Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 32
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|How has Jesus secured our peace? Peace with whom? Using the passage from Ephesians as well as a companion passage in Colossians, Dr. Barber describes our “garment of peace.”|
Christ, the Author of Peace – Part 2
Turn with me to Ephesians 2. We are looking at Jesus Christ, the Author of Our Peace in verses 15-18. In our last study we began to see how Christ is the Author of Our Peace. He is the means of peace between the Jew and Gentile, man with man, but especially between man and God. Paul is writing to Gentile believers and for centuries, the Jew and the Gentile had been estranged from one another, partly by design. God had shut them out from worshipping in the Temple. They had no covenants, they had no promises. God had formed His own nation called Israel, and through Israel would come the Seed through which all nations, including these Gentiles, would be blessed. When the time was right, He found the apostle Paul, gave him the commission to take the Word to the Gentiles, and the word began to come out so that now all of the world has the opportunity to come to know Christ Jesus. God so loved the world, not just the Jews.
Well, the apostle Paul, a converted Jew, wants these converted Gentiles over in Ephesus to understand that the animosity between the Jew and Gentile no longer exists when they come to Christ. As a matter of fact, he says in verse 14, “For He Himself is our peace.”
In our last study we saw, first of all, that He is the essence of our peace with God and with man. Secondly we saw how He is the enabler of our peace. You see, when I received the Lord Jesus into my heart, there is someone now living in me that has given me peace with the Father, and enables me to be at peace with my fellow man.
Now what did Jesus do in order to bring peace between the Jew and the Gentile? Hesays in verse 14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one.” How did He accomplish that? First of all, He removed the barriers of our peace. He “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” There was a wall that had an inscription on it inside of the Temple, by the Court of the Gentiles, that said a Gentile could not go beyond that wall. The inscription said if they did go beyond that wall, it was under penalty of death that was ordered by God’s Law.
God wanted to keep idolatry out of there. He wanted to keep His people pure in their worship of Him.
Well, that had become a source of pride to the Jew. What was good and for an eternal purpose had been misunderstood and used as a source of pride by the Jews. It caused them to look down on those Gentiles. They began to say, “God loves us more than He loves those Gentiles. Why, He allows us inside the wall, they can go no further.” Well, God broke down that barrier. That’s what the Lord Jesus did to remove the barriers to our peace, the peace especially here between the Jews and Gentiles.
How did He do that? When He came He “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances.” The word “abolished” there means “to render useless, to render ineffective.”
The Law was divided into the moral law and the ceremonial law. He didn’t abolish the moral law. That has always been here and is fulfilled when we obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The moral law says that we love God with all of our heart and our mind and our strength, and we are to love one another. That is always there and is morally built in. He did not make that obsolete. He did not make that ineffective. What He did do was to render ineffective the ceremonial law. It says here, “the commandments contained in ordinances.” In other words, what He did was put religion to death. No longer could the Jew say, “Oh, I sacrifice. I go to the Temple. I worship on the Sabbath. I do this. I do that. God loves me more than He loves you.” Oh, no. He took all the external stuff and threw it out. He says, “Now there is only one way to God, and that’s through Me. You can’t work your way up the ladder.”
This is what Paul was talking about in Philippians 3. He says, “I used to be a Pharisee, zealous for the law, and righteous as far as men were concerned. Now I realize, however, that what was gain to me, I count as loss. I only want to be found being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. What used to be a system, a religion to me, is gone out of my life. Now I have a relationship, and I want to walk in surrender to the One I am now related to by faith.”
That’s what He replaced for the Jew and for the Gentile. There is no more dividing wall. There are no more ordinances which we must do so God will think better of us. There is no way to approach Him now except by faith and through the Lord Jesus Christ, both for Jew and for Gentile. Therefore, He abolished, He broke down the wall by abolishing the ceremonial law. No longer can a Jew be proud. No longer can a Gentile be proud. Now they all have to bow at the cross together. The ground is level at the cross. They come in equally. The two have been made one in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, how did He abolish the law? His sinless life fulfilled its demands, and therefore, satisfied the claims of the law. Also His sacrificial death on the cross to take our sin upon Himself satisfied the curse of the law. He fulfilled it, moved it aside and said, “The law was there as your school master. I have come to replace it, extend it and make its moral qualities real in your life. Now you must come to the Father, not through a Temple, not through a Tabernacle, not through an earthly priest, but through Me. I’ve torn all this other stuff down. Gentiles, you are welcome. Jews, you are welcome. There is only one way now a man can come to the Father.”
