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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Brought Near by the Blood of Christ
Text:Ephesians 2:1-22 (View)
Occasion:Lord's Supper
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-12-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Note to elders: This sermon can be used as a Preparatory sermon by changing “as” to “when” in each reference to the Lord’s Supper)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
 
“Brought Near Through the Blood of Christ
Ephesians 2:1-22
 
When I was a child there was no event more solemn than the Lord’s Supper. The minister was so serious, and so was everyone in the congregation, including my parents. I recall that my mother never finished the little cup of wine. There was always about a quarter cup left in the little glass container. On the ride home after church my mother would express her concern at the command “Drink ye all of it”, for she couldn’t bear, she said, the thought of drinking something so significant as communion wine, representing the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
 
My oldest brother would explain, “It means everybody who has properly examined them self, repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus alone, should drink, not that you have to drink every drop, Mom.”  As I sat in the backseat of the old Chevy, I always wondered, “So serious, so solemn, why do they call it a celebration?” ­ ­
 
The passage before us gives a number of reasons why the solemn and serious observance of the Lord’s Supper is also a true celebration, a high point in the life of the church, a treasure to every true believer.
 
First, this passage reminds us that through the sacrifice of Jesus we are brought near to God. Our text, in verse 13 says: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
 
In verse 13 Paul is referring to the Gentiles. In the Old Testament era, with rare exceptions, God extended his grace only to the Israelites. The Gentiles were on the outside looking in. In the words of verse 13 they were “far away” from the Lord and his promises of salvation.
 
However, the application isn’t just historical. There is a personal application that springs from the “therefore” in verse 11. That “therefore” in verse 11 is pointing us back to the opening verses as the chapter begins by describing our true condition apart from Christ: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
 
Those verses are telling us that no matter who you are, no matter how long you have been in this church or any other, you and I are also by nature objects of God’s wrath.  We have all sinned and separated ourselves from God because of our sin. Every true Christian relates to David confession, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” And, “I know that my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51: 3, 5).
 
Yet, as we take the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are brought near to God. If you and I have truly repented of our sins and trusted in Christ alone for salvation, we find great comfort in verse 13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
 
Peace
 
Not only are we brought near to God, and reconciled to him, we are also reconciled to one another. Being brought near to God includes having peace with each other. Verse 14 describes the peace which faith in Jesus brings between people of different nationalities and backgrounds: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…”
 
“Making the two one” describes how Jews and Gentiles could worship together, no longer separated from each other though hostility. As Paul wrote verse 14, he may have been thinking about the barricade that separated what was known as the “Court of the Gentiles” from the rest of the temple. On that barricade was this inscription: “No foreigner (Gentile) may enter within the barricade that surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”
 
In the early church that seemingly insurmountable barricade between Jews and Gentiles was broken down. By his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection Jesus Christ has brought peace – reconciliation – between those who once had animosity for each other, even such great animosity as to threaten each other with death.
 
But it wasn’t just first century Jews and Gentiles who found that their hostilities toward each were dissolved and broken apart. The same is true for you and for me, and all who have true saving faith in Christ. We are reconciled not only to God, but to one another – even to those in the church who have offended us at times, rubbed us the wrong way and gotten on our nerves.
 
When we take the Lord’s Supper together, we are reminded that even though we come from different walks of life, yet in Christ we are one. He is the tie that binds us together. In the words of 1 Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” Some churches use one loaf of bread to signify that unity when the take the Lord’s Supper. I was surprised when I took the cover off the plate the first time as a visiting pastor in another church. I expected to see all the pieces of neatly cut bread. Instead there was the loaf, which would be passed through the congregation, as each professing member breaks off a piece.
 
The symbolism is excellent. We who are many are all part of the same body, the same loaf. Our faith in Christ unites us and bonds us together, even though each one is a separate individual, using our gifts for the good of the body. While the hygiene may leave something to be desired, as everyone handles the same loaf, the symbolism is powerful.
 
When we take the Lord’s Supper, we are also reminded that since Christ is our source of peace, we can have peace even with the adverse, hard, and painful circumstances that often mar our lives. When Paul wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus, he was imprisoned in Rome, under a two year house arrest. He was imprisoned because of his faith in Jesus, yet he had peace with his circumstances. 
 
