They were now in a relationship with God. They could now call God their Father, by means of the bloody, sacrificial, substitutionary, atoning death of Christ.

You need to understand that that’s what the term “blood of Christ” is code for. You see, sin separates people from God. Doesn’t it? We know that from Isaiah 59 and from Psalm 58. Our sin has separated us from God. Because we were born in sin, we inherited an endemic nature. We go astray from the womb. You don’t need to teach your children to do wrong. You need to teach your children to do right. Sin separates us from God and then separates us from each other.

But, according to our text, the death of Jesus, the shedding of His blood, the giving up of His life . . . And we know it’s in the place of others. Death had no claim on Jesus. Remember John 10? He lays it down. No man takes it from Him. He’s not subject to death, because He hasn’t sinned. But He willingly subjects Himself to death, to die in your place and my place, to bear the wrath of God, to indeed carry our sin.

In His resurrection, He is announced that indeed the wrath of God has been satisfied. The gap between God and man has been bridged. And the barriers between men and women and Jews and Gentiles have been breached.

Did you notice verse 14? Very striking. “For He Himself is our peace.” Just Christ alone, not anyone else, not anything else. He did it alone. He didn’t need anybody’s help. “He Himself”: emphatic in the Greek. It’s a reflexive pronoun. He Himself did this. He made peace with God. It’s His cross that can bring us together and eradicate all the labels and divisions and acrimony that’s part of human experience.

Christ is the “one Mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). Christ is the “one sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12). And Christ is the one “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). You and I are one with God. And you and I can live in harmony singularly because of the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

See, that’s the gospel he preached to them, and the gospel they believed. Go to verse 17: “And He came and preached peace to you.” Now, Jesus never went to Ephesus, from what we know. But the apostles of Jesus—who were commissioned to preach the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15)—went, and they preached this peace. They preached that God has been satisfied, that the wrath of God can be lifted from off your head and my head because of what Jesus did. He has bridged the gap as the God-man. He has breached all human barriers of difference and division, calling His people to oneness under Him. That’s the atonement.

Derek Tidball, in his book on the cross, is very helpful here. He says, you know what’s going on here in our verses? There are some phrases and syntax that are hard to fully preach, but basically Paul is explaining in theological terms what Jesus pictures in the parable of the prodigal son.

Don’t we love that story? Why do people love the prodigal son story? Because people live in a broken world. People have experienced broken relationships. Fathers have prodigal sons, and mothers have prodigal daughters, and children have prodigal parents. And we’ve all lived with that brokenness. We’ve been party to it, and we’ve been victims of it. And Jesus comes and tells us a story that we can imagine because we’ve lived it in real life, of this boy who takes advantage of his father, takes his inheritance early, and heads off to the far country. Did you notice the language? He goes far away. And there’s no relationship between the father and the son. And he goes off and has a jolly good time—for a while, because sin has its pleasure for a season. My friend, if you’re enjoying your sin, I’m telling you there’s a penny going to drop. And there’s a payment going to be due.

But here he is, away. He’s left by himself. All of his friends have left him when there’s no money to enjoy. But then, coming to an end of himself and coming to a sensible response to where he was, he said, “I got to go back to the father. Now, I’m not sure my father will take me back, but you know what? I’ll go back even as a servant. I would settle for that. I know my father. I know his kindness, his love. I can’t believe I turned my back on that.” So, he heads home, having come to himself.

It’s a great day when you come to yourself—when you realize what your parents said was right, what the preacher said was right, what the Word of God teaches is right. It’s a great day when you come to that moment and you’re waking up to reality.

He heads home, over the hill, sees the ranch in the distance, and he’s thinking, “I wonder how this is going to unfold?” And we know how it unfolds. Jesus tells us. To his utter surprise, the father sees him before he sees the father. And he runs towards the boy. And he embraces him, smelling of swine. And he just ushers him home, rings the bell. Everybody comes out, from people working in the house to the ranchers. And he says, “He’s home. The boy’s home. Now go and tell the neighbors tonight, biggest bash ever. Get the fatted calf. Take him and get him a shower. Get the best cloak we have in the wardrobe. Put it on. Tell everybody my son’s back. He was once lost, but now he’s found. He was once dead, but now he’s alive.”

