Ephesians– overview of 2:11-13; The near and the far – God brings peace to the world, part 2

Wednesday June 12, 2019

I read an article this morning from Psychology Today about “supernormal stimuli.” The premise is that man has used technology to over stimulate that which was once difficult for him to achieve. For instance, food was once difficult to grow and hunt and preserve and maintain, but we invented the Big Mac. We have food that is more calorie dense than anything ever dreamed. The term “supernormal stimuli” was coined in the 1950’s when this trend was recognized. Lately the same trend is recognized in other areas. Cosmetics is a technology that makes looking younger a more beautiful a short-term success. The article said that lip-gloss and vibrant hair are supernormal stimuli. Basically, it is a technology that makes what was once difficult easy, but the problem is that it is always short-term and deceptive. Pornography and video games are also thrown into the mix in the article. Pornography has led to sex robots, which are predicted to be very human, fitted with AI, while removing all the troublesome things that come with those pesky, difficult, real relationships. The article said that some doctors are even prescribing them, and soon they will be very available and cheap (pun intended – in a few weeks the city of Brussels is going to host the 4th annual Conference on Love and Sex with Robots). The sex robot is predicted to be the ultimate supernormal stimuli.


Pro 7:21 With her many persuasions she entices him;

With her flattering lips she seduces him.


Pro 7:22 Suddenly he follows her,

As an ox goes to the slaughter,

Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool,


Pro 7:23 Until an arrow pierces through his liver;

As a bird hastens to the snare,

So he does not know that it will cost him his life.


These stimuli hijack our psychological desire in a way that leads to short-term benefits, while systematically destroying our potential for long-term fulfillment. They are unnatural, unhealthy, and temporary, and so there is an irony in them, which is always the case with man seeking to fulfill himself without God, at the end of the day they just create more desire, while at the same time they destroy the opportunity for the path that leads to actual, long-term fulfillment.


This could be an illustration of the blessings designed by man for himself verses the blessings that God has given him. It is also an illustration that could be used for unity.


Intimate relationships can be difficult. They are challenging to our egos and our projections of ourselves. We have to let that person into our life and they have to let us into theirs. Flaws and failings are witnessed and, on some level, they are judged. Sin is seen and condemned or forgiven. Sacrifice is required. Our entire selves are challenged, and if we strive to be Christlike to that significant person, then we will grow more Christlike, but it will take commitment and time and consistency, and most of all faith. Enter my credit card and the mailman delivering my sex robot. Erase all of that. “In short, the advent of sex robot technology may well foreshadow, in many ways, the demise of intimate relationships in the modern world.” (article quote)


Is it any different than Solomon’s 1,000 women harem? The only difference is that he could afford them. The robots will be cheaper.


Not as intimate, but certainly sacrificial, full of faith, hope, and love are our relationships in the body of Christ. As Satan attacks Christian marriage, he attacks local churches, families, Christian organizations that do God’s work. To remain unified is to struggle, let go or our egos and pride, love and forgive unconditionally, and sacrifice for one another. When we do so we are trying to be Christlike and when we do so we will become more Christlike.


In another article in the Guardian, the recent phenomenon of earphones being used to block out the world’s sound around us was addressed. On top of the already high used of headphones, technology is being developed to make tiny earbuds that will block out background noise, or a particular person’s voice, or anything you want. Basically, you’ll be able to choose what you want to hear, or not hear, throughout your whole day from your smartphone. The trend is to plug us into tech and completely unplug us from society. God gave us eyelids, but not earflaps.


Eph 2:11-13: The near and the far – God brings peace to the world.


Jesus brought the true religion which contained all of the good that was copied by false religions, but in an unblemished, unaltered, and not perverted way. It would make sense that it would appeal to all men, Jew and Gentile from all religious and cultural backgrounds. So why did some reject it? To accept it is to accept the person of Jesus Christ “by grace, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man boast.”


What is also appealing to all of mankind is pride and vanity.


All men who believed in Christ as Savior will be united in perfect peace, having all barriers destroyed. 


Christianity also found reception in every part of our world, and without military force. And what we find enlightening is that not only did Jews persecute Christianity, but so did Gentiles. In this city of Ephesus, home of the grand temple to Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, some of the Gentile population viciously attacked Paul and his followers for hurting the profits from their business, which consisted of making idols of Artemis. 