Later, writing to the Philippian church, also while he was a prisoner in Rome, Paul wrote those comforting words of contentment found in Philippians 4:12-13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”    
 
The same is true for you and for me.  When we take the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper we are strengthened and have peace, not only with others, but with our circumstances, knowing that the One who sacrificed his life for us has also promised to “work out all things” - not just some things but – “all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”
 
Third, verse 16 points out that we have the greatest peace imaginable. We have peace with God himself as we are reconciled to him through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. Verse 15(b) and 16: “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
 
Reconciliation refers to the bringing together of two parties who are estranged from one another. They are estranged because one of the parties has offended the other.  In our case, we have offended God. We have broken his laws. We have taken his word lightly. We have put ourselves and our goals – our will – before his. Yet it is God who initiates reconciliation, and accomplishes reconciliation, by the giving of his Son on the cross.
 
A little girl once asked her dad, “How big was the cross that Jesus was crucified on?” She wondered how tall and how wide the cross was. The father thought for a moment and then replied, “Big enough to reach all the way to heaven.”
 
As you take the Lord’s Supper, as you take the bread and the cup, remember that there is no other way to be reconciled. There is no other way to have peace with God. Not by works. Not by perceived obedience to the law. Not by self-righteousness, only by faith in the One who sacrificed Himself for you and for me on the cross.
 
Reconciled to God
 
When we are reconciled to the Father through faith in the Son, we gain direct access to our heavenly Father’s grace, power and love. This was shown dramatically the very moment that Jesus died on the cross.  You children remember what happened then. The curtain in the temple that separated the most holy place from the rest of the temple was torn in two.
 
The torn curtain symbolizes the access that we have to God the Father through faith in the sacrificial death and the glorious resurrection of Jesus, the Son. In the words of Hebrews 6:19-20: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf…”   Through faith in Christ we are brought into the most holy place – the presence of Almighty God, because “through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (18).
    
As you take the bread and drink from the cup, try to grasp something of the magnificence of having access to God the Father through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus the Son. An evangelist in China years ago faced incredibly hard circumstances. His work was dangerous and discouraging. But as he wrote letters back to supporting churches, he used a letterhead on his stationary with these three verses:  
 
      Joshua 10:13 - “The sun stood still.”
      2 Kings 6:6 - “The axe head floated.”
      Psalm 48:14 - “This God is our God.”
 
That is the God to whom we are reconciled and given access to! He is the Creator of the universe.  Holy.  Pure and sinless.  He is almighty. Omniscient. Omnipresent and eternal. Yet because of the shed blood of Jesus, the Son, we can call out to Him, through saving faith in his Son, “Abba, Father,” with confidence.
 
Do you see something of the magnitude of the blessing portrayed in the sacrament? We are forgiven and reconciled to the Father through faith in the Son, who sacrificed himself for us!
         
Apart from Christ - Without Hope and Without God in the World
 
The blessing of having access to the Father through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, is truly a blessing to celebrate.  But on the other hand, if you do not have access to the Father through faith in his Son, then you are described in the most dismal of terms.
 
In verse 12 Paul writes: “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.”  The world is a hostile, cruel place. To be in this turbulent world “without hope and without God” is to be in a truly tragic position.   
 
Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones pointed out that the further we are from God, the more pessimistic we tend to be. He pointed out that to be “without hope and without God in the world” is a description of anyone who thinks deeply apart from God. And he applied their pessimism to poets, writers, and philosophers.
 
I found that out in my own experience.  Now that I’m retired, I have time to sort through all my old files and writing. I’ve come across some of my writing from the many years of my life when, unfortunately, I was living apart from the Lord, “without hope and without God in the world,” and it is reflected in my writing.
 
During those years – about a dozen years altogether – I tried to write a social commentary on America. It was entitled National Clusters. It was about a fictious nation inhabited by “Clusterites” and Clusterettes.”  The idea was, that by reading the book the readers would see a picture of our culture and a picture of themselves and have a clearer understanding of where they fit into “the cluster.”
 
My children, as they grew older and discovered their dad had a rather strange past, asked if they could read the book. But I burned it, long ago. I burned it when I realized that rather than being meaningful and insightful, it was the foolish ramblings of someone who was “without hope and without God” in the world.
 