That’s the story Jesus tells. And remember what it’s all about. It’s about sinners coming back to God. And Paul is telling us how. How do you and I come back from the far country and have the Father embrace us? Can I tell you how? Because His Son, the Lord Jesus, died for you and for me. And He’s made peace. Don’t forget the Father was party to that. It’s not like Jesus had to die so that the Father would start loving us. Because the Father pre-loved us, Jesus died. But you get the point.

Let’s move on. What a wonderful thing. By the way, my friend, if you’re in the far country, and you’re broken, and you’re fed up, and you’re coming to your senses this morning about your sin and your precarious place—the Father waits. And the Son introduces you to the Father.

But here we’ve got the alignment. The death and blood of the Lord Jesus removes the distance between us and God and further expunges the divisions between mankind. This is verses 14–16. For He Himself, with no one else’s help, made peace through the blood of the cross. And because of that, He’s made us one. He’s “broken down the middle wall of separation.” He’s “abolished in His flesh,” in his death, in the cross, “the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself,” by Himself, through Himself, because of Him, “one new man from the two, thus making peace.”

He reconciled us, both Jew and Gentile, to God into the one body because of what He did in the cross. Paul reminds us that Jesus removed a double alienation. So, we go from alienation to atonement to alignment. There’s now alignment on the vertical axis between us and God. There’s peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus. And then there’s an alignment on the horizontal axis between us as Jew and Gentile, men and women, because now we’re in one family. We’ve got one Father, and we share the same Savior. We’ve got more in common than that divides us ever.

We’ve got what I call deconstruction and construction. Let me unpack that for a few minutes. This deserves a better treatment than I’m about to give, but we’ll make an attempt at it. The deconstruction. There’s language of deconstruction here, right? Some wall is broken down, and the ordinances are abolished. A lot of demolition going on, deconstruction.

Now, when it comes to this idea of “the middle wall of separation,” what’s Paul talking about? There’s different views, but I think, on balance, well I think, with a certain clarity, Paul may have in mind the wall around the Court of the Gentiles in the temple that separated even Gentiles who get close to the temple from the Court of the Women, the Court of Israel, and the Court of the Priests. And Paul imagines Christ destroying that wall. Now, literally, it wouldn’t happen until AD 70, when Titus and Romans will ransack Jerusalem. But, in AD 33, because of a hill called Calvary, because of what Jesus did in His atoning death, that wall was broken down—because in the church there’s no wall separating Gentiles from Jews. Love that.

In fact, in 1871, an inscription was found on stones that were once part of the temple precinct. And they had these words: “No foreigner may enter within the barrier and enclosure around the temple. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

John Stott says there would’ve been a sign almost, if not literally, figuratively, around the wall of the Court of the Gentiles. To go beyond that, trespassers not will be prosecuted, but trespassers will be executed. But you know what? Jesus, in what He did on the cross, breaks down walls between His people.

Jesus is always breaking walls down. Isn’t He? He broke walls down when He offered a drink to the Samaritan woman. He broke walls down when He went to the home of a Roman officer with a sick child. He broke walls down when He touched the unclean and the leper. Jesus was always jumping over walls and barriers. He’s a barrier buster. The literal wall in Jerusalem was symbolic. It was a visible reminder of the ultimate barrier between Jew and Gentile. What was that? The Law of Moses, and especially the ceremonial side of it. Because the moral side of it abides, doesn’t it? The moral side of Moses’ Law predated Moses’ Law and the dispensation of the Mosaic Covenant. And all the commandments, bar the Sabbath, is repeated in the New Testament. But Jesus abolished the Law of Moses in the sense of the dietary laws, the dress codes, the feasts, the regulations, the Levitical structure and system. He abolished it, demolished it because He was the fulfillment of it.

See, Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “I did not come to destroy [the law] but to fulfill [it].” He fulfilled the moral side of it, and He fulfilled the ceremonial side of it. And remember that the Levitical priest and the Levitical sacrifices and Levitical system spoke of whom? Him. Read the book of Hebrews. And He fulfilled that. That’s why He’s our High Priest and He’s our sacrifice. And we come to Him who sits on the throne of grace. And He has opened up a new and a living way under God’s presence.

