ALIVE Citizens | Ephesians 2:11-22
Christopher Rich – October 13, 2019
ALIVE | The Way Unearned | PART V
ALIVE CITIZENS | Ephesians 2:11-22
Introduction | We are all Outsiders
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue our series walking the through the book of Ephesians called ALIVE: The way Unearned where we see life with God has been given to us.
In Christ, we have been made alive for a purpose. To live in the way God has created us. Both the rewards of and endurance in this life are by His grace alone so they are by nature unearned.
What does it mean to be an outsider? We don’t like to think of ourselves that way, we like to assume we’re pretty normal, main stream, Where have you felt isolated, excluded, or purposely left out. Where have face rejection or experienced hostility from others? This happens at so many moments when we face walls or experience barriers between us and other people. We experience walls in our lives put up by others and we put walls up. From sand box, to the cool kids table, to the right college or job, best neighborhoods or schools for our kids so the cycle can continue and we can pretend we’re insiders. Or we earn a status that is comfortable and affirming. Maybe you’ve know your different and distinct or always considered yourself an outsider so you congregate with others who have similar attributes, outlooks on life, affinities, or distinctions and find a sub culture where you’re on the inside. As fragmented, segregated, and individualized as we are this is very easy to do in our current culture. What is driving is a deep desire.
We want status, we want acceptance. We want to be part of something exclusive. Where we know we’re included. We want to know who our people are, where we belong. Sometimes we’ll work hard to earn our place of belonging and status. Other times well be more than happy not to earn or achieve but deceive to receive acclaim for achievements, accolades, or status we didn’t actual achieve at all.. From doping on the Tour de France to USC admissions scandal. We win but someone else is excluded. That why it was so unjust and so offensive not because they wanted to get their kids into USC but because it meant in getting them in without merit it meant that others, even those with merit (who had earned it) would be excluded. It was insiders working to keep themselves on the inside and keep up the walls that keep others outside. Insiders work to maintain their status and outsiders work to tear down walls or earn their place inside somewhere. and all of it is exhausting. Conflict, hostility, tribalism, exclusion, rejection all reign supreme. This is the way earned and it doesn’t lead to more flourishing life, it only leads to isolation. Our lives are never intended to be isolated. We are all spiritually dead, we’ve been made alive by God’s great love and mercy to us in Jesus. We are now His workmanship. We have gone from Orphan to adopted child of God. We have gone from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. And here we’re going to see what it means to go from an outsider to an insider. Where we go from alienated from the kingdom of God to full rights and status as citizens. We are created for relationship with others in the world. The work of God to make us ALIVE not only makes us into a new person but also makes us become part of a new people.
PART I | Aliens No More | Ephesians 2:11-13
Eph 2:11-13 | 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Aliens No More - Our identity is individual and unique to us, and it is corporate with the people we are aligned with. Because of sin, without the work of God, all of us are spiritually dead and relationally distant from God. When humanity was exiled from the garden (the presence of God) there was exclusion from His Kingdom. There was hostility and separation. God made a covenant promise through a family, which became a nation, who would to save His people and close this distance, end this hostility. These were the insiders. But the nation existed not for themselves alone but to be a light the calls all the other nations (outsiders) to come inside the family/nation of God. Though this nation all other nations were to be blessed. But it hadn’t worked out that way. This nation wasn’t always faithful in their worship, they vacillated greatly between self-righteous exclusion and self-indulging compromise, and full on idolatry. They suffered greatly, had periods of great flourishing and blessing, but after generations of exile, war, slavery, oppression, they were not outwardly focus but concerned with their self-preservation and return to glory.
It’s in this environment of great hostility and enmity between Israel and gentiles (non-Jews) that Paul is writing to a church made up of both. He is focused most those who previously were outsiders. He is reminding them who they were before God’s work to make us Alive and bring us into His Family. We need to be reminded of who we are with the work of God in our lives to remember where we started and where He’s carried us to because it drives us to both humility and gratitude. We need this because we too easily grow and change and then look back or at others in the way God is working on them with pride.
Unmarked– Circumcision was an external mark of inclusion or exclusion into the covenant (promised) people of God. Non-Jews who wanted to worship Yahweh and join the people of God would be circumcised at the time of their conversion. You were called the “unmarked” by those who are called “marked”. But this marking is external and done by human hands. It’s not the work of God. God cares more about the condition of your heart than the work of your hands. Identity is not part of the inside people.
Unclean- Separated from Christ (lit without a Christ.) Division. Being an outsider from the people of God is not a small thing. God is holy, and clean. Because of sin you’re separated from God and other people you’re relationally distant from God AND you’re unholy/unclean. Our sin defiles. Without a Christ means no expectation of having your sin dealt with effectively, being clean, or being delivered from wrath.
