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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Peace With God
Text:Ephesians 2:11-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-06-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Readings: Matthew 27: 32-51; Hebrews 9:1-22

Text: Ephesians 2:11-16

 

PEACE WITH GOD

  1. The Chiastic Problem

  2. The Chiastic Solution

 

  1. Psalm 147: 1, 3, 4

  2. Psalm 1: 1-3

  3. Hymn 22: 1, 3

  4. Hymn 23: 1-3

  5. Psalm 117

  6. Hymn 37: 1-2

 

Words to Listen For: racing, pride, poetical, regular

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. What is a chiasm?

  2. Are we more like the Jews or the Gentiles?  Why?  And does it matter?

  3. What might we be wrong about concerning the gospel?

  4. What is special about the tearing of the curtain?

  5. What is our peace treaty?

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


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

Have you ever heard of a CHIASM before?

Maybe the English teachers, maybe the poets, maybe the Biblical scholars know about chiasms.

But then, for those more familiar with music, for those who remember music classes in elementary school or high school, you will know what chiasms are too, though this particular term wasn’t used.

If you have a particular theme or melody in the music, to be replaced by another theme, which is then repeated, and then, before the end, returning to that original theme.  This is a chiasm, and in music, it is represented as A-B-B-A.

Still not sure?

Well, think of psalm 1 that we sang earlier in the service.  Though the chiasm is obscured by the rhymed version in the Book of Praise, just look at the original in the Bible:

     His delight

     is in the law of the Lord

     And on His law

     He meditates day and night.

 

     Delight

     Law

     Law

     Meditating day and night

The chiasm is a feature of Hebrew writing, and we can see it all throughout Old Testament books of poetry.

“So,” you may ask, “why do you bring this up when we are looking at EPHESIANS?  A New Testament Epistle…pretty far away from Old Testament poetry!”

Well, it’s because it’s not that far from it.  Paul’s Jewish roots and his history in the Old Testament shines front and center here in our text, which is made up of, not just one but two chiasms.

Let’s examine the Apostle Paul’s poetic theology under this theme:

PEACE WITH GOD

  1. The Chiastic Problem

  2. The Chiastic Solution

 

The Chiastic Problem

Before we begin examining the Apostle Paul’s poetry, it is perhaps worthwhile to discover what has made him write this poetry in the first place.

Paul’s heart is so full of excitement, so full of joy, that is breaks open into these divinely inspired poetic teachings.  It is not everyday that such beautiful poetry springs from the heart of a man, so what has made him so overcome?

It is truly the best reason there could possibly be for such strong emotions - THE GOSPEL!

Whereas we might be more comfortable with Paul’s intellectual theological point by point examination of theology in the book of Romans, and, I’ll admit, this kind of deep intellectual organization DOES get my heart racing from time to time, here we see a different side of the Apostle Paul.  His  romantic side, where the excitement has Paul writing run on sentences, several verses long, it has Paul beginning to develop an idea before getting side-tracked and then returning to it, it has Paul writing POETRY!

And in our text, verses 11 through 16, we see Paul bouncing from one idea to the next and back again, intertwining the two peaces obtained by the gospel - peace with God and peace with man.

And these are what make up the two different parts of the chiasm.

We see in verse 12 the chiastic problem.

Remember that you were, at that time, separated from Christ

    Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel

    And strangers to the covenants of promise

Having no hope, and without God in the world

 

Do you see?

 

Separated from Christ

    Alienated from Israel

    Strangers to the Covenant

Without God

A-B-B-A

And though both are tragic, though it is tragic to be separated from your fellow human beings, separated, prejudiced against them, what is more tragic, what is more immediately necessary to be fixed, to be solved, is our separation from God.

And so we will leave the “B” part of the chiasm for next week, and focus on the “A” part this week.

Our text begins with the words Therefore remember, and then Paul’s passion gets away from him again for verse 11, explaining the situation - the Gentiles in the flesh…that’s not REALLY the problem.

Being a Gentile in the flesh is not what keeps you away from God, but it is being a Gentile at HEART.

Therefore remember…and then he returns here in verse 12 - Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ.

And it is all too easy to brush this off and think this doesn’t apply to us.  It may seem that Paul is merely speaking to the Gentiles here…it may seem that what Paul is saying is for those non-covenant people.

The covenant people have it all!  They have the covenants of promise, they have hope, they have life, they have GOD!  It’s the Gentiles who have no hope.

But look back with me to the beginning of the chapter.

What does Paul say?

Verse 1 - And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience —  among whom WE ALL ONCE LIVED in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

If it’s not clear from the start, with Paul’s “YOU” “And YOU were dead” - speaking to the entire mixed congregation, Jews and Gentiles, Paul includes himself in verse 3 - “among whom WE ALL ONCE LIVED!”

And he does this so that none of us have any excuse.  He does this so that none of us can have any pride.

Because who was Paul?  He was a Hebrew of Hebrews - circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee.

And did this help him?  Not Paul!  Not until Christ Jesus got His hands on him.  For Paul’s covenant status, his fervor, caused him to PERSECUTE the church!