But by God’s grace, in the futility of my life, I began to see the truth of Colossians 2:3 that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. I began to realize that whatever was going on in the somber church services of my childhood had meaning and purpose that had totally eluded me.
     
Maybe some of you are in that same place. You can grow up in the church, as I did, and yet be so far from the Lord, “without hope and without God” in this cruel, sad, sinful world. If that describes any of you, know that these blessings are given to all, who by God’s grace, seek him wholeheartedly:
 
Jeremiah 29:13 - You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.
 
Deuteronomy 4:29 - “If you seek the Lord your God you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and all your soul.”
 
John 6:37 – the promise of Jesus, “All the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive away.”
 
 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 - “We urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.  For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ - I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
 
The invitation is offered in Scripture time and again, just as it is in the hymn we sang earlier:
 
Come to the Savior now, he gently calls to you;
in true repentance bow, let him your heart renew.
Christ came that you may know salvation, peace, and love,
true joy on earth below, a home in heaven above.
 
By God’s grace, may he work his Spirit in each one of our lives, so that each one of us responds with saving faith to his invitation! No wonder we don’t just “observe” the Lord’s Supper, but also “celebrate” the Lord’s Supper! What great and wonderful blessings are ours through faith in Jesus Christ!
 
Blessings at a Great Cost
 
Yet, as we break the bread and drink from the cup, we cannot help but remember that these blessings come at a great cost. Verse 13 reminds us that it is through the shed blood of Jesus that we are brought near to God the Father, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
 
His blood covers all our sins. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper springs from the Passover in the Old Testament. The Israelites had to smear the blood from a lamb without spot or defect on the doorposts of their homes. When the angel of destruction came, and took the life of the first born child in every Egyptian home, the angel “passed over” judgment to the Israelites because the blood of the Passover lamb was on their doorposts.
 
And the same is true for you and me. If, by grace, we truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, then his blood is on the doorposts of our lives, for 1 Corinthians 5:7 assures us that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
 
We sometimes sing the familiar hymn, “Jesus Paid It All.” - How high a price did he pay? How much did your salvation and mine cost the eternal, blameless Son of God?  It cost him his life. “…You who once were far away” – verse 13 assures us – “have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
 
Not only did he shed his blood. His body was also crucified and pierced for us. And verse 15 tells us “He abolished in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.” On the one hand, it is reminding us that the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are now abolished, for those bloody Old Testament ceremonial laws pointed to Christ. But on the other hand, verse 15 reminds us that in his flesh Jesus perfectly kept the law, “setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.”
 
Not only are our sins covered by his blood, but in their place is the perfect record of Jesus Christ. In his body of truly human flesh, the eternal Christ kept every law with perfection. If you believe in Him with saving faith this morning, then His perfect life of obedience is imputed to you. In the words of Lord’s Day 23 of the Heidelberg Catechism:
 
Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart. (Q&A 60).
 
The most solemn event imaginable, when I was a child, was this sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in the church my family attended. It is a serious, solemn event. Your sins and mine necessitated the sacrificial death of the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.
 
But it is also a joyous event for everyone who takes the Lord’s Supper with saving faith! Through the Lord’s Supper we are nourished and fed spiritually by Christ Himself. Through the Lord’s Supper we are visibly reminded that our sins are forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus.  May you and I, in solemn and serious contemplation, truly rejoice and celebrate the Supper of our Lord, this day (or next Sunday) and always! Amen!
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” - Ephesians 2:13
 
“Brought Near Through the Blood of Christ”
Ephesians 2:1-22
 
 I.  The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not just “observed” but “celebrated” because through faith in Jesus’ shed blood and pierced body:
      1) We are brought near to God, as our sins are forgiven (11-13)
 
 
      2) We are given peace:
            a) With each other (14, 15b)
 
 
           b) With our circumstances (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:12-13)
 
 
           c) With God Himself as we are reconciled to Him (16-17)
 
 
        3) We have access to the Father through faith in the Son (18; Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:19-25)
 
 
II. Applications:
       1) These blessings are given to all who seek Christ, while those who refuse Him are “without hope and without God in the world” (12; Deut. 4:29; Isa. 55:6-7;
           John 6:37; 2 Cor. 6:1-2)
 
 
 
        2) These blessings come at a great cost: The shed blood of Jesus (13b) and the sacrifice of His body (15a) 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Ted Gray

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