Ministry Matters: Ministry That Unites // Ephesians 2:11-22

Ministry Matters 3

Text: Ephesians 2:11-22

Introduction:

The most significant wall of modern times was the Berlin Wall, which was tangible evidence of an “Iron Curtain” separating communist East Germany from democratic West Germany after World War II. The 97-mile wall was constructed of stone and concrete. It stood for more than 25 years and hundreds of people lost their lives trying to cross it.

In 1988, a Lutheran pastor started holding weekly “Prayers for Peace” services at his church of St. Nicholas. Rev Christian Führer (führer is the German word for “leader”) was significantly influenced by the teachings of Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He advocated non-violent change.

Numbers increased every week till tens of thousands gathered in his church courtyard for weekly prayer vigils. The movement culminated with the “Peaceful Revolution” on November 9th, 1989, when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. The oppressive government was experiencing a time of great weakness and the strength of the Christian witness and desire for the God given gift of freedom contributed to lasting change. [1]

There’s not a greater physical illustration of separation than that of a wall. A wall is a barrier that separates two areas or parties.

When someone is closing themselves off or separating themselves, we often say that they’re building walls and they’re not letting anyone in.

Well, this is what’s going on. The Jews are building walls and saying that the Gentiles have to conform to their culture and be circumcised first, then they can be saved, and the Gentiles are saying, “No way! You Jews had your chance at the Gospel and you blew it, and now the Gospel is coming to us!” And Paul is saying, “Both of you are wrong! Jesus came to destroy the barriers that separate you both, and take you both into Himself, and out of Himself create one new man.”

And what I really want us to see today is that what Paul is saying is relevant to us. Paul may have initially wrote this concerning Jews and Gentiles, but you might as well have Caucasians on one side and minorities on the other, and the meaning is still the same. There’s no denying that we have racial tension in this country on both sides. Both sides need to tear down their walls. Both sides need to understand that Jesus died to create one new humanity within Himself, and when we hide behind the walls that we build with our own prejudices then we attempt to build up the very thing that Jesus came to destroy.

Jesus died and rose again primarily so that we could be in relationship with God the Father through Him, but also so we could be in relationship with one another.

So, this morning I want to pose that three things are necessary if we’re going to tear down the walls that we’ve built to keep others out.

We have to think of the past, we have to think of our present, and we have to think of our future.

 

Thinking of the Past (v. 12)

“Remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” – Ephesians 2:12, NRSV

Paul tells us right off the bat that he wants us to think about where we were.

We were without Christ, aliens, strangers, no hope, and without God.

If you were here Wednesday night then you remember that a couple of you talked about how you felt before you were saved. You didn’t care about God, you didn’t care about the Church. If someone said, “I’m praying for you,” you were just like, “Okay, whatever, have fun with that,” but in reality you were in danger and if you had died in that condition and had never repented and came to faith in Christ then you would be burning in hell, still cut off from Christ.

You can also think about it this way: you were relationally cut off from God’s people. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and His people. Gentiles weren’t circumcised unless they converted to Judaism.

And you had Jews who had been circumcised and they were holding it over the heads of Gentile believers. And Gentile believers were getting puffed up because they didn’t have to be circumcised.

  • And now under this new covenant, none of that matters. Circumcised or not, your new sign of covenant community is now baptism.

I’m going to read Colossians 2:11-12, and I want you to keep in mind that this is all one sentence. This is all one cohesive thought that I believe ties into Ephesians 2.

“In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” –  Colossians 2:11-12, NRSV

So, what Paul is saying is that you who were once separated from one another are now raised up together through baptism. Circumcision is no longer the standard of acceptance, baptism is and baptism is available for everyone. Jew or Gentile.

If Judaizers had their way, then you would be allowed to be baptised because you’re not one of them. You would be cut off from the signs and seals of God’s promises to you unless you became a Jew first.

  • Naturally, we’re all Judaizers whether we realize it or not. We want to make people jump through hoops to see whether or not they’re really worthy of our love or our fellowship.

