Daily Archives: September 23, 2018

September 23: Beyond Measure

Zechariah 1:1–2:13; Acts 21:1–26; Job 28:12–28

When we say, “God is gracious; God is kind,” do we fully comprehend the extent of God’s graciousness and kindness toward us? We glimpse it in Zechariah: “You must say to them: ‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “Return to me,” declares Yahweh of hosts, “and I will return to you,” ’ says Yahweh of hosts” (Zech 1:2–3).

An astounding reversal is hidden in these words, couched in a dialogue expressing how terribly God’s people have treated Him (Zech 1:4–6). By relying on their ancestors’ wisdom, God’s people are marching toward their own destruction: “Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?” (Zech 1:5). Instead of wiping them from the face of earth or banishing them from relationship with Him, however, God acts graciously: “Return to me … and I will return to you” (Zech 1:3). It’s an incredibly generous offer, one that the people accept (Zech 1:6).

But this is not the end of the journey. Zechariah’s vision goes on to illustrate painful times on the horizon before moving once again to hope (Zech 2:1–13). Ultimately, Yahweh remarks: “Many nations will join themselves to Yahweh on that day, and they will be my people, and I will dwell in your midst. And you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent me to you. And Yahweh will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and he will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech 2:11–12).

The one “that Yahweh of hosts has sent” is likely a reference to the Messiah. Here Yahweh moves from welcoming only the people of Israel to welcoming all people into His kingdom. Anyone can return to Him or come to Him—because that is what He desires. His graciousness and kindness are truly beyond measure.

What graciousness and kindness are you grateful for today?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

September 23 Taking the Offensive

“Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

✧✧✧

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That’s your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We’ve seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords—the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated “sword” in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier’s side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against various heroes of the faith.

“The sword of the Spirit” isn’t a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implication is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing, and through it He convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12–13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of Biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific Biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word. ✧ Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you’ll face today.

For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 1:22–2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 279). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

SEPTEMBER 23 DECISION! DECISION!

We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.

2 Corinthians 6:1

I believe there must be great throngs of men and women who keep on assuring themselves that they will “make it” into the kingdom of God by a kind of heavenly osmosis! They have a fond hope that there is a kind of unconscious “leaking through” of their personalities into the walls of the kingdom.

That is a vain hope. No one ever comes to God by an automatic or unconscious process; it does not happen that way at all!

The individual man or woman must make the choice—and on that point we must be dogmatic. We have the Book, the Word of God. We know that God has revealed Himself through the giving of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son. We know that the saving message is the gospel—the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no way that God can come to us and forgive us and restore us to the position of son or daughter until we consciously let Him! This is an authentic experience of the grace and mercy of God—we have made our decision!

Lord, I pray that pastors in our churches will make it clear from their pulpits that in order to be saved, people must acknowledge their sin before God and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord of their new life.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Did Jesus appeal to evidence when reaching out to skeptics?

WINTERY KNIGHT

Investigation in progress Investigation in progress

From Eric Chabot of Ratio Christi – Ohio State University.

He lists eight ways that Jesus makes his case.

Here’s one of the ways:

2. Jesus Appealed to Evidence

Jesus knew He could not show up on the scene and not offer any evidence for His Messiahship. In his book On Jesus, Douglas Groothuis notes that Jesus appealed to evidence to confirm His claims. John the Baptist, who was languishing in prison after challenging Herod, sent messengers to ask Jesus the question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). This may seem an odd question from a man the Gospels present as the prophetic forerunner of Jesus and as the one who had proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah. Jesus, however, did not rebuke John’s question. He did not say, “You must have faith; suppress your doubts.” Instead…

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September 23, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Peace with God and with his people

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; (2:14–17)

The Greek text here has only one pronoun, autos (He), but it is in the emphatic position, as reflected by the addition of Himself in many English translations. The writer emphasizes that Jesus alone is our peace (cf. Isa. 9:6); there is no other source. What laws, ordinances, ceremonies, sacrifices, and good deeds could not do to make peace between men and God, Jesus did. Those things could neither bring men into harmony with God or with each other. In the sacrifice of Himself on the cross, Jesus accomplished both.

Just as sin is the cause of all conflict and division, it is also the enemy of all peace and harmony. Built into wickedness is the impossibility of peace. Sin is basically selfishness, and selfishness is basically divisive and disruptive. We cannot always have what we want without infringing on what someone else wants or needs. We cannot always have our own way without interfering with someone else’s way.

