You Belong Here
Church is a unique place. Skin color doesn’t matter here. Your vocation doesn’t matter either. You could be a general in the army or a C- student in high school and you would sit next to each other to receive the Word of God and stand beside each other to receive his holy Supper. We’re not different from each other. We are all the same here. Church is a unique place. You might be worth a million dollars; or you may not have two nickels to rub together. Yet we have no value of our own to present to God and are all incredibly wealthy in Christ. Church is a very unique place. Here people can be Georgia fans or Tech fans and get along just fine. Here people can disagree on politics and love each other as brothers. Yes, church is a unique place.
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Church is a unique place. Skin color doesn’t matter here. Your vocation doesn’t matter either. You could be a general in the army or a C- student in high school and you would sit next to each other to receive the Word of God and stand beside each other to receive his holy Supper We’re not different from each other. We are all the same here. Church is a unique place. You might be worth a million dollars; or you may not have two nickels to rub together. Yet we have no value of our own to present to God and are all incredibly wealthy in Christ. Church is a very unique place. Here people can be Georgia fans or Tech fans and get along just fine. Here people can disagree on politics and love each other as brothers. Yes, church is a unique place.
Here are children of God. We are connected to all believers on earth and in heaven by faith in Jesus Christ. We are connected to our heavenly Father through his Son, Jesus Christ and through his Spirit who lives in our harts by faith. We are a people at peace no matter what is going on in the world around us. It wasn’t always this way. Jesus made it possible. Therefore, we consider this thought today:
Celebrate the Church’s uniqueness
Unity instead divisiveness
Peace instead of hostility
Connections instead of isolation
In the verses before our text, St. Paul had said, “as for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins … but God made us alive in Christ Jesus ... it is by grace you have been saved through faith.” Notice that God sees all people the same. All people are born sinners. All Christians come to believe the same way – by grace. No Christian earned a place in God’s church. No Christian is better than another in God’s church. All Christians are equally saved by grace. So there has to be equality in the church.
There was a problem in Ephesus. Gentiles lived without God and without hope. They did not know the will of God as did the Jewish people. They were “far away” as St. Paul puts it. “The blood of Christ” brought the Gentiles “near.” The point St. Paul is making is that Christ has bridged the gap between the Gentiles and the Jews. Everything that the Gentiles were lacking was supplied for them in Jesus. The blood of Christ is the great equalizer in the church!
Jesus removed the tension that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus put an end to the idea that there were two classes of people: Jew and Gentile. He made all people one! There is one church; just as there is one body of Christ. Jesus made that a reality when he abolished sin in his body on the cross. St. Paul uses an illustration. He says that it was as though there was a large wall that separated Jews from Gentiles. The wall was the regulations of the law that the Jews stressed and strained over every day.
They were convinced they had to follow those laws to prove themselves children of God. The Gentiles didn’t even know what those laws were! The Jews resented Gentiles for their infidelity and considered themselves better than the Gentiles. The Gentiles watched how the Jews skirted around the law and they considered the Jews hypocrites. They didn’t have much uses for the God of the Jews either if in fact they were God’s “chosen” race. Regardless of their background Jews and Gentiles all needed Christ because God’s law condemned them all!
There is no one here today who was born into the Christian church. We were all lost in sin and doomed to die in hell at birth. The only reason you are in the Church is because of Christ Jesus. He brought us into God’s family through his own blood. Jesus died on the cross to join himself to us for eternity. His blood purifies us from all our sins. All the things that once divided us from God and each other have been removed through Jesus’ blood! Jesus did an amazing thing: “He created one new man out of the two, thus making peace!” Let us celebrate the church’s uniqueness. Christ established unity instead of diversity in his church.
St. Paul wrote, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” We are at peace with one another in God’s church because Jesus Christ shed his blood for us all to fulfill the demands of the law. But there is a bigger purpose. Jesus did all of this to reconcile us to God! We are at peace with God instead of being at war with him. We enjoy peace instead of hostility!
There was a time remember when we were by nature objects of wrath to God. At the same time, it is true that his great love for us motivated him to send Jesus to save us. So, in the heart of God there was both wrath and love toward mankind. Jesus reconciled us to God on the cross! The cross removed the wrath of God! God was at peace with man in the work of Christ. Jesus came and preached peace to both Jew and Gentile through Christ by whom we have free access to God! What a wonderful blessing we enjoy in the church! This is a unique place. Here we celebrate the fact that we are at peace with God and the hostility that God has toward sin is removed for Jesus’ sake. We are forgiven!
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Jews and Gentiles came from different worlds, but all approach our heavenly Father only through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is still true. Access to our heavenly Father comes through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ sends the same Holy Spirit into the heart of every convert. Then we become one.
What we were doesn’t matter anymore. What we are is simply amazing! We are – as the ladies sang earlier – before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple. Peace envelops God’s church. Peace removes all hostility. Only in God’s church do all people see all people as one. Celebrate the uniqueness of Christ’s Church!
In Christ’s church we focus on connections not isolation. In verse 19 St. Paul wrote,
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” You belong! You are important in the work of the church! You have a role to carry out and a ministry to offer to your Savior. You have rights and privileges as citizens of God’s kingdom, members of his family. You are God’s people, God’s church!
Look around you. We all have different stories, different life experiences. We all have scars from living in a sinful world. Some of those scars are self-inflicted; some caused by others. No matter what you have been through, God in his grace has joined us together in his Church through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are complete. We have a purpose to fulfill in God’s church.
“(We are) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” St. Paul describes Christians like bricks in a building. The foundation is the Word of God delivered to us through the apostles and prophets. The cornerstone of the message of the apostles and prophets is Jesus Christ. He is the heart and core of all that they taught and all that we believe.
The Church is joined together in Christ. Christ is found everywhere in the Word of God. Our connection to Christ is vital. Jesus once said, “He who belongs to God; hears what God says.” Don’t ever wander off on your own thinking you can get along without Christ and his Word – our life is dependent on our connection to Christ.
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Christ’s church is always growing! The work of building Christ’s church is never done. We continue to grow closer to him and to one another as we study his Word and as new people are brought to faith in Jesus Christ through that same Word. Our connection to Christ makes us a “holy temple in the Lord.”
“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” You matter! The Holy Spirit lives in your heart! You need the church as much as the church needs you. We feed off one another. The Holy Spirit is busy with the word of Christ to strengthen our faith. He unites us together into one church family.
The Church is a unique place. No matter what’s going on out there. Here, we enjoy peace with one another and with God. Jesus cleansed us from sin by his blood and uses us in the building of his church. The work isn’t done. The building is still under construction. Let us use the blessings God has given us to do his work until the end of time.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church now and forever. Amen.”