  • “Well, I just don’t know about so and so.” Did Jesus love them enough to die for them? Then you have no right to withhold love or fellowship. It’s really not that complicated.

“Remember that at one time you were without Christ… strangers to the covenants of promise.”

We were cut off from Christ, and as a result we were cut off from God’s people.

Thinking of the Present (v. 13)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13, NRSV

Whenever Paul wants to think about how we should treat one another he always appeals to what God has done for us in Christ.

If God treated you based on how you treat others whether it’s customers, your boss, those who are in authority over you, how would you fare?

What about people of other races, ethnicities, or even people on the other side of the political aisle? Or maybe you would never actually mistreat them, so what if God thought about you the same way you think about them?

Thankfully, He doesn’t. God always treats us better than we deserve. That’s grace, and that’s grace that we should show to others.

Now, like I said, Paul appeals to what God has done for us in Christ when he wants to think better of one another, and he does this at least twice, once in Ephesians and then in Romans.

 

  • “…be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32, NLT

  • “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7, NRSV

 

Paul is saying that at one time you weren’t forgiven, at one time you weren’t welcomed, but now you are and you have a responsibility to one another.

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.” – Ephesians 2:14-16, NRSV

Jesus died and shed His blood to break down division and hostility. The Gospel, the good news, is about the creation of a new humanity. We see this idea most prominently in Ephesians 4:4-6.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6, NRSV

The body of Christ is one new living body that is made up of Jews and Gentiles. We are not a Jewish body, we are not a Gentile body, we are one new body. We are one new building that Jesus has framed together.

As a matter of fact, there’s three ways that Paul thinks about the Church in Ephesians, and it should be easy for you to remember because they all start with “b.”

  • In Ephesians 2, Paul says that we are God’s building.
  • In Ephesians 4, Paul says that we are God’s body.
  • In Ephesians 5, Paul says that we are God’s bride.

Look at verses 19-22.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” – Ephesians 2:19-22, NRSV

I preached this passage this passage this morning at Hector along with the lectionary reading from the Old Testament in 2 Samuel 7.

  • In 2 Samuel 7, David is high on victory. God has given David’s enemies into his hand. He’s at peace in his house and he’s at rest from his enemies, and he says, Why should I live in a house of cedar and God’s ark dwell in a tent?

  • And Nathan the prophet doesn’t even let him finish his thought, he says, “Yeah, Buddy. Do whatever you want!” But God comes to Nathan that night and tells him to give David a message.

  • God tells David through Nathan: I have never once asked for a house not even since the day that I led my people out of Egypt.

  • I have never once commanded a judge or a leader to build me a house of cedar. And God goes on to tell David I’ve brought you from the pasture tending sheep, and I’ve been with you wherever you went.

  • In verse 10, God says, “I will build a place for my people Israel.” And then in verse 11, He tells David, “I will build a house for you.”

David wants to build a house for God, and all this time God has been working throughout redemptive history to build a house for David. Eventually, David’s son Solomon would come along and build the temple, and God would keep His promise and He was a father to Solomon.

But then eventually, a greater son of David would come along and build a better house. Jesus the Messiah, the son of David who sits on His throne has established a better house than Solomon’s temple, and that house is made up of the body of Christ. In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build MY church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

If you want the church to succeed then let Jesus build His Church! Get out of the way, and let God be God!

The Foundation of God’s house is laid with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.

[Illustration: You don’t see cornerstones anymore, but they were the first block to be laid on a building. A lot of times when churches would build a new building they would put a Bible in the cornerstone at the groundbreaking that they those in attendance would know that the Scriptures were going to be at the heart and soul of the congregation.

Central Presbyterian Church in Russellville still has the cornerstone that has the letters CPC on it from when it was a Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Clarksville First Presbyterian also used to be a CP Church. They still have the stone sign that says, “Cumberland Presbyterian Church.” But you can go to the University of the Ozarks and read the minutes of the dedication service that they had in that beautiful building. The first hymn that was sung in that building was ‘How Firm a Foundation.’]

