February 2007


Recently, I’ve been meditating on Ephesians 2:11-22.  In these verses, Paul continues the same before and after picture as he did in vs. 1-10 by showing us the corporate effects of the gospel.  His main thrust is to show how Christ came to reconcile us to God and to each other.

The context here is the division between Jews and Gentiles.  Paul’s is writing to Gentile believers here to remind them of what they once were.   They were not God’s chosen people.  They were not connected to God’s covenant with Abraham like the Jews were.  They didn’t bear the physical sign of circumcision like the Jews and because of this they were separated from God’s people and separated from Christ.  Prior to our salvation we were in the same predicament.  We were separated from Christ.  Not only that we were aliens and strangers.  And the end result … we were without hope and without God.  Wow.  We could say that like the Gentiles we were once homeless, hopeless, and Godless.  We had no home, no hope, and no God because we were completely separated from Him.  Our sin separated us from Him.  We were far off as it says in v. 13.  Far away from God.  Far away from his love.  Far away from his grace.  Far off!

Can you identify with this when you look back at your own life before you became a Christian?  I can.  I wanted love.  I wanted acceptance.  And I looked for it in all the wrong places. Thankfully God pursued me in his love through the gospel.  We, like the Gentiles, were once far off but now brought near by the blood of Christ.  Christ reconciled us to God.  He bridged the gap through the cross.  On the cross Christ was completely separated from his Father.  He yelled out “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”  But he had to be separated from his father for a time in order to bring us into fellowship with the Father for all time.  1 Pet. 3:18 says, “Christ suffered once for our sins, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.”  His blood brought us to God.  When he yelled out, “It is finished!” the separation was killed because he was killed.  His body broken for us broke down the walls that separated us from fellowship with Christ such that now we don’t need a sacrifice to come to him anymore.  The sacrifice has come in Christ.  Christ’s blood has brought us near.  His blood has brought us near.  We are brought near by his blood.  Once far from fellowship, but now near in his arms of love.

Not only are we reconciled to God through the cross we are also reconciled to God’s people.  In this passage we see that Christ came to kill the hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  This hostility came from this dividing wall.  And the wall was the Mosaic law.  The law kept the Jewish people separate from other nations, set apart from the Gentiles.  But this separation brought pride to the Jews and thus division between Jews and Gentiles.  So we see here that Christ came to break down not only the wall that separated us from God but also the wall that separated us from God’s people.  He did this by nullifying the law in order to create a new people under a new law—the law of Christ that was based on his love.  

So these verses speak of a vertical reconciliation with God and a horizontal reconciliation with God’s people.  Verses 14-15 speak of the horizontal reconciliation and verses 16-17 speak of the vertical reconcilation.  Essentially this is the gospel.  “Christ reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”So we who were once enemies of God, far off from fellowship, have now been brought near to God through Christ’s shed blood.  Such that now we are a different people as it says in vs. 19-22.

We who were once separate are now one body.  We who were once aliens are now citizens of His kingdom.  We who were once strangers are now members of his family.  We who were once without hope now have both a hope and a home.  And we who were once without God are now being made into a dwelling place for God.

God is not distant.  He is near.  Christ is mine.  I am his.  I am in his embrace.  He brought me near by his blood.  Such that now I have communion and fellowship with God and with God’s people.  I have access to Him.  I can have an audience with the King!  I can freely approach his throne because He is for me and not against me.  I am accepted in the beloved.  I am near and not far.  Praise be to God!

  

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Why is it often easier to confess our sins to God than to a brother in Christ?  Isn’t God holy, righteous and just while our brother in Christ is just as sinful as we are?  So why is it so hard?

Confession of sin to another brother is hard because it humiliates us.  But we need to be humbled, don’t we?  We need to strike a blow to our pride.   Because when we do that we are ready to receive the healing power of grace.  Though our pride is wounded, we can be healed through the gospel of grace. 