The blessings of the covenant mean NOTHING if you don’t have the blessings of Christ.  Your status in this church of Jesus Christ means nothing if you don’t have the same status in THE CHURCH of Jesus Christ.  More on that this afternoon.

So let us never make the mistake of confusing COVENANT with SALVATION.  For it was the covenant people who put the prophets in the Old Testament to death.  It was the covenant people who called for the Messiah to be crucified.  It was the covenant people who were the first to systematically oppose the church.

All of this to say…just because you grew up in the church DOES NOT MEAN that Ephesians 2:12 isn’t for you.  It doesn’t mean that it’s not about you, because IT IS!

You were…separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world. 

This is the description of who we all are before God PERSONALLY takes hold of our heart - born in the church or not.  For me, this happened when I was five years old, and then again when I was 17.  When God PERSONALLY took hold of my heart.

And what a tragic description this is!  You can see Paul’s depth of emotion.  He knows first-hand what it is like to be without God.

He says “YOU WERE DEAD!”  No life, no hope. DEAD. Dead in your trespasses.  Dead, but living, walking around in your passions.

For this kind of theological death doesn’t mean you are doing NOTHING.  It doesn’t JUST mean that you are incapable of doing anything good, it means that you are walking in the way of death.  Just like we sang in Psalm 1 earlier.  You can walk in the way of life, or you can walk in the way of death, feeling the fear of death, feeling the pangs of death more and more, until you really and truly die FOREVER.

For the real tragedy of death is being separated from the God of Life.  And THIS is what each and every one of us is born into a life that naturally leads to death.  We are born as enemies of God, and therefore enemies of everything good and hopeful.  Enemies of the light.

And for some of you today, maybe this is how you still feel.  You don’t WANT to be an enemy of the good, but you had no choice in the matter.  It’s just what feels natural.  You want to escape…but it’s too hard.

Maybe some of you here, maybe some of you who are just checking us out via the livestream, or maybe some of you watching this recording 5 years from now.

Maybe you feel that you are separated from Christ.  Maybe you feel that you have no hope, that you are without God in the world.  Maybe you doubt His existence, or maybe you know that He is there.  But you feel that He’s not there FOR YOU.

The gospel is for other people.  Jesus Christ is for the people who look a certain way, or act a certain way.  He is for men who wear suits and women who wear dresses.  God is for good people…and I’m a bad person.

But if you think that…with all due respect, you’re wrong!

And if you’ve been TOLD THAT…you have been LIED TO.

Because this isn’t the gospel.

  • You say that you are filled with darkness…well…the gospel came as a light in the darkness.

  • You say that you are a sinner…well…our Saviour came to call, not the righteous but the sinners to repentance!

  • You say that you are hopeless…well…our Saviour came to be hope to the hopeless.  In His name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12).

Whatever excuse, whatever reason you have for thinking you don’t belong, these have all been answered by Jesus Christ.

There is nothing in your mind, nothing in your heart, nothing in your past, that can keep you from being accepted by Him.

If you think you have an example of where I’m wrong here, let’s talk about it.  If you think that you are the one person that Jesus Christ can’t reach, I’d be happy to walk with you into the light.  Just ask.

Because for every problem, for every weakness…there is grace, there is mercy, there is a Saviour, there is a solution.  Our second point.

And this solution, with Paul being Paul, with the excitement, brings out his Jewish poetical side again and frames our salvation in another chiasm.

Verse 13 - But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Again, entwined together are the concepts of peace with God and peace with man.

You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ

    He has made us both one

    He created in Himself one new man in the place of two

He might reconcile us both to God through the cross

Where there was once enmity and hostility of a theological nature - children of the darkness who, by nature, hate God - there was also enmity and hostility of a anthropological nature - children of the darkness, who, by nature, hate our neighbours.

But the gospel does away with both of these hostilities.

In JESUS CHRIST, you who were once far off - and remember, that’s each and every one of us - you who were once far off have been brought near.

And how could something like this happen?  How could enemies turn into loved ones?

It was through the death of Christ.

Now, for those of us who grew up in the church, this is obvious, this is the thing that we hear every week, but try to put yourself in the position of those hearing this for the first time.

For YOU to COME IN to the FAMILY OF GOD, someone had to die.

And not just someone.  Not just a random person, but a holy man.  A sinless man.  A perfect man.  A man who was also God.

For God to welcome you into His household, He had to die.  Let me say that again.  For God to welcome you into His household, He had to die.

We have peace, we have salvation that was won for us through blood and suffering and death.  THIS is the cost of our sins.  This is the evil, this is the hopelessness that lurks in all our hearts.

But this is also the price that our God was willing to pay.  This is the goodness, this is the hope, this is the love of our Saviour.  He suffered and died to bring us PEACE.

And this is where our readings come in.

We read in Hebrews about the Old Covenant.  We read about the various rooms in the tabernacle.

There was the Holy Place.  This was the first section.  This was where the lampstand was.  This is where the special table and special bread were.  This was a very special room.  And not every Israelite could go into the Holy Place you see.  Not every regular covenant child could go there.  Not one who is in the covenant outwardly, just being born into it, not even those in the covenant inwardly, truly believing.

But this room was only for priests.  Only for those of the house of Aaron.

