2012-07-29 Christ Makes Peace | Ephesians 2:14-18
Eph. 2:14-18 (ESV) 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.
The story we read earlier in Acts 21:27-36 of the riot that broke out in Jerusalem as a result of someone assuming that Paul had taken Trophimus, a Gentile, into the temple, represents the view of the religious Jews in Paul’s day toward those who would bring a Gentile into the temple in Jerusalem. It was a deed worthy of death.
The courts surrounding the temple took the form of concentric circles moving ever closer to the temple itself and to the Holy of Holies where only the Jewish High Priest was allowed to enter once a year. The court of the Gentiles was further out even than the court of the women.
The first century Jewish historian Josephus records the words of an inscription on the wall which separated the court of Gentiles from the Jewish courts. In so many words it said that if any Gentile passed this point they did so at the risk of their life. In other words, for a Gentile to enter the courts of the Jews warranted a death sentence.
This was one source of enmity or animosity between Jews and Gentiles in the first century. Gentiles were kept at a distance because they had not been included – as we saw last week – in the lineage of Abraham and David with the sign of circumcision, in the nation of Israel, the covenants, the promises for an inheritance, a hopeful future and God’s presence, provision and protection. They were considered strangers, foreigners, poor, hopeless and God-forsaken.
Yet in Christ, by faith, they – and we — have been brought near by means of his blood, his substitutionary death and granted membership in Christ’s family, citizenship and an inheritance in heaven, a future full of hope and favor with God. This brings us to our passage for today.
This passage tells us three things about Christ our peace.
- How Christ became our peace.
- Why Christ became our peace.
- The result of Christ becoming our peace.
We are told in v14 that “He himself is our peace.” This is an emphatic form to indicate that he is not simply a peacemaker, but that he embodies the peace that he brings. HE is our peace. Just as other passages tell us that he is our righteousness, our holiness, our justification.
[How Jesus did it – by his death, union, proclamation he abolished barriers and paid the penalty/bore the judgment]
- [How Christ became our peace.]
But how did he become our peace? I’ll tell you.
We saw last time in verse 13 that we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Likewise, in this passage, we are told in vv 14 and 16 that he has become our peace IN HIS FLESH and THROUGH THE CROSS.
He has become our peace by means of his bodily death on the cross.
A parallel passage in Colossians tells us the same thing.
Col. 1:20-22 (ESV) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross… he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
By his substitutionary death on the cross he has made peace with other men and with God on our behalf. At our missionary gathering Wednesday night, Randy told us that in Malaysia when two people have a dispute they don’t go and settle it themselves, they send a third person to seek to settle the dispute. This is similar to what God did. He sent his Son to settle the dispute between us and other men and between us and God.
That’s HOW Christ become our peace – by his blood on the cross. Let’s look second at
- Why Christ became our peace.
What we should do – be at peace with other people and with God
It seems nearly everyone has a sense that we should be at peace with one another – with the fellow members of the human race. There is virtually no end to theories and proposals to encourage and maintain peace among the nations and among peoples of different backgrounds, ethnicities, political stripes and religions.
They range from the Machiavellian peace through coercion, to peace through the power of law, to peace through conflict resolution, to Ghandi and King’s peace through nonviolence, to peace through the power of love. There are atheists for peace, agnostics for peace, humanists for peace, Muslims for peace, Hindus for peace, Jews for peace, volunteers for peace, pennies for peace, pinwheels for peace and many more. They all believe in the ideal of peace.
John Lennon’s song “Imagine” in the 60’s popularized this ideal, but also hinted at – well didn’t just hint at – his view of some the causes of the problem.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
[Why we can’t do it – religious, cultural, national, racial, barriers and sin]
However, it is also generally recognized that these efforts – in themselves – are more idealistic than realistic. An online survey asking atheists, What do you think of peace?, (on Ask.com) revealed these results.
Great concept. Unfortunately, the human race is too self-centered, greedy, and easily controlled to get there.
As an ideal, it can’t be beat. But in the real world there will always be one jerk who can’t live with what he/she doesn’t have or can’t change. Unfortunately, most cultures and religions raise their children with the idea of “Us vs. Them”, so that mentality, along with human greed, will never allow peace to be achieved universally.
It’s a lovely idea, but it’s just a shame that religion has to put forward stereotypes and prejudices.
