Christ Our Peace (Ephesians 2:14-22)

Well does Jesus Christ deserve the title “”Prince of Peace,” for He brings peace to all who trust in Him. Christ gives His followers peace with God, taking away the penalty and burden of the sin that once separated us from our Creator. He gives us peace within ourselves, offering us rest for our souls from the cares and worries of life and strength to endure its trials. And Jesus gives us peace with each other, tearing down the walls that once kept us apart in self-centered isolation and rivalry. In today’s passage, Paul says that the power of the cross put to death the hatred and conflict that had kept the Jews, “those who were near” to God, bitterly divided from the Gentiles, those who did not have the blessings of the covenants of promise and were “afar off” from God (Ephesians 2:17). The two groups have now become one new, unified body as God’s church. Jesus Christ Himself is the cornerstone of this new, living house of believers, having come to fulfill all the promises laid down by the prophets and now explained by the apostles (vv. 20-22). Believing Jews and Gentiles have together become the Lord’s temple on earth, filled by the peacemaking, bonding work of His Holy Spirit.

This same work of reconciliation and unification continues today among all of us who are sincere believers in Jesus Christ. Whatever conflicts we are having with other Christians, the blood of Christ can bring us healing and peace. If you find yourself fighting with other believers, resolution is possible if both sides will take their eyes off themselves and put their eyes on Jesus. As a middle school, we have seen many students come to Jesus Christ for salvation and rededication in the past nine months. That means that we should be seeing more peace and unity in our hallways, classrooms, and everywhere else. May the Spirit of the Lord continue to make us one through our faith in the Prince of Peace!

The Text (Ephesians 2:14-22)

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.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever had peace with God? Are you experiencing His peace in your life right now? Why or why not?
  2. Do you have any conflicts with other believers right now? Through your shared faith in Christ and the bond of the Holy Spirit, you should be able to make peace with each other. However, if one or more of you is immature or backslidden in your faith, or if the issue is very serious, then you may need mediation help from a more experienced believer like a parent, youth pastor, Bible study leader, or teacher. Ask the Lord to help you find peace in all your relationships through the power of the cross.
  3. Have you seen more peace and unity in your grade now than there was a year ago? Explain.

Notes

  • The “middle wall of separation” in verse 14 was a literal physical barrier that kept Gentiles out of God’s temple. These Gentiles did not practice all of the religious and ceremonial laws of the Jews (verse 15), so they were seen as being outside of the promises of God’s love and salvation. But through Jesus Christ, that wall has been torn down and those Old Testament laws (not the moral commands like the Ten Commandments, but the stuff related to the temple and priests and such) have been abolished forever. What counts now is faith in Christ working through love. Peace is now available to people from every tribe and tongue and nation who are willing to repent of their sins and selfishness and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  • We saw the image of Christians as God’s living, growing house during our study of 1 Peter (check out the post “We Are God’s House” for a review). This metaphor is used a lot in the New Testament to remind us that the church is not a collection of buildings. No, God’s people are His church, and He lives in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We joined that building of faith when we got saved, and we continue to grow together as the Lord works in our lives to make us more like the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

No Longer Strangers to God (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Have you ever imagined what life would be like without the light of the gospel? Without the hope of heaven? Without the peace and purpose of having a personal relationship with a loving God? Well, that was the case of Paul’s first century readers before they trusted in the precious blood of Jesus Christ for their salvation. And that is the heartbreaking condition of so many lost souls that we encounter every day. All around us, in our neighborhoods and in the stores where we shop, on the ballfields, courts, and rinks where we play, are people who “have no hope” and are “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). And such were we before we met the Lord.

The world, our sin nature, and the devil do their best to entice unbelievers with one passing pleasure after another, always distracting them from their lost and wandering condition. If you were saved recently, you might remember what that lost feeling was like – continually looking forward to the next thing, never being fulfilled by what you’re doing now, always feeling empty and like there must be more to life. Then you found Christ, or rather He found you, and you were no longer alone in this world. Today’s text pushes us to remember that trying to live our lives without Christ at the center is truly a meaningless and lonely existence. The passage also touches our hearts with compassion for those around us who are still spiritual aliens and strangers. May we pray for opportunities to help the wanderers in our paths to find the saving relationship with Christ that we so often take for granted.

The Text (Ephesians 2:11-13)

11 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.

Questions to Think About

  1. When you think about your life before accepting Christ, did you ever feel lost and alone? Did you ever feel like your life was without purpose and meaning?
  2. Have you ever had a non-Christian friend, relative, or teammate talk about feeling lost or alone in this world? How could you use today’s passage as a way to share Christ with some of the unbelievers in your life?
  3. Have you thanked God recently for rescuing you from a life of wandering without purpose? How are you seeking for His will and purposes to be done in your life right now?

