Reconciled to God and to Each Other, Part 2 (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #171)
A series of homilies on Ephesians
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages on Ephesians (as well as other passages of Scripture) specifically targeted at reviving families and encouraging and exhorting husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children to do what God has commanded them to do, for if the church is to be revived and the country is to be awakened, the family must be revived first.
TEXT: Ephesians 2:11-17:
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Del Fehsenfeld Jr. said, “Revival, no matter how great or small in its ultimate scope, always begins with individual believers whose hearts are desperate for God, and who are willing to pay the price to meet Him.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “If you want to be popular, preach happiness. If you want to be unpopular, preach holiness.”
In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “In August 1727, the Moravian community gathered together three days later to share in a communion service. What took place at that service can be described only as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. According to one Moravian historian, ‘The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst.’ So great was their hunger for the Scriptures in the days following that service that they gathered daily at 5:00 A.M., 7:30 A.M., and 9:00 P.M. for services. One observer noted, ‘Self-love and self-will, as well as all disobedience, disappeared, and an overwhelming flood of grace swept us all out into the great ocean of Divine Love.’ Many in the community believed the outpouring they were experiencing was the result of increased prayer over the summer. Out of that conviction, twenty-four men and twenty-four women covenanted together to pray continually on August 26. They drew lots and began praying around the clock, each couple praying for an hour. Others joined in, swelling the ranks of intercessors to seventy-seven. Among the children, a similar emphasis on prayer was begun. The prayer meeting begun on August 27, 1727, outlived any of the people who began it. A century later, one could still find people praying in Hernhutt at any hour of the day or night.”
When Jesus died on the cross for the salvation of all men, He bridged the great gap between God and man. Sin had separated man from God for since the beginning of time. We were far off from God because God could not allow sin to stand unpunished in His holy presence. Jesus’ death, in which God poured out the punishment for sin on His own son, allows us to draw near to God.
An additional barrier between the early Gentiles and God was the Jews. Jesus was a Jew who had come to preach the Kingdom of God to the Jewish nation. He anointed twelve Jews to take the Gospel message to other Jews and then to the Gentiles. (In fact, Jesus told them, ‘Go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’) But after they preached the Gospel to the Jews, they were also to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
However, some of the Jews in the early church let their prejudice against the Gentiles, which we discussed yesterday, get in the way of delivering the Gospel message to them. Some thought the Gospel message was only for the Jews. Others thought Gentiles had to become Jews and abide by Jewish law before they became Christians. There was a bitter debate over the issue after Peter, led by the Holy Ghost, went to the house of a Gentile centurion, ate with him and his family, and shared the Gospel with them.
What became of this controversy? Speaking on the long-standing Divisions between Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off [the Gentiles] are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both [Jews and Gentiles] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us [Jews and Gentiles].” The same event — the death and resurrection of Christ — that made a relationship with God possible for the Gentiles has eradicated the divisions between Gentiles and Jews.
The “middle wall of partition” between us represents the Law. Dr. Warren Wiersbe said, “The cause of the enmity was the Law, because the Law made a definite distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The dietary laws reminded the Jews that God had put a difference between the clean and unclean. But the Gentiles did not obey these laws; therefore they were unclean. The divine ordinances given by God to Israel stood as a wall between the Jews and the other nations. In fact, there was a wall in the Jewish temple, separating the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple areas. Archeologists have discovered the inscription from Herod’s temple, and it reads like this: ‘No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.'”
That is how deep the division between Jews and Gentiles ran in the first century. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ broke down that wall of division
Clara M. Brooks wrote this poem, emphasizing how we all are one in Christ.
As sweet strains of heav’nly music
Blend in one harmonious sound,
So the members of Christ’s body
In blest unity are found—
One in mind, and one in spirit,
One in doctrine, faith, and love;
One in name—oh, precious union,
Like the angel hosts above.
Blood-washed pilgrims on the highway
Chant the sweet, melodious strain
Of their freedom from confusion,
Angels join the glad refrain;
One with all the hosts of heaven,
There their names are written down;
Jesus only, Jesus ever,
In their hearts as King they crown.
Love, the theme of all their praises,
Doth in holy bond unite
All their hearts, in Him made perfect,
Turned from darkness unto light;
Thus the saved in Christ together
Dwell in sacred unity,
In the secret of His presence—
Hid away, dear Lord, in Thee.