The Power of the Cross: Reconciliation (Part Three)

Ephesians 2:11-18

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (2:17-18 NIV).

Let’s look deeper at this reconciliation. God in Christ formed a new people of God. In the past, this aspect of reconciliation was underemphasized. This severely hurt the church when it needed this truth the most in a changing world. The church had an opportunity to demonstrate that she is God’s new society, but she wandered far into the swamp of worldliness. This happened at least twice in America, especially in the 1840s-1860s and the 1940s-1960s.

On the cross Christ accomplished the final fulfillment of the law, meaning the law covenant given at Sinai, and so he abolished it and its commandments and regulations (cf. Romans 6:14; 7:6; 10:4; 2 Corinthians 3:4-16; Galatians 3:19-25; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 7:18; 8:6-13; 9:1, 10; 10:1-10). Christ satisfied all the demands of the law for his people, and so we are legally free from it. We do not and cannot achieve a righteous way of life by putting ourselves under the law.

At the same time, the Lord created a new man or a new humanity in himself out of former Jews and Gentiles, reconciling both to God in his one body through the cross. Here is an important aspect of the power of the cross: the creation of a new people of God (cf. Ephesians 3:6).

What is the outcome of this reconciliation that makes us Christ’s new people?

  • We share his peace (2:17). Christ’s peace not only means the absence of hostility, but also the presence of great spiritual blessings. We belong to God. We are adult sons and daughters of God; we are free! We have the Holy Spirit of God, who keeps us, fills us, empowers us, transforms us, assures us, and makes Christ’s presence known to us.
  • We have access to God (2:18). This means “that the relationship is restored, that friendly relationship with God whereby we are acceptable to Him and have assurance that he is well disposed towards us” (Lloyd-Jones). Here is the beauty of worship in the gospel. You and I can boldly share fellowship with the Holy, Almighty, Sovereign God, as the Holy Spirit makes real to us the presence of the risen, ascended Christ to us.
  • We together form a holy temple in the Lord in which God lives by his Spirit (2:19-22). We are “home”, God’s home. In a practical sense for you and me, eternal joy, peace, and glory begins in your gathering of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, it does for believers in Jesus. But you can only realize it by faith. We must by faith in Jesus see one another in him.

Have you ever arrived for a gathering of your physical, extended family exhausted from a long ride in a car in the driving rain? You are weary, and you get drenched on your way into the house. You want to be there, but you feel out of sorts. But you get in the house, and your family welcomes you, takes your wet jacket, leads you over to the fire to get warm, and brings you a soothing drink to refresh your spirit. And you say, “Ah, it feels so good to be home.”

This is what I want you to understand and live. Since God has reconciled us to him through the power of the cross of Christ, we’re in God’s home. Here is peace, beauty, joy, and glory begun, if you will grasp this through faith in Christ. A church is not a place you go to that has nice buildings and exciting, glitzy programs. A church is the people of Christ, whom he has reconciled to the Father by the power of his cross. You can feel at home among Christ’s new covenant people. You ought to feel at home with them! Are you reconciled to God?

Grace and peace, David

The Power of the Cross: Reconciliation (Part Two)

Ephesians 2:11-18

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (2:14-16 NIV).

The message of the Bible is the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. Knowing how hopeless our situation was because of our sin and resultant alienation from God, out of pure love and overflowing grace and holy zeal for his glory, God had a purpose of rescue for the hopeless.

The main character in the story is Jesus Christ, who is both Son of God and Son of Man. Notice what the apostle writes by the Holy Spirit. But now in Christ Jesus… (2:13 NIV). Christ is God’s message or word. God’s message is not the future of Israel or a ten-step process for recovering from addiction or learning how to be a covenant keeper or how to have your best life now. God’s message is concentrated on Jesus Christ. When we meet as a church, we need to hear about Jesus. When we go out on our mission into the world, we need to talk about Jesus our Lord.

The main theme of the story is that Jesus Christ brings us near to God through his blood shed on the cross. The great way of access to God is established by his blood. We have peace with God (Romans 5:1); we can draw near to God with confidence (Hebrews 10:19-22).