Notes

  • The references to “the Uncircumcision” and “the Circumcision” in verse 11 point forward to verses 14-22, where Paul will explain how Jesus Christ brings both Gentiles and Jews together in one new body called the church. Most of Paul’s audience seem to have been Gentiles, but he does not want them to feel like that makes them lesser Christians than the Messianic Jews. They are not inferior because outward religious rites like circumcision do not save people; it is the inner circumcision or changing of the heart that matters to God.
  • We should not overlook the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, a favorite topic of the New Testament authors. Remember in Ephesians 1:7 (a GREAT memory verse!), that in Christ we have both “redemption” and “the forgiveness of sins.” Now, in Ephesians 2:13, we see that Jesus’ blood is what brings sinful people like us from being “far off” to becoming “near” to God. His blood allows Christians to approach a holy God without the fear of being condemned, so that we can now “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Let the blood of Christ encourage us all throughout our day and especially whenever we come before the Lord in prayer.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

God’s Works of Grace (Ephesians 2:7-10)

From beginning to end, Christians are God’s unique works of grace. Our lives in Christ are the masterpieces of our all-good, all-wise, all-powerful Father in heaven. His work of grace began with us before the creation of the world, when He loving decided that He would choose us to become His adopted sons and daughters. In love and kindness, He knit us together before our physical birth, and in mercy and grace He redeemed us from slavery to sin by giving us a spiritual birth through repentance and faith in Jesus. We began to experience this salvation when we finally heard and understood the gospel in our hearts and first believed. And his work of grace continues each day as we grow in Christ, slowly becoming in this life what He has already declared us to be in the court of heaven: holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4).

In today’s passage, Paul remainder his Christian audience of arguably the greatest theme of the Bible – “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9; Revelation 7:10). Salvation is a gift that God gives us because He is kind and loves us, not because we are good and deserve it. The very definition of grace is that it is unearned – that’s why it’s called GRACE! Even if we could do enough good works to build a ladder to heaven, what would we do when we got there? Heaven is a place where Christians will worship God forever and ever, constantly praising the One who has saved us from our sins and the consequences we justly deserved (that’s called “mercy” – when you don’t get the punishment that you ought to get). A person who made it to heaven through his or her own goodness (which, remember, is impossible), would have no reason to praise Jesus! A true Christian will do good works (Ephesians 2:10), but these are the evidences of our faith, not the cause of our faith. Good fruit pours forth naturally from a soul that has been made new by the Holy Spirit (the fruit of the Spirit!). We serve the Lord and do good to others out of joy and thankfulness because He has saved us, not so that He will save us. This vital difference is not just a wrangling of words – it is literally the difference between heaven and hell, between everlasting life and eternal death and suffering. May the Lord open our minds and hearts to truly see His hand of grace in our lives today, and may we praise Him for His grace forever and ever!

The Text (Ephesians 2:7-10)

7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Questions to Think About

1. When you think back on your life before your salvation, what evidences of God’s grace can you see?

2. When did you first begin to understand your salvation as the work of God’s grace and not your own efforts?

3. Why do think that the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is so offensive to so many people? In other words, why doesn’t everyone want to be saved / become a Christian?

Notes

• One of the great points that Dr. Evans made in teaching today’s passage in chapel was that salvation is indeed the result of work. But it is not our work which saves us, but the work of God on our behalf! God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins with His death on the cross. Then the Father raised the Son back to life and sent God the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and give us the power to believe in the Son and receive eternal life. That’s some incredible work by God both for and in us!

• While verses 8-9 are key, famous memory verses from today’s text, verse 10 is also very important. Paul concludes this passage by explaining that as Christians, we are God’s “worksmanship,” or “works in progress.” By the power of His Holy Spirit, the Lord is at work in His people, transforming us from the inside out to become more like Jesus as we grow and mature in our faith. That process is called “sanctification,” and it will produce good words and actions in our lives that should be visible to those around us. These works do no save us, but they are the proof or fruit by which others recognize us as true followers of Christ. When a person claims to have been saved for many years and yet does not show any evidence of being one of God’s works in progress, we have a right as Christians to lovingly question the reality of that person’s faith. This verse harmonizes with what James is talking about in James 2:14-26, when he argues that we show our faith to others by our works and that “faith” without works is dead and cannot save us.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

From Death to Life (Ephesians 2:1-6)

Yesterday we heard a powerful chapel message about the great change that MUST happen to any and everyone who would enter the gates of heaven. While chapter 1 of Ephesians describes so beautifully the many spiritual blessings that God has given to His chosen and adopted children, the beginning of chapter 2 gives us a sobering reminder that these amazing riches of God’s grace only apply to those who are alive in Christ. None of us came out of our mother’s womb praising Jesus! No, we were all born “dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1). From the friendly, well-behaved girl on the honor roll to the cussing, angry boy with a half dozen pink slips, the default spiritual condition of ALL students without a real, saving relationship with Jesus Christ is the same – DEAD IN SINS! The appearance of some people’s sinfulness may be better hidden than it is with others, but in the heart that has never been born again by the Holy Spirit, the condition is the same – DEAD IN SINS! The person without Jesus on the inside, no matter how nice they may seem on the outside, is a follower and prisoner of Satan (the “prince of the power of the air”) and the deceitful belief system of this wicked world (v. 2). Every person without Christ is ultimately a slave to their own selfish desires, both the sins of the flesh (what they do and say) and the mind (what they think and want) – they are DEAD IN SINS (v. 3)! And because of their sinful deeds and words and thoughts that pour forth from their sinful hearts, people without Christ are under God’s just sentence of punishment and condemnation (v. 4). They are headed for the hell that they rightly deserve.

