Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22
Sermon Title: The Building of the Church
Sermon Text: Ephesians 2:11-22
Exclusion from God’s Household (v.11-12)
Peace in God’s Household (v.13-18)
Building of God’s Household (v.19-22)
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proofread. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipleship of people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
This morning, I am going to use two fictional characters to illustrate and help us understand our Scripture passage. The characters are Eli the Jew and Ander the Greek. Both men live in Ephesus.
Eli moved to Ephesus from Jerusalem in the past year. He attends the local synagogue and is a devout Jew. He is a merchant of cloth who has done business with Anders. He has been impressed with Ander’s honesty which he finds unusual in a Gentile.
Ander is a life-long citizen of Ephesus. Ander owns a business which has been in the family for generations. Ander was an early convert in the church at Ephesus and sat under the teaching of the Apostle Paul.
Ander talks to Eli on a regular basis about Jesus. He shares with Eli as much as he knows about the gospel. Eli shows great reluctance to the claims of Christianity. Eli has heard about the Jesus, but not much. He has mostly heard Him talked about negatively in Jerusalem by other Jews. As Ander speaks about salvation in Jesus, Eli does not understand how the promises of Abraham could possibly be applied to the Gentiles.
Eli struck up a conversation with Anders and asks him if he is God-fearing. Ander says he is and shares how he once was a worshipper of Artemis, and yes, he was dishonest in business. But, he does not worship Artemis anymore. Eli is not surprised to learn Artemis was a big part of Ander’s life, especially since his business is close to the large temple.
Eli is surprised to hear Ander claims to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but Eli doesn’t see how that may be possible. Eli recognizes that Ander is not the man he used to be because Ander demonstrates kindness and fairness in the marketplace. He now pays attention to his children and cares for them.
Most importantly, Eli observes Ander does not follow the Mosaic Covenant. He is not circumcised. He does not follow Levitical practices. Compared to Eli, Ander knows little about the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) but, he has started studying it in the past few years. Eli is impressed about how much Ander knows about the history of his people. Ander does not observe the Sabbath and closes shop to attend a meeting on the first day of the week with other people who call themselves Christians. The Christians worship Jesus like He is God. They also mention praying for the Apostle Paul, a former Jew who is now imprisoned in Rome.
Eli is seeking to make Ander a Jewish proselyte, a convert to Judaism, because he is God-fearing. Eli has shown Ander what the Tanakh says about Israelites. He does not want Ander to follow false gods, so he shows Ander passages about how the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob pours out His blessings upon Israelites, not Gentiles. Eli wants Ander to abandon his Gentile heritage, become circumcised, and become a practicing Jew.
Here are a few passages Eli has been sharing with Ander:
Blessed are you, O Israel; Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, Who is the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread upon their high places. (Deuteronomy 33:29)
When telling of this passage, Eli shares with Ander how the Lord God empowered the Israelites to conquer their enemies. Eli asks Ander, has your God promised the same for you Gentiles? Show me where in the Holy Scriptures that He makes such a promise.
Again, from the book of Moses:
13 He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. 15 The Lord will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. 16 You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you. (Deuteronomy 7:13-14)
Eli asks, “You ask me, Ander, to serve your God. Does your God promise you, a Gentile, prosperity? Does your God say your enemies will be consumed? Show me where in the Holy Scriptures where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob makes such promises to Gentiles. My friend, I care about you, but I believe you are misled. Come with me to the synagogue and serve the true God of Abraham.”
Again, Eli reads the Tanakh to Ander:
6 I shall also grant peace in the land so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. 7 But you will chase your enemies, and they will fall before you by the sword; 8 five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. 9 So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. 10 You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. 11 Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. (Leviticus 26:6-11)
“Ander, does the Tanakh say God will chase your enemies from you? Where does the Scripture speak of God making a covenant with Gentiles? Do you know the Covenant? Does God promise to make a dwelling among you and never reject you?”
The more Eli opened up the Scriptures to Ander, the more Ander began to doubt how Gentiles could find favor with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ander discussed this with the elders of Ephesus, but none could give him confidence and assurance. They, and Ander, began to doubt in the promises of glory made by Paul. Eli is well taught and speaks well and convincingly of the Scriptures. If only Paul might help the Ephesians sort through this difficult issue.
A few months passed, and the elders announced the church received a letter from the Apostle Paul. Paul received word of how the saints in Ephesus were having difficulty understanding how the promises of Abraham applied to both Jews and Gentiles. The Holy Spirit opened Paul’s eyes and gave him the wisdom to respond, and Paul wrote the letter to the church.
Ander read Paul’s letter and became filled with joy. It all was very clear to him now. Ander studied the letter and eagerly sought out Eli to share with him the truth from the Apostle Paul.
Ander shared these truths with Eli:
“Eli, you speak the truth about my past. I know we Gentiles were lost in our sin and walking according to the course of the world, under the influence of Satan, and that, we were sons of disobedience. But, so are Israelites. We both know how many Israelites walk according to their flesh, indulging their desires. They too are objects of God’s wrath.”
