Christ’s Gospel of Peace

Paul says that Christ preached peace to “you who were far off”? You who were far off are Gentiles in the flesh (Eph. 2:11). You Gentiles were once “separated from Christ” (v. 12). You Gentiles were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” You Gentiles were once “strangers to the covenants of promise.” You Gentiles were “having no hope and without God in the world.” “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13).

Who are “those who were near”? They are the Jews. “He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him” (Ps. 148:14).

Christ preached peace to both Gentiles and Jews. This is Christ’s message of peace. By His death, Jewish and Gentile believers are reconciled. By His death, the Law is no longer the basis for getting right with God. By His death, there is no dividing wall between them. By His death, there is no more hostility between them. In Christ, both Jewish and Gentile believers are one. That is Christ’s gospel of peace.

Three Christian brothers met one day

To speak of things divine;

They had so much of Christ to say,

With joy their faces shine.

The first one said, `My brothers dear,

By virtue of Christ’s blood,

My heart retains no guilty fear,

I now have “Peace with God”.’ (Rom. 5. 1)

The second brother answered bold,

`You lag on heaven’s road;

I grasp the truth with higher hold,

I have the “peace of God”.’ (Phil. 4. 7)

The third dear brother drew up tall;

He laughed and scarce could cease:

`My brothers dear, I beat you all—

I have the “God of Peace.”—T. Baird

The Bible says that people who trust Christ have peace with God. People who pray and commit all things to God have the peace of God. Yet people who trust Christ have Christ–the God of peace. To be in Christ is to be joined to Christ and to have his peace. To be in Christ is to be joined with other believers.

Are you joined to Christ today? Then you have the God of peace in you. You are joined with other believers also.

There is therefore no place for hostility toward believers of another race, color, or gender. You are joined with other believers in Christ. There is no place for discrimination toward believers of another class or social status. In Christ, there is no rich or poor, man or woman, for all are one in Christ. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28).

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Christ’s Preaching of Peace

We’re now in Part 3 of our expository sermon series, “From Outsiders to Insiders in Christ,” in Ephesians 2:11-22. To review, Paul writes about the work of Christ in reconciliation (vv. 13-18). We note three things about the reconciliation work of Christ in this passage. First, Christ is our Peace (v. 14). In Christ, there is peace between both Jewish and Gentile believers. Second, Christ is the peacemaker (vv. 14-15). Christ united both Jewish and Gentiles believers into one new man by breaking down the dividing wall of the Law between them.

We go to the third work of Christ in this passage.

Christ’s Proclamation of Peace

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Eph. 2:17). Christ is not just our peace. He is also the preacher of peace. He is the evangelist of peace. He is the announcer of the good news of peace.

He preached peace to you who are far off and to those who are near. Paul echoes Isaiah 57:19, “Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD.” Paul applies Isaiah’s words to Christ. It is a Christological interpretation. Christ came and preached peace to both Gentiles and Jews.

Christ brought peace between two warring races—Jews and Gentiles. William Barclay wrote,

The Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. [1]The Gentiles, said the Jews, were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. [2] God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations that he had made . . . [3] It was not even lawful to render help to a Gentile mother in her hour of sorest need, for that would simply be to bring another Gentile into the world. Until Christ came, the Gentiles were an object of contempt to the Jews. The barrier between them was absolute. [4] If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death.

When did Christ preach peace to Jews and Gentiles? Christ preached peace after His death on the cross. Christ’s message of peace is based on His death on the cross. (O’Brien) Through Christ’s death, He reconciled Gentiles and Jews (Eph. 2:13). Through Christ’s death, He broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile (v. 14). Through Christ’s death, He nullified the Law. Through Christ’s death, He created one new man thus making peace (v. 15). Through Christ’s death, He reconciled Jewish and Gentile believers in one body of Christ (v. 16). Christ proclaimed peace after His death on the cross.

May You Trust in the Name of the LORD

The Psalm shifts from a prayer to a pronouncement of faith. “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand” (Ps. 20:6). In v. 5, the people pray for the salvation of the king. In v. 6, David declares the salvation of the king, the LORD’s anointed.