It’s by He Himself that we have peace with God. And you know what? He’s made reconciliation between His people possible. Unreal. So, there’s no walls. And there’s nothing belonging to the Mosaic Law that belongs specifically to Israel and is a reminder of the divisions between Jew and Gentile.

Ian Hamilton said it best: “It functioned as a temporary era of redemptive history,” speaking about the Mosaic Law, “embodying in its types and sacrifices and ceremonies the promised Messiah king. But when Christ came, the embodied fulfillment of all the old covenant types and sacrifices and ceremonies were dismantled, because they were fulfilled.”

So, that’s the deconstruction, which leads us to the construction—the construction of a new man. That’s a metaphor. A new society, a new community, a new body. That’s verses 15–16. Did you notice that language? Look at it again: “so as to create in Himself . . .” Having made peace Himself, He wants to create through Himself, through what He did for man before God, “one new man from the two.” Who’s the two? From Jew and the Gentile, “one new man . . . thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity [between them].”

It’s fantastic stuff. And it reminds us of how precious the doctrine of the church ought to be to you. The doctrine of the church has taken a beating during Covid. Many Christians have kind of demoted the church and redefined their relationship to the church, in terms of gathering and assembling and participating. You and I need to realize how precious the church is and, being together, assembling together, how glorious it is. Because it’s saying to a striving, bickering, warring world, “Hey, take a look at us, a new society. This is how people ought to behave.” Paul wants us to understand that. Christ has reconciled us before God and with each other. We’re now brothers and sisters. In the church, Christ has brought together Jew and Gentile alike in a hither to unknown and unique manner.

Do you know what the early Christians were called? The “third race.” That’s what they were called. They were labeled the third race. Amazing, isn’t it? See, there was the Jewish community, and there was the Gentile world. And there were schools of theology within the Jewish community where they divided themselves. And even in the Gentile world, there were the Romans, and there were the barbarians outside the Roman Empire. And in the middle of all this world, there was a third race. There was a church; they were the body of Christ. There were believers who met together, Jew and Gentile. And you know what? It didn’t matter that they were Jew or Gentile. They were brothers and sisters in Christ. Fantastic.

It’s unbelievably important that the church gathers and that you and I love each other and show grace to each other and show the world how indeed people can live together. That’s why when we get to chapter 4, we’ll be told to what? “To keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The word “keep” is “endeavor.” That’s a word that means “work.”

By the way, this unity is not uniformity. It’s not that they stopped being Jewish. It’s not that they stopped being Gentile. It’s not that they didn’t even enjoy aspects of that culture, whatever that was. But, when it came to the church, that all gets left outside the door—in a real sense, where that stuff and the opinions and the differences that come from it are left outside—because they have a greater unity in Christ (Gal. 3:27–28). Right? That’s why Paul says to the two women who are bickering in Philippians 4:2, I urge you, my companion, to help these women “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” Have they forgotten? I don’t know. We’re not told what the issue is, but whatever it was, they had forgotten that they were the same in the Lord. And Paul says, “Can you help them get back there?”

The ground is level at the cross, isn’t it? And, being put to death, Christ put to death the hostility between God and man, Jew and Gentile. Now, listen to this. Therefore, we must be very careful about erecting walls in the church between us—race, politics, issues of conscience. We need to demonstrate our unity and our peace through acceptance, patience, grace, and respect. Yes, we have an individuality. And yes, we belong to certain ethnicities, but we’re on the same team. And to bring that about, it cost Christ His life and the shedding of His blood. So, our petty differences and bickerings need to stop because God has called us to something glorious. Remember, we are the trailer. This all ends in a perfect world where there’s harmony. But, until we get there, there’ll be wars and rumors of wars. And the world will divide itself along so many economic, social, and race lines. But not us, not the church.

What do you know about rugby? Not much, I guess. But I think you can follow this illustration. Probably the American equivalent would be the All Stars Game, or whatever that is. You can instruct me in that. But every couple of years in the UK, there’s a big rugby tournament. It’s called the Four Nations, and it’s between Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. They go hammer and tongs. It’s a rough sport, and there’s a lot of fierce competition. And the fans are cheering and egging their team on and bickering with the other fans. Who’s the best? Somebody comes out on top.