“I fully acknowledge truths about how we Gentiles were excluded from the household of God. But, let’s talk about this with spiritual understanding. We Gentiles by blood, in the flesh, were excluded from all the blessings and promises of God. We are called by your people, ‘uncircumcision.’”
“I understand the covenant of Abraham is distinguished by the ritual of circumcision. Israelites are the circumcised, and we Gentiles are the uncircumcised. I remember reading about King David and his battle with Goliath and how David referred to Goliath by saying, ‘… who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?’ (1 Samuel 17:26).”
“But, answer me this Eli: Is not the ritual of circumcision performed by human hands and not by God? It is a ritual whose recipients are chosen by men. When the Apostle Paul was with us, he taught us ‘For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel’ (Romans 9:6). Just because men are from the bloodline of Abraham, and though they are circumcised, does not mean they are recipients of the blessings of Abraham. Tell me, were Ishmael and Esau circumcised? Yes, they were, but we know the Scripture does not speak of them receiving the blessings of Abraham. Didn’t Moses teach God is interested in circumcising the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6)””
“Eli, I know those who belong to our church are not Israelites. God made a covenant with the Israelites, and we Ephesians are Gentiles. In no way, since the establishment of the Nation of Israel, are we Gentiles part of the Covenant of Moses.”
“Let me tell you five ways we are excluded:”
(at that time separate from Christ) “The promise of the Messiah is given to the Israelites. The promise of the Messiah was never given to the Gentiles. The Messiah is of the bloodline of Abraham. God did not speak to Gentile prophets to give word they were to have a Messiah to be their King and Savior. Not once in our history may we say we Gentiles were waiting for a Messiah from God.”
(excluded from the commonwealth of Israel) “All through Israeli history, Gentiles did not participate in the Commonwealth, of Israel. The Israelites are forbidden to have community with Gentiles. When Israelites conquer land, they are commanded to destroy the Gentiles. Your Covenant has laws which forbid Israelites to make a covenant with Gentiles. When Jesus, the one we worship, the Messiah was teaching His Israelite disciples about those who sin, He said, ‘If someone is unrepentant, let that person be to you as a Gentile’ (Matthew 18:17). In other words, they should not be part of your fellowship. Jesus used Gentiles as an example to teach His disciples how to treat someone who sins; they are not to be partakers of the community of God’s people, they are to be cast out of the gates as a Gentile.”
(strangers to the covenants of promise) “God’s covenant promises to the Israelites to prosper them and to bless them as a people do not apply to Gentiles. You, Eli, have made that very clear. The promises were directly linked to the Covenant of Moses. God promised great things to the Israelites. Not once, since the beginning of time did God speak directly to us Gentiles and make us such promises. All the promises made by God were made to Israelites.”
(having no hope) “We were excluded from hope. Because God made no promises and gave no word of blessing to us Gentiles, we had nothing upon which we could base our hope of future good. We had no promise of eternal life from God. Our only hope was in our futile imaginations and the hope which we conjured up, but had no basis for truth. My hope, Eli, was in praying to a silver idol of Artemis made with human hands, but I know that was no hope at all.”
(without God in the world) “We were excluded from God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not establish a relationship with any of the Gentile nations. We worshiped false Gods. The God of the Ephesians was Artemis. I know from reading the Scriptures we Gentiles worshiped Baal, Caesar, and countless other false Gods. Not once did we Gentiles worship the One True God, the Creator of the Universe.”
“Eli, these truths are hard hitting for me. As I think about how I lived apart from God, and as I think of how my father, and his father before him, and countless generations, all who were apart from God, I weep. You may hope to see your ancestors in the afterlife, but all of my ancestors are hopelessly lost. I think of the many nations outside of Israel, the Greeks, the Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians, all these empires with all these people were separated from God. My heart aches Eli.”
“Yes, Eli, Gentiles were excluded from the Household of God. But, let me tell you of the glories of the Messiah.”
“Eli, Abraham is to be a blessing to the nations. It is his seed, the Messiah of Israel, who is the blessing. Jesus spoke to one of the rulers of Israel and said, ‘For God so loved the world that He sent His only beloved Son, that whosever should believe in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.’ The Messiah, who is God, is a King-Priest, just as King David in the Psalm prophesied.”
“The Messiah as a priest, gave His blood as a sacrifice for sins. His blood is a one-time sacrifice. His blood is unlike the blood of goats and rams, but His blood is the atonement for all who put their faith in His sacrifice.”
“After the sacrifice of His blood, Jesus rose from the dead after three days. He ascended into heaven and He sits at the right hand of God and is King of Kings, to fulfill the prophecy. As a descendant of David, Jesus sits eternally on David’s throne and all things are under His feet.”
“And now, Gentiles, who were formerly far off, away from God in every way, are brought near to God by the blood of Christ.”
“Jesus Christ, is our peace. His sacrifice has made Jews and Gentiles, formerly two groups, into one. His blood sacrifice fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant. God has made a new Covenant.”
“When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He broke down the barrier of the dividing wall which formerly separated us. He abolished, in His flesh the enemy of the Gentiles, the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace between Jew and Gentile. Jesus the Messiah reconciles Jew and Gentile in one body through the cross.”
