Thru Ephesians: a sermon series
Ephesians 2:11-22; Jeremiah 23:1-6
We are now in our third week into our sermon series through the book of Ephesians. So far, we talked about discovering God's Plan and Purpose in our redemption, our union in Christ; and finding life through dying to self, as Christ exemplified by his death and resurrection.
Last Sunday, we concluded our sermon with Scripture exhortation to live our new life as we are called; a life filled with conscious understanding of the love of God. The life that discerns the love of God as his fullness fills in us. We were reminded of our secret co-existent nature with Christ. In that, through God's unyielding love, believers have constant fillings and never run out of hope, strength, and gratitude even in their state of fragility. We are called to experience and exercise "True love" like those in the Kingdom of Arendelle where everyone was giving space to exercise their true selves including Olaf the Snowman (Frozen).
Picking up from where we left off last Sunday, we will now move on to the last passage of chapter two and the beginning of chapter three. In this chapter, Paul makes a dramatic turn of discourse. In chapter one and half of chapter two, Paul's emphasis has been to layout the relationship between God and humankind. He spoke of redemption and God's love that is beyond comprehension. He states that believers have received the immense blessings and God's gracious richness of heaven (1:3, 17). Paul maintains a better description of the vertical actions of God and expectations of believers to praise and glorify him.
Now Paul turns the table to the horizontal trend as the outcome and the fruits of the vertical actions of God. It is to say that after God had finished the first chapter and created relationship through adoption, he has now come to express the purpose of such actions. Paul reminded Ephesians once again; that they were dead and were far away from the knowledge of God's promise. However, through Christ, they were brought near and called children of God. “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6
The promise of the physical sign of covenant through circumcision has now ceased and been replaced. And in this later day, God makes universal Covenant through the Cross, fulfilled in Christ, and effective only through faith. The work of the cross was accomplished in the blood of Jesus Christ and has brought oneness and formed a new humanity in Christ. This was the divine plan! God's eternal purpose was to "create in himself one new humanity" through the blood of Christ (v.14-15)
God's initiative has brought down the wall of hostility. In this new assembly, the old humanity has no place. God himself has desired to create a renewed assembly in the body of Jesus Christ. Thus, "it is Jesus' death that brings down the "dividing wall, that is, the hostility between Jew and Gentile" and that enables the creation of "one new humanity."
This passage describes ways in which the new life of believers differs from their old life (Richard Cousar):
What unites us is bigger and more real than whatever divides us. We are divided over who makes Good Pizza. Between the giant New York Pizza with no topping and Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. We are divided over how we call soft drinks whether it is Soda or popes (as BodoJwok would always refer to diet Pepsi as white Soda). We are divided between the coasts. We treat ourselves as the left and the right, republicans, and democrats or maybe those in between. But at the end of the day, we are all members of God's family. We all showed up on funerals and experience sympathy over indecent treatment of others.
Today as Presbyterians, we are observing this Sunday as Mathew 25 and Criminal Justice Sunday and in the Spirit of MLK's Birthday, the social justice icon. Today many Presbyterian pastors will be preaching on dismantling racism, encouraging Race Relations and justice to enhance our efforts toward a shared identity. The words of MLK are now alive and remain truthful to what he had preached and predicted many years past. He believed that there will be a time in America where racial divides are no more and America will see "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of [Unity] brotherhood." Even if this is partially fulfilled in our lifetime, we are encouraged to work consciously until we see the church and human beings cherish their unity over diverse differences. We are growing to the realization of our oneness and are exhorted to exercise such unity Now on earth. We find the meaning of life when we discover the deep meaning of our unity in Christ. Christians are encouraged to strive to do good work as the fruits of their faith and stay strong in faith. We are built in the house of the New Humanity whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. "In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God" (vv. 21-22).
We are called to peace, to care for one another as it is preached by Christ (Matthew 25:35). That horizontally all of us can treat one another as ONE and vertically come to the Father in praises through the "same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us" (17-18)"
As Paul urges the Ephesians, this message speaks to us today to remind us of our unity; "I urge you to behave with all humility, and gentleness, and patience. I urge you to bear with one another in love. I urge you eagerly to preserve that unity which the Holy Spirit can bring by binding things together in peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called with one hope of your calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. " Eph 4:2-6
I leave you with Paul's calling to the Romans when he exhorts them how to exercise their love and said, "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not rise. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position" (Romans 12:9-16)
As the humanitarian icon, Audrey Hepburn says, “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” Therefore, friends let us hold on to what is "Good" as God continues to renew us unto eternal sanctification. We are one, voyaging to one destination and Christ is our best friend who springs strength in our weary paths. He promises, to keep us united until he comes again! Amen