The LORD “saves” His anointed. Note that the king is not the one who saves, but the one who is saved. The king is not the savior of God’s people, but the saved. (Mays) The LORD is the savior of His people. Thus, we should trust in the Lord and not in kings, presidents, and generals for the safety and prosperity of our nation.

Then the psalm shifts from David to the people, from “I” to “we.”

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

8 They collapse and fall,

but we rise and stand upright. (vv. 7-8)

Chariots and horses were instruments of war. Chariots and horses signified the ultimate military strength of a nation. Hadarezer, the Syrian king, had 1,000 chariots and 7,000 horsemen (1 Chron. 18:4). The psalm is saying, in times of war, they trust in those things. But our trust is in the LORD.

David is saying that the LORD shall give victory to the king. But victory is not to be found in the army of the king. Victory is to be found only in the Name of the LORD. Thus, our confidence is not based on the strength of men, but in the power of the Name of the LORD.

The Name of the LORD is not a magic name. Rather, the Name of the LORD is the identity of God. (Mays) The Name represents the personality of God, the presence of God among His people, and the power of God in behalf of His people over their enemies.

Note the step parallelism between vv. 7-8.

A – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses” (v. 7).

B – “but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (v. 8).

A1 – “they collapse and fall” (v. 8)

B1 – “but we rise and stand upright” (v. 8).

After the battle, those who trusted in chariots and horses are fallen. But those who trusted in the Name of the LORD are standing! If you trust in chariots and horses, you will fall down with them. But if you trust in the Name of the LORD, you will rise and stand up!

What were you trusting in 2018? What were your chariots and horses in 2018? Your chariots and horses were your money, your job, your boss, or your business. Your horses were yourself, your skills, and your abilities.

This New Year, stop trusting in chariots and horses. If you will trust in them, you will fall with them. But trust in the Name of the LORD, and you will rise and stand up. If you trust in the Name of the LORD, He will give you the victory!

So for 2019, may you trust in the Name of the LORD.

May the LORD Give You Victory

“May we shout for joy over your salvation and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions” (Ps. 20:5)!

The people also prayed for joy over the salvation of their king. The word “salvation” (Hebrew yasha) means “deliverance.” The root word means “make wide” (Niphal) compared to “narrow.”  To be made narrow is to be restricted or to be distressed. (TWOT) Hence, yasha means salvation from narrowness, restriction, or distress.

In the OT, the cause of Israel’s narrowness or distress is their enemies that surround them and that want to destroy them. Israel was oppressed by nations. They had to go to war to be free from the restriction of the nations. In these wars, Israel turned to God for salvation for deliverance from the oppression and from the restriction of the nations. They believed that the result of these wars depended on God. They went out to war in the confidence that God will give them the victory over their enemies (1 Sam. 17:47). (TWOT)

That is the moving conviction of this Psalm. In war, King David faces narrowness and distress from their enemies. Thus, the people of Israel prayed for the salvation of their king. They asked the LORD for deliverance from distress. In other words, they asked the LORD for victory for their king. They asked the LORD that they will shout for joy for the victory of the king of Israel, which is the victory of the people of God.

With the victory of their king, they can now “set up” their banners (Ps. 20:5). In the OT, when a nation wins the war, they set up their banners right in the stronghold of the enemy.

What is choking your life right now? What is causing narrowness, restrictedness, and distress in your life?

This New Year, I pray that God will deliver you from distress. I pray that you will rejoice in God’s deliverance from your distress.

Maybe 2018 for you was a year of many defeats, losses, or failures—defeat from sin, loss from bad investments, or personal failure. But this New Year, I pray that God will give you victory over sin. May God give you recovery from your losses. May God give you success over your failure.

God will make you set up your banners in the name of the LORD!

May the LORD Grant Your Heart’s Desire

4 May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!

5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!

May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! (Psalm 20:4-5)

The people pray that the LORD will grant the heart’s desire of the king. They ask the LORD to fulfill all the king’s plans and answer all the king’s prayers.

At this point, King David was about to go to battle. Thus, he has one desire in his heart—to win the war for God’s glory. God will surely answer this prayer, for it is according to the will of God. (Guzik)

When your heart’s desire is aligned with God’s desire, God will grant it.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15, emphasis added). When your prayer is according to God’s will, God will surely answer it.

