Close Menu X
Navigate

Sermons

Christ Our Peace

December 7, 2014 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 2:14-15

49-023

In this season where we remember the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we're mindful as a church that the Lord took on human flesh so that he might become the Savior of sinners, that at the goal, at the end-post of the birth of Christ was the cross of Christ for the salvation of sinners like you and me. We are accustomed to talking about the death of Christ as being for our sins and it is good and proper that we would do so. Jesus died as a substitute to turn away the wrath of God from everyone who would ever believe on him for eternal life. That is the wonderful message of the Bible. That is the wonderful proclamation of the Gospel that your sins can be forgiven immediately, permanently and completely by putting your faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. We love that. We rejoice in that. Our eternal hope rests on that foundation and on that foundation alone. We understand that there is nothing that we could do by way of righteousness, by way of tears of repentance that could ever earn the favor of God. We rely on the righteousness and the shed blood of someone else outside us for our eternal life.

So we are grateful for the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no denying that. There is no question about that in the life of Truth Community Church. All of that is true. All of that is central to what we proclaim. But as we come to today's text this morning, what we're going to see is that if that was all that we thought about the atonement of Christ, the death of Christ, the work of Christ on the cross, we would be missing something and it would be missing not because of anything that Christ had done but because our view of the atonement was too narrow. You see, Christ in his atoning work on the cross did cosmic things that go beyond our individual salvation. The work of Christ and the greatness of Christ goes beyond how it affects you and me for eternal life. There are whole realms that go beyond that and today's passage addresses that in very clear and unmistakable terms.

Christ did something that brought warring ethnic groups together in a way that no one else could have done and in this modern day, in the modern news cycle that we seem to be living in where all sorts of conflict between black and white are unavoidably in the news, this is a great passage for us to come to to see where the only hope for peace can be found, the only hope for reconciliation, not only of individual sinners between themselves and God, but also for entire ethnic groups to come together. That is found in our passage today and it is shown in the way that Christ worked in a way that brought Jews and Gentiles together.

Turn with me, if you would, to Ephesians 2:14 and 15 and watch how the word "peace" brackets what we're going to look at this morning. We're going to primarily focus on the first 2 verses here this morning, Ephesians 2:14 and 15, but I'm going to drift into verse 17 as I read here this morning just to help set the theme. Ephesians 2, beginning in verse 14,

14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.

Then, look at verse 17. We'll deal with verse 16 in the future but in verse 17 it says,

17 and He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

Four times in these brief verses between 14 and 18, the word "peace" is used. Peace is the theme of the passage that we are looking at. Peace is what we must try to understand as we approach this text today. It's something about Christ. It's something about peace. It's something about making those who once were two into one. That is the driving and defining force of the reason that this passage is in Scripture.

Now, just to be really clear right from the start and to get our minds tracking together in the right direction right from the beginning: when you and I think of the word "peace" most of us are going to think, first of all, about it in terms of a subjective, inner sense of tranquility and the word does mean that in other contexts. It can mean that and when we say, "I have a peaceful sense about me," we mean that we are not troubled inside. There is not inner turmoil but that there is a sense of calm and completeness in our hearts that is animating the way that we are viewing things at that particular moment in time and that's a legitimate use of the word "peace." What you need to understand is that that is not what peace is talking about here in this particular section of Scripture. If you come thinking that this passage is talking about subjective inner tranquility, you'll miss the whole point and so we need to understand that when the word is used in other contexts and the way that it is used here, it has an objective sense. It means that a new harmony has been brought that ended prior hostilities. When competing warring nations in the past have signed peace treaties and the generals come together and sign the treaties or the world leaders or whoever it is, they are signing a peace treaty, not saying and attesting to the fact that, "I feel really good inside," what they're saying is that, "We're not going to fight with each other because we've come to terms that are acceptable to both of us and therefore we will live in harmony together henceforth." So I just want you to understand the sense of peace that is being discussed here. It's talking about a harmony that ends prior hostilities, not something that we associate with our inner well-being.