If the passage ended here, all would be hopeless and lost for us. But praise God for verses 4-6! By the power of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from physical death, anyone who honestly repents of their sins and trusts in His work on their behalf can be saved from their wretched condition of spiritual death. Every truly born-again Christian has this testimony in their heart, that God has raised them from being DEAD IN SINS to being ALIVE IN CHRIST! If you are a Christian, you were delivered from death to life the moment you trusted in Jesus Christ for your personal, eternal salvation. You are no longer a dead man or woman walking, but a living, breathing bearer of God’s resurrection power! By God’s love and grace, you have forever passed from death to life and are now on the road to heaven.

But be warned. If the past nine months of middle school student ministry at NRCA have taught us anything, it is that salvation is serious and mysterious business. We have seen students who nobody ever knew were lost based on their outward behaviors come weeping to the cross of Jesus for salvation! No one knew that they were dead on the inside, but now they want everyone to know that they are ALIVE IN CHRIST! Tragically, others have made public professions of faith, some even with great emotion and excitement, and yet shown few or no signs of real spiritual change and fruit in their lives. The application of today’s passage would be two-fold: 1) Make every effort to be certain that YOU have passed from death to life yourself; “make your call and election sure” (check out 1 Peter 1:5-10) and 2) Do not assume that everyone is alive in Christ just because of what they claim to believe, but look for consistent spiritual fruit in picking your friends; if they are aren’t consistently acting like Jesus and don’t seem like they are even trying or wanting to be like Him, they might not really be “in Him.”

These are strong and difficult teachings and applications, but this is what Ephesians 2:1-6 is saying. Read it yourself below and let God speak to your heart today.

The Text (Ephesians 2:1-6)

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Questions to Think About

1. Have you passed from death to life as described in today’s passage? How can you tell?

2. Would your friends believe that you are ALIVE IN CHRIST or still DEAD IN SINS? Why?

3. Are there any friendships that you need to reconsider and reevaluate right now based on today’s passage? Is it possible that you have been spending time with spiritually dead people and not known it? Proverbs 13:30 warns us that, “He who walks with wise men [and women] will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” When it comes to whom you trust with sharing your heart and life and soul, choose very carefully!

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Bow to the Son (Psalm 2)

The name of Jesus is mocked by many in this present age. Individuals and nations shake their fists at God, His Son, and His Word. All around us the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ are ridiculed and disregarded. For much of the world and now even our own nation, the God of the Bible has become a distant and insignificant figure of another era, a cruel invention of superstitious and mean-spirited religious leaders. Modern man worships self-centered pleasure, comfort, and entertainment. He has no place for a heavenly King who would claim the throne of every human heart. So for now “the nations rage” and the leaders of this wicked world “set themselves…against the Lord and His Anointed” (vv. 1-2). We truly live in a time and place that has lost all fear of God. This pervasive lack of reverence for a holy God has even infected many of our churches and Christian schools. As you look around you even just today, do you see any evidence of what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord?” Do you see anyone around you, yourself included, living as if their lives will one day be evaluated before the eyes of an all-seeing God? The painful truth is that most of us don’t love Jesus very much because we have lost sight of the holiness of God and the awful wrath from which He has saved us. We love little because in our minds our sin is little – we do not see the darkness of our souls the way that God does.

But as the rest of Psalm 2 warns, our judgment approaches. A day of reckoning will come. The question is not if or when that time will come, but, “Will we be ready?” The Psalmist, probably King David himself, tells us that God laughs back at those who laugh at Him (v. 4). The Messiah, His Anointed Son, His Chosen Ruler, the Lord Jesus Christ – He will return one day in full power and glory to rule all of the nations and crush all of his enemies (vv. 8-9). All of us will eventually give account for our lives to King Jesus. For this reason, Psalm 2 pleads with us to “kiss the Son” now, an old way of saying that we should bow the knees of our hearts to Him and surrender to His Lordship over us (the image is of a noble kneeling and kissing the hand of a king to pledge his loyalty and obedience). The glorious truth is that when God finally breaks our selfish pride so that we begin to “serve the Lord with fear,” we are not only spared from His angry judgment, but we find that bowing to Jesus each day becomes our greatest joy and blessing (vv. 11-12). Will you bow your life to Jesus today?

The Text (Psalm 2)

1 Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.

5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure:

6 “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.”

7 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.

8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Questions to Think About

1. When do you first remember beginning to “fear the Lord” as described in this passage and devotion? In other words, when did your heart first get gripped with God’s holiness and your sinfulness?

2. Do you think a lost person really fears God? Why or why not?

3. As a Christian, how can Psalm 2 be a great encouragement to you?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel