Sermon on Ephesians 2:13-22
Text: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 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 access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, a wall was constructed separating East Berlin, Germany, which was under the control of the Russians, and West Berlin, which was controlled by NATO. To many people, that wall was a symbol of oppression. One hundred people died trying to escape East Berlin by going over, around or under the wall. It seemed as though that wall would stand forever. However, in 1989, the seemingly impossible took place. People were allowed to travel between East and West Berlin. In 1990 that wall was torn down and the two Germanys were reunited. If you watched news from that time, you saw people celebrating that reunion, as the wall was torn down. This morning we are going to talk about a wall and its destruction. WHEN THE WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN. 1. Some Walls Seem Too Solid. 2. Jesus Has Destroyed All Walls. 3. All Christians Are Now One People.
Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians in modern-day Turkey. The congregation was mostly Gentile, that is to say, not Jewish. A rivalry existed between Gentiles and Jews. It was a rivalry that ended up in hatred. Paul speaks of the “dividing wall of hostility.” Why was there this hatred? It was because of the law of God, or rather, the misuse of God’s law. The Jews lorded it over the Gentiles that they were the chosen people. God had chosen their ancestors. God had given their ancestors the law on Mount Sinai. Because the Gentiles were ignorant of the law, the Jews felt that the Gentiles were not fit to associate with.
No doubt, the Gentiles became sick and tired of hearing all about how special the Jewish people were. They were keeping the law and the Gentiles were not all that special. If someone keeps telling you how much better they are than you, you know that you would soon become tired of it. Besides all that, the Gentiles also saw how many of the Jews would try to find loopholes in the law, so that they could do what they wanted, thus showing themselves to be hypocrites and bringing shame to the God they served.
This rivalry became hatred between the Jews and Gentiles. It did not look as though there was any way this wall would ever come down. There are also many walls today that may seem to be too solid to come down. In our society, there is discrimination and prejudice against people because of their race, color, sex or national origin. We may not think that we are, but ask yourself if you have ever had an opinion formed about someone, even before you’ve talked to them, based solely on the way that the person looked? Do we assume someone is going to act in a negative way against us, and then been surprised when they are nice to us? That is a wall in us.
Another wall happens in our lives when someone that we know does something bad to us, or we think that someone did something bad to us. Right away, we build a wall of hostility against that person. They’re not going to hurt me again and I will try to get back at them for any wrong, whether real or imagined. In other words, I’m going to hold a grudge against them. We are all capable of holding grudges and often we do so without realizing it. We come up with all sorts of excuses why we hold onto that grudge. However, the fact of the matter is that it is wrong. We may think to ourselves that we cannot help it. It is a wall that seems too solid to come down, much like that wall in Berlin.
However, like the Berlin Wall was broken down, so also all earthly walls can come down. How? We read in verse 14, “[Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” Jesus came and destroyed the wall of the law that stood between the Jews and Gentiles. How he did this is found in verses 15&16. First of all, “by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.” Jesus, first of all, abolished the law by living his entire life in perfect obedience to it. Jesus kept his Father’s will perfectly. His purpose was “to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” He wanted to bring peace. He wanted there to be one body, not two warring factions.
However, this reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles was of secondary importance. The primary purpose was reconciliation with God. In verse 16 we read, “to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Paul points to the cross as the means by which God and man are brought to peace. Because of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, all of our sins have been paid for, including the walls of hostility that are built. Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. Because our sins have been forgiven, there is no longer any reason to view God as an angry judge, who will exact his justice on us. Rather, he is our loving Father, who has completely forgiven us. He has forgiven us, never to bring them back to accuse us again. Paul speaks of the wonderful relationship we now have with God in verse 18, “ through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” We have access to the Father. Because of the cross, the law has been abolished. Therefore, we are no longer under its demands for salvation. Peace has been established. There is peace between God and man. Therefore, we can also live in peace with those around us. Because Christ died for all people, who am I to say that this person or that person is not important? Who am I to look down on someone else, especially in the family of believers?
That thought of being one is predominant in our text, especially in the latter verses. We read in verse 19, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” Here Paul reminds us of the first thing that unifies us. We are all members of God’s household. None of us deserved to be, but in love God adopted us as his own. He created that saving faith in our hearts. We are all a part of one family with God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother. This is the first thing that unifies us.
Secondly, we read in verses 20&21, we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Paul says your faith is something else you have in common. It is based on the apostles and prophets, in other words, the Bible. Our faith is not some sort of wishy-washy set of ideals put down by a human being. This is God’s Word, which he inspired the apostles and prophets to write.
The cornerstone of our faith is Jesus. Note that he is the cornerstone. He is the first stone that is set and all the rest of the building grows from that starting point. All Christians are a part of this building. Paul calls us “a holy temple in the Lord.” Jesus put us there. He lovingly put each one of us in the place where we belong. Jesus helps us grow together. We grow in our individual faiths, but we also grow together, as we help and care for one another. We also grow when we share the gospel message with others.
Why do we exist? The temple, which we are part of, exists to serve Jesus and glorify him. We want to do things that are pleasing to God. This is our way of thanking God for all that he has done for us. We also live to glorify him. We want everything we do to praise God. We do not want to do things that bring shame to our Father. We are built together. We are one family. We are one.
Since that is the case, that we are one, striving for the same goal, let us not ruin the unity by holding grudges, either with people outside of the family of God, for that might drive them away from God, or within the family of God. This would destroy the unity that Christ created when he brought us to faith. When we are wronged, whether real or perceived, forgive. This does not mean, ‘I’ll forgive, but I will look for my chance to get even later.’ Rather, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. God does not hold any grudges against us. If anyone would have a legitimate reason to hold a grudge, it would be God. However, he does not. For Christ’s sake, he has forgiven and forgotten. May we, in response to God’s love, forgive as we have been forgiven. Then, we can live together as one.
Even the most solid of walls will eventually fall down. The people of Jericho found that out when Joshua and the people of Israel marched around it. The Berlin Wall came down. So may we, with Christ’s help, tear down any walls that we may have built. We are one family. Let us live as a close family. May God also help us to look beyond ourselves. Where there are walls that our sinful natures have built, as we see people who are different from us, may we, out of love for our God and those around us, tear them down. May we see these people as God sees them, people who were so important that he sent his Son to purchase their salvation through his life, death, and resurrection. May the family continue to grow until we worship him on high at the end of time. May those wall keep tumbling down. Amen.
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