Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 31
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Where did the Gentile nations come from? What has been one historical source of the friction between the Gentile nations and the Jews? How is Jesus the author of peace between nations? Dr. Barber begins to answer these questions in this first of a two-part article.|
Christ, the Author of Peace – Part 1
The title of this study is Christ, the Author of Our Peace. In our last study we tried to understand where the Gentile nations came from. They were called foreigners in the Old Testament. They were strangers. That word appears in Isaiah. Then through the New Testament we find the word “Gentile.” If you will look in verse 11, it says, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh.” The word “Gentiles” there is the word ethnos. It’s the word we get the word “ethnic” from. We get the idea of different languages, different cultures, and different peoples.
Of course, we know where that came from. The Gentile nations with all of their languages came in Genesis 11. The world had repopulated after the flood, and men had become very proud, due to the depravity of man. Sin had entered through Adam. They got worse and worse. God, before the foundation of the world, had already foreordained our salvation. He had already planned. He knew what was going to take place. The Lamb was ready even before the world was created. Man’s sin did not catch God by surprise. However, God scattered the people in Genesis 11.
Now you know why many of the liberal schools in our country want to get rid of Genesis 1-11. If you knock out Genesis 1-11, you don’t have anything on which to base the rest of scripture. Genesis 1-11 is the very basis for all of scripture.
In Genesis 11, God scattered them and confused their languages. The whole world was made up of pagan Gentile people. There was no such thing as a Jew. There was no such thing as Israel. In chapter 12 God began to reveal what He was up to. Out of the Gentile nations, particularly Ur [Babylon], He reached right down in the Middle East, and pulled a man out by the name of Abram, whose name he changed to Abraham. In Genesis 17 He said, “Abraham, I want a covenant with you. Through you, I’m going to bring a nation, and through that nation will come a seed.” Galatians 3 completes that thought and tells us that the seed is Jesus Christ. It will be through that seed that all the nations of this world, including Israel, will be blessed.
Well, the covenant was passed on to Isaac; it was passed on to Jacob; Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and Israel had twelve sons. Those twelve sons became the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Through that nation would come the seed. Jesus Christ would be born of a virgin, Mary, who is a descendant of David of the tribe of Judah. Obviously, the prophecy would be fulfilled. Jesus would come.
Ephesians 1:7 tells us that He would shed His blood to redeem us from the slave block of sin. God had that plan before the foundation of the world. Paul’s point in chapter 2 is to let the Gentile believers know that they are a part of everything that God had promised. The focus had been on Israel for all these centuries, but he wanted them to know they were a part of the promise that was first given to Abraham. The Jew and the Gentile are now one in Christ Jesus.
Paul points to the great gulf between the Gentiles and the Jews in verse 12. Three things help you to realize the seriousness of the situation. First of all he says in verse 12, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.” You see, the Gentile world was made up of this nation and that nation, which had nothing in common with one another. Babylon and Greece and all the different powers that rose up represented the Gentiles. They didn’t have anything in common with one another except their own sin. Nothing bonded them into a commonwealth like Israel. You see, they were excluded from any Christ, any Messiah, any Deliverer. They had no hope in front of them. The theologians of their day told them that every 3,000 years the world would repopulate itself, and the cycle would start all over again. They lived for nothing. There was nothing out there. There was no hope whatsoever for the Gentile world. They were living separate from Christ.
However, Israel had the Messiah to look forward to. That bonded them into a commonwealth. The word here for “commonwealth” is politeia. We get the word “politics” from it. It’s the word for citizen. It refers here to the behavior of a community of people who have a common purpose. Their common purpose was they believed a deliverer would one day come, the Messiah, the seed through which all nations would be blessed. That bonded them together into a commonwealth. While many Jews might depart from that, and did, they still had a remnant, and that remnant continued to be bonded together with that glorious hope of a Christ who would one day come. The Gentiles had no such promise. They were excluded from any such purpose.
The second statement he makes there in verse 12 is, “and strangers to the covenants of promise.” These covenants were the anchor that pointed to the faithfulness of a God to deliver what He promised. The Gentiles had no anchor. They were sailors on a captainless boat on uncharted seas.
