Saturday, July 10, 2010

EPHESIANS: Aliens No More - One In Christ

We now continue in our study of the book of Ephesians, and will conclude chapter two. Last time we ended at vs. 10, and so we will pick it up at vs. 11 and on to the end (vs.22).

There is a lot of controversy today in our government and our nation regarding illegal aliens, and there is a push for amnesty among these; that with a stroke of a pen, some 18 million illegals could become citizens without due process. Without touching this extremely hot topic, I simply use it to illustrate a point:

We were once strangers, aliens as it were to God; truly alienated from God, separated from the Almighty by our sin (ISAIAH 59:2). Yet we have become citizens of His glorious kingdom, indeed - born into the family of God and forming an entirely new race, a new nation and a new life unto eternity! And this was conducted not with some legal contrivance and the stroke of a pen, but rather by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our LORD! Not with ink on some legal document, but by the blood of the Lamb on a Cross!

And everyone and any one who desires to come to God may do so, freely, through His Son Jesus Christ. Repentance and giving over the rights to one's own life, surrendering them and oneself over to the LORD and receiving by grace His gift of salvation is all that's required.

Back in the book of Acts, the LORD led Peter to travel to the house of one Cornelius the Centurion, a man who prayed and fasted before God, and apparently one whose prayers were heard! Peter, once he arrived, understood what the LORD was doing and began to preach the Gospel, and upon completion, the Centurion and those in the house with him were touched by God and were saved!

It was the beginning of a new phase in the church, one in which Gentiles were being saved and brought into salvation without having been converts or adherents to Judaism. This was such a controversy in their day, that they had to have a council (ACTS Ch. 15) to determine just how these Gentile believers were to be dealt with.

The conclusion was that these were legitimate saints, and fellow-heirs who obtained salvation in Jesus Christ; even Peter states as much in rather eloquent terms:

ACTS 15:7-9, 11
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Notice how cleverly Peter puts that last part: For centuries Jews believed they had the 'inside track' with God, and that the Gentiles were nothing more than 'kindling for the fires of hell'. Yet here Peter elevates the Gentiles and their means of salvation through Jesus Christ, apart from the Mosaic Law, and the Old Covenant and how the Jews can be saved "even as they"!

Here in the latter half of chapter 2 in Ephesians, "the apostle to the Gentiles", Paul speaks on the equality and 'oneness' of Jews and Gentiles in one body, that is, the body of Christ!

EPH 2:11-12
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

Back in the book of Genesis, the LORD gave the commandment to all the Earth's people, after the flood of Noah, to "go forth and replenish the Earth." Yet, they didn't 'go forth', they rallied together and built a city and a tower, and engaged in religious practices not ordained of God. That city was called Babel (See GEN. 11).

They rejected the commandment of the LORD, thus refusing to choose to follow His ways; so God Himself chose someone for Himself, a man from the land of the Chaldees, from the city of Ur (modern day Iraq). His name was Abram ("father of many") and his name eventually was changed to Abraham ("father of many nations").

Note: the name change included the 'ha' sound, and in order to pronounce this sound, you need to exhale your breath, and this is significant because in the Jewish language, the letters required symbolize "spirit" or "breath". Once the promises of God began to get realized in the life of Abram, his name was changed, and by the Spirit of the LORD involved in his life, these promises came about! The same could be said of Sarai: when the 'ha' sound was added to her name, she became known as 'Sarah'.

Being the father of many nations, we now understand from a New Testament perspective, that among others, he is the father of the nation of Israel, and as well as this, the father of all those who believe God by faith alone, apart from the Law, ritual, religious practices, etc. that is, the church (AND it should be duly noted that Abraham and the faith he displayed was more than four hundred years before the Mosaic Law; see GAL. 3:16-18) .

During the history of Israel however, before the church was actualized, any one who desired to approach the one and true God, Creator of heaven and earth, had to do so by becoming a proselyte of Israel, that is, they had to become circumcised and adopt Judaism, following the Law.

As Paul indicated here in these verses, the uncircumcised Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise (vs. 12)

By stating that these were called uncircumcision by those of the circumcision, and further stating (referring to circumcision) "made by hands" (vs.11) reveals the externalism of such practices, that may OR MAY NOT indicate any real spirituality of the practitioner. Remember Paul's words in Romans:

ROM 2:29
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

THAT is a Jew after God's own heart! Yet still, this included only the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Apart from a conversion to Judaism, the Gentiles had "no hope" and were "without God in the world" (vs.11).

