2015-9-13 He Is Our Peace

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          September 13, 2015

“He Is Our Peace”
Text: Ephesians 2:14-18

Recall from last week’s sermon the publican in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:9-14).  Being outside the covenant people of God—and outside the temple wall forbidding Him to enter the court of Israel on pain of death—he cast down his eyes from Heaven, smote His breast, and said, “God, be Thou merciful to me, the sinner.”  This one, Jesus said, went home justified before God.  He went home, though once far, brought near by the blood of Jesus—and that soon to be shed.  We, too, by faith are brought near by the blood of Christ.

Let us place ourselves once again in the Spirit’s flow of ideas in Ephesians 2.  We gain wonderful doctrine in Ephesians 2:1-10.  We formerly were dead (not merely sick or maladjusted) in sins and trespasses (1-3), but were made alive in Christ (4-7)—and that by grace through faith (8-10).  We see the implications of that doctrine in Ephesians 2:11-22.  We who once stood far from God are brought near by the blood of Christ (11-13).  We see in today’s text that Jesus is our peace (14-18).  At the chapter’s end we see our new relationship with God through the Person and work of Christ (19-22).  Let us now behold Jesus, our peace, more closely.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Before we begin examining the dense material in the middle of the passage, let us look at its ends.  The beginning of the text is this: Jesus is our peace.  This is stated emphatically both in the Greek text and in the English Standard Version as well.  He indeed, or He surely, or He Himself is our peace.  Let us not forget that Jesus brings peace, to be sure, as Jesus Himself says, “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).  But remember this as well: Jesus does not merely bring peace; He is our peace.  There is no true peace apart from Him, and we shall see this more clearly, God willing, as the sermon proceeds.

Now let us look at the end of the text.  We have access (literally, the right to speak) to the Father in one Spirit.  This hearkens back to material we noted last week.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  He is also the new and living Way (Hebrews 10:20).  Hence, because Jesus is our peace, we have access in one Spirit to the Father.  This is a happy development indeed.  Now let us see how we got from beginning to end.

Jesus, our peace, broke down the dividing wall of hostility.  The context, though it has an important additional overtone, centers upon the troubled relationship between Jew and Gentile.  The wall at the Jerusalem temple between the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of (Israelite) Women was a powerful proxemic reminder to Gentiles of their distance from God.  This wall is broken in Christ Jesus.  Those near (the Jews) and those far (the Gentiles) are brought near by the blood of Christ.  The wall’s function is abrogated, and the wall itself would be destroyed by the Romans in A. D. 70—less than ten years after Paul wrote these words.

The Law itself was an important divider between Jews and Gentiles; the Jews had it, but the Gentiles did not.  Now that divider is gone, because the Law is fulfilled in Jesus.  That Law could be divided into two large rubrics: the ceremonial law, now abrogated because now that Jesus, the reality, has come, the shadows—displayed in the ceremonial law—simply disappear.  The moral law remains, but its function has been transmuted since Jesus’ atoning work.  Its demands have been fulfilled by Jesus on our behalf.  Yet we continue to keep the moral law, not to earn salvation, but in declaration that salvation has come through Jesus.  Presbyterian theologian R. C. Sproul succinctly stated the ongoing uses of the Law for Christians today.[1]

The first use of the Law is as a mirror (the pedagogical use) that we see the righteousness of God and our own sinfulness.  Who among us has not had the awful experience of the Law’s demands condemning our souls—even as that Law expresses the infinite beauty and purity of God.  The second use (the civil use) is for the restraint of evil.  This is a general mercy of God given to Christian believer and to unbeliever alike.  The third, and highest, use of the Law (the normative use) is to reveal what is pleasing to God, and to spur us to do such, that we may glorify God.  These are the uses for the Christian believer today.  The Father, through the Son, has put an end to the things that divide, so that Jew and Gentile, being two, are made one.

Not only has Jesus broken down every wall, as we sang earlier in this hour’s public worship, but He also reconciled us to the Father through the Cross.  In today’s text, quite explicitly, Jew and Gentile each and both are reconciled to God in the cross.  This occurs Jesus’ announcing peace to each party.  The Greek word rendered announcing in today’s text is the usual word for preaching the Gospel (Greek euangelizo [euaggelizw]); it is the word from which our English words evangel, evangelism, and evangelist arise.  This announcement of peace involves, fundamentally, the announcement of Himself (see 2:14, supra), and, consequently, the peace He gives (John xiv.27, again, supra).

We noted that in today’s text that Jew and Gentile each and both are reconciled to God in the cross.  This applies implicitly to any two groups prone to alienation from one another.  A host of dichotomies now present themselves for reconciliation to God through Christ, such as male and female, master and servant, rich and poor, black and white, and Democrat and Republican.  This may be hard enough naturally to swallow, but here comes an implication of all the foregoing that will require the Spirit of God to accomplish.  Since each and both are reconciled to God, each is to be reconciled to the other.  These indeed are difficult, if not impossible, naturally—but they are possible, and at times actual, by the Spirit’s powerful working.  Imagine the difference at church, at home, at work, in society, and in governance, to name but five, if Christ’s reconciliation truly came to bear among His people.

Therefore, we may access—the right to speak—in one Spirit to the Father.  Let apply more closely what we have heard today.  Are you troubled in spirit today?  Seek Him and His peace.  Are you feeling some distance today between yourself and Him?  Seek Him and His peace.  Are you estranged from, or at enmity with, a person or a class of persons?  Seek Him and His peace.  He is our peace.  Seek Him, and receive Him and His peace.

AMEN.

[1] The roots of this discussion extend back at least as far as Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-64), but the succinct source is a 1992 document of Dr. Sproul housed at http://www.monergism.com., accessed September 12, 2015, et al.

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