Now, with that in mind, this passage that we're coming up on, verses 14 through 18, is a very theologically compact passage. There is a lot of meat in this passage. There are a lot of significant issues going on and we're going to try to do our best to simplify them and give you a sense of what's going on in the passage and what it means for us today. The Lord Jesus Christ is called in Isaiah 9:6 "the Prince of Peace," and it's not simply that he had an inner sense of contentment, it means that Jesus Christ came to objectively bring peace, peace between those who were enemies, between God and themselves, those who were at war. Jesus came to end the hostilities between God and sinners who would believe in him. He also came to bring peace between competing ethnic factions that were hostile toward one another and so when we say he's "the Prince of Peace," it's more than just he makes us feel good inside, he eliminates war. He eliminates conflict by the work and the person that he is and what he has done and it's that aspect, that objective sense that we are seeing here and that we're here to study here this morning.

Now, with that little bit of introduction out of the way: why was there a need for peace in the first century and what is it that Paul is talking about in this context? Context is everything in the Scriptures. If you want to understand your Bible, if you want to understand a verse, you must understand that context is everything. It's context first, second, third and fourth as your primary interpretive principles. So here as we consider the context of what it is, it's very obvious that Paul is addressing the conflict that existed between Gentiles and Jews in the first century. There is no question about that.

Look at verse 11 and verses 12 and 13 that lead us into the text that we are considering here this morning. And just by way of reminder, we've preached on this in the past month, Paul says, "Remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh," there's one side of it, "who are called 'Uncircumcision' by the so-called 'Circumcision,' which is performed in the flesh by human hands." Paul, in verse 11, has introduced 2 competing factions of humanity as they existed in the first century: the Jews who were circumcised and were the physical descendents of Abraham, and the Gentiles who were outside of the promises of God.

There were 2 groups and they did not mix together as shown in what Paul said in verse 12. He says, "remember that you," he's speaking to the Gentiles here, "were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." So he paints for them their spiritual picture before they became Christians: you were separate; you were apart; you were strangers; you did not belong to Israel. You were not on the receiving end of the promises that God made to that nation, to those people. You were outside looking in. You were on your own and what is worse, in terms of the conflict is, look back at verse 11, is that the Jews exacerbated their separation by referring to them in derogatory ways that emphasized and deepened the separation. As a term of derision, as a term of scorn, the Jews called them the "uncircumcision." It was a way of saying, "We have things that you don't. You don't belong to us," and the Jews exacerbated the problem.

So here are the Gentiles on the outside looking in to the promises of God, having no means of access of their own, no promises that they could say, "God, you promised this and I come to you on the basis of what you have promised." They certainly had no merit of their own. They were dead, lost sinners in their trespasses and sins. So vertically they were lost and horizontally there is this conflict between them and the Jews that are based on the spiritual condition that existed in the first century.

Well, we're used to, in our day and age, seeing animosity in racial ways, in social ways, in political ways. It gets rather wearisome as you watch the news cycle go on and on and on and see people who profit from the conflict exacerbating it and deepening it because it's to their advantage, either financially or politically. But what we need to understand if we're going to enter into the spirit of the passage here this morning is that the first century split was far worse than what we see in our day and age. The Jews and the Gentiles had nothing to do with each other and it was a source of conflict and it entered right into the spiritual realm that was supposedly going to be the basis upon which the Jews were testimonies to God to an unbelieving world. This was terrible. This was a spiritual scene of destruction, not just the political destruction that we see around us today.

Well, this passage tells us that Christ did something to bring peace to that warring conflict and so, as we come to it now, now we are starting to move into second gear here, you might say, what I want you to think as we approach this topic is this: it's obvious from reading the passage that Christ somehow brought peace to that. We're going to see what that means but right on the front end, the glasses that I want you to see this passage through is this: how great must be the power, the person and the work of Jesus Christ if he is able to somehow bring those 2 groups together. How wonderful, how marvelous must it be, how incredibly awesome Christ must be if he can do something to bring peace and harmony out of a situation like that, between people who hated each other and made no bones about hiding it. How great must he be to unify them like that. That's what we're going to see this morning.

We're going to structure today's message around 2 primary points and, first of all, I just want you to see the Prince of Peace. The Prince of Peace. That's our first point this morning. This passage, verses 14 and 15, opens emphatically about our Lord Jesus Christ. I got a little bit ahead of myself. Verse 13, Paul says to those estranged Gentiles, "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." They were far away but they were brought near. Now, as we go into verse 14 and as we enter into the first point of our message here today about the Prince of Peace, Paul is going to explain to them exactly how it is that the blood of Christ brought them near.