This opens our eyes to the only way that real peace can come among men, and Paul reveals it – the blood of Christ makes peace between man and God and then those men can have peace among each other as the grace of God far outweighs any differences that would normally make for division in the midst of sinful men.


When Rome burned in 64 AD, there was widespread belief that the city had been set on fire by secret orders from Nero himself, who was supposed to desire the glory of founding a new city and calling it by his own name. The historian Tacitus, writing around 100 AD, tells us that to suppress this suspicion Nero “fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class, hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus,” he goes on to say, “from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius, at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate; and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out, not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful, from every part of the world, find their center and become popular.”


This is all the historian has to say about Christ and Christianity, but writes volumes about emperors, statesmen, and generals.


Pic: Artemis (one of four statues excavated at Ephesus dating from about 115 AD. She stands 5.7 feet tall. Her temple (one is a recreation and the other is the one column that is left)


Artemis is the goddess mother of the earth, or wild animals, and fertility.


The many statues or idols of her found in excavating Ephesus shows her to be many breasted.


Paul says that his Gentile converts were formally far off:


Eph 2:11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands — 


Eph 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.


Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.


Many a great thinker, many an ardent reformer before and since has dreamed of some such utopia of perfect peace. And their enthusiastic plans have ended too often in conflict and destruction.


Thomas Moore coined the term Utopia in his book of the same title, a socio-political satire published in 1516. Derived from Greek, Utopia means “no place.”


In More’s book, Utopia is described by a traveler called Raphael Hythloday who bends the narrator’s ear with a survey of our own corrupt, far-from-happy side of the world before enthusiastically describing how much better things are in the island republic of Utopia on the far side of the world. There is no such thing as private property there, and no sectarian strife – but there is a welfare state (incorporating state-sanctioned euthanasia), as well as full employment, a program of rehabilitative slavery for Utopian criminals, a democratic political system that works, a six-hour working day (many enjoy their work so much that they work longer, though), divorce courts, and a general disdain for gold and silver (which are used to make chamber-pots). Reason governs all – at least until Christianity comes along.


It has been tried and has always failed, and discovering in an internet search, there are numerous organizations that are still trying to make utopian communities.


If it doesn’t work then why should we trust Paul’s undertaking over the others? The difference lies here: his expectation rests on the word and character of God, and his instrument of reform is the blood of Christ. 


In Ephesus:

Act 19:18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.


Act 19:19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.


Act 19:20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.


Act 19:23 And about that time there arose no small disturbance concerning the Way.


Act 19:24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen;


Act 19:25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.


Act 19:26 "And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.


Act 19:27 "And not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned from her magnificence."


Should she be dethroned from her magnificence? There is one piddly little column left of her great temple and her statues lay rotting in the ground. Whereas, our Lord did not rot in the ground, and His temple has not crumbled, in fact, every believer is His temple, and in the New Jerusalem of all eternity, the Lord and the Father are the eternal temple.


Act 19:28 And when they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"


I think we can safely conclude that Demetrius has no affection for Artemis or belief in her, but he does believe in being rich off this misplaced belief of other people, and that he has a right to its market, which he views Paul as denying him.


Whether Jew or Gentile, there were significant numbers of people who upon rejecting Christ and witnessing the growth of this new religion called Christianity, persecuted it with vigor.


Mat 5:10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Mat 5:11 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.


Mat 5:12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


This is another source of unity, for we are persecuted together since our persecution is targeted at Christ, so it is not specific to any one of us, but we hold it in common. Sometimes you are persecuted and I am not, and I can be your support, bearing you, comforting, and encouraging you in whatever way God would have me do. Our journey together in the Christian way of life, though we are different individually, brings us together since that journey we share in common.


Under the shadow of His throne of justice, in the arms of His Fatherly love, the kindreds of the earth will at last find reconciliation and peace.


All attempts at utopia by humanist and secularists leave out God, and they do so because they see God as a dividing factor. And so He is.


Mat 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.


Mat 10:35 "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 


Mat 10:36 and a man's enemies will be the members of his household.


God didn’t predict peace on earth until after human history. During human history the promise was “Peace on earth among men with whom God is pleased.”


© Grace and Truth Ministries / Pastor Joseph Sugrue • cgtruth.org • All rights reserved.