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

God has built His house on His son, Jesus as the chief cornerstone, and on the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets as the foundation.

The Bible that you hold in your hands is their testimony that God has and always will have a house for His name and that house is the Church. That house is made up of God’s elect people of all tribes, nations, races, tongues, democrats, republicans, independents, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and yes, even Pentecostals.

Which brings us to our final point.

Thinking of the Future (Revelation 5:6-10)

“Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
   and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
   saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
10you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
   and they will reign on earth.” – Revelation 5:6-10, NRSV

God in Christ has purchased for Himself a people from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

While we were at PAS, we visited McKenzie First Cumberland Presbyterian Church. They had a traditional service and a contemporary service. We visited the traditional service the first week, and the contemporary service the next week.

In both services, I noticed something that you don’t see in many churches around here. There were people of all races, all ages, all backgrounds. There were more older people in the contemporary service than young people. There are were about as many young people as there were older people in the traditional service.

And I thought, “This is the kingdom of God.”

All of these bloodlines of race, ethnicity, and tribe, they all come together and meet at the bloodline of Jesus the Messiah who has brought both Jew and Gentile into Himself and made one new man.

I’m going pray for us, and we’re going to sing one more song.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, send Your Holy Spirit to apply Your Word to our hearts. Make us desire the same things that You desire. You sent Your Son to put hostility to death so make us hate hostility. You sent Your Son to break down the dividing wall between races whether that be Jew or Gentile or between any other races. You sent Your Son create unity among all of those who call upon Him for complete salvation. So, I pray that You would give us Your heart, and let us desire the things You desire. In the name of Your Son who who taught us to pray:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


[1] Sermon Illustration taken from this document: http://www.augsburgfortress.org/media/downloads/0806695951_session2_preaching.pdf

The Liberal Streak I Didn’t Know I Had

The Liberal StreakI Didn't Know I Had.jpg
If this picture of a woman standing at lectern reading the Scriptures triggers you, then you’re gonna have a bad time, son.

[Disclaimer: I am not speaking for the blog as a whole, nor am I speaking for the other contributors. Of all of the other LNT contributors, I am a lone wolf here.]

Let me start off by saying that I’m conservative to the right of Genghis Kahn on a lot of issues. I was raised as a pew running, tongue-talking, Holy Ghost baptized, KJV Onlyist Pentecostal. Even for a couple of years after I left the theological background of my raising it was hard for me to give up the KJV, and I’m still conservative on the classical issues. I believe marriage is to be between one man and one woman. I believe women who have an abortion to avoid responsibility are committing murder. I believe those who are theologically and socially liberal have an agenda and that agenda has no place in the pulpit. If you name a hot button issue within the realm of Christendom there’s a good chance that I’ll land on the right side of it. (Take that however you want to!)

However,  I was raised with two great aunts to who stood in the pulpit and proclaimed the Gospel. They boldly proclaimed that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. They urged people to run to Jesus and be washed in the blood of the Lamb for the forgiveness of their sins. I’m told stories of my great-grandmother who faithfully pastored two independent Pentecostal congregations through the 70s and 80s.

It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I had heard of people who didn’t believe that women should be pastors, and even then it wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually met one of these unicorns, and I found that the idea of women in pastoral ministry is actually a liberal issue.

Today, I am no longer Pentecostal. I am a proud Calvinist, but I am a pastor in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church – one of the few conservative-leaning denominations that ordain women to the pastorate, and I proudly stand on the liberal side with this issue, and here’s why…

1. There Were Dynamic Female Leaders in the Bible

I could go back to the Old Testament and mention Deborah the judge and Hildah the prophetess, and I could even talk about the Anna the prophetess mentioned Luke 2:36-38 who gave thanks to God for Jesus, but I think I want to start in a slightly more uncomfortable place for my complimentarian brethren.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
– Romans 16:7, NIV

The first hurdle is to figure out whether or not Junia was a man or a woman. The Greek name, jIounivan, is in fact feminine so it is to be translated Junia rather Junias as the NIV 1984 and other translations have rendered it.