The third thing he said in verse 12 is, “having no hope and without God in the world.” The Gentiles had no one god. The Jews did. They believed in Jehovah God who would send His Son a Deliverer. The Gentiles had none of this. They were idolatrous, pagan people. That’s why God had excluded the Jews from associating with the Gentile world for so many years. As a result, the Gentile world opposed the true God, accepted false gods and were dominated by Satan as Ephesians 2:1-3 tell us so clearly. To say it another way, the Gentile nations were outcasts from both human and divine fellowship. The only thing they had in common was their sin.
Well, in verse 13, Paul has some good news for those Gentiles in Ephesus, which he wanted them to understand. He says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Paul wants them to know that in Christ Jesus they have been brought near. That is a beautiful, beautiful truth. It is almost as if Paul, a converted Jew himself, is looking at the church, sees converted Gentiles and realizes that in Christ there is no north, no south, no east, no west, no racial barriers, no cultural or social barriers. He sees the church in oneness as the church ought to be seen. He sees the church through the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 14 he says, “For He Himself is our peace.” That sets the stage for this study, Christ, the Author of our Peace. One of the basic definitions of the word for peace is when two things cohere together. “Oneness” and the word “peace” are very synonymous. When Jesus prayed for oneness in John 17, that’s the flip side of what peace is all about. It’s when nothing is in between that can conflict or irritate, first of all with God, and secondly with man. Peace is that oneness that we can have with God and that oneness we can have with one another.
If you are looking for peace, you won’t find it in America. If you are looking for peace and absence of conflict, you won’t find it in this world. You will find it in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s who we are supposed to honor every day. Let’s talk about it for a minute.
First of all Christ Himself is the essence of our peace with God. Before we start talking about the peace between the Jew and Gentile, we’ve got to talk about the peace that man has with God. You cannot begin to have relationships that are peaceful until first of all, your relationship with God is one of peace. Verse 14 says, “For He Himself is our peace.”
Turn back to Isaiah 9:6. “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Now we need to understand that. That word “prince” means not only giver, but the one who maintains it. He gives the peace, and He maintains the peace. The first place that we find that peace needed is not with Jew and Gentile. It is with man and God. That peace was disrupted when Adam sinned. Man was separated from God, and was placed at enmity with God.
That is why Ephesians 2:1-3 is so important. Man was dead in his trespasses and in his sins. There needed to be a reconciliation. However, the wages of sin is death. There was no man who was worthy who could pay the price because there were “none righteous, no, not one.” The Lord Jesus, who is the essence of God’s grace, came to this earth and died on the cross to forgive us of our sin. When a man comes to understand that, he sees himself as a sinner, bows down, and receives Jesus into his life as Lord and Savior. Immediately peace is effected with the Father. Peace is never going to be there until Jesus is in an individual’s life. Until a man has received God’s grace, he will never know His peace.
Look in Ephesians 1:2: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” You see the first thing that must be received is God’s grace. God’s grace is what God does to a man, in a man, for a man and through a man that a man can’t do himself. God came down. Man could not ascend. He tried that in Genesis 11. That’s where the nations came from. God came down as He told Nicodemus in John 3. He came down to die for our sin. The greatest picture of grace in all of Scripture is Jesus coming to die for our sin and shedding His blood to redeem us off the slave block of bondage to sin.
When man receives God’s grace, then and only then can he be at peace with the God that he has been estranged from since Adam’s sin. So before you ever talk about peace with man, you’ve got to realize Jesus is the essence of our peace with God. So often we do it the reverse. So often there is a problem between the two of us, and we try to major on our relationship to make our relationship with God better. No, you major on your relationship with God, and that makes your relationship with others what it ought to be. Jesus is the essence of God’s peace, the essence of our peace with God.
That’s the first point I want to make. Paul is really not dealing with that at this point. He has already dealt with it in chapter 1 and all the way down through where we are. But when he says in verse 14, “For He Himself is our peace.” I just want to make sure you understand that it is with God first, long before it’s with man.
The second thing I want you to see is He is the enabler of our peace with man. You see, Christ establishes our peace with God. Once we have Christ in us, He enables us to be at peace with man. What did Christ do that enabled peace between the Jew and the Gentile? There was quite a gulf between them as we have already read in verse 12. These Gentiles were called dogs. They had nothing to do with the promises. They knew
nothing about Christ. They knew nothing of a true God. The focus had been on Israel from the book of Genesis all the way through Acts 9. Now, what did Jesus do then to bring the two groups together? Even in the Law they had been excluded from one another. How did Jesus become the enabler of our peace with man? There are two things that Jesus did to enable our peace man to man, Jew to Gentile if you please. There was quite a gulf between them. If you can’t see a picture in this of other relationships daily in our life, then you are missing what Paul is bringing out. His concern is the Jew and the Gentile, but the application flows into all relationships.