And beyond this, there was a curtain.  A curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place.  And here was the presence of God.  His glory cloud rested on the mercy seat, between the cherubim, on the ark of the covenant.  It was glorious.

And not every Israelite could draw near.

Not every priest could draw near.

Only the high priest, and even he could only draw near once a year for a few moments.

This language of “drawing near” this language of “being brought near” is unique to the task of a priest, and Paul uses it very intentionally.

It was the curtain that separated mankind from God, only parting once a year for one man - the high priest - to draw near.   This curtain separated us from Him because we are sinful and He is holy.  We were separated because we were enemies.

We were separated because there was no way for a sinful person to approach a holy God without dying.  The separation was because of our sin, but it was also for our benefit.

But all of that changed in one moment.  One historic moment.

This we read about in Matthew 27 - And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.  And behold - the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

It is this that Paul is speaking of in verse 14 - For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

This curtain was the dividing wall of hostility.  Not hostility from God, but hostility from US!

But what did our God do?

He reconciled us to Him, He BROUGHT US NEAR - not by changing His demands, for they are righteous and holy altogether.  He brought us near to Himself by paying for our sins with His own body.  At the very moment when Christ Jesus died on that cross, that moment when the wages of sin were paid, that curtain was torn.

And not to make too much of this, but there are no coincidences with our God…the curtain of the temple was torn in two…FROM TOP TO BOTTOM.

God was the one who orchestrated this, not us.  We did not find a way to God, but He initiated this plan, before all ages.  He carried out this plan in time, in that single moment.

It all started with Him, and so the curtain was torn, not from bottom to top, us drawing near to God, but from top to bottom, Him descending down to us and bringing us near, saying:

  • IT IS FINISHED.

  • The war is over.

  • It is done.

  • The reason for the separation - your sins - have been paid for.

  • So come home.

  • Come to me.

  • Let us speak of peace.

  • Let us be reconciled together.

This is what I have done for YOU.

This is our Saviour!  He has brought us peace, and what Paul says is that He Himself IS our peace.  Not only does He BRING PEACE, but He IS PEACE.

What should we make of this?  That Jesus IS our peace?

Well, think of a peace treaty.  Think of a piece of paper signed by two warring parties.

That piece of paper is, for all intents and purposes, THE PEACE.  A paper isn’t the experience of peace, that comes in each person’s heart, each person’s life.  But that piece of paper is the peace.  You look at it.  You point to it.  THIS IS THE PEACE.

These signatures brought us peace, and if we forget, if one party begins to attack us again, you bring out that piece of paper.  YOU SAID.  YOU SIGNED YOUR NAME TO THIS.  YOU PROMISED PEACE.  STICK TO YOUR WORD!

And the cross is that peace treaty for us.  The cross.

Verse 16 - And might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

It was the cross that reconciled us to God.

And it is the cross that we must look to when we don’t experience that peace.  When one party begins to attack again.

But here’s the thing - it will not be God attacking us.  That will NEVER HAPPEN.  Because the sins of the people of God have been paid for.  Once.  Definitively.  God will never require payment from you for your sins, for they have been nailed to the cross 2000 years ago, and they ARE NO MORE.

But that doesn’t mean that we will experience perfect peace.  Not yet at least. 

It’s AVAILABLE FOR US, the peace treaty has been signed, and it was signed in blood…but there are times when we forget.

Our consciences accuse us that we are not worthy to be called sons and daughters of God.  Our consciences whisper to us in the middle of the night that there is no peace.

But that voice of your conscience…it’s not God speaking. God isn’t re-negging on the deal.  He is just, He is loving, He made that peace Himself and He doesn’t regret it for a moment.

When you sin, when you know the wrong thing to do and you do it anyways, when you know the right thing to do and you refuse to do it, God doesn’t look at you and say: “Oh no!  I made a mistake welcoming THIS PERSON in.  Let’s fix that up quickly and kick him out.  Remove her from the family.”

This is not the voice of God you hear, it is the voice of the Devil.  He is the one whispering in your ear, trying to make you doubt the peace.  Trying to make you doubt your salvation.  He is the one who encourages you to sin, and then he is the one who mocks you for it.

So when the devil tells you that there is no peace, show him that peace treaty.  Show him the cross.

When you are terrified of hell because you’ve sinned again, picture the cross of Christ in your mind.

Picture the rough wood.  Picture the grooves in the wood, filled up with streams of blood.

Picture the nails, picture the thorns, picture the MAN on the cross.  The picture of our peace.  The one whose suffering brought us salvation.

The man who was torn apart to bring us together.  This is the gospel.  This is the message of a problem, the biggest problem we could ever have.  And this is the message of a solution, the best solution we could ever have.

A problem that entered this world thousands of a years ago, but a love that was planned from eternity past.  Jesus Christ came, not only to SHOW US that love, but to ACCOMPLISH IT.  To bring us peace.  To bring us back to Himself.

This is what made Paul’s heart beat a little faster.

This is what made his pen scratch a little more recklessly.

This is what caused Paul’s heart to break open in poetry, and it is this that should make us break out into thankful song.

AMEN.




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

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