Verses 13 and 14 are joined together by that conjunction, "for." "You have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For," bridging from verse 13 to verse 14, "For He Himself is our peace." The Lord Jesus Christ had the capacity, he had the credentials, he had the ability and the mission in order to bring about peace and he is able to do that because he himself is our peace. He is peace in his very person. His very nature is one of peace. If you think of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, verses 22 and 23, and you see the fruit of the Spirit being discussed, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, the Lord Jesus Christ is our peace and we are to think about him as peace incarnate in this passage. Not simply the results that he brings, but he personifies peace because the very nature of God is one of peace. In the garden of Eden that God created, there was peace. Before the beginning of time in the interactions between the 3 members of the Trinity, there was peace. The Holy Spirit, the fruit of him, is peace. So when we see conflict in the world, we understand that the cause of that comes from the sinfulness of man, not because of any lack of God, not because of any failure in the character of God. God is peace itself. Christ is peace incarnate.

Verse 14 says, "He Himself," it is an emphatic statement, "He Himself is our peace," and so whatever the conflict is between Jews and Gentiles and however it is that the Gentiles have been brought near by the blood of Christ, at the center of that, at the interpretive core of that, at the accomplishment of that, the center of that is Christ, not what men have done. It is about what Christ has done. What Christ did at the Christ. What Christ did in his life. What his power, what his authority, what his intentions are. This is a passage about Christ and what he has done and so we are studying the Prince of Peace this morning, not what men have accomplished.

So, as we continue on in verse 14, let me just give you a little bit of radar into what we're about to see. As the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, with his princely authority, with his kingly authority, with his godly authority, Christ exercised the authority and the prerogative that was his as the eternal Son of God, the second member of the Trinity, as the Lord and head of all of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ exercised that authority in order to reconcile Jews and Gentiles in the realm of his kingdom and Paul describes Christ's work with both positive and negative terms. This is the word of God. This is crucial for our understanding about the nature of the church.

In a positive way now, look at verse 14 at the description of what Christ did. It's describing what he did in verse 14. How he did it is going to come in verse 15. Verse 14, "He Himself is our peace, who made both groups," Jews and Gentiles, "into one." Somehow, he brought them together. Somehow, he took 2 and brought something 1 out of it. He brought something unified out of what had previously been divided. That's what he is saying here. And how do you do that? How do you do that when there is, when you're a biological Jew and you're a biological Gentile, one having spiritual promises, one without spiritual promises, how can you ever bring that together? It is humanly impossible. We are looking here at something that is a divine miracle. It is a divine work. That which is impossible with men is possible with God.

What did Christ do? Well, Paul remember, is writing to people in the church and we've looked at that, Ephesians 1, "To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus." He's writing to those in the church and what Christ did was he did not make the Gentiles into Jews and bring about oneness that way. He didn't and the whole of Scripture shows that the intention of God was never to turn the Gentiles into Jews before they could come into the church. And he didn't turn the Jews into Gentiles. Rather, what Christ did is he made them both into Christians and under his common headship, under his common work, by a common faith in his common work on the cross, and producing a single body where believing Jews and believing Gentiles are now united by faith in the risen Christ. They come to God in the same way and that is how he made them one. Not by imposing Jewishness on Gentiles. Not by imposing Gentileness onto Jews but rather making both of them into new creations where they have a common life, a common Spirit indwelling them and now they are united under one Lord together. That is what he is saying here and by bringing them into one body, Christ brought peace between Jews and Gentiles so that their former differences were put aside. He did an active, constructive work that brought them together under his headship, under his Lordship and with a common Savior, based on a common faith and a common work on the cross, a once and for all cross, the surpassing greatness of the unity of that oneness dissipated the divisions that previously had kept them separate.

Let's illustrate this in an obvious way. A literal cross like the one on which Jesus died, has a vertical beam stuck in the ground pointing up to the sky and it has a horizontal beam attached to that vertical beam as well where their hands would be attached. Think about it this way: Christ reconciles men vertically to God by his work on the cross and what this passage is saying is that Christ also reconciled these men, these ethnic groups, horizontally to one another. At the center, at the core of that cross is the body of Christ offered as a bloody sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God on behalf of sinners. So Jews come from the left, as it were, speaking somewhat metaphorically, come from the left and find in Christ their reconciliation with God. Gentiles, as it were, come from the right and come to the center and find in Christ their reconciliation to God as well. So they come together and they meet at that common point of Christ crucified for them at the cross and then the vertical reconciliation to God is now expressed in a horizontal oneness between those groups.