Beyond the Mosaic Covenant that entailed the Law, the Tabernacle/Temple and personal conduct, diet, civic and religious duties, there was yet another covenant that was promised to Israel, a new covenant as spoken by Jeremiah the prophet:

JER 31:31-33
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Upon the LORD Jesus' triumphant arrival into Jerusalem, riding upon the donkey as prophesied (ZECH 9:9) He could hear the celebrating shouts of joy as people exclaimed "Hosanna, hosanna to the Son of David (a Messianic title!)" and yet He wasn't rejoicing Himself in their apparent welcome, rather He wept for He knew that the nation would reject Him, and crucify Him.

MATT 23:37
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

So the fulfillment of the New Covenant as spoken by Jeremiah would not be realized in the nation of Israel AT THAT TIME, but will be, for the Word of God cannot be broken. Rather, because of Israel's initial rejection of her Messiah, a door, great and effectual, has been opened wide, bringing a cascade of brilliant, gleaming Light of Hope for the Gentile nations, as the LORD Himself proclaimed:

MATT 21:42-43
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Here in the book of Ephesians, Paul has already pronounced the glorious treasures of Jesus Christ bestowed upon the Gentiles, and how they are now "fellow citizens with the saints and with the household of God" (vs. 19). Paul, a "Hebrew of Hebrews" regularly refers to these Gentiles (which Jews commonly referred to as 'dogs' as opposed to God's own people who were classified as 'sheep'; Gentiles were also referred to as 'goats') as brethren; something that we shouldn't overlook in its significance.

Essentially the thrust of the second half of this chapter focuses on the unity we have in Christ, and that as the church, there are no remaining distinctions between Jews and Gentiles spiritually speaking and in regards to our right standing before God.

EPH 2:13
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

One could fill every shelf of every library on the face of the planet with commentary on this one verse, and never exhaust the full meaning contained therein!
Two other verses regarding unity in the church, with no Jewish and Gentile distinctions (among others) are:

GAL 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

COL 3:11
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Plato, nearly three hundred years prior to Christ Jesus, once made a fascinating statement that revealed true insight:
"It may be possible for Deity to forgive sin, but I cannot see how."

Plato understood the paradox of a Deity Who on the one hand is a God of absolute holiness, and on the other, a God of love and compassion. How could these dichotomies be resolved without God violating one or the other of these two primary attributes? If He executes His justice according to His holiness and condemns sinners to hell, where is His love? If He overlooks such sin and accepts sinners as they are, bringing them into heaven, then where is His Holiness? How can both of these primary attributes be satisfactorily satisfied while rescuing the sinner from his plight of perdition?

Answer: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the God-man whose heart while human, was perfectly sinless; while God entirely, yet still a man. He is the Blessed Bridge by which we sinful humans can meet a Holy God face to face and not be destroyed by the brilliance of His Holiness!

We Gentiles are that other "nation" spoken of by the LORD, we are those "other sheep" as spoken of in -

JOHN 10:16
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

And as the Apostle Paul elaborates on this same truth:

ROM 11:11
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

We Gentiles were "far off" and how far we were! Left only with creation to testify of the truth that there is indeed a Creator, and our (God given) conscience to guide us, but with no revelation of Truth, no revelation of the nature of God, no revelation that would guide us into a right relationship with our Maker.
Spiritually blind and ignorant, we Gentiles would stumble in darkness, not knowing where we were or where we were going, yet by God's grace and infinitely wise plan in accordance with His foreknowledge, He saw fit to use the rejection by Israel of her Messianic destiny as the means by which a venue would open up and grant us Gentiles welcome into the kingdom!
ASTOUNDING!!

Jew and Gentile are now the recipients of righteousness, together partaking of that salvation granted by Jesus Christ, Y'shua ha Meschiach, and forming a new entity: not Israel, not the Gentile nations, but a holy nation, a peculiar (purchased) people, a royal priesthood . . .

