Sermons of David Chadwell
INSIGHTS FROM EPHESIANS
I hope you have had at least one of those moments when you "see" something
you never saw before. What you "see" is not new. It has always been there for
you to "see." Yet, for some reason (or a number of reasons), you never noticed
it before. Once you "see" it, it is so obvious that you are forced to evaluate
yourself. "Why didn't I see that a long time ago? It is not new! It has always
been there! How could I have not noticed it until now?"
Much of the time this "seeing" has to do with learning. Maybe a person's focus
was so given to something else that the "something else" is all he or she
saw--he or she was so focused on one thing that he or she failed to see anything
Often this "seeing" is inconvenient. Once he or she "sees" the obvious, he or
she can no longer ignore it. This "new to me" information demands that the
person must do some additional evaluation of a matter that was already "settled"
in the person's thinking or view. Reevaluation is downright inconvenient!
Use today's text as an illustration.
Before Jesus' ministry, the Jewish people had God, God's purposes, God's
objectives, and God's ways figured out and settled for generations. There was
not anything to learn. They just needed to evaluate all that happened by what
they knew from past generations. They basically knew what kind of Messiah
(Christ) God would send. They knew the basic nature of the kingdom God would
establish. They knew the kind of rule God would institute. They knew they were
God's people, and God cared about them more than God cared about other people.
The key to doing God's will was convincing all other people to become a part of
them as a proselyte. If everyone became just like them, everything would be
Then Jesus began his ministry among the Jewish people. He was not what they
expected as a Messiah. He spoke of a kingdom that was downright strange to them.
He spoke of God's rule in ways they found weird. He indicated that God was
interested in people who were not "rules-keeping Jews." He indicated they were
not God's objective, but a God-intended vehicle to God's objective.
Thus many, especially the prominent ones, did what they were supposed to do.
They evaluated Jesus. In their opinion Jesus just did not measure up to their
expectations. So many of them rejected Jesus.
Thus began one of the major problems in the first-century congregations. Jewish
Christians has a hard time understanding how gentile Christians could be saved
without circumcision, following the law God revealed through Moses, and adopting
Jewish ways of doing things. The most written about conflict (in scripture)
among Christians in first-century congregations was this: how can Jewish
Christians and gentile Christians possibly be one in Jesus Christ?
Listen carefully to our reading (or read with me) and see if you hear that
problem in Ephesians 2:11-22: Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in
the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by the so-called Circumcision,
which is performed in the flesh by human handsremember that you were at that
time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and
strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the
world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought
near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups
into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His
flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so
that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having
put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far
away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access
in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but
you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of Gods household, having been
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being
the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing
into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a
dwelling of God in the Spirit.
As increased needs and challenges become our new reality, passages such as the
one we focused on today will become more relevant to us. We will
increasingly understand that unity is a gift God gave us in the death of Jesus
which we seek to preserve, not a status we seek to achieve through human
accomplishment. Just as God in Christ made gentile Christians and Jewish
Christians one, God can and will make us one. Not because we all conform--we
never will!! Not because we all agree on one lifestyle--we never will! It will
exist because of what God did for us in Jesus' blood.
- There are several things in this reading you should note.
- First, gentile Christians (which most of us are now) were in a really difficult
situation spiritually before they became Christians.
- They were not a part of the Jewish nation.
- God had no covenant (agreement) with them.
- God made no direct promises to them.
- They had nothing to serve as a basis of hope in God.
- They were strictly on their own, and that was a horrible situation to be in.
- Second, the situation radically changed when God sent Jesus to become the Christ
through the sacrifice of his blood.
- Through Christ, God brought even the gentiles near to Himself.
- Through Christ, gentiles had as much right to come to God as did Jewish people.
- Through Christ, God made (please take note of the past tense) Jews who would
accept Jesus Christ and gentiles who would accept Jesus Christ one.
- Through Christ, God made a peace between both groups.
