The Church United in Christ
(Listen to this sermon here)
Last week I preached a sermon from Ephesians 2:1-10 at Redeeming Life Church. In that text, the apostle Paul explains what our “new normal” is in terms of our personal identity in Christ. This week I'll be preaching from Ephesians 2:11-22 where we will see that Paul now turns his attention toward laying out what our “new normal” is in terms of our collective role in the body of Christ. Below are some thoughts going into my sermon
He begins the passage by encouraging us to “remember.” What is it that we should remember? Well, the word “therefore” in verse 11 references everything he has just said in Ephesians 2-10. With that as the backdrop, Paul begins using many strong words to describe our state before the saving work of Christ took effect in our lives. We were aliens, strangers, without hope and without God, Paul says. He goes to show that because of the saving work of Christ on the cross, unlike people, are now able to be brought near to Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
Paul uses the Jews and Gentiles as his example in how this reconciliation looks. The Jews and Gentiles both had their own way of dealing with the law. The Jews, who were God’s chosen people, believed that keeping all the rules (the Law) equaled salvation and right standing before God. They looked down upon anyone who didn’t keep the Law, especially the Gentiles. The Gentiles, who were not God’s chosen people, disregarded the Law and were often called the “uncircumcision” (Ephesians 2:11) which would have been serious slander. The tension between these two groups is on display all throughout the Old and New Testament. So who was the group that had it all “figured out”? Well, interestingly enough, neither.
We read in Ephesians 2:13-18 that Christ has now secured an incredible victory for His Kingdom by breaking down the wall of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles and even goes as far as to say that they two have become one, in Christ! This could have only taken place due to the power of Christ. Paul further elaborates on the fact that now, in Christ, these two groups can now experience unity and oneness because Christ has made a way. He has accomplished their salvation and now the two can forget about their previous debates (hopefully) and focus on becoming a unified people – the Church.
This is interesting, isn’t it?
Today we live in a culture were we strive to life up our differences and celebrate our uniqueness. While certainly God made each of us uniquely, (Ephesians 2:10) we were also created for more than just our own individual pursuits. According to Ephesians 2:19-22, individualism as a primary concern no longer has a place within the context of the Church. Why? Because Paul says that, ultimately, the Church isn’t about you! Look at verse 20. It says Christ is the Cornerstone. The cornerstone is the stone that is placed first. Every stone that is placed after that must be in alignment with the cornerstone, otherwise the structure will eventually be compromised. We are not the center – Christ is. Together we are being built for a beautiful and divine purpose (Ephesians 2:20-22) which ultimately is to display the glory of God by being a place where the Spirit of God can dwell.
What does this mean for us today?
First, your Christian life is meant to be centered on Christ, the Cornerstone. How are you doing with that? Are you the center of your life? Do you call the shots? Or does Christ?
Second, as we submit to making Christ the center, we will continually be built together, as the Church, into a place where the Spirit of God can dwell. A unified Church, locally and globally, is a vessel through which the glory of God can reside here on earth and be made known. Therefore, getting along with your Christian brothers and sisters matters greatly. Do you have broken relationships with a Christian brother/sister? Is there reconciliation needed? Forgiveness needed? If the answer is yes, my encouragement would be to seek reconciliation with that brother/sister.
Because our unity is not only creating a place for the Spirit to dwell but it’s also one of the primary ways Jesus told us the unbelieving world would know that He is the Son of God. This leads us to the third way this text applies to our lives this week.
John 17:20-23 says: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
Did you catch that? Jesus said that the world would know that Jesus was sent from God by how you and I love each other and remain in unity with one another. Therefore, unity must be a paramount concern for us, Church!
When the Church stands united, the Church shines brightest
If you’re out of unity with a brother/sister my hope and prayer is that you would seek reconciliation this week. Ask the Lord for help and have courage to admit your own failings and have humility to show grace if you’ve been wronged. Don’t wait for the other person to come to you – take the initiative.
If Christ can unite people like the Jews and Gentiles, he can work through whatever issue of unity you’re facing today.
Trust Him and do your part; the witness of the Church depends on it.