Unincluded- Alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel (family/nation) You are undocumented immigrant in the kingdom of God. You’re not part of the people of God. You’re not a citizen which means you’re not included in the rights or privileges of citizenship and you are separate from those who are near to God.
Uninvited- Strangers of the covenants of promise. You invite people to a wedding, party, group, who you know, the covenants of God’s promises are invitations to come and participate in life with God now and have the promise of flourishing life with Him in the future forever. Because of our status as spiritual outsiders separated from God and His people we are also unknown by His promises. So now what?
Hopeless for the Future, Godless now. To be outside this family, to be aliens to this nation, is to be hopelessly outside of God’s promises. Result of being an undocumented outsider with no savior, and no promises of redemption is a deep soul level eternal hopeless for the future and a godless life in the present. Oh you may have a god (or several) and you may have optimism but you’re not part of the people of God because all you have is your sin and status as an outsider. How can this change? You don’t have hope for a messiah, you don’t have rights as a citizen, you don’t have promises of God to rest in. what do you have?
But now- Like but God. Remember who you were but remember that is not who you are now. Because of your identity “in Christ Jesus” you were once far from God, distant, an outsider. But now God has brought near. This is not as much about proximity but entrance into the Kingdom of God. You’re not an outsider!
How? By the Blood of Jesus. The cross is what gains us access. His marks we are healed, his blood is what cleans us of our sin. His life given is that paid for us to be adopted into the family given our citizenship. The cross of Jesus brings distant outsiders inside the family near the peaceful presence of God. We are part of a new covenant promises (known by God) The result is we know both have hope and relationship with God. We’re not Godless or hopeless any longer. You have entrance to life with God AND with His people, so the nature of two of our relationship are dramatically changed. Good News with Great Implications!
PART II | Killing Hostility | Ephesians 2:14-18
Eph 2:14-18 | 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Jesus is our peace – We have peace and wholeness with God because of Jesus. Who he is (God’s Son) and what He’s done (work to reconcile us) This work, His works, is what has made the insiders and outsiders both one. He did so by having His body broken. The result is peace with God and with the people of God. The reason the insiders have peace is not because they’re insiders but because of Jesus work in their place.
Let’s talk about that wall and our walls - Sin separates. It separates us from God, and it separates us from each other. This separation is not neutral or benign, it is hostile. The temple in Jerusalem was where the presence of God was to dwell, where sacrifices for sin would be made, preaching and teaching would be conducted, where the apex of corporate worship of God would be engaged in. Where the people of God would gather in the presence of God. It talks about the Dividing wall of Hostility. In the context of Jew/Gentile, insider/outsider, this is a reference to the wall between the court of the gentles (more outside) the court of the Israelite women (closer) and men (closest). It was just over 4’ tall, the perfect height to see what you’re missing. You’ve come searching for God, for life for inclusion and you find this:
“No stranger is to enter with in the balustrade round the temple and enclosure. Whoever is caught will be himself responsible for their ensuring death.”
The purpose was exclusion and purity. Ez 44 actually Israel is called out by God for allowing foreigners who are not “circumcised in both Heart and flesh” in to the temple of God. But we’re back to heart condition as the primary concern. The issues telling people they were insiders in regardless of if they had allegiance to God not race. Race. This was an absolutely racial issues Paul is addressing between Jews and Gentiles (non Jews) There is to be unity across racial lines for the Gospel.
What walls of hostility exist that have we erected? Not sin, obedience issues where God and His word are clear, but issues, of separation and superiority. We have erected great barriers of shame, injustice, and sin between one another based on race (Black/White, locally the tribe), gender (Men and women), socioeconomic status (rich, middle class, poor) each of these are then played on politically where the continued hostility is actually beneficial to foster coalitions to take or keep power. This isn’t just in the world.
In the church – Married single? Kids no kids? Homeschool, public school? Theological preferences on secondary issues. We like to exclude so that we can be the ones who are exclusive. If you don’t think there are any walls then you’re on the inside. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some natural affinities. To discern what is a wall of hostility or natural affinity watch the reaction to what happens when the lines are crossed.
Jesus did what no one else could do and created a path to God and unity with others by removing barriers. So the answer isn’t to make the gentiles into Jews the spiritual outsiders into insiders. Because their track record wasn’t much different than the gentiles. It wasn’t to lower the standards – we try this. We’ll be more inclusive by lowering standards. He’s abolished the covenant of the mosaic law and replaced it with the covenant of Christ. The law is a barrier and a mirror to show us how we have failed to follow God perfectly. The reality is we would all make the people of God impure by our inclusion t says abolish the law of commands “expressed in ordinances” as the means of being right with God. God’s answer for our failure to keep His law is not to do away with it, NBD but to have Jesus fulfill it perfectly for us. WE are then given his “righteousness” Jesus draws us both near to God to reconcile the religious insider and the spiritual outsider because both in great need of being reconciled.