- Through Christ, God destroyed any advantage Jewish people had through their past
relationship with God.
- Through Christ, God made both Jews in Christ and gentiles in Christ one body of
- Through Christ, God reconciled both groups.
- The key for both Jewish Christians and gentile Christians was the same
- Understanding what God did through Jesus Christ allows Jewish Christians to be
at peace in God and allows gentile Christians (no matter who they were or what
their background was) to be at peace in God.
- Jesus Christ was the access to God for both groups.
- What does all that mean?
- It means any non-Jew who lived in idolatry in the past was a stranger and alien
- However, with what God did in Jesus Christ, gentiles in Christ can be citizens
in God's kingdom and a part of God's family.
- It meant that gentile Christians had the Jewish apostles and Jewish prophets as
their faith foundation and Jesus Christ as their faith cornerstone in the same
way Jewish Christians did.
- It meant God no longer lived in temples constructed by people.
- Not the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
- Not idolatrous temples.
- Why? Because God now lived in the people who belonged to Him.
- People who belonged to Him--whether Jewish Christians or gentile
Christians--were formed by God into His new temple.
- God's new temple is formed out of people who belong to Him, not out of stones
and construction materials.
- In the new kingdom, God lives in people instead of in places.
- God's people--wherever they are and whatever they are doing--are to be God's
temple, God's presence (see 1 Peter 1:5-10 as Peter used the same concept).
There are several indicators that suggest there could be radical
transitions in the way "we do church" in the future.
- There already has been far more transition than most of us realize.
- At the end of World War II, the Church of Christ was basically a rural church.
- The majority of its members were poor people living on family farms.
- The church building was usually located on some land someone gave from his farm
for the purpose of having a building.
- There was no air conditioning, primitive heating (by today's standards),
graveled parking lots that were small, and few adult class rooms.
- There was no printed material to study, few people with college degrees, few
full time preachers, no libraries, no education wings, few classrooms for
children, few education programs, and no plans to improve or add to those
- A preacher who had been to college was looked upon with suspicion.
- There were all kinds of divisions that had happened, were happening, or would
- Should you do anything another church was doing?
- What was your conviction on the millenium?
- What translation of the Bible could a person use?
- Was it scriptural to serve communion at the beginning of service?
- Should congregations cooperate in any enterprise or endeavor?
- Should you use only one cup in communion?
- Was how long you preached and how many scriptures you used a matter of
- Could women wear pants?
- Could women come to church without a hat?
- Could women cut their hair?
- Could men grow beards? Get tattoos? Wear "long hair?"
- Could you buy groceries from a store that sold beer or eat in a restaurant that
served alcoholic beverages?
- These were just some of the questions vigorously debated--we always have been a
people who sharply defended our positions.
- Today we are mostly an urban church with rural roots--family farms have
disappeared, and we continue to struggle as we address urban needs and realities.
- Today most of us prefer well trained preachers, we want better facilities, we
want education programs, we want libraries, we have to have paved parking lots,
and we plan creature comforts to be a part of any expansion we do.
- Things will change in the future.
- For the past 30 years we have been able to economically afford expansions,
programs, and buildings--what happens when we cannot afford such things? How
will that change what we do and how we do it?
- (This is not at all the suggestion that we "hoard" what we have in a useless
attempt to address the uncertainties of the future!)
- For years we converted people with at least an understanding of Christian
- Not so now or in the future!
- An increasing number of converts will come from either no spiritual background
or a background in a non-Christian religion.
- Increasingly, our congregations will be composed of people with needs and
challenges that we have not dealt with in the past.
- Increasingly, members will struggle with views that are new to us who have been a
part of congregations for three generations.
- Politically, people who were viewed as Christians occupied a position of "favored
status" in the past.
- That is changing fast!
- How will we react when we deal with opposition instead of encouragement?
Christians needed to understand that when Paul wrote. Christians still need to
sermon posted 27 May 2008
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