Once we come to Him by faith in Christ Jesus, He makes the two groups that were once divided by external religion, into one new person. He removed the barriers to our peace.
Secondly, He enables our peace by the fact that He remade us into a body of peace, not just a peaceful body, but a body of peace. Now remember what the word “peace” means. It means when two things cohere and nothing is in between them to cause conflict or irritation. Because of what Christ did, He has now come into our life and made us one with the Father. If I possess Christ in my life, I am at peace with the Father. But if you possess Christ in your life, I am supposed to be one with you. He has made us, Jew, Gentile, or whoever comes by faith in Christ, a brand new body, a body of peace. You see, the removal of barriers does not guarantee peace. So Christ took another step. He did something in us that caused us to be the body of His peace. In other words, all of us are one with God. All of us are enabled to be one with one another. Jesus didn’t just remove the barriers, He remade believers.
Now there are two things involved here in verses 15 and 16. First of all, it’s on an individual basis, and secondly, it’s on a corporate basis. It begins with His remaking us as individuals. Now, what did He do to enable our peace? Look in II Corinthians 5:17. It is an individual thing first, whether Jew or whether Gentile. Look at what he says here: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Now everything that used to be is gone. We have been remade as a brand new creature.
Now go back to our text in Ephesians 2:15, and we will see it again as he says it here. He says, “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” He did not take the Jew and make the Jew a Gentile. He did not take the Gentile and make the Gentile a Jew. He took the Jew who believed and the Gentile who believed, and raised them both up to a brand new standard and made them Christian. That’s what Christianity is all about. It’s a brand new race of people on this earth. Whereas Israel was separated unto Him in the Old Testament, now we have the absolute ultimate of that as He makes us His brand new creation. The world has never understood people like you and me. The word for “new” there is kainos. It means absolutely, totally, qualitatively brand new, never before seen. Nobody has a clue until they finally look at someone and realize he is inhabited by the Lord Jesus Himself, a brand new creation.
The Jews cannot look at us and say, “Hey, I am a believer, but you need to be circumcised.” They did that in the book of Acts, and Paul had to reprimand them. He started calling them legalizers, people who would come in and try to add law to grace. Oh no, the Jew does not have anything over us as Gentiles, but the Gentile, on the other hand, cannot point their finger at them. We have all been made one new body in the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, a Christian is just different. That’s what God did to solve the problem. He tore down the dividing wall. He made the ordinances of the law, the ceremonial law, obsolete, and He said, “Now, there is only one way to approach Me. You don’t come through a Temple. You come through Me. I am your High Priest, and when you come through Me,” Jesus said, “then you can have access to the Father. When you get to the Father, you are going to be a brand new creation. I’m going to transform you. You are now a believer.”
Jesus abolished that law, that ceremonial law that made people proud. He put religion to death. External religion has no place in the Christian’s life. He gave us a brand new internal birth that makes us one. Two have become one. The Jew and the Gentile have been made one in Jesus Christ.
You know, sometimes people say Colossians is the commentary on Ephesians, and Ephesians is the commentary on Colossians. Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon from the very same prison, so it is very appropriate to think that as the burden hit him for the Ephesians, that burden hit him also for those Colossians.
Let’s go over to Colossians and see what kind of new people we are in Christ Jesus. Look at Colossians 3:4. I want you to see that Jesus does not just simply give us life, Jesus is our life. Do we understand? We are not energized by what we do for Him, we are energized by His being in us and by our surrender to Him. It says in verse 4, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Now jump to verse 9: “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.”
Suppose I took my coat off and laid it aside. Now, I’d have to have another coat to put on. I have to take something off if I am going to put something else on. Paul says, “When you come to Christ, it is like taking off an old garment or lifestyle. You are not only who you were, but what you did. You put on a brand new garment. It is now who you are. You do what you do because you are what you are.” Now he says, “You put on that new garment. This is the garment, the new man, which you have put on. This is the new man that we have now become in Christ Jesus, both Jew and Gentile.”
