Monday, July 4, 2011

Third Sunday of Trinity

Third Sunday of Trinity
Ephesians 2:13-22
Bror Erickson

[13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [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 and 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. [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. Ephes. 2:13-22 (ESV)

But no in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances…. Has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances.
A dividing wall of hostility. Paul in this chapter is emphasizing how in Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile. He talks about this division being one of hostility. Jews did not always get along with their gentile neighbors, or maybe it was the gentiles did not always get along with their Jewish immigrant neighbors. Typically this has been true of any culture different than the prevailing one that lives among another culture. There is often too much confusion, and what is considered polite in one culture is considered rude in another. Hostilities develop.
But there is a greater wall of hostility not just between cultures but between God and man, who is by nature a child of wrath born dead in his trespasses. And it is in breaking down this wall of hostility, that the other wall of hostility is broken down. Yes hostility. While in our sin, God is hostile to us. Ephesians 2 describes us as Children of his wrath!
But Jesus broke down this in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility, because it was in his flesh that God died to make atonement for our sins with his blood of peace.
But it does not end there! Paul goes on to explain what this means, what it has done, what his death and resurrection have done to break down this dividing wall of hostility. By dying for our sins, he has abolished the law of commandments and ordinances! Abolished the law of commandments and ordinances. This is the law that demands our death for breaking the commandments and ordinances. Jesus abolished it. No longer will the law reign but the Love of Christ in the forgiveness of sins, because Christ has abolished the law of commandments and ordinances. Not just ordinances, but also of commandments. And he didn’t replace the law, he didn’t replace the commandments and ordinances, but abolished them, or at least abolished the law governing them.
Commandments and ordinances, The natural division here is commandments having to do with the Ten Commandments, laws that more or less govern the actions of all men Jew or Greek. This is the natural law we have in our hearts, written down in stone. Things we know intrinsically to be wrong. The ordinances, are the dietary and ceremonial laws of the Jews that governed their religious devotion and temple worship. There is no reason eating pork is wrong in and of itself, apart from the ordinances God gave Israel to set them apart from the rest of the world. Now that Jesus has come and broken down this dividing wall built on law, there is no need for it.
Abolished not replaced. But man does man want to hold on to law! I cringe as I hear baptists and others talking about the sacraments as ordinances. The other day I heard a man say that “Grace doesn‘t release me from obedience, it empowers me for obedience.” I think to myself, Yuck. I get full body shivers when I hear drivel like that, gospel being turned to law. The sacraments being the basis of a New Testament Judaism, just as legalistic as the one Jesus railed against in his sermons and teachings. Empowers us for obedience? I mean I have to ask a guy like that how it is working out for him, how obedient has he been? But a guy who says stuff like that is blinder than a bat to his own sin. Grace forgives. It is the dream of the old adam that it would empower us to obey. Give us the strength or what ever to obey. But that is someone who has not quite figured out the extent of their sin.
Now, it does come close to the truth, in that being loved we are given the ability to love. But that love is always going to be imperfect this side of Glory, insofar as it is our love, perfect insofar as it is forgiven of Christ. Yeah, that is the hard reality of being by nature a child of wrath, even our good works, even our love, have to be forgiven to be good in the eyes of God. And who really gives a flying fig what Man thinks. Empowers us for obedience. This is nothing but throwing you back under the bus of the law. Nothing but another way of leading a person to despair! Because quite frankly if you are honest with yourself, you don’t obey, even as a Christian. On your best day, you still fall short. And if you think that grace is about empowering you for obedience, you are going to be despairing of grace when you figure out you haven’t been all that obedient. People like this don’t get it. They tend to water down the law. They tend not to take Christ’s sermon on the mount seriously. They do away with the idea that one sins in thought word and deed, and think that if they merely lust after the woman they have not committed adultery. The problem is when you take that route, you end up one morning waking up next to your neighbor’s wife. And then your world comes crashing down around you. You despair of grace. Then instead of repenting, and being forgiven, you shack up with her and continue consigning yourself to the reality of hell, and living it up while you still have a chance. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I do recommend the avoidance of waking up in an adulterous bed. But I dare say we have all come to realizations one way or another that the lives we have been living are less than God pleasing, and this not just a theoretical thing of realizing the scriptures teach us we are sinners, or a wrote recitation of the confession of sins that marks the beginning of the divine service. We are sinners, and that is a hard reality that bites us to our core. Perhaps it isn’t everyday that it bothers us as it should, but there are times when we wake up and realize that we have made a mess of our own lives, and perhaps even the lives of friends and family with our sin. That we have made it perhaps a bit tougher on ourselves or others. That is the law. We come to realize that we have not been obedient. Grace hasn’t empowered us for that. The gospel is not about an easier set of rules and regulations to follow.
No, when Christ preaches peace to you, when Christ preaches the Gospel to you. It is not a pep rally. It is not a you can do it speech that he gives. No, he tells you I have done it for you. He tells you he tore down this dividing wall of hostility in his flesh that was crucified for your sins, so that his blood would buy you peace. There he preaches your sins are forgiven, and though the world may rage now against you, you are at peace with God. In the world you will have tribulation, and that on account of sin, but take heart for Jesus has overcome the world, he has covered your sin with his blood. You, yes you, are forgiven.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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