Sermon: Jesus Has Broken Down The Wall

Ephesians 2:14-18

20130811FBCAM

 

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

In our day, one of the most famous symbols of separation was the Berlin Wall. 

 

After World War II, Germany was split into East and West Germany, and it’s capital of Berlin was also split. The East was essentially under Soviet control, and millions of people defected from the East to the West.

 

The Berlin Wall was begun in 1961 as a means of stopping the defections. Soldiers and workers first destroyed streets along the path of the wall—it was a visual disconnecting of East from West. 

 

Then they erected wire fence with a large “no man’s land” cleared so that soldiers would have a clear shot at defectors. 

 

The Wall gradually evolved into the twelve foot high concrete wall of which many of us are familiar.

 

The late 1980’s brought an increasing amount of freedom to the Eastern European countries that had decades of Communist rule.

 

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech at the historic Brandenburg gate in Berlin as part of the celebration of Berlin’s 750th anniversary. In that speech, Reagan gave the famous challenge to the Soviet General Secretary: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

 

In less than three years, exactly that happened. The Berlin wall came down, Berlin was reunited and Germany became one nation again.

 

In our text here, we find another wall, a wall, that like the Berlin wall, has been broken down. This wall was broken down by Jesus.

 

I. WHAT WAS THE WALL JESUS BROKE DOWN?

 

Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 

 

A. The Wall Between Jew And Gentile

 

“the middle wall of partition between us”

 

What was the this wall? It was the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles. Very likely, Paul was thinking of the Temple when he wrote this as a means of illustrating the spiritual separation between Jews and Gentiles.

 

You see, the Temple in Paul’s day consisted of the Temple itself, upon a raised area that is still called today the Temple Mount. Various courts surrounded the Temple, the first being the Court of the Priests. Only male members of the priestly tribe of Levi were allowed to enter it. 

 

Then there was the Court of Israel, accessible only by male Jews. Then there was the Court of the Women. Now, all these courts were on the same level. 

 

But leaving the Court of the Women, one would step down several steps to a level area where you would encounter a five foot high stone wall. This was the “Berlin Wall” of the Temple.

 

Past this wall was the Court of the Gentiles. No Gentile was ever allowed to come past this wall.

 

…on that wall were inscriptions in Latin and Greek forbidding Gentiles to enter. Josephus spoke of these inscriptions, and in excavations made in 1871 and 1934 two of these inscriptions were found. 

 

They read: “No foreigner 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.” (R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990], 91–92)

 

Not exactly the best method of church growth is it?

 

The wall between the court of the Gentiles and the courts of the Jews symbolized all the hatred and hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. It was racism, like what we struggle with in our nation.

 

We saw last time examples of that hatred, things like a Jew who came back to Israel after a journey to Gentile lands would shake the dust off his feet so as not to contaminate the land of Israel with Gentile dirt. Jews would avoid eating with Gentiles, call them derogatory names, and so forth.

 

Gentiles, on the other hand, had no love for the Jew, often persecuting them and in some cases, tried to wipe them off the face of the earth.

 

So the wall in the Temple was only a symbol of the spiritual wall that existed between Jew and Gentile. But now Christ has “broken down” the wall. Like the Germans after the Berlin wall was broken down, Jew and Gentile can now step across and worship the Lord one with another.

 

This worship will carry on for eternity in Heaven. The apostle John saw a glimpse of this in Revelation 7— 

 

9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9–10)

 

Of course, today that can and does happen in many churches across the world. 

 

And every Christian should strive to eliminate any portion of any wall that exists between true Christians. We are not to be separated, because the wall is broken down.

 

B. What Are Your Walls?

 

What are your walls? No doubt that some walls are good to have; it is good to separate ourselves from harmful influences. But there are also walls that separate us from from other people that harm them and us.

 

You may have walls in your marriage. You might live together, but you don’t have peace between you. It’s a show for other people.

 

Perhaps you have erected walls between yourself and other family members or even church members. There are people that you dread talking to when they call; you avoid them if you see them down the aisle in the store.

 

Maybe it’s someone who is unsaved—a neighbor perhaps—who makes you so nervous or disgusted that you refuse to befriend them and share Jesus’ love with them.

 

These are walls that need broken down, and Jesus is the one who can do it. He is our peace; He can break down our walls.