That's what Paul is saying here. Christ brought men together where that was previously impossible and then, look at verse 14, Paul states it in negative terms. Positively he says he made both groups into one. He's declaring the fact of it, not explaining the means of it here in verse 14. He's our peace. He's our harmony. He brought us together. We have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He's at the center of it. This is about him. He's our peace. He made both groups into one. Now he states it in a negative way. He states it in terms of what Christ broke down in order to effect that reconciliation. Christ tore something down while he was making something new. Look at verse 14, he "made both groups into one," that's the positive statement. That's the construction. Then the demolition work, you could say, in verse 14, he "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." We're going to see what he means by that in verse 15. He broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. We said a couple of weeks ago that the literal, physical temple there in Jerusalem had about a 5 foot wall that separated Gentiles out from the area where only Jews could go and the wall was symbolic of the fact that the Gentiles had no access to where the Jews could go. Now, at the time that Paul wrote this letter, that literal, physical wall was still standing, however, what Paul is saying here is that what separated Jews from Gentiles spiritually, Christ somehow broke that down and took it away so that it would no longer be an object of division. Christ had torn down the spiritual wall. Christ had dealt with the cause of separation so that it would no longer divide Jews and Gentiles.

So Christ, as the Prince of Peace, comes and part of his object is not simply to reconcile you individually by name to God. He did that, praise God for that, we love that, we affirm the particular nature of redemption in the work of Christ but we realize that it was more than that, that he was accomplishing something beyond that. He was dealing with the entirety of humanity in a way that would bring reconciliation within the boundaries of the church. Christ dealt with the cause of separation so that it would no longer divide Jews and Gentiles and he could do that and he did do that because he is the Prince of Peace. He is the one who brings harmony out of conflict. He is the one who brings peace with God, sinner to God, and he is able to bring and he did bring harmony out of conflicting groups that had no other means of being brought together. He's the Prince of Peace. That's what this passage is teaching us.

Now, the question is: what was the cause of the separation and how was it that Christ dealt with it? Remember, he's talking about horizontal conflict, bringing 2 human groups together in this passage. What was the cause and how did Christ deal with it? The second point here this morning, we're going to look at the price of peace. The Prince of Peace and the price of peace. How did Christ make them into one? What did he do in order to accomplish that? Obviously, it was something that the men could not do themselves. Jews were not motivated and they didn't have the power to do it anyway. Gentiles were not motivated and did not have the power to do it. Something supernatural had to happen. Someone supernatural had to intervene into this situation and the question is: how did Christ make them into one? By what means did he make it possible for them to come together?

Verse 15, look at it with me, he made both groups into one, he "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall by," here's his means, "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace." Now, let's just take a couple of observations hear about the passage before we really try to interpret it. Notice that in verse 14, Paul talked about, one, the unity of one being brought out of both groups. Here he is continuing that theme of two into one. Look at the end of the verse. He "might make the two into one new man." There is this aspect of joining them together into something new, into one. To become one, not unlike a man and woman come together in marriage and become one new unit after the vows have been taken and thus establishing peace.

Well, how did Christ do that? Well, again, we're just making some general observations here. Somehow he abolished something in his flesh. It was something that he did bodily while he was here on earth. It was something about the outworking of the incarnation that made this unification possible. And somehow in one manner or another, it has something to do with the Jewish law of commandments and ordinances and so as we just make these general observations, we zero in on the fact, we realize that somehow what was dividing them was the law of commandments. Somehow the Old Testament law was functioning to keep these 2 groups apart. It was having a divisive impact and so somehow, our Lord Jesus Christ paid a price that eliminated the divisive effect of the law.

Now, I told you this: there's a lot of theology in this passage and I wasn't kidding. Some people believe and would take this passage and would say that Christ abolished the entirety of the Mosaic law and set it all aside so that there would never be any impact from that going forward and that the Mosaic law itself has been set aside in its entirety. I don't think that that's a possible, I don't think that's a good interpretation of what Paul is saying here and I'll show you why right in the text. Turn over to Ephesians 6, if you would. Ephesians 6. Our verse this morning says that somehow Christ abolished the law of commandments. Now, did Paul mean to say that Christ abolished even the moral law expressed in the 10 Commandments found in Exodus 20? It couldn't possibly be what that means. It couldn't possibly be what he means because look at Ephesians 6, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Look at what he relies on, what he reinforces, what he bases that New Testament command to children, to obey their parents. Look at what he bases it on, he draws upon the 10 Commandments. He quotes them, that's why it's in caps in your English text, most likely, "Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, that you may live long on the earth." The point here is that Paul is drawing upon an eternal universal moral principle expressed in the 10 Commandments as a basis for writing to the church. He says this law has implications for you that presupposes the validity of that law to be the basis upon which he speaks to them.