David’s plans are plans for achieving victory for the people of God. Because David’s plans are God’s plans also, God will fulfill his plans.

God has a plan for this church. God has a plan for your family. God has a plan for you. God will fulfill His plan for you for His glory.

The reason why many believers do not see the achievement of their hearts’ desires is because their desires do not fit God’s desires. They do not see the fulfillment of their plans because their plans do not fit God’s plans. They try to make God fit into their plans. But God is God and God is sovereign. He is the potter; we are the clay.

The key is to fit your heart and life into God’s grand plan for His glory. We should not make God fit into our plans. Rather, we should make ourselves fit into God’s plans for us.

That requires faith in God and hope in God. That means obedience to God’s commands. That means resting in God’s will for your life.

May the LORD Receive Your Sacrifice

“May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah” (Ps, 20:3).

Before the battle, King David offers sacrifices to the God of Israel. The word “offerings” come from the Hebrew minha, which means “a gift of grain” (TWOT) or “grain offering.” Grain of wheat or barley is the product of the land. The grain offering is offered out of gratitude for the product of the land. It signifies one’s gratitude to God. That is why it is called a “gratitude offering.” (Clarke)

David offered the grain offering before war. He wanted to honor God by showing that he was grateful to God. That’s David’s goal—to honor God with his gratitude.

Worship is showing gratitude to God. A lack of worship shows a lack of gratitude to God.

Thus, the people prayed for the LORD to remember David’s offerings.

They also prayed for God to accept his “burnt sacrifices” (v. 3). A burnt sacrifice (ala) is the “whole burnt-offering (beast or fowl).” It is “entirely consumed and goes up in the flame of the altar to God.” (BDB)

The words “regard with favor” (ESV) or “accept” (NKJV, NIV) is from the Hebrew word dashen, which means “fat.” (TWOT) Literally, “May he find your burnt sacrifices fat.” Dashen “refers to the ‘fatty ashes’ left after the burning of sacrificial animals (Exo 27:3; Num 4:13).” (TWOT) Fat was considered the best part of the sacrificial animal. In other words, the prayer says, “May the LORD find David’s offerings fatty, satisfactory, and acceptable.”

Today, the Lord no longer requires burnt offerings which is a dead sacrifice. Yet He requires from us a living sacrifice–the sacrifice of our bodies for Him. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).

The Hebrew word selah means “pause.” Let us pause and think of how we can show our gratitude to God. How can I show my gratitude to God this year? What is my best fatty offering that I can give to God?

This New Year, I pray that you will show your gratitude to God. Show your gratitude to God by presenting your body, your life, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Show up for worship every Sunday. Give your tithes and offerings. Bring people to Jesus. Show your gratitude to God by using your abilities for God’s glory.

This New Year, I pray that you will offer your best part to God. May God find your worship fatty, satisfactory, and acceptable!

My New Year Prayer for You

Our Scripture text is Psalm 20, a psalm of David to the Choirmaster. Do you know that there was a choir of Levites in Solomon’s Temple? No less than 12 adults sang in the choir in the Temple service. (Jewish Encyclopedia) The choir ministry is not an invention of traditional churches. It goes back to the time of David and Solomon. Psalm 20 is a psalm of David for the use of the Choirmaster.

This psalm is different in that it expresses the prayer of the people for their king. The psalm is the people’s prayer on behalf of their king before he goes into battle. In vv. 1-5 and vv. 7-9, there is the first person plural, “we,” indicating the people. Only in v. 6 is there the first person singular, “I,” which refers either to David as king or to the High Priest during the service. (Guzik) It is thought to be a prayer uttered during a liturgical worship. The congregation prays for the king (vv. 1-5); and the king responds (v. 6).

Today, I’m adopting this prayer for the king as my prayer for you for 2019. I have five prayers for you based on this Psalm.

1. May the LORD Answer You.

1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
    May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and give you support from Zion!

“You” is singular in the Hebrew, referring to one person—the king of Israel. The picture here is the people of Israel standing before King David. David is preparing to go to war. But before David goes to war, he worships the LORD in the tabernacle. He offers sacrifices on the altar. He offers prayers, praying for strength and courage in battle. He prays to God for victory over the enemies of God. The people look on as King David prays and then they pray for him. They pray, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble.”