Jesus creates one people where there was two. He has loosened destroyed the wall of hostility that produced the strife and conflict. And he nullified the consequences of our sin by taking the penalty for us. Jesus on the cross was demo day! Jesus on the cross was the fall of the Berlin wall. We are now new people under a new covenant, we’ve been made alive as “new creation” to be part of a “new covenant community.” So He doesn’t tell the outsiders they need to work to become insiders. HE doesn’t tell those who were born as insiders they can coast. He redefines what it means to be in and out creating a new New race. When we’re on the outside we assimilate and/or don’t bring our full selves to whatever situation we are in. We try to change ourselves to be more like the dominate culture. God’s not calling one race to become another culturally, but recognize an identity and an allegiance to a new race. Jesus has worked to tear down these walls reconciling people to God and bring together diverse people unified as one body.Exclusivity still exists, status still exists, and but it’s not based on man-made walls, barriers we’ve worked to overcome but the unity that is to exist among the people of God. Made one body by the broken body of Jesus. Outsiders are reconciled to God Insiders are reconciled to God and they’re both reconciled to each other. This isn’t a restoration of what was lost or broken it was a new creation of a bond that wasn’t previously there.
Hostility has been killed so Gospel diversity can be enjoyed. Not that we shouldn’t see race. To “not see it” is to not see the multi colored sunset. It is to see the individual created equal and distinct in the image of God and appreciate how people have been made and how Jesus desires for them to work together for His glory and their Joy. Where do you need Jesus to kill hostility in your heart so you can have more joy?
Preach this message The Gospel BOTH to the religious and the non-religious letting them know there is peace now… If you’re an outsider you are not Godless and without hope iyou are not beyond the reach of God’s grace. Pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. If you’re an insider know you’re not beyond the need for God’s grace and He’s given it you in Christ rest in His work. Hostility has been killed so we can preach with humility and boldness. The peace means more than a lack of separation and alienation but that we now have we all have: ACCESS TO GOD - We’re not Inviting people not to assimilate to our sub culture but to have access to God the Father by the work of Christ through the Spirit. Trinity at work to move us from separated aliens to unified citizens. God does all the moving! Death to life. Separation and hostility to unity, access, Through the Spirit. So we are different and distinct. But we are also united we are all now Citizen Saints.
PART III | Citizen Saints | Ephesians 2:19-22
Eph 2:19-22 | 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Citizen Saints (v19-22) - So what are we now? Not strangers but citizen saints. Not outside looking in but FULL status not (probationary) or second class. We have this new identity. Citizens have rights and privileges. When one immigrates to a new nation they usually work through a long difficult process with many test and trials to earn the status of citizenship. In God’s kingdom, Jesus is the one who has perfectly navigated the test and trials for us in our place. Through faith in Christ, we are granted the status of “Citizen-Saint” we could never earn and are part of His work to build up His people together.
Application is clear, we should recognize the people of God are a multi-ethnic multi cultural people united by Jesus. This means in a real sense you have more of a real bond with our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso West Africa an ocean away than some just down the block who is the same race, gender, and socio economic status who doesn’t know Jesus. Yet you have shared affinity so you can more easily engage as an ambassador with them. The people of God transcend race and ethnicity, but we don’t ignore it but celebrate what can be celebrated as part of the whole beautiful body of Christ.
No longer outside the temple but we are now members of the household of God. Being built together as a dwelling place of the Lord. Deconstruction is great but only if it leads to reconstruction of something better. No one watches home improvement shows for demo day only but they want to see the transformation and the reveal. The final reveal is later but the process is the transformation is happening now. We are being built with Jesus as our cornerstone but the foundation is the apostles and prophets (Bible OT/NT) So don’t worry about the temple in Jerusalem or the pagan temple in Ephesus. You want to know what the temple of God is now look at the church (the people of God) This structure is joined together. Growing together! The temple is really big!! Across time, place, and cultures!!
Are you an spiritual outsider who feels outcast? Are you facing walls and barriers of Hostility? Know Jesus has worked to tear down those walls through His death on the cross and rose so we can have new life now and forever! Come become a citizen of the Kingdom of God, pledge allegiance to Jesus, and be baptized!
Where are you building or comfortable with walls of Hostility in our culture or in your heart, that God has said are torn down in Christ? Repent of sinful attitudes of pride and put on humility.
Where have you been given privilege, voice, or access? Use it to bring outsiders inside!
Are you a citizen-saint? Be reminded you were once far from God and it was His work that brought you near to Him. The be active in working to tear down walls of hostility in hour your heart, your family, and community. Jesus has torn down the dividing walls of hostility so outsiders can become insiders with hope, life, and access to God the Father. God is working through the Holy Spirit to build us up individual and together as one people who Trust Jesus!