Here in Ephesians, of course, the new man Paul refers to is the church itself. The church is a picture of what Jesus Christ does. In the church, there is neither Jew nor Gentile. The Jew does not have to become a Gentile; the Gentile does not have to become a Jew. There is a new man, a new person created. And the same is true of any other division among men. Blacks don’t have to become whites, and whites don’t have to become blacks in the church. Both can bring their own distinctive cultural heritage to the church, and they don’t have to give it up.
In that sense, the church is never to integrate; it is to make a new man. They both bring what they are, and they discover that there is a oneness, a fellowship, a union, a beautiful relationship which ultimately has nothing to do with cultural heritage. There is a sense of belonging to one another, and a joy in that relationship.
The same is true of the poor and the rich. The poor don’t have to live like the rich; the rich don’t have to live like the poor. There can be different standards of living within the church, but there is a oneness and a joy and an acceptance of one another. The same is true between male and female. Males don’t have to be female; females don’t have to act like males, Women’s Lib notwithstanding. In the church there is oneness. A new unity is formed, which cannot be discovered apart from the settling of hostility on the ground of the peace that Jesus Christ gives.
There is still a third step: “he reconciled both to God by the sacrifice of one body on the cross.” In other words, ultimate peace must be with God. A man or a woman, parents or children, husband or wife — wherever the conflict may have been — once the hostility has been ended by the removal of a self-righteous spirit and they have begun to experience this new unity in Christ, must see themselves as being forgiven and accepted by God. Otherwise, self-righteousness will begin to arise again.
If there is any area where one of them feels superior to the other, where they say, “I didn’t need quite as much forgiveness as that one did; my level of life was higher,” then self-righteousness starts up again. However, if they will humble themselves and stand before God on the same level, on the same ground exactly, both needing the same forgiveness, then the hostility will end. A complete and total end!
After my last message, someone emailed me saying,
“Thank you for the message today. It truly confirmed what happened in our marriage. We hadn’t been married very long, and I learned that my wife wasn’t a virgin before we got married, though I was. Man, I wrestled with that for quite awhile. It was a shock and a severe disappointment to me. I said that I forgave her; I understood the situation and understood that she needed to be forgiven. But emotionally I was still wrestling with it. It seemed so unfair.
But then the Lord began to show me that in His eyes, my behavior had been no better than her’s. Although she violated the external rules of sexual morality, I had violated them as well, internally, in my thoughts and attitudes. And, in God’s eyes, there was no difference. I began to see that I was just as much in need of forgiveness for my failures as she was. When I saw that, then there was healing.” Hallelujah!
This, my friends, is what Paul was saying. Before God, we are to see each other as no different. The only ground we have to stand on before him is that of forgiveness, and “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
So, everyone stands before God on the same level. When people see this, hostility ends. Nobody is pointing a finger; nobody is blaming the other, no silly bunny will say, “Well, if only you’d done this, then I could have done that.”
All such division and schism and hostility are brought to a complete end, and we receive the grace and the forgiveness of God. Hearts are healed, and hostility ends. This is what is presented in the last section — the means of possessing peace! How do you do this? How do you actually lay hold of it? Well, Paul says,
He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near. So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit (Ephesians 2:17-18)
If you desire is to lay hold of this king of peace, there are two steps you take to take: The first is believing the message God has given you. “He came and preached peace,” says Paul to these Ephesians. That is, “Jesus preached to you.” Paul says in Second Corinthians, “We beg you on behalf of Christ [in the place of Christ], become reunited with God,” (II Corinthians 5:20).
Then what? Well, the last step is beautiful. It is communication with the Father: “through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” You can come before him, upheld by the mystery of the entire Trinity at work on your behalf. This is probably the greatest statement in the book of Ephesians. I don’t know a higher plateau of truth than this: “Through him [the Son] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” There is the Trinity of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — all working together to bring us into the closest possible relationship with God: the understanding and the daily experience of His Fatherhood, his Fatherly care over us.
So, when we begin to understand that the circumstances of our life are chosen by our Father, that He has selected all of the trials and pressures and joys and sorrows, we begin to see that His provision of power and truth and life are all available in Jesus Christ. We understand that we can appeal to Him, we can cry out to Him, that He invites us to communicate with Him and unload all the burdens and pressures of our life. We begin to live in this relationship with our Father.
There is nothing higher than this. When the full glory of this relationship breaks upon us, we will have discovered that nothing can be greater. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “to know you, the only true God, and Yeshua Christ, whom you sent” (John 17:3).
Once we know “the only true God,” our life begins to be what He intended it to be. This experience is where God is bringing us. We have been climbing with Paul, step by step, up a great mountain. And now we have come to the very summit: “So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit!”
We can’t get any higher! Life with our Father is the most delightful of all experiences because a Father’s heart and a Father’s love provides all that we need. This is the way He deals with us and our hostility. What separates us from each other is our insistence that they are wrong and we are right, that there is never any reason for an admission of guilt on our part. But, as soon as we admit that there is no way of justifying ourselves before our God, other than being forgiven, then the hostility ends, and He brings us into that glorious relationship of freedom and enjoyment of life with our Father.
Oh, Father, we thank you so much for accepting us, for the forgiveness you offer so freely, for enjoying us so much you call us your children, for glorifying us. We are so grateful for your tender concern about the most intimate details of our of lives. And, Father, we have been so foolish, at times, when we stand in self-righteous judgment against others and insist that we didn’t have anything to be forgiven, that “they” were the one who needed it.
Father, forgive us for that. So many times, we have been just like that unrighteous steward. After you forgive us of so much, we go and act so immature. Here you have provided so much in our lives, and we have been so unwilling to extend the same to someone else. We are so ashamed, in that.
Awaken us, Lord, to the enormous debt we have before you. Help us to believe the message of peace which has been preached, and to understand the announcement of the Holy Spirit to our hearts, and to enter into the joy of life with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.