Thus, the day of trouble is for David a life and death issue. It is the day of war, the day of dread, the day of death for many. But the people pray that the LORD will answer David.

The words “LORD,” “the name of the God of Jacob,” “sanctuary,” and “Zion,” refer to the LORD God of Israel. The LORD or Yahweh refers to the covenant name of God. The God of Jacob recalls the God who answered Jacob in the day of trouble (Gen. 35:3). The sanctuary refers to the tabernacle, the place of God’s presence. Zion refers to the ark of God, which signifies His presence. (Kidner)

David uses four action verbs in vv. 1-2. May the LORD “answer” you; May the God of Jacob “protect” you; May the sanctuary “send” you help; May Zion “give” you support.

This, too, is my prayer for you all. This New Year, there will be days of trouble. But I will say this, the LORD will answer you in the day of trouble!

This New Year, you may face danger, hurt, and harm. But I will say to you, the God of Jacob will protect you from harm!

This 2019, your family, your friends, or your boss may not help you. But I will say this, the LORD will help you!

This New Year, you may realize that people will not support you. But I will say to you, the God of Zion will support you!

May the LORD answer you!

Christ’s Purpose as Peacemaker

Third, Paul explains Christ’s purpose as peacemaker. “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” (Eph. 2:15-16). He gives two purposes for the reconciling work of Christ. One—to create one new man in Christ out of two; and two—to reconcile us both to God in one body.

In Eph. 2, Paul talks about the new creation. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. We are the new creation of the new man. In the OT, God created the one people of Israel–a physical entity. In the NT, Christ created the one new man in Christ. This new man is a new spiritual entity–the body of Christ. Christ creates this new man, this new entity, “in himself” (v. 15).

How do you build a simple house? First, you get the cement and lay it on the ground. You insert the posts and the iron cables. You install the outside walls, partitions, windows, and doors. Then you connect the roof. You get the separate parts, join it, and form a house.

But Christ does not get separate parts and join it together as one. Rather, Christ takes the separate parts of Jewish and Gentile believers and joins them in himself–in his own person. He is Himself the location of this new man. He is the sphere of this new entity. He is the place of this new creation. He joins all believers in Him; and all believers are joined to Him. In Christ, diverse believers are united in a Christ-connected spiritual unity.

Some ecumenical Christians want to unite all Christians into one organization called the World Council of Churches. They want to join all Christians and all churches—regardless whether they are born again or not born again, whether they believe in the same Gospel or a different Gospel, whether they believe the Bible is inerrant or not—and join them all in one world organization. They want a visible, organization unity of all Christian churches. That is called ecumenism.

However, ecumenism is a false belief and a false movement. It frames unity in terms of physical cooperation but not of spiritual connection in Christ. Christ joins all believers in Himself, not in an organization. True unity is not organizational unity, but spiritual unity in Christ. True spiritual unity is union with Christ through faith in Christ. When believers are joined to Christ—that is true spiritual unity. Christ is the center of all true spiritual unity. All born-again Pentecostals, Baptists, and other Evangelicals do not need to become one church to show unity. All born-again, Bible-believing, Christ-centered believers are already united in Christ; for all are joined to Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). In Christ alone is true spiritual unity; and true spiritual unity is in Christ alone.

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). In Christ, there is no more racial division—“not Greek and Jew.” In Christ, there is no more religious division—“circumcised and uncircumcised.” In Christ, there is no more cultural division—“barbarian, Scythian.” In Christ, there is no more social division—“slave, free.” The only way to stop the hostility between Jewish and Gentile believers is to create in Christ one new man out of the two. The only way to destroy divisions is to create one new man in Christ. Christ destroyed this hostility and accomplished true spiritual unity at the cross.

Christ Abolished the Law

Leona Helmsley left behind an unusual will after her death in 2007. The billionaire New York City real estate developer and hotel magnate had amassed a fortune estimated to be somewhere between $5 billion and $8 billion, according to The New York Times. In her will, she requested that the majority of this money be given to charity, including animal welfare programs, and gave other, smaller amounts to various relatives. Most shockingly, Helmsley left $12 million to her 8-year-old dog, Trouble, but no money for two of her grandchildren . . . At the time that this news was announced, there were so many death threats against the dog that it began requiring $100,000 worth of security each year. In 2008, a Manhattan judge reduced the $12 million figure to $2 million, and the remainder was given to charity. The two grandchildren left out of the will were awarded a total $6 million from their grandmother’s estate.[1]

When rich people die, their heirs quarrel over their money.  But when Christ died, He stopped the quarrel of Jews and Gentiles. He broke down the wall of hostility between them.

