Thursday June 20, 2019
EPH 2:14-18 - The Double Reconciliation.
The church is a house built for an occupant.
Jesus said that a house divided against itself will not stand.
In the part of the world that it without Christ, they are pretending. This pretending, over time afflicts them and they become wrapped in their own internal gloom. When you pretend that you can make virtue out of benevolence, happiness out of well-being, peace out of accommodation, and freedom out of emancipation, the realization of the fact that you are no farther along and have wasted so much energy and time, weighs you down in anguish.
The world looking for peace without Christ, the God/Man who has come into the dark world, is the small child in the back seat of the car on a very long road-trip who keeps asking, “Are we there yet?”
The wish wrestles with the reality and produces strain, which in turn produces despair.
We are studying the unity of the church that resulted from understanding the truth of regeneration, which overcame the initial divisions that cropped up among Jews and between Jews and Gentiles.
Regeneration occurs at salvation, at the moment of faith in Christ. At that moment each believer is made a new creature, a new man through the blood of Christ. Christ’s death has brought new life to all who believe in Him. This is the key to our unity.
In EPH 2:11-18, Paul sees the reconstruction of the human race to perfect peace beginning in the church with the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile.
This peace will be upon the whole earth in the future at Christ’s second coming, and of course in eternity. For now, its beginning starts in the church.
EPH 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
EPH 2:15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
EPH 2:16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
EPH 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near;
EPH 2:18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
Under the Law, the old man was attempting to live under a perfect ordinance. Although the Jew who loved the Lord could do much of the Law, successful at times, he could not keep all of it consistently. If he broke one part of the Law, he broke the whole Law. This led him to understand. If he were given a thousand lifetimes and if he were to try his hardest, being as dedicated as he could be, he could not help but break the Law. And, if the time came in which he might have thought he was doing well in keeping the Law, he understands that God made provision (sin offerings) for unintentional sins, things which at the time the man was not aware of doing, but later on would come to light, and when it did, he was to give a proper sin offering (Lev 4). A man, again, who loves the Lord, would have to conclude that no matter how good it seemed that he was doing in light of God’s Law, he might be committing unknown sins.
His next understanding would be that to live with God in righteousness, obedient to God’s law, his current makeup, the old-man, would never do. God would have to make him new, and that’s exactly what God promised He would do, but that promise wouldn’t come until the future, until the Messiah.
EZE 11:19 “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
EZE 11:20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”
That being made new began at Pentecost and continues to happen every day when any man believes in Christ as his Savior. And, at the end of history, all the OT saints will be made new, reborn/resurrected and join all the saints in an eternity where everything is new.
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Yet, the church began with division - a clear testimony to the fact that born-again people in this world still sin, still carry biases and prejudices, and still need to be instructed in the ways of righteousness.
Peter witnessed the conversion of Gentiles and their baptism by the Holy Spirit. He reported this to the council in Jerusalem and all agreed that salvation had come to the Gentiles. Yet, some still did not bring the gospel to the Gentiles, while others, the more liberal Hellenistic Jews did (Act 11).
The persecution in Jerusalem that accompanied Stephen’s death, spearheaded by Saul of Tarsus, caused many Jewish Christians to flee north. Many of them ended up in Antioch. Our story continues there.
A great church would be established in Antioch of Syria.
Antioch on the Orontes (modern Antakya of Turkey), standing on the foot of Mount Silpius, some eighteen miles upstream from its seaport Seleucia Pieria, was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucus Nicator, first ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, and named by him after his father Antiochus. As the capital of the Seleucid empire it rapidly became a city of importance, and when Syria became a Roman province in 64 B.C. Antioch was the seat of administration and residence of the imperial legate. It was at this time the third largest city in the Roman world, planned on the grid pattern, surpassed in population only by Rome and Alexandria. Julius Caesar, Augustus and Tiberius enlarged and adorned it, while Herod the Great contributed colonnades on both sides of the main street and paved the street itself with polished stone. It was a center of commerce as well as a political capital; the products of Syria passed through it on their way to the rest of the Mediterranean lands. Since it was near the frontier between the settled Graeco-Roman world and the Orient, it was more cosmopolitan then most Hellenistic cities. Jews formed part of the population from its foundation onward. By the beginning of the Christian era, proselytes to Judaism are said (by Josephus) to have been specially abundant in Antioch.
In a great Greek metropolis like Antioch - the third largest city in the world - there were many competing cults and mystery religions which held out the promise of salvation.
We cannot underestimate the impact of the resurrection of Christ.
These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.
Caiaphas and Pilate had sound reason to think that with the death of Jesus, the whole movement had been suppressed for good. Jesus’ followers lost all their nerve, failed to mount any further resistance, and took to their heels to hide away somewhere in or near Jerusalem, secreted behind barred doors. The leadership of Jew and Gentile surely congratulated themselves on the decisive way that Jesus was handled, killing Him and demoralizing all of His followers. Tacitus writes that the “pernicious superstition was checked for a short time” but that “it broke out afresh.”
None of the authorities, or the disciples for that matter, could have guessed that Jesus would rise from the dead, appear to His disciples, the women, and 500 others, and that He would transform them almost on the spot from a crowd of demoralized and frightened people into a band of men and women with a mission and purpose in life.
There is no church without the resurrection of Christ and His physical appearance to the first disciples. “which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”
The resurrection brought the scattered followers of Jesus together again, and within a few weeks after His death they appear as a coherent, vigorous, and self-propagating community in Jerusalem, empowered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and a few short years later, in Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman world.
The persecution in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D. (which resulted in the execution of the apostle James) sent many Jewish Christian refugees heading north and many of them settled in Antioch and brought the gospel with them. The persecution of Christians in Jerusalem became the seed for the establishment of the church at Antioch, the home base of the apostle Paul. You can do nothing against the truth.
ACT 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
ACT 11:22 And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.
ACT 11:23 Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;
ACT 11:24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.
ACT 11:25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul;
Barnabas was the first to accept Paul when Paul first came to Jerusalem after his conversion, about 10 years prior to this. When Barnabas saw the success of the church at Antioch through the large number of Gentile converts, he thought Paul to be the man needed to assist in the work of the church. Why choose a Jew to serve and teach the Gentiles? Paul more than anyone understood that salvation was not according to the Law and the implications of that.
ACT 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
These people in Antioch talked about Christ so much that the other people in the city called them christianoi (Christians) and the name stuck. The Jews would have never called them this since to them, Christos meant anointed one or messiah, and they would have been acknowledging that the Christians were “of the Messiah.”
“Christians” was a slur, but they all shared it. No matter who they were, Jew, Gentile, Hellenistic Jew, native Hebrew; they all were persecuted for Christ’s sake.
Persecution, instead of dividing them, unified them, since they were each being persecuted for something they shared - Christ.
Yet, we find the Jews still employing an “us and them” strategy in the following months.
When we look at their past, we can understand why many Christian Jews still clung to the old way, the covenant that was broken by us all.
ACT 15:1 And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
ACT 15:5 But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."