James said, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1–3).

Peace comes only when self dies, and the only place self truly dies is at the foot of Calvary. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul said; “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

During World War II a group of American soldiers was exchanging fire with some Germans who occupied a farm house. The family who lived in the house had run to the barn for protection. Suddenly their little three-year-old daughter became frightened and ran out into the field between the two groups of soldiers. When they saw the little girl, both sides immediately ceased firing until she was safe. A little child brought peace, brief as it was, as almost nothing else could have done.

Jesus Christ came as a babe to earth, and in His sacrifice on the cross He Himself became peace for those who trust in Him. His peace is not temporary but permanent. He made both groups, Jews (those who were “near”) and Gentiles (those who were “far off”), into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.

In Jesus Christ, a Jew is no longer distinct from a Gentile as far as religion is concerned. In fact, since a.d. 70, when the Temple was destroyed, true religious Judaism ceased to exist. Not only was the place of sacrifice destroyed, but so were all the genealogical records on which priestly descent was based. Likewise, a Gentile in Christ is no longer distinct as far as his spiritual condition is concerned. His paganism is gone, his unbelief is gone, his hopelessness is gone, and his godlessness is gone.

For those in Christ, the only identity that matters is their identity in Him. There is no Jewish or Gentile Christianity, black or white Christianity, male or female Christianity, or free or slave Christianity. There is only Christianity. Our one Lord has only one church.

The barrier of the dividing wall alludes to the separation of the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple. Between that court and the Court of the Israelites was a sign that read, “No Gentile may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” This physical barrier illustrated the barrier of hostility and hate that also separated the two groups. As we learn from the book of Acts, even a Jew who brought a Gentile into the restricted part of the Temple risked being put to death. Although Paul had not done so, certain Jews from Asia accused him of taking Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, into the Temple. They would have stoned Paul to death had he not been rescued by Roman soldiers (Acts 21:27–32).

God had originally separated Jews from Gentiles (cf. Isa. 5:1–7; Matt. 21:33) for the purpose of redeeming both groups, not for saving the Jews alone. He placed the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple for the very purpose of winning Gentiles to Himself. It was meant to be a place for Jewish evangelism of Gentiles, a place for winning proselytes to Judaism and of thereby bringing them “near.” It was that court, however, that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day used as “a robbers’ den” (Mark 11:17) rather than as a place of witness.

Christ forever broke down (the Greek aorist tense signifies completed action) every dividing wall by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. When Jesus died on the cross He abolished every barrier between man and God and between man and his fellow man. The greatest barrier between Jew and Gentile was the ceremonial law, the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. The feasts, sacrifices, offerings, laws of cleanliness and purification, and all other such distinctive outward commandments for the unique separation of Israel from the nations were abolished.

That God’s moral law was not abolished is clear from the phrase contained in ceremonies. His moral law reflects His own holy nature and therefore can never change (cf. Matt. 5:17–19). That is the law which for the Jews was summarized in the Ten Commandments and which for all men is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15) and still commanded of them (Matt. 22:37–40; Rom. 13:8–10). Jesus summarized God’s moral law still further by declaring, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). The Ten Commandments, like all of God’s moral laws, are but the structured and particularized love that God still requires (James 2:8).

All the ceremonial laws which distinguished and separated Jews from Gentiles were obliterated. Before Christ those groups could not eat together because of restricted foods, required washings, and ceremonial contamination. Now they could eat anything with anyone. Before Christ they could not worship together. A Gentile could not fully worship in the Jewish Temple, and a Jew would not worship in a pagan temple. In Christ they now worshiped together and needed no temple or other sacred place to sanctify it. All ceremonial distinctions and requirements were removed (cf. Acts 10:9–16; 11:17–18; Col. 2:16–17), that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace. The emphasis is again on in Himself, affirming that this new unity can occur only when men are united in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Kainos (new) does not refer to something recently completed, such as a new car rolling off the assembly line—one of many other cars just like it. This new refers to a difference in kind and quality, to a completely new model, unlike anything that existed before. The new person in Christ is not simply a Jew or Gentile who now happens to be a Christian. He is no longer a Jew or Gentile but only a Christian. Every other characteristic is “former” (see v. 11). Paul summed it up when he said, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved’ ” (Rom. 10:12–13).