How did He break down the wall of hostility? “By abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15). The verb “abolishing” (katargeo) means to “make ineffective, nullify” or “make invalid.” (Gingrich) Paul is not saying that the Law of Moses is no longer applicable to us. He himself applies the command to obey your parents (Eph. 6:2). No, Christ did not eliminate, eradicate, or erase the Law.

What Paul seems to be saying is that the Law “ceases to stand as an immediate authority for Gods people.” (P. O’Brien) The Law is no longer the “direct guide” of NT believers. (D. J. Moo) It is no longer the sole authority of Jewish and Gentile believers.

That is why when we ask the right day to worship God, we don’t go to the Law of Moses, which says that it is the Sabbath day. We follow the new Law of Christ, which is the Lord’s Day or any day that you’d like to commit to the Lord as the day of worship.

When we ask the right food to eat, we don’t go to the Law of Moses, which says that you do not eat the creeping things of the sea. That excludes all shrimps, crabs, and lobsters—all favorites of mine. Rather, we follow the new Law of Christ, which is not about what comes into the mouth, but what comes out of it. We follow the Law of Christ, the kingdom of God, which is not a matter of eating and drinking, “but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Thus, Christ abolished the Law, not by discarding it, but by invalidating its sole authority for believers.

[1] Douglas McIntyre, “The 10 Most Infamous Family Inheritance Feuds,” Aol.com. Cited November 17, 2018. Online: https://www.aol.com/2011/06/06/the-10-most-infamous-family-inheritance-feuds/

Christ’s Work as Peacemaker

Second, Paul explains Christ’s work as peacemaker.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14). Paul mentions the two-fold work of Christ by His death. One, He united both Jewish and Gentile believers. Two, He broke down the division of Jewish and Gentile believers.

Christ joined both Jewish and Gentiles believers into one body. He brought them into a new relationship marked by spiritual unity. This spiritual unity is centered in Christ Himself. In Christ, Jewish and Gentile believers are divided no longer, but united in one body of Christ. In Christ, Gentile believers are discriminated no longer, but accepted in one body of Christ.

Christ accomplished this unity by breaking down “the dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14). The word “wall” (phragmos) refers to a “fence.” (Gingrich) It is a “barrier that separates people from each other.” (Friberg) There is this wall, this obstacle, this barrier, that separates the two.

The dividing wall is the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law required compliance with many rules—what to eat, what not to eat, what to do, what not to do, etc. I can imagine how a first-century Jew would look at Gentiles. If you Gentiles do not obey the Law of Moses, you cannot join us. Since you are not obeying the Law, you are disobedient to God. You Gentiles are not part of the covenant blessings; you are cursed.

A good example is the anti-smoking ordinance of Cebu city. Unintentionally, it separates the smokers from the non-smokers. When you see a smoker smoking in a public area, you will dislike the guy. You will stand up and tell him to stop smoking or get outside. You will threaten him that he might go to prison for that. So hostility develops against the smoker. It’s not because the law against smoking is bad. It is good. But the law divides the smoker and non-smoker, causing animosity.

It is not because the Law of Moses is a bad law; it is a good law. Yet there developed a “hostility” towards Gentiles and vice versa. Paul calls it “the dividing wall of hostility.” The word “hostility” (echthra) means “hatred” (Friberg) or “being an enemy of.” (Louw-Nida) Because the Gentiles did not obey the Law, the Jews hated them. The Jews treated them as the enemy. During Jesus’ time, the Jews called Gentiles “dogs.” The Gentiles also disliked the Jews.

But Christ destroyed this wall of hostility. He demolished it “in his flesh” (v. 14), meaning, by His death. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (Col. 1:21-22, emphasis added). The death of Christ destroyed the hostility between diverse believers, thereby producing true spiritual unity.