Hello Saints of the Living God!
Excluded! What a horrible word. Brings back all kinds of memories of not being welcomed into a peer group; not chosen to play on the team I really wanted to be on (cause that’s where the cool people were); not good enough to play lead trumpet in the band; not old enough to drive and vote; now, too old to get a job; I was French not English; etc…. Do you remember being called names, singled out because you were different? I’m sure it has happened to everyone at some point in life. The world can be a cruel place. Our text for this week speaks about a separation between people groups because of the markings on their skin. Oh my! Is this a hot topic today? Have we learned nothing from history? Think of all the wars and battles fought because of the color of one’s skin, the religion one believes, the political party one ascribes to, the medical stance one takes. Division, hatred, quarrels, fighting, slander, and sadly even murder; so much harm has been perpetrated because of our differences. The sad truth is described in Ephesians 2:12: “separate from Christ…excluded...without hope and without God in the world”. Excluded…separate…without…!!!
BUT there is another “BUT” (remember last week’s devotion)! We who were once “far away” have been “BROUGHT NEAR” (vs.13). Remember in the Jewish temple, there was a place near the front, where God was, in the Holy of Holies, first for the Priests, then the Jewish men, then the Jewish women, and finally, the court of the Gentiles (non-Jews) was at the back. It was called the “outer-court” because they were outside…excluded! But because of the blood of Jesus, shed for ALL people, everyone who believes in Jesus can approach the Lord, at the very front, not the back! No VIP section in God’s Temple! We can all enter boldly into His presence because of Jesus (Heb. 4:16)! Actually friends, In John 2:13-17, Jesus is in the court of the Gentiles when He gets angry and drives out the merchants extorting money from people. What made Him so mad? The fact that the religious were excluding people from participating in the worship of God. They were collecting money from the "excluded" so they could buy animals to offer to God. They had turned the court of the Gentiles into a place of segregation, filled with animal dung, and money changing. They were charging the "outsiders" fees to get inside - they were promoting division, separation and discrimination. Jesus lost it! How dare they exclude people from God. Jesus says, He will create a new temple where all are welcomed (John 2:19). Read Hebrews 10, especially verses 19-22.
Ephesians 2:14 & 15 are remarkable: Jesus is the one who brings “peace” between two estranged people groups. He is the one who breaks down the barriers and walls that separate peoples. He is the one that removes the division and makes one people out of two, by destroying the crazy laws and rules that cause the division. He doesn’t just apply an external fix, He deals with the very heart of the issue – He “abolishes the law in His flesh” – he did away with it, cancelled it, and nullified it completely! All the divisions have been dealt with so thoroughly that Paul can write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
In Christ’s body, through the cross, He reconciled all people to God, and put to death the hostility that existed between them (vs. 16). That equals PEACE (vs. 17)! Through Jesus, we can all come to God through Holy Spirit (vs. 18). So here is some more GOOD NEWS because of Jesus: all who believe and receive Him are one big happy family, part of the same household (vs. 19). Actually, we are all part of the same building God is building upon Jesus, in which God wants to dwell by His Spirit. WE are the temple of the Lord together! (vs. 20-22). We all belong to God through Christ, and we are all integral to one another, to make up the dwelling place of God. No more division, as we are all necessary parts of the whole!
In heaven, at the end of time, when all of creation has been reconciled back to God, we have an amazing picture of what Jesus accomplished on the cross in breaking down the dividing walls, and creating one new community of all the peoples of the Earth. All of us have been brought near to God...all of us at the front! No dividing walls of hostility or separation!
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Rev. 7:9)
Friends, as the fellowship of the redeemed that will one day be this people standing in heaven worshipping the Lamb, we ought to demonstrate the work Christ has done in us to reconcile us to Himself as one people regardless of race, language, or ethnicity. In the church, there should be no divisions because we have all been made one in Christ. We have all been brought near to God through Jesus. Let us proclaim that part of the Gospel that announces an end to discrimination only through Jesus!
Have a blessed week!