The Attitude of Law and Grace – Ephesians Bible Study #8

The Attitude of Law and Grace
Ephesians 2:11-22 “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles
in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the
Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – 12 that at that time you
were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers
from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in
the world. 13 But now in
Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the
blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made
both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law
of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one
new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile
them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to
death the enmity. 17 And He
came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who
were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by
one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers
and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members
of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into
a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for
a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” “Something there is that doesn’t love
a wall.” That’s the way
Robert Frost began his famous poem, “Mending Wall.” It’s a poem that
some of us had to deal with when we were in English Literature. It is
a poem about two neighbors who go through the same ritual each
spring, meeting at the wall to repair it – to refill the gaps that fallen
stones have left and repair the damage done by hunters whose
pursuit of their game has left the wall in disrepair. The neighbors
have apparently done this for many years, yet it strikes the narrator in
the poem to question just why it is they have the wall in the first place. It is not an easy poem to read, but here it
is: “And on a day we meet to walk the line and set the wall between
us once again we keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
we have to use a spell to make them balance: ‘Stay where you are until
our backs are turned!’ We
wear our fingers tough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of
outdoor game, one on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is
we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple
trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Spring is the
mischief in me, and I wonder if I could put a notion in his head: “Why
do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it where there are cows? Before I
built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to
whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a
wall…” The indication here is
that the wall was built to keep each other’s cows from coming over and destroying
their crops. But now
they don’t have cows anymore that might stray onto the other’s
property! Just trees. So why is the wall there? Hasn’t the time come
that its purpose no longer exists? Yet, it remains…why? Because it’s
always been there? In our previous studies, we have seen that
Ephesians is about the church. Paul is writing it to the church at Ephesus
to be circulated among other area churches to show
them how to be the
church! He has emphasized the blessings that are found
in Christ, the power that is found in Christ; and he has
reminded these Christians where Christ has brought them from, “you
were dead in your sin.” But
now he turns his attention to something that even our present-day
church still struggles with – an attitude of separation. Look again at our text, “Therefore, remember
that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised”
by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in
the body by the hands of men) remember that at that time you were separate
from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners
to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the
world.” Paul starts out
this passage by saying, “Remember the wall!” Remember Paul is talking to Gentiles, here…(like
us) “Uncircumcised” was a typical & disrespectful
term used by the Jews (“The Chosen”) to describe the Gentiles. They were
heathens . . . clearly not the people of God! It would be hard to
adequately describe for you in today’s terms the disdain that Jews had
for Gentiles. As wide as the divide has been between whites
and blacks in America, I don’t think that quite
does it justice. As bitter
the divide right now between some fundamentalist Moslems and
Christians, that’s not the same thing either. The divide was racial, but
extended far beyond race. It was political, but extended far beyond
politics. It was religious, but extended far beyond
religion. Other
ancient Jewish writings refer to Gentiles as “fuel for the fires of hell.” The wall of which Paul speaks is much, much
greater than the wall that separated the two neighbors in Robert
Frost’s poem. This
wall was in the Jewish temple, separating the most important part of
the temple – the Court of the Israelites – from the Court of the
Gentiles. So everyone in the world who wasn’t Jewish,
the Gentiles, were separated from the temple by a wall. And on this wall were signs
in both Greek and Latin warning that Gentiles were to go no
further into the temple, under penalty of death! The wall separated
those with “rightful” access to God’s house of worship and those
who were separated from worshipping God. There is no doubt that in Paul’s letter
to the Ephesians, he had this very wall in mind when he writes, “Don’t
forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. The Jews, who were proud of their circumcision,
even though it affected only their bodies and not
their hearts, called you uncircumcised heathens. In those days you were living apart from
Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the
people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises
God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without
hope.” To have a fair assessment of the attitude
of the Law, one has to spend some time in the Old Testament. For instance, Leviticus 16:2
tells us that the Law provided the veil that cut the sinner off from the
presence of God, “And the Lord said to Moses: Tell Aaron your brother
not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before
the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the
cloud above the mercy seat.” Looking back, Paul says this in 2
Corinthians 3:6, “Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new
covenant, not of the letter (Law) but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but
the Spirit gives life.” Therefore the attitude of the Law is death. But what is the attitude of grace? Look at verse 13, “But now in
Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the
blood of Christ.” Listen to what we have been told in John 1:17,
“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and
truth came through Jesus Christ.” In others words, the attitude of grace is
the attitude of Christ. To see the attitude of grace, I want share
these three things with you: the message of grace, the method
of grace, and the motivation of grace. Look, first, at the message of grace. Jesus made this statement in
John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The
words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” The message of
Christ is the message of grace, and the message of Christ is the Word
of God. Paul put it this way in Romans 1:16, “For
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power
of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for
the Greek.” Second, look at the method of grace. Listen to the command of
Jesus in Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel
them to come in, that my house may be filled.” The method of Christ is
the method of grace. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 11:28, “Come
to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.” Jesus gave this command in Matthew 28:18-20,
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been
given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I
have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the
age.” The very last thing
Jesus said before He left this earth is found in Acts 1:8-9, “But you shall
receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall
be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
the end of the earth.” It is obvious from the words of Christ the
church has to be two pronged. First, there is the maturing and growth of
Christians. Second, we have to look outside the church
in order to reach the lost. If all we do in emphasize soul winning, there
will very little spiritual growth and we will end up with a
church filled with spiritual babies. If all we do is emphasize Bible study we will
become lethargic theologians while the world goes
to Hell in a hand basket. Therefore, the goal of the church must be
two-fold. The truth of the matter is that we are not
doing very good on either of these fronts. More kinds are turning to “crack cocaine”
than are turning to Christ. Since 911, the two major denominations in
America have registered zero growth. And in addition to that
statement, a recent study said that 47 per cent of regular church
attenders have no idea what they actually believe concerning biblical
doctrines. Look, last of all, at the motive of grace. There is no better place
to look for the motive of grace than John 3:16, “For God so loved the
world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life.” Listen to Jesus’ statement in
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s
life for his friends.” When asked what is the greatest commandment,
Jesus answered in Matthew 22:37-39, “Jesus said…You shall love the
Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your
mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Listen to the words of Christ
in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I
have loved you.” Remember, the motive of Christ is the motive
of grace, and the motive of Christ is love. Do you know what I have found out in my lifetime
of ministry and experiences? When you love somebody rules are out. When you
love somebody interruptions are the norm. Do you remember when
you first child was born? I mean, Linda and I had no idea what we
were doing, but the one thing we did know – we loved our baby. And
when he would cry in the middle of the night, we did not get up because
it was our duty to do so; we did it because of our love. And if there is one thing I have learned about
the ministry, it is this – the ministry is a life of interruptions. People don’t have
problems on my schedule, people don’t get sick on my schedule, and
people don’t die on my schedule. The ministry if a life of interruptions. That same thing in true in the life of Jesus. His life was a life of
interruptions. When he tried to get away with His disciples
to get a little rest, the crowds followed. When He tried to get a little nap on
the boat, He had was awakened to still the storm. In the middle of
one of His sermons, He had to stop and feed 5,000 men plus women
and children. But more than that, in the middle of His dying
He had to stop and save a thief. The newest term in ministry is “Target Group.” And in one of
our Staff Meetings, the question came up, “What is our Target Group?” And I really didn’t have an answer. And I went home and prayed
about our “Target Group.” And a little later, I started thinking
about where that idea came from, and I determined that it
originated in the Corporate World. “Target Group” is a business term. And I asked myself, “What was Jesus’ Target
Group?” And this is
what I found – prostitutes, outcasts, Tax Collectors, lepers, the sick,
the crippled, those that simply did not fit the mold of organized
religion. These are the people that Jesus loved, and
these are the people who interrupted His life. The ultimate spiritual deception is that you
love God but have no time for people. That is an oxymoron. The truth of the matter is
that you can’t love God and not love people. And if you love you
interruptions are the norm and not the exception. So what is the problem? The problem is that we are trying to
preach the Gospel of Christ without the love of Christ. And it cannot
be done with any measure of spiritual success. So, as Paul examine the attitude of grace, he draws this conclusion
in verses 19-22, “Now, therefore, you are
no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints
and members of the household of God, having been built on the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the
chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together,
grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together
for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The attitude of the Law says, “Stone the sinner and throw
him away.” But
attitude of grace says, “Save the sinner and
make him a son.” And John 1:12 says, “But as many as received
him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even
to them that believe on his name.” Remember, the attitude of
Christ is the attitude of grace.

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