First of all, Christ removed the barriers to our peace. He removed the barriers in verses 14 and 15. That’s what we want to concentrate on. Let’s read it. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” Now this is important to understand.
What was the dividing wall? Well, it refers to a wall that was ordered by God’s law in the Temple. The Gentiles could not go beyond that wall. They could go inside the Temple to a place called the Outer Court or the Court of the Gentiles, but they couldn’t go beyond it. Actually, the wall was three walls thick if you want to be technical about it. It wasn’t just that wall that faced the Court of the Gentiles. There was another wall on the other side which housed the Court of Women, and still another wall which was the Inner Court. So before you could actually get into the place of worship, there were three walls that shut the Gentiles out. On the wall there was an inscription that read, “Any foreigner, any stranger, any Gentile that enters beyond this wall is under the penalty of death.” They knew they had been shut out from the worship experience of Israel. Israel approached God through the Temple, and the Gentiles were shut away from ever being able to approach God or to relate to Him on any basis whatsoever.
As a matter of fact, there is a sad testimony to the hardness of the Jews after Jesus came. Here is Paul, preaching that the wall has been torn down. But the Jews, those religious Jews who had rejected Jesus and shut Him out of their lives, continued to hold to the belief that the wall was still there. Look back in Acts 21:27-29, and we will see that. Ephesus, where he is writing this letter to, is in Asia. Probably some Jews from Ephesus, the very people he is writing this letter to, are mentioned here in verses 27-29 of Acts 21. Verse 27 says, “And when the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the multitude and laid hands on him, crying out, ‘Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; [Paul never did that. Paul simply opened up other people to it, and they thought they were preaching against them] and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’” They accused him of taking a man by the name of Trophimus into the Temple.
Look at verse 29. “For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.” They accused him. They didn’t even know this for a fact, but they knew they could get a case with the listening ears of those religious Jews who had rejected Christ. They told them he had taken this Gentile behind the wall of partition, the dividing wall, the barrier of the dividing wall. You see, many of the Jews, not all of them, but many of the Jews were just as evil in God’s sight as the pagan Gentiles. They had made a horrible mistake.
You see, they had a privileged nearness to God because of God’s choice of them. God had chosen Israel and because He had, the people born into that nation had certain rights and privileges. It may not have been because they sought after God, but because God had chosen them. They knew nothing of a personal relationship with God, based on their choice of God. Do you see the difference? As a result of this, that which was meant to exclude the Gentiles for a time became the basis of hatred and discrimination of the Jew to the Gentile. What they said was, “We have a wall. You see there. God loves us better than He loves you. You can’t come in. We are better than you.” So the Gentile became as dogs to them. To mention the Gentiles as being a part of the promise God had made to Abraham made the hair stand up and bristle on the Jew’s neck. The Jew would say, “No way! These are inferior people! We are racially, culturally and socially better people than they are. They couldn’t be a part of God’s loving plan.”
But when Christ came, He tore down the wall of partition. With their observances and with their practices, they thought these external things made them more favorable in God’s eyes. That has never been true, for God so loved the world. He promised Abraham, “I don’t just love Jews, I love the world. I am going to raise up a nation through which the Seed will come in that all nations, both Israel and other nations, may have the same opportunity.”
How did Jesus break down the barrier of the dividing wall? Well, it tells you in verse 15: “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Now I am going to try to simplify something that is not that simple. Let me just simplify it by saying this: the dividing wall in that temple was ordered by God. Why? Because He wanted Israel to be pure, to stay away from these pagan idolatrous people who didn’t believe in God. They should never be allowed to come into that which is holy and sacred and specifically designed for His people at that time. So the dividing wall was ordered by God, along with the observances that were in the Law. The Jews had to observe the Sabbaths. They had to observe the eating of certain foods. They had to observe the commands not to touch certain things. All of these things were commanded. It was the way in which they related to God.
But remember, they had taken this and made it a symbol of racial and national pride. “You see, we do these things, we are more spiritual and loveable to God than others are.” The Law was good and holy. Don’t ever think it was wrong. Galatians says it was a tutor, a baby sitter. That’s another word for it. The laws were simply given to hold the people within bounds until the Seed came. After the Seed came, Hebrews says, the new began. When the New Covenant began, the old was made obsolete and useless. It is important to understand that when He came He didn’t destroy it. He abolished it. The word “abolished” is katargeo. That is the word that means to make useless, to render ineffective. He gave them a brand new way. Jesus abolished the Law.