1 PETER 2:9
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

The body of Christ, the church, the ekklesia (called out [from the world] assembly):

EPH 2:14-15
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Saint, if saint you are, you are not one who is merely reformed by religion and all of its accompanying ritualistic practices, nor are you one who through intellectual pursuit changed your perspective in life by a mere 'Christian philosophy or enlightenment' - just as we were members of the fallen human race via Adam, the first man, we are now members of a new race, via "the Last Adam" (1 COR. 15:44-54), that is, Jesus Christ because of the spiritual rebirth (JOHN 3:3-5; 1 PET. 1:23; 2 COR. 5:17).

This is in all actuality the qualifiable truth of the matter. You are a member of a new race of people, the progeny of Jesus Christ the Head of the church! Saint, you are a "new man [or woman]" with a citizenship that holds no jurisdiction anywhere on this planet.
We are truly aliens whose beliefs and practices in accordance with the Holy Scriptures may one day be considered illegal here in America, just as it is in most parts of this world! Indeed, we can in a spiritual sense be considered 'illegal aliens'!
Our citizenship is in heaven (PHIL 3:20 - note: in KJV the word "conversation" means "citizenship") and we ourselves are ambassadors (2 COR 5:20), representatives of that culture that is Christ Jesus - His ways, His commandments, His character, His motivations, His ideals, His Order and Government. We truly are in this world, but not of this world any more than our LORD Jesus is "of this world" (see JOHN 17:16).

Far be it then that citizens of heaven, ambassadors of Christ, should follow after, mimic, and practice the ways of this world. It would be a shame upon Christ if we were to "go native" and forsake that heavenly culture in favor of the sinful culture this world is inundated with and obey the course of this world (EPH 2: 2) rather than the LORD Jesus Himself. Yet for so much of the church today, here in America, that is precisely what we are seeing!

Is there a need all across this nation to call every saint to repentance, and return to the LORD Jesus with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength? Obviously - but it will only happen if (perhaps until?) as we the church, get serious in our lives with the LORD with serious repentance . . .

Getting back to the text in our study:

We are one body, established in unity by the LORD Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit which creates in us a living temple for Him to dwell in. There is no need to engage in organizations, councils, dialogues, pledges, or rallies in order to come up with some artificial form of unity; we are already one in Christ Jesus!
This is why I am mystified by those churches that insist on people 'becoming members' of a church; if people are truly saved, born of God's Spirit, they already are members of the church, the body of Christ!

Speaking further on vs. 15, the LORD Jesus ". . . abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances . . ."

This abolishing is also spoken of in

2 COR 3:13 
And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

The same word "abolish" is used in:

2 TIM 1:19 
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

The Greek word for "abolish" is katargeo and it means "to be rendered entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig., - to destroy (5x), do away (3x), abolish (3x), cumber (1x), loose (1x), cease (1x), fall (1x), deliver (1x). to become (make) of no (none, without) effect, being (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void.

Katargeo as a verb means lit. "to reduce to inactivity and is translated 'abolish' in EPH 2:15; 2 TIM 1:10; and 2 COR 3:13. In this and similar words not loss of being is implied but loss of well being. The barren tree cumbering the ground, making it useless for the purpose of its existence (LUKE 13:7); the unbelief of the Jews could not 'make of none effect' the faithfulness of God (ROM 3:3); the preaching of the gospel could not 'make of none effect' the moral enactments of the Law (ROM 3:31); the Law could not make the promise of 'none effect' (ROM 4:14; GAL 3:17); the effect of the identification of the believer with Christ in His death is to render inactive his body in regard to sin (ROM 6:6).

The effect of the Law was inactivated by the LORD Jesus as He offered Himself up on the Cross; those of us who come under the grace of God would not face the Judgment of God or its ruinous consequences. Our sins were already judged at the Cross where our precious Savior suffered the penalty of all of them, for us . . . for you . . . for me.

Can we ever praise Him long enough or fully equitably enough for this marvelous sacrifice He made on our behalf, and for no other reason than His love for us??

Note: in vs. 14 it starts out with the word "peace" and at the end of vs. 15, it ends with the same word, "peace". He is truly the PRINCE of PEACE, and as He begins the work of salvation, there is peace, and this endures to the end, where when all is said and done, trials and burdens are finally laid down, and we face that 'final curtain' at death's door, that peace remains, steadfast and secure, ample in provision, and perpetually deep with no discernable bottom.
It has been said that "still waters run deep" and yet the water of Life is deepest of all. It is effervescent, lively and brimming over with peace beyond understanding.