I long for the church to be a safe place for sins to be confessed and grace to be poured out.  I long for the church to speak the truth in love with gentleness knowing that all of us have played the fool so many times.  And I long for the church to show the love of God in saving us and uniting himself to us despite our fraility and weakness.  We are all jars of clay and our weaknesses only serve to strengthen and uplift the treasure of the gospel that lives inside us.  So my challenge for us is this:  What will we do to break down the walls of pride in order to break through to real, authentic community in our churches?

We hear the word “fellowship” often in Christian circles, don’t we?  Most of the time it’s a word that conjures up thoughts of eating lots of food and having fun together in the “fellowship hall” of course!  Likewise, in promoting different events in the church many (that would include me) have often said “Come for a great time of food, fun, and fellowship!”  What is that?  Is that what biblical fellowship is all about?

Most of us know the Greek word for fellowship is koinonia.  The word essentially refers to the common relationship and the common partnership we experience as Christians.  This relationship and partnership can be seen in how the Bible pictures the life of the church as both a family and a body.  We are a member of God’s family (brothers and sisters in Christ) as we have been adopted by one Father.  And we all play a part in the body (serving and sharing with one another) as each of us takes our directions from the head, Jesus Christ.  This relationship and this partnership is in essence what fellowship is all about.

But what is the basis of this fellowship we have with other believers?  In a word-Jesus.  Jesus made it possible for us to have fellowship with others through his death on the cross.  Prior to our salvation we were alienated from God and each other.  We need to remember this because we often take fellowship with God and others for granted.  Ephesians 2:12 says, “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.”  Though the context of this passage refers to the division between Jews and Gentiles and thus the Godless state of the Gentiles prior to Christ, it would also apply to all of us before our conversion.  In verse 14 Paul goes on to describe a wall of hostility built up between Jew and Gentiles.  But verse 13 and verse 16 tell us the good news of the gospel, namely, that in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, so that we are now reconciled to God in one body through the cross, thereby breaking down this wall of hostility.  We were once like orphans and aliens without hope and without a home, but through the cross Jesus has given us hope and given us a home.  We are his.  And we are all members of one family and one body!  May we live that way today for the unity of the church and the glory of God.     

Check out this article on relationships by Paul Tripp. 

 http://www.paultrippministries.blogspot.com/ 

Here is a helpful chart produced by the Navigators for evaluating whether or not your church is intentionally making disciples. 

http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/cdm/idc/items/Growth%20Stages

I begin this blog with some hesitancy.  Oftentimes I fear the blogosphere can be a place where people can hide behind their computers and fail to communicate with real people face to face.  I admit that I have done that.  And I think most people would agree that technology has the potential of pushing people away from authentic, God-honoring community. 

Having said that I believe God has given us technology (and blogging) to be a means of his grace to people.  I have been the recipient of this grace through many Christians who have written many things that have encouraged my soul and spurred me on toward love and good deeds.  My own brother, a missionary in Japan, uses his blog (markandmaki.blogspot.com) to communicate with friends all over the world and has personally blessed me in my walk with the Lord.

So here I am begining this blog called Life Together — a title borrowed from Dietrich Bohoeffer’s famous book written in the midst of the unique community he experienced in an underground seminary during the Nazi years in Germany.  Bohoeffer understood that the Christian life was never meant to be lived alone.  He knew that we were made for community.  So his book only served to spark the flame of fellowship that I have experienced in my own life and desire for others to experience as well.

My vision is for God’s people to be united and discipled in the context of a close community of believers.  More than ever we are living in a self-driven society that pulls us away from experiencing this type of environment that people long to have.  This is why a united church that lives out the metaphors of a family and a body attracts both believers and unbelievers to it.  Indeed, the gospel can be more clearly embraced and proclaimed if it comes from people who unite to become the “city on a hill” that points people to the beauty of Christ (John 17:21).

Therefore I pray that this blog will be a means to promoting community amongst fellow believers in Christ based on the truth of the gospel.  I welcome your comments as I seek to learn with you what it means to “no longer be stangers and aliens but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God with Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20).  

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