Another story from World War II is that of a group of American soldiers who lost their buddy in battle. They carried his body to the only cemetery in the area, which happened to be Catholic. When the priest was told that the dead man was not Catholic he said, “I am sorry, but he cannot be buried here.” The disheartened and discouraged soldiers decided to do what they thought was next best, and during the night they buried their comrade just outside the cemetery fence. They returned the next morning to pay their last respects, but they could not find a grave outside the fence. When they told the priest of their quandary, he said, “The first part of the night I stayed awake sorry for what I told you. And the second part of the night I spent moving the fence.”

When Jesus Christ broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, He moved the fence, in order that in Himself He might make the two into one new man. No person who comes to Him will be excluded, and no person who is included will be spiritually distinct from any other. In His flesh points specifically to Jesus’ death on the cross, through which He nullified, annulled, made of no effect, and invalidated (abolished, katargeō) the feud, discord, and alienation (enmity, echthra), thus establishing peace, as already indicated in verse 14.

The words and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross demonstrate not only that Jew and Gentile (both is masculine, clearly referring to men) are brought together but that together they are brought to God. Reconciliation to each other is inseparable from reconciliation to God. As both are brought to God, they are brought to each other. The death of Christ accomplished perfectly what God intended—bringing men to Himself. Verse 13 points to the blood of Christ, verse 15 focuses on the flesh of the dying Savior, and now in verse 16 Paul specifically mentions the place (the cross) where the blood was shed and the flesh was slain. How did the cross accomplish such reconciliation? It put to death the enmity between men and God (cf. Rom. 5:1, 10).

The hostility between men and God was ended in the sacrifice of Christ. He was the One who received the judicial sentence of God for sin. He paid the price of death which God required and thereby satisfied divine justice (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). He became “a curse” for sinners (Gal. 3:13) and provided reconciliation of the believing sinner to God and to all other repentant sinners, regardless of race.

Reconcile is a rich term (apokatallassō) which holds the idea of turning from hostility to friendship. The double use of prepositions as prefixes (apo, kata) emphasizes the totality of this reconciliation (cf. Col. 1:19–23).

Man cannot even reconcile himself to his fellow man, much less to God. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:8–10). Apart from Christ every person is helpless, sinful, and an enemy of God. As Paul says in another epistle, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19–20). The Scottish commentator John Eadie wrote, “The cross which slew Jesus slew also the hostility between man and God. His death was the death of that animosity.” The cross is God’s answer to Judaizing, racial discrimination, segregation, apartheid, anti-Semitism, bigotry, war, and every other cause and result of human strife. This is the great mystery of Ephesians 3:6, “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

The One who “Himself is our peace” (v. 14) came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near. Euangelizō (preached) literally means to bring or announce good news, and is almost always used in the New Testament of proclaiming the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. From that and related Greek terms we get such English words as evangelize, evangelist, and evangelical. The phrase in our text might therefore be rendered, He came and gospeled, or evangelized, peace.

The heavenly announcement of Jesus’ birth was, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Those with whom the Lord is pleased are those who trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. As stated in verse 13 and explained above, those who were far away are Gentiles and those who were near are Jews. Every person, Jew and Gentile alike, has access to God’s peace through Christ.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), who promised His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). Like their Master, His disciples are also to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) and proclaimers of peace. When He sent out the seventy He commissioned them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5–6). Peace surrounded the ministry of Jesus as an aura that continually blessed those who believed in Him. Among His last words to His disciples were, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace” (John 16:33). The ministry of the apostles and other preachers of the early church was characterized by “preaching peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). The ministry of the Holy Spirit is characterized by the giving of “love, joy, peace,” and the other spiritual fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23. God’s kingdom itself is characterized by “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The God of peace (1 Cor. 14:33; Heb. 13:20) calls His people to peace (1 Cor. 7:15).[1]


The Broken Wall

Ephesians 2:14–18

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, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 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.

Every generation has its “buzz words,” and one for our day is alienation. The popular use of this word probably goes back to Karl Marx, who used it to describe the exclusion of workers from the privileges that go with ownership. According to Marx, workers are alienated both from what we call “the system” and from themselves because of how the system works. Marx said the worker puts part of himself into his product. When the owner sells that product, he alienates the worker from himself and lays the psychological groundwork for class struggle.