The second hurdle is to try to decipher what “outstanding among the apostles” means. While there is major controversy surrounding the actual meaning, one thing is clear – the patristics were confident that this woman was, in fact, an apostle.* Although, maybe not in the classical sense, but she was called and sent of the church.

Then, we come to Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team discipled Apollos according to Acts 18. However, there’s something that we notice with Priscilla and Aquila that is different from the traditional way of addressing couples even in our modern day with the man’s name being mentioned first almost all of the time. It’s more often that you hear, “Let’s invite Joe and Mary over for dinner” rather than “Let’s invite Mary and Joe over for dinner.” Notice this observation made by Eddie Hyatt.

In Paul’s greeting to Priscilla and Aquilla in Romans 16:3-5, he greets them and the church that is in their house. Interestingly, he puts Priscilla’s name first in the greeting. This is telling for, in doing so, he violated the normal, conventional way of presenting a couple in the ancient world. The proper way would have been to mention Aquilla first, but Paul goes against accepted convention and mentions Priscilla first (Hyatt, Paul, Women and Church, 28-29).

That Paul would purposely mention Priscilla first is a powerful statement of her status and influence and of Paul’s estimation of her. Many New Testament scholars see this as evidence that she was the out-front one in the relationship and the pastor of the church in their home. R.C.H. Lenski, for example, said, “She by nature was more gifted and able than her husband, also spiritually fully developed, due to having Paul in her home for 18 months in Corinth.”

2. There Were Dynamic Female Leaders in Church History

I’m not going to spend as much time on this point because we could be here for a while, but I will point out a couple of examples the first being Hilda of Whitby.

The great-niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, she was baptized at 13 when the king and his household converted to Christianity in 627 A.D. 20 years later, at the age of 33 she answered the call on her life to become a nun. Under the direction of Aidan of Lindisfarne, she established a number of monasteries her last being Whitby.

The monastery at Whitby was what was known as a double house meaning that not only were there women who were becoming nuns, but there were there becoming monks. The implication of this is while they attended mass and had a priest of their own, Hilda oversaw the spiritual environment of that monastery. Whether we want to admit it or not, as an abbess she pretty much functioned as a pastor overseeing the spiritual care of both men and women.**

The second example I would like for us to take note of is that of Rev. Louisa Woosley. Unless you’re Cumberland Presbyterian, you probably don’t recognize that name, but during her 45 years of evangelistic ministry within the denomination, she saw about 100,000 conversions across 20 states. In 1891, she published the book, “Shall Woman Preach?” where she presents with all theological boldness and clarity a resounding ‘yes’ as an answer to question that the title presents.

3. We Can Raise Up Dynamic Female Leaders in the Church Today

Before I go on any further, let me just say that in a way, I get it. It’s hard to see that women should have a place in the pulpit when it seems all the only female pastors getting any exposure are those preaching false prosperity gospel (Paula White) or those preaching a gospel of social justice. The PCUSA, the UMC, and the Episcopalian Church are all shelling out naval-gazing humanists for pastors so it’s hard to see any hope for there to be room for Bible believing women in the pulpit, but the Assemblies of God are training up young women qualified to take the pulpit who aren’t afraid to stand up against those who have “an appearance of godliness but deny the power thereof,” and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church needs to get on the ball if we’re going to stand in the fight against an age of secularism that seeks to invade our churches.

I believe that if we will, we can raise up female leaders who will fearlessly exposit the truths of God’s Word, and in so doing they will proclaim the radical holiness and marvelous grace of our glorious God.

I will stand with women and I, as Brady Boyd says, “let her lead.

P.S. Even after reading this, you may not agree with me, and that’s okay, but at least I didn’t call evangelical women worthless like Robert Truelove did.

______________________________

*Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7 In this paper, the authors conclude, that Junia was not an apostle in spite of the fact that patristic testimony suggests that she was.

**Hilda of Whitby, Abbess and Peacemaker