Look at what he says in verse 10: “…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.” This new self involves Jesus being in me; Jesus being in you; Jesus being in a converted Jew; Jesus being in a converted Gentile. Now, since He is inside of us, He is going to perfect in us a brand new character that is going to come out of us. The way you know a Christian is not how well he plays church. The way you know a Christian is by how well he lets Jesus be Jesus in his life. The true miracle is His life-changing, transforming power within an individual’s life.
Now he says, “Put on the new garment.” Ephesians says that very clearly. “Put on the new man.” Here he says, “You have already put Him on.” Ephesians says, “Now put Him on.” In other words, every day potentially He is there. As I bow at the cross, as I decrease and put on Christ, then Christ perfects His character in and through my life. That is why we sing the song all the time, “Jesus, be Jesus in me. No longer me but Thee.” That’s the new race He has created, not a religious bunch of people, but people surrendered to a Lord who has entered inside of them and raised them up to a brand new standard.
Well, in verses 12-15 of Colossians 3 we find out what that new garment looks like: “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on….” This is the new garment that we have, a lifestyle. Please understand what I am saying. You don’t judge a Christian by how well he performs in church. You judge a Christian by how well he allows Jesus to be Jesus in his life. We may not do so well in the organization called the church, but friend, the church is not the organization. The church is the body of Christ, allowing Jesus’ life to be vibrant in and through it.
What’s it all like? First of all, he says to “put on a heart of compassion.” Now this word for compassion is a very tremendous word. It is the word that refers to compassion that you show and feel for somebody when they are suffering. You see, one of the first keys here is all of these things are relational. Everything has to do with our relationships with one another. If I put on that new garment, having made peace with God through Christ Jesus, then now something is different in me towards you. If you are suffering, my heart goes out to you. I am gifted certain ways, and out of my gift I will serve you. Out of your gift, you will serve someone. That heart of compassion is the first piece of that garment, the first thread.
Secondly, he says there is “kindness.” The word “kindness” goes far beyond kind deeds. It has to do with a heart that has been so touched by God that it has been tenderized. It has become so tender that people are literally drawn to you, never repulsed away from you. Do you know any Christians you don’t like to be around? They either don’t know Jesus or they are refusing to wear that new garment. As a result of that, they are not at peace with you, and they are not at peace with God, in the sense that they are not walking in that peace day by day. They are not maintaining that peace in their life. When you find a person surrendered to Him, you are going to find an attitude in them that is going to draw people to them, not push people away from them.
Thirdly, there is “humility.” The word for humility here is tapeinophrosune. It means a mind-set of humility. All of a sudden you don’t think of yourself as highly as you used to think. Those proud Jews crawl off that proud pedestal, and they come down. Those proud idolatrous Gentiles crawl off that pedestal, and they get down. When you get at the cross, you have got to get down. You begin to realize that you are nothing apart from Him, and you never put yourself in front of anybody else.
Next is “gentleness.” The word “gentleness” could be translated meekness. The word is a picture here of a wild horse that has been tamed. It’s power under control. Used in relationships, it means you have the right to burn your brother because he wronged you, but you refuse to use that power because you love your brother. You have been tamed by the precious love of Jesus Christ in your life.
Paul uses the word “patience.” It means long-suffering. It means you don’t ever give up on people. This is that new garment. This is what we are. We are not known by how many Sabbaths we recognize. We are not known by how many church services we attend. We are known by how we treat our brother. We are known in our relationships one with another. If Christ is our peace, the enabler of our peace, then we are going to learn to be long-suffering. It is God in us. That’s what God is to us. That’s what He is in us to other people.
“Bearing with one another” means you hold one another up. I like that. You hold one another up whatever you are going through. You may not know the answer, but you just get in there and get up under that person and help hold him up. When you get tired, he holds you up for a while. You just hold one another up. Whatever a person is going through, you have that burden to hold them up.
Verse 13 goes on to say, “forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Now folks, this is part of the new garment. He gives us the charge to forgive. It is part of the character. “If anyone has a complaint” actually has the idea that somebody owes you and they can’t repay you. Forgive them. How do you do it? Well, the character involved here is, as He forgave us, we forgive one another. That’s it, right there. This is the new garment.