 

Come back 2000 years and see…

 

II. HOW JESUS BROKE DOWN THE WALL

 

A. He Abolished The Ceremonial Law

 

Ephesians 2:15a Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; 

 

At first glance, this doesn’t sound right. Didn’t Jesus say:

 

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)

 

Jesus did fulfill the moral law—he lived a completely righteous life. But he also did abolish the ceremonial law when he died “in his flesh” on the cross. 

 

For example, when he died as a sacrifice once for all, all the laws about how and when to make animal sacrifices were abolished. 

 

And then the ceremonial laws about circumcision and ritual washings were also abolished. 

 

In fact, a Jew and a Gentile could not even eat together because of the ceremonial laws about certain foods, ritual washings and the like.

 

With the ceremonial law abolished, it is possible for Jews and Gentiles to eat together, Peter discovered this truth in Acts 11—

 

After Peter saw the vision of a sheet with all sorts of animals on it, and God told him he could eat of any of them, he went to Cornelius’ house. He stayed at that Gentile’s house for a number of days, eating and sleeping there.

 

When he returned to Jerusalem, his fellow Jewish Christians couldn’t believe what he had done. 

 

2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. (Acts 11:2–3)

 

Then Peter explained the whole thing to them, starting with his vision of the sheet and animals. When he was done,

 

18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18)

 

They understood that the ceremonial law would not separate the Gentiles from them, or from God himself anymore. 

 

What does this mean for us? It means that we also are not confined by certain rituals in order to obtain salvation. 

 

People have always tried to build a law around the simple gospel of Jesus Christ: you must dress this way; you can’t watch any television, etc. It’s like a new ceremonial law.

 

Now, God is not an “anything goes God.” God’s moral law still stands (all Christians are to abstain from fornication, adultery, pornography, lying, stealing, etc), but the ceremonial law is abolished. 

 

Salvation is available to all who come to in faith to Jesus Christ—no special hoop jumping required. Special clothes aren’t required. Baptism isn’t required. Nothing but faith in Christ.

 

And perhaps some of the walls that you’ve erected in your life, between you and a neighbor, or you and your spouse—perhaps those are walls built with ceremonial requirements and not the moral law.

 

Maybe you’ve refused to fellowship with someone because of their hair length, or because they wore a dirty shirt to church, or, well, you get the picture. To that I say, “Christian, tear down that wall!”

 

Jesus also broke down the wall when…

 

B. He Made A New Humanity

 

Ephesians 2:15b for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 

 

Another way that Jesus broke down the wall is he made a “one new man” of the two: Jew and Gentile. The word for “new” (καινός) refers to something entirely new, not just spruced up.

 

One commentator really described this newness well when he wrote:

 

Jesus didn’t Christianize the Jews or Judaize the Gentiles. He didn’t create a half-breed. He made an entirely new man. (R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990], 93)

 

Some people have called this the “new humanity” or even the “third race.” There are Jews and there are Gentiles, but now, in Christ, there are “Christians,” the third race.

 

The Jews and the Gentiles who became Christian had to realize that they were something new, and the old things had to be put behind. 

 

The issues that separated them no longer applied, for they were issues that related to their former races. It would make no sense for a true Christian to argue about keeping the ceremonial law or giving a sacrifice to a pagan idol in a Greek or Roman temple.

 

As Christians, we are one race, no matter what our skin color is, or what our nationality is. All of us who have believed in the Lord Jesus are going to Heaven together. All of us will worship the Lord for all eternity. 

 

Let’s stop the separation in the here and now: whether it’s the separation of Jew and Gentile, the separation of black and white, or, in the case of a marriage, the separation of a Christian husband and wife.

 

Let’s stop it now, because if we are true Christians, we’re going to be living together for all eternity, and we might as well start yesterday!

 

Finally, Jesus broke down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile when…

 

C. He Reconciled All Men Unto God

 

Ephesians 2:16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 

 

(1) What It Means To Reconcile

 

To “reconcile” (ἀποκαταλλάσσω) means basically to change from a hostile relationship to a friendly relationship.

 

This here isn’t talking just about reconciliation between Jew and Gentile, but reconciling all men with God—which would naturally bring them closer to one another.

 

Sometimes when I do premarital counseling I will encourage the couple to seek to be close to the Lord first of all. To show them this, I draw a triangle and write “God” at the top and the man’s name in one of the corners, and the woman’s name in the opposite corner. 

 

Then I show them that as they move closer to God (tracing my fingers up the sides of the triangle) what happens to their closeness to one another? They become closer. 