Today we talk about alienation more broadly. We speak of political alienation, in which a person is excluded from the democratic process. We speak of alienation in marriage as marriages fall apart. There is hardly a relationship in life to which, at one time or another, we do not apply this idea.

The Wall of Hostility

We did not invent alienation, of course. It has been present in the world from the moment Eve ate the forbidden fruit in defiance of God’s command and gave some to her husband so that he ate also. But what is to the point here is the way alienation was evident to Paul at the time he wrote his letter to the Ephesians.

In Paul’s mind there was a great visible symbol of alienation in the wall that surrounded the inner courtyards of the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, dividing them from the outermost courtyard, called the Court of the Gentiles. The temple of Paul’s day had been built by Herod the Great to replace the older, inadequate temple dating from the days of Nehemiah. Much of it was overlaid with gold, and quite naturally it was the glory of the city. It sat on a raised platform on what is today still called the temple mount. The temple was surrounded by courts. The innermost court was called the Court of the Priests, because only male members of the priestly tribe of Levi were to enter it. The next court was the Court of Israel; it could be entered by any male Jew. After this there was the Court of the Women, which any Jew could enter and which was called the Court of the Women because it was as far as a woman could go in this hierarchy.

These courtyards were all on the same level. So although there were great differences between them, they were not as great as the monumental division that came next. From the Court of the Women one descended five steps to a level area in which there was erected a five-foot stone barricade that went around the temple enclosure; then, after another level space, there were fourteen more steps that descended to the Court of the Gentiles. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the wall dividing Jews from Gentiles was marked at intervals by stone inscriptions stating that no foreigner was permitted to enter the Jewish enclosures upon penalty of death.

In the last century or so several of these inscriptions have been found. One incomplete inscription was discovered as recently as 1935. Another whole inscription was unearthed in 1871 and is now in a museum in Istanbul. It reads: “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.”

That is a serious threat, corresponding to our signs “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” Only it is stronger. It means, “Trespassers will be killed.”

If Paul was writing his letter to the Ephesians from Rome, as we think he was, he must have had a personal experience of the hostility associated with this wall fresh in his mind. Just a short time before, when he had been in Jerusalem to deliver the offerings of the gentile churches to the Jewish Christians of that city, he had entered the temple enclosure to take a vow and had been set upon by an angry mob and almost killed. Paul was Jewish himself, of course, but the Jews knew of his sympathy with Gentiles and somehow got the idea that he had brought a gentile Christian named Trophimus into the temple enclosure with him. It was as a result of this riot that Paul passed into Roman custody, was taken to Caesarea and eventually, because of his appeal to Caesar, was transported to Rome as a prisoner (cf. Acts 21:27–36).

It was this great visible symbol of Jewish-Gentile enmity that Paul had in mind as he wrote of the work of Christ in removing alienation. In all the ancient world, no wall (whether figurative, like our walls, or literal, like the wall in Jerusalem) was so impassable as the wall between Jew and Gentile. No wall gave greater occasion for scorn or arrogance. But, writes Paul, “He himself [that is, Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two [that is, Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations” (vv. 14–15).

Alienation from God

The text goes on to say “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” (vv. 15–16). To understand what this means and how Jesus did this we need to understand something further about the Jerusalem temple.

In my description of the temple enclosure I pointed out that the temple was surrounded by a series of concentric courts each designed to discriminate among people on the basis of how near or far they could be to the temple. These successive, concentric courts were all a normal person could see. What I did not mention is that the greatest barrier of all was not outside in the surrounding enclosures but within the temple itself. Within the temple, separating the Holy Place (which any regularly assigned priest could enter) from the Holy of Holies (which only the high priest could enter, and that only once a year after first making a sacrifice for himself and his family) there was the great veil. It was a curtain about six inches thick, the purpose of which was to seal off the inner temple. In that portion of the temple was the sacred Ark of the Covenant, above which, in the space between the wings of the cherubim mounted on its cover, God was understood to dwell symbolically.

In other words, the entire system of this inner veil and outer walls was meant not merely to show the differences among people, but to show the greatest and most fundamental alienation, the alienation of all people from God. The cause of this alienation, like the cause of all other alienations, is sin.