So Paul here in Ephesians 2 was not setting aside the moral law, Christ did not abolish the moral law so that it had no effect. But what is he talking about then? He abolished something. It had something to do with the law. What did he abolish? How is this set aside? I'm going to do my best to explain that to you. There are a lot of practical implications to this. Paul is addressing another aspect of the law. The Jews kept the ceremonies and the feasts that were prescribed in the Old Testament. The Gentiles did not. The ceremonial law, all of those ceremonies and those differences in the food regulations, all of that served to separate them away from Gentiles. Jews practiced them and looked at the Gentiles and called them uncircumcised because they didn't. Gentiles looked upon the Jewish practices and ignored them. They had nothing to do with them and so that which was central to the Jewish life, to the way that they structured their home life and their annual calendar, that which they structured their very existence around, the Gentiles ignored. Had nothing to do with it and the Jews take that into and turn that into a matter of insult and ridicule. "You are the uncircumcised." That's what Christ addressed here. That's the divisive point that Christ dealt with on the cross, took out of the way, so that it would no longer be an obstacle.

How do we know that? How do we know that Christ ended that hostility by abolishing the law in his flesh and that it's referring to the ceremonial aspects of the law, not the enduring moral principles of it? Look over, first of all, let me say this, when it says he abolished it in his flesh, it's a reference to his death on the cross. It wasn't simply the incarnation that put those differences aside, it was his death on the cross and you can look at a parallel passage in Scripture and see that the flesh he's referring to is death on the cross.

Look at Colossians 1:21-22. Turn over there. We're going to let Scripture interpret Scripture and help us understand what Paul is saying here. Colossians 1. What we're looking at now is what does Paul mean when he says he abolished it in his flesh? That's what we're trying to understand and in this parallel passage, these 2 books, Ephesians and Colossians, written at the same time in a Roman prison and so they help us interpret and understand each other, Paul said, "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death." There is a reconciliation. It's a reference to his fleshly body and it's in the context of the death of Christ on the cross. Paul says, "You were reconciled through His fleshly body through death so that you might be presented before God holy and blameless and beyond reproach."

So, turning back to Ephesians 2 now, we understand that when Paul says that he abolished in his flesh the enmity, that which was the source of division, he's referring to the fact that Christ died on the cross at this particular point in the letter and in that death, something happened to the law of commandments contained in ordinances. What is he referring to there? I believe Scripture clearly teaches, at this point, that Paul is saying under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Christ abolished the ceremonial aspects of the law at the cross that the Jews were used to practicing.

Turn back to Colossians. Now, turn to chapter 2 in Colossians as we compare Scripture with Scripture in a most important way. Colossians 2:16, actually go to  verse 14, you knew I was going to do that so I might as well do it and not disappoint you. He said that Christ "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." So here Paul is talking about the work of Christ on the cross. Verse 15, "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." Paul said, "Christ did a magnificent work on the cross. Christ did a final work on the cross. He took away that which was making accusation against us so that we might be fully reconciled to God."

Then he goes on and flowing out of that discussion of the atoning work of Christ on the cross, he says in verse 16, "Therefore," as a result of the work of Christ on the cross, "no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day," talking about the Jewish ceremonies, the Jewish festivals, that Jewish calendar which was so important to their Jewish life before the cross. Paul dismisses that based on the work of Christ and says, "Those things are a mere shadow of what is to come but the substance belongs to Christ." He is saying that these things that the Jews were practicing that were a part of the law of Moses, those ceremonial aspects, were just a shadow, they were not the reality. They were just a signpost pointing to a greater fulfillment yet to come and he says, "Now that Christ has come, now that Christ has died, the substance of all of that belongs to him." And when the substance has come, when the fulfillment has been made, the other things, the ceremonies that simply pointed to that which were a shadow, which were a picture, those are put away for the sake of the greater presence, the greater work, the ultimate pressing priority of Christ himself.