God says, “I’ve taken a Jew over here, and I’ve taken a Gentile over here. I didn’t make the Jew a Gentile, and I didn’t make the Gentile a Jew. I took both of them when they received Me and raised them up and made them believers, filled with the Spirit of God, capable of allowing my character to be produced through their life. Don’t measure them by how many they have in church. Measure them by the character of Jesus that is seen in their life. Folks, if you are not putting on that garment, you had better reexamine whether you have it to put on.
Secondly, find out what in your life has disturbed that peaceful relationship with God and that peaceful relationship with others. Now look at verse 14 to see the glue that holds all these threads together. He says, “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Now I like the way it is translated: the perfect glue or the perfect bond of unity. You know, you don’t have one or two of these things. If you have one, you are going to have to have them all because they are all part of the same entity.
The garment is made up of many threads. You can’t say, “Well, I’ve got two out of nine. Hopefully I’ll get the other seven.” No, sir. If you’ve got one, you’ve got them all. That’s the garment, and the thing that holds it all together is that bond of love. Folks, everything we do is out of a heart of love, loving one another unconditionally, no strings attached, loving one another. That’s what we are now. That’s what the saved Jew is. That’s what the saved Gentile is. We are not known because of how big the church is or where it is located. You are known by whether or not you have a relationship with one another that loves one another, that has a heart of compassion, and all these things that we have mentioned.
Look at verse 15: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Now what did He do? He remade us individually into a body of peace. That peace becomes a referee. Referees are there to blow the whistle when something is amiss. I had a referee one night grab me by the jersey in a college ball game and drag me to the scorer’s table. He was so upset with me and told me not to do that again. That’s the way referees are. That’s what they are there for.
What Paul is saying here is, “Do you know whether or not you have the garment? Do you know whether or not you are a believer?” It does not depend on how well you do church, but by whether or not the peace of God is in your heart and you’re at peace with God and with man. It’s a referee. When it’s not there, the whistle will blow; the Holy Spirit will let you know something is amiss in your life and in my life. Folks, we are measured by whether or not this garment is on in our life.
As we go back to our text in Ephesians 2:16, he says, “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross.” Here it tends to look at all believers, Jew and Gentile, and how we are all brought into one body. There are no more barriers, no more races of people. Christ has removed it all. He has made us all one in Him. We have been made a holy nation. Israel was set apart unto God. God didn’t do with Israel what He does with you and me. When He makes us and transforms us, we now are that holy nation that He has made, bonded together with a common purpose, bonded together with a common goal in life.
Look at I Peter 2:9. It says this very clearly. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” You know the term that we use when we say the pledge of allegiance to the flag, “One nation under God.” You know we really can’t say that about America. The only people that applies to are believers. We are a holy nation, one nation under God, from every different cultures and all different races and languages. We have all been made one in Jesus Christ. Our citizenship is in heaven as Philippians 3:20 says. Peter says, “While we are on this earth, we are aliens and strangers.” So whenever we get together, we ought to just rejoice.
Do you realize what goes on when you meet to worship is not possible any other time. When you get Christians together we can rejoice together. That is how we get fed and encourage one another and equip one another. That is not the place where we destroy peaceful relationships that God has freely given. Folks, that happens in church. It happens in my church, but it never happens unless you have a contentious person who is not walking in the peace of God, who is not filled up with the peace of God and wearing the garment of that peace with his brother. We have the same Lord. He produces in us the same character. We have the same purpose. We have the same destiny. We are all one body. We are a holy nation, bound together by His work in us. This causes the Jew and the Gentile to be uniquely bonded together. Paul says, “He has made Jew and Gentile one in Jesus Christ.” We are brand new creations. Not one single thing before is distinctive to us. What’s distinctive now is the character of Jesus lived out of our lives.
Well, one more time, how do you get it? Verse 16 says, that He “might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” All men are born in enmity with God. Jesus went to the cross so that enmity could be put away and we could be reconciled and have peace with God once again.
Verses 17-18 say, “And He came and preached peace to you who are far away, and peace to you who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” The word “access” can mean entrance or doorway. What he is saying is, “If the Spirit of God has done a work in your heart and in my heart, then we both have free access to the Father. That’s where peace begins.” From that point on, it’s a matter of our choice to let it permeate our lives, putting on the new garment.
Ephesians to me is just a wonderful book. He is laying the ground work for all the commands he is going to give in chapters 4-6. We are not to be known by how well we do church. We are to be known by how well we display Christ. There is a huge difference.