People do not want to face this. If you can remember back to the years preceding World War II, you may remember that there were many well-meaning people who believed that war could be averted if only the political leaders of the day could sit down and talk to one another like gentlemen. Neville Chamberlain believed this. He met with Adolf Hilter and came away believing that Hilter was basically a reasonable person and a man of his word. He returned from that meeting to declare to the British people that he had achieved “peace in our time!” But he had not. Hilter’s response to Chamberlain was to blitz Danzig, Poland, which forced Chamberlain’s resignation, made Winston Churchill prime minister, and plunged England into war.

We have a similar situation today. Thousands of equally well-meaning people think that all that is necessary to preserve peace and perhaps even achieve disarmament is for the Western powers to sit down with Russia and for the leaders of these great nations to agree to be gentlemen. But this will not work. Do not misunderstand me at this point. I am not against negotiating or working out mutually verifiable agreements. Talking is always better than fighting. Agreements are always better than having no agreements at all. But what I am opposing is the idea that this will bring peace. At the best it may mute or delay hostilities. But it will never bring peace, because the enemy of peace is not a lack of negotiations but the fundamental alienation that exists between every individual and God. It is because we are at enmity with God—that is the true meaning of sin—that we are also inevitably at enmity with ourselves, one another, and in a certain sense, with all the world.

Peace with God

But see what the Lord Jesus Christ has done! Do you remember that incident from Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus in which, at the moment of his death, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51)? Matthew is the preeminently Jewish Gospel, of course. So his reference to the curtain of the temple is one that would have been understood by every Jewish reader. It is a reference to the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, and the fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom indicates in as graphic a way as possible that as the result of Christ’s death, sin has been removed as a barrier between man and God, reconciliation has been achieved, and the way is now open for anyone to approach God—if he or she comes through faith in Jesus Christ and his work.

This is precisely what Paul says Christ has done: “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” (vv. 15–16). As a result of this, he says, “Through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (v. 18).

In D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s discussion of this passage there is a helpful summary of what this powerful word “reconciliation” means. It has five parts, according to this writer: “It means first of all a change from a hostile to a friendly relationship. That is the simplest meaning, the most basic meaning. …

“In the second place, it does not merely mean a friendship after an estrangement, a mere doing away with the estrangement. It is not merely that it brings people into speaking terms again who formerly passed one another without even looking at each other. It means more; it means really bringing together again, a reuniting, a re-connecting. It carries that meaning.

“In the third place it is a word also that emphasizes the completeness of the action. It means that the enmity is so completely laid aside that complete amity follows. … It is not a compromise, the kind of thing that happens so often when a conference has gone on for days and there has been a deadlock and somebody suddenly gets a bright idea and suggests introducing a particular word or formula, which just patches up the problem for the moment. It is not that. It is a complete action; it produces complete amity and concord where there was formerly hostility.

“But in the fourth place, it also means this. It is not merely that the two partners to the trouble or the dispute or the quarrel have decided to come together. This word that the apostle uses implies that it is one of the parties that takes the action, and it is the upper one that does it. A part of this word indicates an action that comes down from above. It is the Greek word kata. … It is not that the two sides come together as it were voluntarily; it is the one bringing the other into this position of complete amity and accord.

“And finally, in the fifth place, the word carries the meaning that it is a restoration of something that was there before. Now our word ‘reconcile,’ which is really a transliteration of the Latin word, in and of itself suggests that. Re-concile! They were conciled before, they are now re-conciled, brought back to where they were.”

That is what “reconcile” means. It is hard to think of a more comprehensive word for describing what God has done through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Before this great work, we were estranged or alienated from God. We were in fellowship with God once—in Adam. But since the Fall of Adam and Eve every man or woman born into the world has been born in a state of enmity against God. From our end the situation is utterly hopeless. We cannot make reconciliation, and, even worse, we do not want to. But God made reconciliation. God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the full punishment due to us for our sin. He bore it away in his own body by dying on the cross. Thus, our friendship with God is restored, and the way is open for us to come to God freely, as Paul says.

One New Man of Two

There is a further benefit. Not only is fellowship with the Father restored, but fellowship between estranged human beings also—if they are in Christ. Notice the progression of thought. I began with human alienation, illustrating it from contemporary life and from the great hostility between Jew and Gentile in Paul’s day. I traced the cause of this alienation to a greater alienation, the hostility between all people and God because of sin. My third point concerned the solution to the greater alienation, which was the bearing of sin by Jesus Christ on Calvary. His death for sin opened the way to God for all who will come to God by him. My final point now takes us back to the beginning. For since the greater barrier is down, there is no need for the lesser barriers. In fact, they inevitably fall with the large one.