He said it was an enmity. The word “enmity” here in this context means the cause of enmity. What was the cause of enmity between the Jew and the Gentile? It was their Laws and their observances, which they thought made them more spiritual than anybody else and had become their source of pride. Jesus put an end to the cause of the hatred that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. How did He do it? It says, “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity.”
There are two things that are brought into that. First of all, by living a sinless life, He fulfilled the Law, which no man could do. Once He fulfilled it, He was qualified to take it from there. He is God who gave the Law. Not only that, when He took sin upon Himself, He satisfied the curse of the Law. He became a curse for us. “For cursed is He that hangs upon the tree,” the Scripture says. The curse of the Law was satisfied, therefore, rendering the Law ineffective when a person comes to Jesus Christ. The person who rejects Jesus is guilty of all points of the Law. If a person comes to Christ, the Law has no effect whatsoever in his life to ever condemn him again. In Christ we find the fulfillment of that Law. We find what we are looking for, that is the oneness that we need with God.
You could say it this way. In effect, what Jesus did when He came; when He lived the sinless life and went to the cross; when He made the Law obsolete and rendered it ineffective, what He did was, He took all their customs, all the dividing walls, all the observances, everything and wrapped them up in one big bunch, and He threw it away. He got rid of religion forever. He ended man’s external religion forever and replaced it with an internal relationship with the Father through Himself.
When He established peace, the Jew could not say, “Ah, but we honor the Sabbath.” Jesus says, “What Sabbath?” “Oh, we have a dividing wall.” Jesus would say, “What dividing wall?” The Gentiles on one hand ended paganism when they came to Christ, and the Jews had to end religionism when they came to Christ. You see, sin is sin. All of the external things they were doing that separated them from the Gentiles made them feel that pride that God put to death on the cross. He has brought in something now that is absolutely brand new. He removed the barriers to our peace.
But do you know what people have done? They don’t want to relate to Jesus and have peace with Him. Therefore, they come up with the exact same thing the Jews did. If you want to know what you are like in the flesh and what I am like in the flesh, study Israel. They are a picture of the vine of flesh in the Old Testament. They had to have everything external. They had no internal relationship with God. God said, “I have come in and made a new order. I didn’t raise the Gentiles up to the level of the Jews. I didn’t lower the Jews to the level of the Gentiles. I raised them both up into a brand new man, brand new to this world. The world doesn’t have a clue about us.”
If you will think about it, some of the biggest problems we will ever face as a church are organizational problems. They will be external things that have nothing to do with the Word of God. I am going to tell you something, folks. May God deliver us from ever having the shackles of what this world does to govern what people think the church of Jesus Christ is. We are not an organization. We are an organism, which by necessity organizes itself. We are not here for the sake of organization. We are here for the sake of the organism, the body of Jesus. Folks, that means God could care less about how many people we have in Sunday School if we are not living daily that internal relationship with Him. Watch us in the conflicts of life. Watch how we raise our children. Watch how we deal when things go wrong in our family. Listen, I would rather any day of the week have somebody who didn’t have a clue about how to organize something and have somebody who was filled with the Holy Spirit of God and exemplified the character of Jesus in everything that he did.
That’s what Jesus did. He raised us out of this thing. He took away religionism from the Jew, paganism from the Gentile and raised us up to a brand new standard, a person who is a mystery to this world; a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who has a divine relationship who walks in peace with God. As a result of that, he walks in peace with men. If you are not living in that relationship of grace which effects peace, then you’ve got a contention with somebody, and that contention is tied to that which Jesus made obsolete on the cross.
Folks, I want to tell you, if you’ve got contention in your heart towards anybody, the key is very clear. Jesus has come to be the very essence of your peace with God. He is the enabler of your peace with man. You can’t come to me. You had better go to Him and get it right with Him. Once you get it right with Him, He will enable you to get it right with man.
It never says man will get it back right with you. Oh, he may spit in your face. Jesus died forgiving all men, and some people still spit in His face. It is a cycle that goes full circle. But we are to forgive one another and be at peace with one another. Why? Because Jesus is the essence of our peace with God, the enabler of our peace with man.