 

The closest that you can be to each other is when you both are close to Christ. And, in fact, the farthest that you can be apart (at least on the kind of triangle I draw) is when one is close to God and the other is far from God.

 

So Jesus, in his quest to break down the wall between men, sought to reconcile men to God. So as they come close to God, they will also be closer to one another. 

 

(2) The Enmity Between Man And God

 

How did he reconcile men to God? The answer given here is: “by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:” 

 

Focus on the word, “enmity” (ἔχθρα) for a moment. It means hatred, hostility, of the kind that is between enemies. 

 

Because we are sinners and God is holy, there is a hostility between unsaved people and God. Every sin we commit adds to the pile of offenses that God has against us.

 

We don’t like to think about this.  One of the newer hymns, written by Keith Getty, and one that we’ve sang here, is called “In Christ Alone.” In the song, there’s a wonderful phrase “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” That’s exactly what this verse is saying.

 

Recently a Presbyterian denomination was in the process of making a new hymnal and they asked Getty if they could change the words to, “on that cross, as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.” 

 

They objected to the idea that God’s wrath was “satisfied” by the death of Christ. Getty refused, so the Presbyterians won’t be singing that hymn from their new hymnal.

 

Now, the love of God is wonderful and Biblical, nothing wrong there. But we must also accept the wrath of God; we must understand that there is a hostility that exists between each unsaved person and God. 

 

It doesn’t matter if the unsaved person claims to have peace with God or if they are an outspoken Christ-hater—if they don’t have Jesus, they aren’t reconciled and they are at war with God.

 

How can that war be ended? Only by believing that Jesus satisfied God’s wrath…

 

(3) By Dying On The Cross

 

Why does Jesus dying on the “cross” slay the “enmity” between God and man?

 

Remember we said that every sin we commit adds to the pile of offenses God has against us? In order for God to be a just God, he must punish those sins. 

 

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

 

A human judge would be remiss for letting someone get away with a crime (after being convicted by the jury), and in the same way, God would be unjust if he didn’t punish sin.

 

So, that’s why Jesus died on the cross—as a substitute for us. To pay for our crimes. To satisfy God’s wrath against us. To slay the enmity between God and man. We read in Romans:

 

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)

 

Jesus’ death and his resurrection are the key to us being made right with God. But this isn’t an automatic end to the war. There is a part for us to do.

 

World War II ended in Europe when Germany agreed to the terms of surrender. The War ended in the Pacific when Japan agreed to the terms of surrender. We are at peace with those nations today because we presented a surrender document and they signed it.

 

In the same way, God has provided the terms of our salvation—by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Now he declares the terms of our salvation to everyone in the world.

 

Ephesians 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off [the Gentiles], and to them that were nigh [the Jews].

 

All we have to do is sign the treaty through faith in the work that Jesus did for us on the cross.

 

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1)

 

III. WITH THE WALL GONE, WE ALL HAVE ACCESS

 

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

 

The Greek word for “access” (προσαγωγή) had to do with having access to a higher ranking person, like a king. One dictionary defined it as, “the right or opportunity to address someone, implying higher status of the person addressed” (Louw-Nida).

 

Queen Esther is an example of this. She knew that she had to tell the king about the plan to kill her fellow Jews, but no one was enter the king’s presence without being invited—including the queen! To do so could mean being executed, bravely she went ahead.

 

1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. 2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. 3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom. 4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him. (Esther 5:1–4)

 

Esther gained access to the king because he chose to show her grace. In the same way, we can also gain access to the Father when we receive his son Jesus Christ as our Savior.

 

Jesus said that he could be likened to a door. 

 

1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. (John 10:1–3)

 

Shepherds in those days would put their sheep in the sheepfold at night and they themselves would sleep in the entrance, the door, to keep the sheep in and the predators out. He provided the only access to the sheep.

 

Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. It is through Jesus that we have access.

 

Paul says that our access to God the Father is “by one Spirit.” How is this different from the access that Jesus provides?

 

Jesus is the door, but the Spirit is the one who leads us through the door. He introduces us to God the Father when we enter into his presence.

 

Today, I ask you…are you separated from God? Are you at war with him? 

 

You will be until you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, the only way to the Father. When you do, the Spirit of God will come to dwell in you, and provide you with access to the Father. The wall will be broken down, and you will be able to come close to God the Father and to all those who believe in his son.

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