I think it’s great……but there has never been a time when there wasn’t some kind of skirmish or battle or war going on somewhere in the world. I guess it’s just human nature to mistrust anyone different than you are…
Probably won’t happen in my life time and as long as religion runs rampant across this world.
It’s nice. Too bad religion gets in the way of any slim chance of ever obtaining it.
A summary of their view seems to be: It’s a great ideal, BUT, in the real world, human beings, given their nature, their religions, their nationalism and their culture, will never reach the ideal, and can only imagine it.
This might seem a pessimistic view held only by modern atheists, but the Bible holds the same view. In the real world, human beings, given their nature, their religions, their nationalism and their culture, will never reach the ideal of peace among themselves, and can only imagine it.
Second, everyone has a sense that we SHOULD also be at peace with God.
In Rom 1:19-20 we are told, …what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. God’s invisible qualities, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
Yet, in spite of this knowledge, men CAN’T be at peace with God in themselves because they suppress or deny what they know to be true.
Rom. 1:18-32 (ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth… Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
That’s what our passage tells us today – that we cannot achieve peace with one another or with God – so Christ in the fullness of time to be our peace-maker.
There are two main verbs that form purpose statements. So we find two purposes for Christ’s bodily death on the cross.
The first purpose is found in v15 that he might create. We are told that by incorporating two disparate groups into himself he created a new united humanity.
Verse 15 says, He created in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.
Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
The second purpose is found in v 16 that he might reconcile
His second purpose was to restore both groups as one to a right relationship with God.
Verse 16 says, and (that he) might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
That’s HOW and WHY Christ became our peace. Let’s look third at
- The result of Christ becoming our peace.
First, we are told he destroyed the enmity between Jews and Gentiles – he broke down the wall of division – by abolishing the law of commandments in ordinances.
By his death on the cross he destroyed the mutual enmity – the animosity – that had arisen over many centuries – between Jews and Gentiles by making obsolete what caused the distinction between them, that is, especially, the ceremonial religious laws that kept them apart.
Paul’s metaphorical reference to Christ’s breaking down the wall of division between them may have been reference to the so-called wall of the Gentiles in the temple courts, or may have simply referred to what felt like a wall between the two people groups – the many distinctions applied to the Jews by means of the law of Moses.
By his perfect life and sacrificial death Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic law removing the barriers between them.
Jesus said according to Matt. 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
In Hebrews we are told how this took place.
In Heb. 9:11-14 (NLT) So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood– not the blood of goats and calves– he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Heb. 9:23-26 (NLT) …Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.
Heb. 10:12 (NLT) …[O]ur High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
Because Jesus offered himself once for all time as a sacrifice for sins, he has made obsolete the animal sacrifices required of the Jews. Because Jesus entered into heaven as our High Priest once for all time to present his sacrifice to God, he has made obsolete the ministry of the priests required of the Jews and even the temple itself. He has removed the barriers between Jew and Gentile in himself.
Second we are told he killed the enmity between God and man.
By his death he propitiated, he bore in himself, God’s wrath against us.
In Rom. 3:23-26 (NLT) we are told, For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Not only that. By his death he gave us a new heart so that we no longer consider God our enemy as we see in Ezek. 36:26 (NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
Also, in vv 17-18 we are told Christ has obtained for us access to God by the Spirit.
Eph. 2:17-18 (ESV) 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.
[How we can do it in view of Jesus’ accomplishment – reckoning the barriers obsolete and living at peace, placing our faith in X and coming boldly to the throne by the Spirit]
- Because Jesus suffered denial by his own friends…..his fellow man’s suspicion, prejudice, anger, hatred and even murder, we are enabled to enjoy peace with fellow believers of every race, social class, nationality and political persuasion. Because Jesus suffered these things, we can lay down our own prejudices, suspicions, assumptions, anger and hatred toward those who are different from us. We are enabled, like Christ, to love those who hate us, pray for those who use us, and forgive even those who may kill us. We can be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are different from us and at peace even unbelievers who hate us.
- Because Jesus suffered the fierce anger and forsakenness of God and suffered death on the cross on our behalf, we can enjoy peace with God, experience his favor and eternity in heaven. Because we have gained access through Christ to the Father by the Spirit, we can lay down our anger toward God because things haven’t gone the way we wanted. Because Jesus has already suffered God’s anger and punishment for us, we can no longer fear that God is punishing us or angry with us when bad things happen to us.
Prayer and Song of Response: We All Are Now One People