So, when, go back to Ephesians 2 now. So what Christ did on the cross in addition to burying your sins and carrying them away lest they interfere with your position before God, Christ was doing something more, something in addition to that, something further than that. The Old Testament ceremonies were temporary shadows that were pending, that were waiting for Christ's final sacrifice, and what Jesus Christ did when he died on the cross is that he satisfied fully, perfectly and completely the requirements that those ceremonies had upon the Jewish people. The demands of the law in its ceremonial aspects were perfectly fulfilled on the cross. Now those Jewish ceremonies are no longer binding, they are no longer helpful, they are no longer needed. The perfect has come, the shadows are put away. The light has shined brightly, the shadows disappear.

You understand this when you use your smart phone for directions to get you from one place to another. This is so obvious and yet it is so important for you to see, lest someone with Judaizing tendencies come and try to draw you away from the person and the work of the perfect Prince of Peace. When you use your smart phone or for those of you who are still in the 20th century, when you pull out a road map and unfold it and you say, "How do I get from here to there?" When you get to the final destination, you put the GPS away. You don't even think about it, you just do it. You fold up the road map and you put it in the glove box and you put it away. Why do you do that? Why do you do that? You do that because they have served their purpose and now that you have reached the destination, there is no longer any need for them to continue to be clouding what you're doing. You got to the destination, now do what you're supposed to do there. You don't keep looking at your phone and say, "Well, I'm here, now what? I'm here, now where do I go?" Well, the thing says you're here, why are you still looking at me? What's the point of the road map once you've gotten to where you're going? It is the exact same thing with those Jewish ceremonies, beloved. They were designed to point people to Christ. Now that Christ has come, now that Christ has offered himself as the final perfect sacrifice, he has replaced all that other Jewish ceremonial stuff and we put it aside. We do not use it any longer. It is not part of life in the Christian church because the full substance is now here.

If you went to a ballgame, if you went to see a Reds game and you had in your hand a baseball card of Joey Votto, I am really condescending to my place geographically here because I'm a Cardinals fan but I'm accommodating myself to the Cincinnati area here, okay? I'm glad to do that for the sake of a greater point. You take your kid to a Reds game and you give him a Joey Votto baseball card and he's looking at the card and, "Man, this is cool," and looking at the back and all of that. All of a sudden you find yourself on the field and Joey Votto himself is right there. Wouldn't it be weird, wouldn't it be kind of beside the point, wouldn't there be something wrong if the kid had no interest in the man himself when he's standing right there? "Man, this card is cool. You see how his hat fits on his head in this picture. Look at that," and Joey Votto is right in the middle of your conversation and being neglected, being minimized because you're looking at his baseball card. That's not the point of a baseball card.

When the reality is there, you put away the symbols and focus on the reality and the symbols no longer have any significance. They have been replaced by something far greater. Just as Joey Votto is greater than his baseball card and given the choice of the 2 you would pay attention to the man, not to the cardboard, so in the same way, beloved, what Paul is saying here is, "The ceremonies that only pictured Christ faintly are put aside because now Christ is here. Now Christ is head over the church. Now Christ dwells within our hearts by faith." We've arrived. Ah beloved, this is so very important. When you recognize Christ, when you see his fulfilled sacrifice on the cross, when you understand that he did everything in his life righteousness and in his shed blood for your salvation and you put your faith in him, it is not an advance to go back to the Jewish feasts to celebrate them. You already have the substance, the symbols get left behind. "I've got a baseball card. Joey Votto is here? Joey!! My man!!" I've reached my destination, I don't need the map.

Now, how does that bring reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles? To practice Jewish ceremonies now in the Christian church would be to try to rebuild what Christ tore down. Christ tore this down. Christ intended to make that so that it was no longer a barrier between the fellowship of his people. To try to reintroduce them is to say, "Lord, I see that you tore that down but let me put some rocks back together here and start to rebuild." No, no, that is not a good place to be. Just as the baseball card would dishonor Joey Votto in his presence, so the ongoing presence of those ceremonies when Christ himself has come dishonors him. It's wrong. That is not why they were given. John Calvin said, "Paul declares not only that the Gentiles are equally with the Jews admitted to the fellowship of grace so that they no longer differ from each other, but also that the mark of difference has been taken away, for ceremonies have been abolished. If two contending nations were brought under the dominion of one Prince, he would not only desire that they should live in harmony under his rule, he would remove the badges and marks of their former division."