But here’s the thing. Every few years beyond that, the British Lions get together. And then they go and play Australia and New Zealand and South Africa. Now, the British Lions is a rugby team made up of rugby players from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales. And so, the British Lions has their own jersey. The Irish take off their green jersey. The Welsh take off their red jersey. The English take off their white jersey. The Scots take off their navy jersey. And they put on a new jersey. Now they’re on the same team, and all that competition and all that conflict and all that rivalry—gone. They’re now playing for the British Lions.

Isn’t there something in that that’s kind of maybe illustrating what we’ve just been talking about? As we wrap up and get to our last point. So, in Christ, we all take off the particular shirt that defines us—whether social, racial, economic, whatever—and we put on the same shirt, the Lord Jesus, so to speak. And now we’re part of His team, and we are united in the purpose of triumphing for His glory.

In fact, talking about clothes, listen to what Paul says in Colossians 3:12–14: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people . . .” Isn’t that the language of Israel? But, you see, now in the church, Jew and Gentile are one. They’re a holy nation, and it’s the chosen people, holy and dearly beloved. Listen: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive . . . one another.” Even if any of you have grievance against someone, “forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

So, as you put on Jesus, you put on the shirt of Jesus, make sure you clothe yourself in the attitudes of the gospel that brings us together, which is patience and grace and love towards one another. God, make us a loving congregation—where strangers are welcome; where strangers are given the benefit of the doubt; where we think the best of one another; where love is patient and kind and doesn’t hold a record of wrongs; where we bear with one another and hope and believe the best about one another.

In a few minutes, the access. That’s verse 18. The access. Wow. “For through Him”—that’s Christ—“we both”—that’s Jew and Gentile—“have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Don’t want to miss that. He’s reinforcing the force of the point he has made. Here’s the reality. There’s a new way and a new day that’s been announced by the death of Jesus Christ. And here’s what it highlights, that you and I, as Jew and Gentile, have free, equal access to enjoy God the Father, through God the Son, by God the Spirit.

We’re back to Trinitarian worship, right? We saw that in Ephesians 1:3–14. The Father chose us, the Son purchased us, and the Holy Spirit regenerated us. Father, Son, Spirit. Father, Son, Spirit. Make sure your worship is Trinitarian. But here’s the beauty of this. This is the language of introduction. In fact, this is a word that kind of speaks of a chamberlain—a person whose task it is to introduce visitors into the presence of a king or an emperor. And Jesus, by the Spirit, allows us to go into the presence of God our Father. What a beautiful thing.

I’m going to let Darrell Johnson, a commentator in Ephesians, wrap the service up: “Access is a life-giving word.” That’s our word. You’ve access. It’s a life-giving word. It’s a wonderful thing to have access to justice and a fair court, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful thing to have access to a hospital and medical services. It’s a wonderful thing to have access to your bank account and your resources.

“Access” is a life-giving word. In Paul’s day, it was used of those who are granted an audience with the emperor. We’ve already noted that. We, both Jews and Gentiles, have been granted an audience with the Great Emperor. In terms of the architectural metaphor, we both have been given access into the Holy of Holies. We all get to go all the way in. You need to think about that little statement. We all get to go the whole way in. That’s why the curtain was torn when Jesus died. We get to go in, where only the priest could go in once a year. We all get to go in all the way. Are you going in? Are you praying? Are you worshipping? Are you loving God? We all get to go in all the way, through the Court of the Gentiles, through the Court of the Women, through the Court of the Priests—all the way into the Holy of Holies. Can you handle it? Free, full, unhindered access into the presence of the holy God.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

We all get to go all the way in. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Father, we thank You for this passage this morning. Revolutionary. We’re being told that the church is like a movie trailer, that we are this new society that promises a new world. The harmony we enjoy, the unity that we enjoy, the distinctions that we erase would really help the world if they embraced them. O Lord, we marvel at what Your Son accomplished for us, bringing us near, assuaging Your wrath, reconciling us, removing the offense, and allowing us to enjoy intimacy with You. Help us to be ambassadors for Christ, calling men to this reconciliation.

And we pray that in the church, we’ll not erect walls on the rubble of the wall that Jesus demolished, that we’ll accept each other, love each other, forgive each other, and be patient towards each other. And, O God, whether in corporate prayer or in private devotion, help us to go all the way in, without fear, to go to the throne of grace to find help for time of trouble. And these things we ask and pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.