“The Law of Moses commands that you Israelites treat us Gentiles as outsiders. The Law is a barrier preventing us from participating in the community. The law (Deuteronomy 7:3) forbid Israelites from marrying a Gentile. In the marketplace, it is forbidden for you Israelites to charge interest when lending to an Israelite and the Law commanded for Israelites to charge interest to us Gentiles (Deuteronomy 23:21). If we Gentiles do not pay back our debt in a timely manner, the Law says for you to be sure to exact the debt from us (Deuteronomy 15:3). But, if it is an Israelite, the Law says to be merciful.”
“Eli, when I read the Tanakh and the Law of Moses, as a formal idolater, I tremble. The Law says Israelites are not to show favor to idolaters (Deuteronomy 7:2). Israelites are not to allow idolaters to settle in Israel (Exodus 23:33). You are to slay the inhabitants of a city that has become idolatrous and burn that city while never allowing that city to be rebuilt (Deuteronomy 13:16-17). Eli, as I read the scriptures, I wonder how the Lord God could ever forgive me for my transgression and iniquity. I was an idolater. Ephesus should be burned. I do not deserve salvation and neither does my family. But, God’s love is very deep. God spoke of His glory to Moses and from that, I know God forgives me and shows me mercy because of His glory.”
“Eli, I have great news. The Messiah put an end to the Law. All Jews who put their faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ are dead to the Law and made alive in Christ. When the Apostle Paul was with us, he taught that the purpose of the Law is to show the need for the Messiah. The purpose of the Law is not to give eternal life but to condemn. The Messiah is the goal of the Law. He fulfills the Law and provides mercy and forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus establishes a New Covenant.”
“The New Covenant is based upon the Old. You are a student of the Law, tell me, are not all the Laws of Moses summed up in two laws? May we say these two laws are, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind’ and “love your neighbor as yourself’ and together they summarize the whole Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). Am I not keeping the Law of Moses by loving God and loving others? ”
“The Messiah preaches peace to us who are far away and peace to you Israelites who are near to God. When Jesus was born, the heralding angels announced the Messiah is born, and they proclaimed peace among men with whom God is pleased. Jesus Christ the Messiah is the Prince of Peace; bringing the good news that God is extending an olive branch to His enemies. The Gospel we preach is a ministry of reconciliation. The Messiah of the Tanakh is the Lord over all. Jesus is reconciling all things to Himself, and everything is put under His authority, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
“It is through this Messiah, Jesus Christ, you and I may both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. The same Holy Spirit who embodied Elijah, Samuel, King David, and all the prophets and saints of the Tanakh, is the same Holy Spirit who dwells within me.”
“Together, you and I, Eli, if you put your faith in the sacrifices of Christ, are made one. We may be members of the same body, with Jesus Christ as the Head. The Gentiles were once excluded from the Household of God, but not anymore. The Messiah brings peace between Jew and Gentile in God’s Household. Lastly, the Messiah is building God’s Household.”
“We Gentiles put our faith in the Messiah of Israel. Just as Gentiles before us have done. We put our faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob just as Rahab, Ruth, Naaman, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Ninevites of Jonah’s time believed in salvation from God.”
“Because of the blood of Christ, we are no longer strangers and aliens, but we are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”
“God’s household is built upon the Apostles who preach the good news of Jesus Christ. God’s household is built upon the prophets of the Tanakh who spoke of the Messiah and the saving of the Gentiles. Together, the apostles and prophets lay the foundation of God’s household.”
“Jesus is the cornerstone of the foundation. The prophet Isaiah said, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.’ Those of us in Ephesus who call ourselves, Christians, believe in this Cornerstone that was laid in Zion.”
“Not all Israelites received the cornerstone. Many have rejected the Cornerstone of God’s household. Few have put their faith in the Messiah (1 Peter 2:4-8). But, it is this cornerstone upon which the household of God is being fitted together. The church is now God’s household and is growing together into a holy temple in the Lord. We are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
“Eli, my friend, I ask you not to put your faith in your works. Circumcision did not save Ishmael or Esau, and it will not save you. Your works will not save you. You are guilty before God because you have not obeyed all of God’s commands. If you are guilty of one Law, you are guilty of the whole Law.”
“Eli put your faith in the Chosen One of Israel. Put your faith in the one who glorifies God because He offers mercy and forgiveness of sins and trespasses. Join me, and other Jews, such as the Apostle Paul, by putting your faith in Jesus Christ. He is the costly Cornerstone Who is firmly placed and is the foundation of God’s household.”
What about you?
Do you need forgiveness of sins? Do you want to have hope of eternal life? Will you put your faith in the Messiah? Will you bend your knee and confess Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords?
We are part of what God started thousands of years ago in Ephesus. This letter is for us, for our joy. Rejoice that the blood of Christ brings Gentiles into the household of God.
God is building His church and we are just as much a part of His church as the saints in Ephesus. God started in Jerusalem and He spread out from there, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, and now in Plainfield. God will continue to build His church until Jesus comes again to fetch His bride.