Now, here's how this reconciles Jews and Gentiles together horizontally: believing Jews, looking at their Old Testament, believing Jews see that Christ has fulfilled their ceremonies. We don't need them anymore, the substance has come. We don't need to repeatedly offer animals as sacrifices. We don't need to remember our Jewish history because the substance is here. The Lord himself is here. Forget that stuff behind, we've got the reality. We don't need the ceremonies anymore because the person to whom they pointed makes those rituals now irrelevant. It has fulfilled their point. Jews say, "I don't need these anymore." Gentiles look at this and look at Christ and say, "I have direct access to God through a perfect Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. I don't have to listen to unbelieving Jewish echoes in my ears. Christ himself has said, 'Come to me and I will never cast you away.'" As a believing Gentile, I come to Christ without even thinking about Jewish customs. The Jews say, "My customs were fulfilled in Christ," and when they come to Christ together, when one comes from the left horizontal beam of the cross, the other comes from the right horizontal beam of the cross, I'm speaking metaphorically here, they come from left and right; they come from Jewish ceremonies, they come from utter separation and find the invitation to reconciliation with God made in the person of Christ, crucified and resurrected for them. They come and they meet at a common point and what led them there no longer is a point of division because now they are in union with Christ. They are united to one another on the very same spiritual principles and now they move forward as one. That's how Jews and Gentiles were reconciled. Jews say, "Ha," believing Jews say, "Our Messiah has come. The law is fulfilled. We have peace with God through faith in our Messiah." Gentiles with no background in Jewish customs come and say, "I'm invited. God promises me eternal life through faith in Christ. We come together and now we are one. One. One. One." In Christ, that unity is possible because the defining basis upon which Jews had been trying to approach God in the past had been fulfilled.

Now Paul restates it in verse 15. Look at verse 15 with me again. Speaking about Christ, he says, he "abolished in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances." The law expressed ordinances, things that they were supposed to do but now Christ has set that aside by fulfilling it, by accomplishing everything that those things pointed to, "so that," here's the purpose, "so that in Himself," in the person of Christ, in the Prince of Peace himself, you and I, Gentiles united together with believing Jews, all of us united together in Christ in perfect union with him, dead, buried, resurrected, all in the same way, in the same person of Christ, now "one new man." That was the purpose. Christ didn't come, Christ didn't die, to bring Jews and Gentiles to God and then have them continue to be separated by these Jewish ceremonies. They were to become one new man with one focus on that great Lord Jesus Christ, sharing a common spiritual life mediated by the Holy Spirit, saved by one common work of Christ, one final sacrifice on the cross, saved through the instrument of the same repentance and faith that every man must come to if he is to be reconciled with God.

I have believing Jewish friends; I'll introduce  one to you before too long. Not today. But when we get together, when we talk on the phone, there is the exact same kind of spiritual union between him and me that there is when you and I talk together as believing Christians. There is no separation and it's because there is this common spirit based on a common faith and a common Lord. And the purpose clause here, the purpose of Christ, the Prince of Peace, look at that purpose clause at the end of first 15, "so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man." That which formerly distinguished is set aside so that there might be a union wrapped around his wonderful, beautiful person. Once they were divided over ceremonies, now they are united profoundly in worship. Christ sovereignly made something new. Now, it's not that it's new in the sense that it was recent like I just got a new something or other yesterday. It's new in the sense that it has a different essence. It's something different that makes the old obsolete. The ceremonies are now obsolete. We are all justified through faith in Christ. Our roles may differ but there is no spiritual inequality in the presence of God. We stand on common ground at the foot of the cross.

Look at Galatians 3, turn back a couple of pages in your Bibles. Galatians 3:28, actually, let's go back to verse 24, shall we? This states it pretty plainly, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." That's the same thing we've been saying for the past 20 minutes. Once a teacher has accomplished his goal and delivered you to where you are to go, you don't need that tutor anymore. The law led us to Christ "so that we would be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." There is no spiritual inequality and the things that suggested spiritual inequality in the past are put away.