The reason is that the veil between ourselves and God drops only for those who are in Christ. And if we are in Christ, then there can never be a barrier between us and others who are also in Christ, otherwise Christ would be divided. If we are in him, we are in the same place. We are members of the one body, and peace has been restored between all who are members of it.

We must read the passage with all these ideas in mind, beginning with verse 13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 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, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 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” (vv. 13–18).

There are two final points.

First, if you are in Christ, then in God’s sight you are one with every other believer—whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free—regardless of any distinction whatever. Therefore, you must act like that. You may not see eye to eye with every other Christian on everything. No one expects you to. But you must not break with them! And you must realize that regardless of your differences of opinion, the unity that you have with them is greater than the unity you will ever have with anyone else in the world, even if the unbeliever is of the same class, race, nationality, sex (or whatever) as you are.

Your duty is to live in harmony with these brothers and sisters in Christ, and to let the world know that you are members of one spiritual family. That in itself should be a large portion of your witness.

Second, if you are not yet “in Christ,” you should learn that in the final analysis the solution to your most basic problems is to be found in that relationship. That is, it is to be found in your personal relationship to him. There is an objective side to Christ’s work. It is described as his “making peace” between men and “reconcil[ing] both … to God through the cross” (vv. 15, 16). It is what Jesus did on Calvary by his death. But there is a subjective side as well. It is the part in which we are joined to him by faith as we hear and respond to the gospel. This is why verse 17 speaks of preaching: “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”

So the final question is this: Are you in him? If not, you remain divided from countless other human beings and, what is much worse, from God himself. If you come to him, he will remove the barrier and make you a part of that new humanity that he is uniting in himself.[2]17 In a new sentence Paul explains why such peace prevails in the body of Christ: when Christ came, he preached peace to both groups—those far away and near (an allusion to Isa 57:19, representing a healing word from the Lord). Best, 270, connects this sentence back to v. 14a: “He is our peace … and he proclaimed peace.” “You” represents the readers, those far away (mostly Gentiles), who were formerly excluded (2:11–12). “Those who were near” represents the Jews, the former “in” group. But both groups need to be reconciled to God; both need to hear a message of peace. As Lincoln, 148, rightly emphasizes: “So Christ proclaims a peace with God to each of the groups.” Jews and Gentiles alike need salvation in Christ.

The verb “preached” translates a common NT verb (euangelizō, GK 2294) that can denote the proclamation of any kind of “good news” (e.g., Lk 1:19; 2:10) but which has a special theological sense for many NT writers: “proclaim the divine message of salvation, proclaim the gospel” (BDAG, 402). Christ preaches the good news of salvation and the prospect of reconciliation to God for Gentiles and Jews (with perhaps allusions back to Isa 52:7; cf. Ac 10:36; Ro 10:12, 15). On “peace” as well-being, including but not limited to the cessation of former hostilities, see above on 2:14.

But when did Christ do this preaching? This question rests on the use of the participle elthōn (GK 2262) that begins the verse: “and coming, he preached peace.” Options are multiplied among scholars, ancient and modern (this list is adapted from Best, 271–73): (1) preincarnate proclamation; (2) Jesus’ incarnation itself; (3) Jesus’ earthly ministry; (4) Jesus’ cross and resurrection; (5) the descent of the Spirit; (6) through the ministry of his later disciples and teachers; and (7) Jesus’ ascent through the cosmic barrier. With Best, I believe the best option is probably some combination of Jesus’ own ministry that culminated in his salvific death and the ongoing annunciation of that peace through his followers. In Romans 10:15 Paul says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (cf. Isa 52:7). Jesus and his messengers proclaim peace to those near and far away (cf. Isa 57:19).[3]


2:17 / Before the author develops this concept of access, he turns from Christ the reconciler to Christ the proclaimer: He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. The idea of peace may be taken from Isaiah 57:19, which he used earlier (2:13), or he may be utilizing Isaiah 52:7, which announces: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.”

Most scholars take Christ’s preaching as an act related to his death-resurrection-exaltation and not to his earthly pre-resurrection ministry. The context appears to favor the idea that the peace that he effected on the cross is itself a proclamation and his way of announcing to the world that peace has been made. This verse could be in reference to Christ’s post-resurrection appearances, in which his first followers are told not to fear (Matt. 28:5, 10), or to his benediction of peace in John 14:27 (“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you”). However, there is much to be said for the view that takes it as the preaching of the earthly Jesus himself or, at least, as the preaching of his disciples.

