DAY 1 – Jesus’ New Society
There are all sorts of things that keep us from having real, true, good community. There are all sorts of ways that we divide ourselves. We divide based on gender, political affiliation, nationality, race, and preferences. We all experience being separated from one another in some way. In past weeks, we have studied about how sin has separated us from God. Here, Paul is writing about the ways that we are alienated from one another.
In Paul’s time, there was a huge divide between Jew and Gentile. The Jews, as God’s chosen people, looked down on the Gentiles. A Jew would pray, thanking God that he had not been made a Gentile. Paul himself was a Jewish Christian, and he was writing to mostly Gentile Christians. So, he begins by reminding them that there was a time when they were estranged from God and from one another.
He opens this passage reminding the Gentile Christians that, because they are not Jewish, they were outside of the promises and community of God. But Jesus changes all of that. John Stott writes, “Jesus has succeeded in creating a new society, in fact a new humanity, in which alienation has given way to reconciliation, and hostility to peace.” Tomorrow, we will look more at what Christ has accomplished.
Paul emphasizes labels in this passage. The Jews call themselves the circumcised and call the Gentiles the uncircumcised. John Stott writes,
“It is as if Paul is declaring the unimportance of names and labels.” What labels are important to you? How do you label people to keep them separate? What labels (Republican, Democrat, wealthy, poor, worthy, unworthy, white, black, immigrant, etc.) do you assign to others? What separates you from loving your neighbors well? What separates you from loving your fellow Christians well? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to
reveal to you the labels that you use to keep others out.
DAY 2 – Tearing Down Walls
Verse 13 opens with the words, “But now.” But now, things are different. But now, things have changed. But now, there is Jesus. Where there once was hostility, division, and separation, there is Jesus. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there
male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Where there once were dividing walls of hostility, Jesus now stands, making everyone one, creating a beautiful new community. The people who were far have been brought near. Jesus has put to death the divisions that once kept us apart.
Christ himself is our peace. Everything that we use to separate us—all of those labels that we discussed yesterday— are now put to death at the cross of Christ. In the place of hostility, he is building a new kind of kingdom, a new kind of society, a new kind of order. We often think of Jesus being our individual peace; he died for us individually and he is interested in making us into new people. That is true, but God’s vision is so much bigger! Don’t make the mistake of reducing Jesus’ saving work to just you and your one life. Jesus is interested in remaking all of creation. Jesus is
interested in building a new way of living, a new order, a new society.
We are, of course, more divided that ever. Christ tore down the walls, but we sometimes want to rebuild them! We sort ourselves into smaller and smaller tribes of people with the same beliefs, the same interests, and the same annoyances. But Paul is showing us that for those of us in Christ, that sort of divisiveness is no longer an option. Through Jesus, everyone is invited in.
If you could choose to spend time with one “type” of person, who would it be? People with your same political affiliation? People in your socioeconomic group? People of your race? Pray a prayer asking God to forgive you of any deeply held prejudices. Ask God to give you a bigger vision for the new community he is building and how you can be a part of it.
DAY 3 – Near and Far
In our verses for today, Paul once again uses the language of “near” and “far.” This is pretty common language in the Old Testament. God’s people are often described as being near to him while others are far away. In this passage, Paul is specifically referring to the difference between Jews and Gentiles. Jews were near to God and Gentiles were far away. There was hostility between the two groups, as we read about on Day 1.
When we accept Christ, we have peace with God. That is an incredibly beautiful thing. Equally beautiful, however, is that we also have peace with one another. The blood of Jesus makes this possible.
For a moment, imagine what it must have felt like to be a Gentile following Jesus in Paul’s time. You’re following the teachings of a Jewish rabbi. You are worshipping with Jewish believers who might just “get it” a little bit more than you. Perhaps you ask silly questions or need clarification on
things that your Jewish brothers and sisters just innately understand. You wonder if you really fit into this new Christian community. And then you read these words of Paul reminding you that everyone has a place in God’s new creation! If you felt far away, that’s okay, because God has brought you near. And when he brings you near, he brings you into a new family, a new community, where everyone has the same access to Jesus. Where you came from no longer matters. Everyone is equal in the new society that Jesus is creating.
Have you ever felt like other Christians are “near” and you are “far”? Ask God to gently remind you that there is one Spirit and we all have access to it. Praise God for the new community he is building.
DAY 4 – A New Building
Think for just a moment about all of the materials that go into building a house. The bricks, stone, wood, tile, drywall, carpet, and other materials all come from different places. The wood was once a tree in a forest somewhere. The bricks were once clay that was dug out of the earth. The materials literally come from all over the world. They are all made in unique ways. They all have unique purposes. And yet, they come together to build a single entity—a house.
That’s a little bit like the Church that God is building. We have unique stories. We have unique ethnicities. We come from every country. We speak every language. Despite these differences, we are not what we once were. God is making us into a new household. And the chief cornerstone, holding everything together, is Jesus.
John Stott writes, “The cornerstone is also of crucial importance to a building. It is itself part of and essential to the foundation; it helps to hold the building steady, and it also sets it and keeps it in line.” Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church. In Jesus, we are given a new identity. We are no longer what we once were.
In a house, it doesn’t matter that the materials are all different and come from different places. It’s just the same in Jesus’ new house. It doesn’t matter how you grew up, whether you were rich or poor, whether you had a stable family or one full of dysfunction. It doesn’t matter if you became a Christ follower 50 years ago or 5 minutes ago. You are given a new identity and a new purpose in the family of God.
Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in the Church? Have you ever felt like your past is worse than someone else’s? Ask God to take these thoughts away from you. Ask God to continue to make you sure of your new identity in him. Praise him for his work of making you a new creation.
Day 5 – God’s Temple
Yesterday, we looked at the metaphor that Paul uses of the people of God being built together into a building with Christ as the cornerstone. Paul continues that idea in the verses we read today.
In the Old Testament, the temple was the place where God dwelled with his people. God initially traveled with his people in the tabernacle, a sort of tent/temple, that was portable. Later, Solomon built a temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians. In Jesus’ time, Jews worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem. So, the Ephesians would have known what a temple was. They would have known its purpose.
But here, Paul is talking about the temple being the people. So all of those diverse, different, divided people are built together into a structure where God himself lives. God isn’t tied to a particular place, but he is tied to particular people. Take a look at how The Message translates verses 19-22: “That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
If God’s people are his home, what kind of home do you think he wants? Do you think that God is pleased by division? How are you doing in this
area? Pray for the Church, both for Living Word Community Church and the Church globally, that we would be built into a temple where God is
“quite at home.”
- Songs We Sing
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