For this reason, I think it is a serious mistake to try to create an “atmosphere of worship” in a church service. In the Lord Jesus, we have all the “atmosphere” we need. Some might say that we’re rather blunt and ruthless in not creating any such atmosphere. To dim the lights and illuminate a backdrop with an image of a cross is contrary to true spirituality (John 4). The same holds true for lighting a bunch of candles and burning incense. Nor do we need to try to manipulate people’s “spiritual juices” by endlessly repeating some praise song or favorite hymn. No, we ought to seek that people know Jesus Christ and him crucified… not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:2-5 NIV).

Our situation after the cross is that we are reconciled to God. Here is the idea of reconciliation in the Bible. God reaches out to restore to friendship those whom he formerly was against as his enemies. An event from the life of David presents the concept.  In 1 Samuel 29:4 the Philistines did not want David to be part of their army, because they feared he might be reconciled to his father-in-law Saul, who hated him. The problem in the relationship was not that David was opposed to Saul, since he honored Saul as king. But they feared that David might seek reconciliation by turning against the Philistines and so turn Saul’s hatred back to friendship.

Because Christ’s death through the shedding of his blood was the sacrifice that guaranteed the forgiveness of sins in the new covenant, and because Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath against us, God reconciles us to himself through the cross (Eph 2:16). For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10 ESV). Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 CSB). Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him (Colossians 1:21-22 CSB). Christ secured our position before God by his blood. God is no longer alienated from us, but is at peace with us, because Christ himself is our Peace. “This is a beautiful title of Christ: the Peace between God and men” (Calvin). Today, rejoice before God because the Lord Jesus Christ is your reconciliation with God; he is your peace; it is not your performance, which varies like the wind.

Grace and peace, David

The Power of the Cross: Reconciliation (Part One)

Ephesians 2:11-18

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:11-13 NIV).

We can all tell stories about people alienated from one another. Since we or friends would be the subjects, we would tell them with a sense of the pain of alienation.

However, our topic in this post is not primarily about fractured human relationships, though what we’ll think about provides the only reliable basis for rebuilding or renewing them. Our concern is with our alienation from God. As we have seen in this series on the power of the cross, our basic problem is that because of our sin or rebellion against God, he must act in holy justice against us. In this situation we need our sins forgiven and his wrath removed. God did this through the power of the cross of Christ. He died as a sacrifice that would secure forgiveness and remove wrath. But what of the practical situation of God’s alienation from us? In holy justice he was against us, but can he bring us back in peace and as his friends?

In order to grasp the importance of what the Lord accomplished, we must understand our situation before the cross. We were far away. All people have had a two-part legal problem. All people everywhere are by nature people who step over (transgress) the limits God established for human behavior and who fail to properly represent his worth or glory. This last makes us like a TV that cannot show clear pictures but only warps and blurs them. Not only that, we don’t even want to show the picture of God’s glory. We wrongly choose to show the pictures of God’s enemies in order to project ourselves. This made us practically worthless as God’s image bearers and objects of God’s wrath, because we have desired to live this way (Ephesians 2:1-3).

In his love, God called Israel out of slavery to be his nation, and he gave them many blessings and privileges (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:12). He brought them into a relationship with him based on the law (or old covenant). God promised them life, if they would obey. Israel’s problem was simply that they were sinners, and the law could not deal with the problem of sin. In fact, sin took advantage of the law situation and by the commandments of the law put Israel to death (Romans 7:7-13). Israel was in a hopeless situation.

The rest of the nations (the Gentiles) did not receive the blessings that Israel had received. Instead, God had handed them over to sin (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) and let them go their own way (Acts 14:16). They had no way to become his nation or people, and the nations were in a hopeless and godless situation.

Please take a few minutes to slow down and to think about the condition humanity was in before the cross. Israel had a good law covenant from God that they could not keep. The nations were largely abandoned by God, since they willfully pursued a way of life that refused the true and living God and place in their lives. (This still holds true in our time.) How could people return to a relationship with the Holy God over all? A Mediator was necessary who could bridge the gap between God and sinful people. This is what God did in Christ at the cross. Are you reconciled to God through Jesus Christ?

Grace and peace, David