Jesus does adopt the words of Isaiah 61:1, 2, as his life’s mission (“the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor,” Luke 4:18, 19), and he does become involved with a segment of society that could be considered “far away” (cf. Mitton, pp. 109–10). But regardless of what view one may take, the important point is that in the Christ event (life-death-resurrection-exaltation), peace was achieved and access to God was made possible. Thus the author reminds his readers that it is through Christ that Jews and Gentiles “both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (2:18).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 75–80). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 82–87). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[3] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 78–79). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 197). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

The Vision That Really Matters

The Outspoken TULIP

What’s your vision for your life? You’re supposed to answer that Jesus Himself is your vision. I’m supposed to give the same answer.

Often, however, lesser visions obscure Him. We focus on our husbands, our children, our career goals and even church responsibilities. And, in many respects, the Lord would have us pay careful attention  to those areas of life.

The balance comes when we see each of those areas as platforms to honor Christ. We look for ways to be godly wives and mothers. We desire to serve Him in our jobs and at church. All those roles should strengthen our vision of Him, helping us love Him more fully. In truth, He must be our vision.

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Sunday’s Hymn: We Gather Together — Rebecca Writes

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing:
Sing praises to his Name; he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning:
Thou, Lord, wast at our side: all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our Defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

 

 

 

Other hymns, worship songs, or quotes for this Sunday:

Sunday’s Hymn: We Gather Together — Rebecca Writes

September 23 Jesus Challenges Nicodemus: New Birth

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”—John 3:3–4

Jesus’ shocking statement was far more than Nicodemus had expected. Incredulous, Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Nicodemus did not misinterpret Jesus’ words; he replied in the context of the Lord’s analogy. How could he start all over, go back to the beginning? Jesus was telling him that entrance to God’s salvation was not a matter of adding something to all his efforts but rather cancelling everything and starting all over again.

At the same time, Nicodemus clearly could not grasp the full meaning of what this meant. Jesus was making entrance into the kingdom contingent on something that could not be obtained through human effort. If spiritual rebirth, like physical rebirth, was impossible from human effort, then where did that leave this self-righteous Pharisee, since the system in which he had placed his hope was powerless to save?

Far from minimizing the demands of the gospel, Jesus challenged this most religious Jew to admit his spiritual bankruptcy and abandon everything he was trusting in for salvation.

Be sure as you proclaim the gospel that you challenge your listeners to give up what they think will get them to heaven.

ASK YOURSELF

On one hand, adherence to the law (as Nicodemus saw it) seems like a long-forgotten pursuit. But there are plenty of folks down the street or within the sound of your voice who are clinging to the hopes of their good works. How does this show itself? How can you counteract it as you witness to them?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 275). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to you,
To receive the food of your holy word.
Take your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us, in your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be see today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us,
All your purposes for your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of your purity.
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
Your majestsic love and authority.
Word of pow’r can never fail,
Let the truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down throuth eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as you walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till your church is built,
And the earth is filled with your glory.

Speak, O Lord — The Upward Call

SEPTEMBER 23 GOD WOULD SAVE US FROM SPIRITUAL DELUSION

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.

2 THESSALONIANS 2:9

There are areas of Christian thought—and because of thought then also of life, where likenesses and differences are so difficult to distinguish that we are often hard put to escape complete deception!

Throughout the whole world error and truth travel the same highways, work in the same fields and factories, attend the same churches, fly in the same planes and shop in the same stores.

So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which is Abel!

We must never take for granted anything that touches our soul’s welfare. Isaac felt Jacob’s arms and thought they were the arms of Esau. Even the disciples failed to spot the traitor among them; the only one of them who knew who he was was Judas himself. That soft-spoken companion with whom we walk so comfortably and in whose company we take such delight may be an angel of Satan, whereas that rough, plainspoken man whom we shun may be God’s very prophet sent to warn us against danger and eternal loss.

It is therefore critically important that the Christian take full advantage of every provision God has made to save him from delusion. The most important of these combine as a protective shield—faith, prayer, constant meditation on the Scriptures, obedience, humility, much serious thought and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.