The peace OF God is granted to all who have obtained peace WITH God -

ROM 5:1
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

COL 3:15
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Globalists today explain that they desire peace and not war (caveat emptor), and the only way to effect peace is through unity, thus the push to unite governments as well as religions into a unified whole, and thereby acquiring peace, and an absence of strife, contention and war.

The fallacy is that they can acheive unity; at best what they will get is uniformity by conformity, and that by coersion. The heart of man is rebellious and it will not yield willingly of its own accord. This has been proven out through every regime of oppression and terror in history. During the most oppressive times by the most horrendous of rulers, people found ways to rebel, and most died because of it; yet they'd rather die than to be slaves.

Peace can only be acquired through the Prince of Peace, and received by willing, yielded hearts that desire God and seek to be reconciled with Him. The only means of acheiving this worthiest of goals is through receiving Jesus Christ as one's LORD and Savior and by becoming His willing 'slave'. Bringing union between Creator and creature, and communion between Savior and saint is the single, entirely viable way to peace everlasting.

EPH 2:16-17
And that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Whether near (Jews) or far off (Gentiles), none could obtain and experience the peace of God without the cross of Christ and the work of atonement He accomplished there, alone.
It is the cross and the power of Jesus Christ, and His enablement for us to "die to ourselves" to all that's within us prone to hate, to envy, to have malice, strife, violence and lust and every evil that would perpetuate itself in a never ending cycle of misery and destruction, and in its place create a heart capable of loving others, even enemies, and to bless those that curse them, and to serve the thankless and minister to the hard hearted. These are the peacemakers (Jews and Gentiles in Christ; see MATT. 5:9-12, 43-46) and by their hearts and actions the reign of peace is seen in microcosm. One day such a reign will unite heaven with earth, and righteousness shall fill the earth!

EPH 2:18-19
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

God has become our Father, and as His children we find little enough difference among us that's hardly worthy of mention. We are now fellow citizens, and saints (sanctified ones) and members of His household. While there may be some distinctions among us at present, being Jews and Gentiles, these are temporary and won't amount to anything in eternity. We may as well lay aside such temporal distinctions, and be blessed in being "of the household of God"! Access to God the Father - - something that the world could never have, nor any religion obtain! Yet freely given to us by His Spirit who dwells in us, and by which we cry "Abba, Father"!

EPH 2:20-22
And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

In these concluding verses, Paul employs the idea of buildings, both their foundations, the chief corner stone and the structure itself, namely the temple. The foundational aspects of the church of course, are the apostles and prophets who were led and guided by the LORD Jesus, the chief Cornerstone (cornerstones guides the masons as they lay stone, in strict accordance with that cornerstone).

By these apostles and prophets we have the Word of God conveyed, and the Word Himself delivered it to them, and this same Word instructs us in the building of this Temple and how it's to be managed, that is the church. Let not any one say that they will heed only the Word of Jesus Christ, and not any apostle or prophet, for these were authorized by none other than the LORD Jesus Himself! All of these were likewise inspired by God! Hear the words of Jesus Himself on this matter:

MATT 23:34
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,

JOHN 16:12-13
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

2 PETER 1:20
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Before the subject of the Temple was in reference to the body of the believer on an individual basis; here the Temple represents the collective body of Christ, as each member is a 'stone' built up into the structure of the church universal, that mystical body represented throughout this Earth, but also has some residence in the glories of heaven as well!

1 PETER 2:5
You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (also remember MATT 16:18).

As we are these living stones "fitted together" let us not have anything between us, for any gap in the walls by way of contention or strife or grudge will only create a way for the enemy to enter into this sacred building. Only let the love of Jesus, that holy mortar fill that space between us, and grant us the security of knowing that by that same love we are safe from the destructive influences of the attacks of the enemy.

We have great cause to rejoice, no longer alienated from God, but fellow citizens and joint heirs of Christ Jesus, children of our heavenly Abba who's unfailing love will keep us in His grace and peace!

This concludes the study of chapter two. Next time, we begin with chapter three ( . . . rather profound, no?).

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