Colossians 3:10 makes a similar point. Turn over to Colossians 3 and we'll begin in verse 9. Colossians 3:9 says, "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him - a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." When Jews are saved, when Gentiles are saved, those prior ethnic distinctions dissolve into meaninglessness for the sake of the surpassing value of each of us in a common way belonging to our common Lord. Why would we do anything to reintroduce that which created the division in the first place? Christ put it all away so that it would not be a divisive impact amongst his one united people. This is how he brought Jews and Gentiles together, the crux, the fulcrum, the point of contention was dealt with so that unity could be found in its place.

The Prince of Peace paid the price for peace. It took a blood sacrifice. Before it had been animals. Sure, you know, we talked in our Tuesday night study about how they would lay their hands on the animal and symbolically transfer their guilt but it was the animal's blood. For Christ, for Christ, the nails went through his hands. It was his blood that spurt forth. We honor, part of what he was doing was to fulfill the demands of the law so that they would have no longer claim on his people. Having done that, having recognized the fullness of his work, we rest and we trust in that rather than trying to resurrect that which he killed with his own death. And when we come together, Jews and Gentiles, around Christ like that, there is nothing to separate us anymore. We are united in Christ because of the work that he did for us.

Now, a couple of thoughts as I close. As we see the racial conflict, using racial to mean black versus white, I realize one race, one blood, I get that. I use it as a convenient term of reference so don't get hung up on the use of the word. When we see racial conflict playing out like we do before us now, we as Christians, we as biblically informed people, understand that politics cannot bring peace to that. When 2 sinners are equally committed to their sin and are fighting with each other, politics cannot effect a true reconciliation and when you multiply that by the stoked fires of everything else, we realize that there is not a political solution to that. Christ, if Christ would exercise his power, if Christ would send revival and believing people on one side and believing people on the other side were somehow brought together, that would solve it but politics will not solve this. That is why our pulpit at Truth Community is never going to be a political pulpit, ever, because politics is not the answer to what ails the world, only Christ is. So we proclaim Christ. We proclaim Christ to each side and say, "Come to Christ." The human conflict is simply symptomatic of a vertical problem that only Christ can resolve. So the church should not take sides in ethnic disputes but proclaim the Gospel to both sides.

Now, going further, coming into within the walls of our church, the unity that Christ achieved between Jews and Gentiles is also to be replicated among the lives of his people and I thank God that we're in a church where we know that that is being manifested. You love to come to church here and you stay around for half an hour, 45 minutes, most of you, because you've got something to talk about with the people that you just sat next to. Well, what I want you to see is and you've got to think about it this way, we need to think about it kind of cosmically: Christ died for the unity of his people. Christ died that his people would be one and so the harmony inside the horizontal relationships within the body are a matter of significant priority.

Look at Ephesians 4. You can see Paul building upon what he has said in chapter 2 with this exhortation which we now understand in a broader sense. It begins in Ephesians 4. Paul says, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you." Therefore, based on what I have been telling you about the work of Christ, based on that, I, the prisoner of the Lord, I implore you "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Christ did a work of peace. "I implore you, walk in a manner that is worthy of peace," he says. Verse 2, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent," here it is, "to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." He goes on and explains how that harmony works itself out in other human relationships. Verse 4, "There is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." One. One. One. One. One. One. Not division. Not conflict. Not anger. Not bitter unforgiving spirits.

Look at chapter 4, verse 31 and what is designed to produce unity, Paul says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." All that stuff is divisive. Instead, you, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Christ did a work to bring peace, now we in the church are charged with proclaiming the Gospel of peace and living in peace with one another. It's not simply that we want to get on with each other, that's fine as far as it goes, but there is a greater motivation that drives us to church unity and to protect that unity is because we are protecting the purpose of the very atoning work of Christ. He died to produce peace, therefore we seek and work at peace so that we can honor that which saved us. Harmony. Peace. Unity. That is how this works out in our lives. One new man, saved by one great Lord, by one great final sacrifice at the cross.

Beloved, I'm going to give you a moment as we pray now to consider this question: does your life leave in its wake harmony or conflict? Peace or division? What is marking your relationships today? Peace is the mark of those who know the Prince of Peace.

Bow with me in prayer. Take a moment to consider that before the Lord just in the quietness of your heart. And the Apostle Paul said, "Now, may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all. Amen."

More in Ephesians

May 29, 2016

Fare Well

May 22, 2016

The Church on Bended Knee

April 10, 2016

Stand Firm