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Peace in a Hostile World

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 4, 2022 4:00 am

Peace in a Hostile World

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 4, 2022 4:00 am

In today’s broken world, most people long for harmony—in the home, the workplace, everywhere! Is real and lasting peace actually possible, though? Find out as we continue our study in the book of Ephesians on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Most of us long for harmony in our homes our workplace and the world. But is peace really possible? Today on Truth for Life, we continue our study in Ephesians.

Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter 2. We're looking at verses 14 through 18. Nobody today is prepared to deny—in fact, there is universal agreement about the condition of our world is broken.

Where the disagreement comes is, what's the cause of this brokenness, and what is the solution to the brokenness? And here in our studies in Ephesians—a book written a long time ago, a letter written a long time ago by a converted Jew by the name of Saul of Tarsus, Paul the Apostle—we are at the very heart of peace discovered in a context of hostility. I think if you listen carefully when I read this, you would see that in verse 14 we're introduced to Jesus immediately as our peace, that this peace is discovered not in a program but instead in a person. He is our peace, verse 14. He's making peace at the end of verse 15. And he preached peace, verse 17. There's no surprise, because the Old Testament looked forward to the one who had come who was the Prince of Peace. And what Paul is saying is, I discovered that Jesus really is the Prince of Peace.

My life was marked by hostility, I had a hatred for people, I was pursuing these people to the point of imprisonment and of death. But I've discovered how wrong that was, how warped I was, and how wonderful Jesus is of this peace. He made it, he preached it, he is it.

And so, when we read the gospel records, of course, we discover that this is exactly what Jesus himself said. I'm going to leave, he said to his followers, I'm going to leave my peace with you. I don't give you peace the way you'll find it in the world. This peace is a revolution in itself. When he came to look over Jerusalem, Luke records, when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace.

And what he was saying was, of all the people in the world, you should know. You had the prophets, you had the law, you had all the lines running forward to the Messiah who was to come. And yet here you are.

How often I would have gathered you the way the hen gathers her chicks, but you wouldn't come to me. It's not too hard to imagine Christ, as it were, looking over the cities of North America and saying the exact same thing. You see, the devil is the great fabricator, isn't he? Because the devil has convinced people that the answer is the problem. The problem is you people aren't about Jesus, as if somehow or another we're the ones causing the trouble by stating the truth. If only you would stop that and join in with the bumper sticker, all would be well.

Well, but we can't. It's not a matter of being bombastic. It's not a matter of being even dogmatic.

It's not a matter of just trying to promulgate a concept on the world. It's a matter of truth. What is truth? That was the question from Pontius Pilate, wasn't it? Did he say, What is truth?

Please tell me. Or did he say, Hey, what's truth? What's truth?

I mean, was Pontius Pilate postmodern? Hey, what's truth? Truth's whatever you want it to be.

You can't find truth. Or truth is in the amalgamation of every concept of truth. And against that, Jesus stands and he says, I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.

The only way to meet the God who made you is in and through he who is the Prince of Peace. And as staggering as it sounds, that is the claim that the Bible makes, and it is that which Paul is saying here. Verse 13, You ones who are far off have been brought near by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ offers a real and a lasting peace, both on the vertical axis and on the horizontal. And so it is that he's saying to the church at Ephesus, essentially, one day in perfection, that which God has purposed in the mystery of his will to unite all things in heaven and on earth, that which will finally be brought to fruition in a new heaven and a new earth, is to be present amongst you in a kind of microcosm, as you then, benefiting from all that is yours in Jesus, live with one another on that horizontal plane as a result of the difference that Jesus has made.

Now, you see, this was a pressing import for these people, because Ephesus, as with other communities of the time, was marked by separation, and it was marked by hostility. Jesus in the gospel had, if you like, invaded the community, as the Word had been preached through the apostle Paul, and separation had now been replaced with integration, and hostility was now being swallowed up in community. And the reason that this was happening is because God had purposed to create a whole new society. That's why in the passage that we read, he talks about creating one new man—one new man—that God is doing something. That is, he is creating a single, new, reconciled humanity that completes, supersedes, transcends all the old divisive barriers which have been broken down as a result of his work.

All right? So the church is that society. The church is that society—invisible, visible, in a variety of places here and there. But we are supposed to be an indication to a broken world of what happens when people discover that Jesus has dealt with the brokenness. Now, it's not ever gonna be perfect this side of eternity, but the fact that it isn't perfect does not give us any excuse for not doing our best to see it perfect.

In other words, that the problem ought not to be on our side as a result of a lack of endeavor or willingness or as a result of our own divisive prejudices or because of things that we hold onto in our past. Now, Paul says, you'll be helped in this if you realize a number of things. Let me summarize them. Number one, that Jesus has broken down the wall. Jesus has broken down the wall.

He is our peace. He's made us both one, has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. What Paul is saying here concerning this wall alters absolutely everything.

And for the Jew and for the Gentile, it is made all things new. Now, there was a literal wall. There was a physical wall in the temple courts. And some of the commentators say, but since Paul wrote Ephesians before the destruction of the temple in AD 70, he couldn't possibly be mentioning the breaking down of that wall because the wall was still up. Well, why?

Of course he could be, and I think he probably is. Essentially, what he's saying is, the wall may physically be still sitting there in Jerusalem, but the reality is, my dear brothers and sisters in Ephesus, that in his flesh Jesus Christ has broken down that wall. His flesh has been torn, and the curtain has been torn, and access has been opened up to everybody, and on that day when that curtain was torn, the whole shooting match was changed. And Jew and Gentile now had access to God directly in and through the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that in his death, all of the symbolism that was represented in the wall—because while there is a physical wall four and a half feet high, a partition, the real wall around the Jew was the wall that was placed around the Jew by the law, by all of those bits and pieces, by the regulations about what you could eat and what you could drink and how many times you washed your hands and where you were going and how many feet you could walk on the Sabbath and how many things you hung from your head and the tassels that hang from your coat and all of those other things—they all said to the people around them, You ain't got none of this, and we are really special.

Okay? Well, in actual fact, they were really special, because God had chosen them. God had called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. And when he called his people out of Egypt, you'll remember that he took them to the Holy Land. And on the way to the Holy Land, he gave them his commandments so that they might express their distinctiveness in a holy lifestyle. He promised in the journeys to meet them at a holy place, and by means of the rituals and the sacrifices, he portrayed for them his willingness to forgive them and to restore them. And that's just a matter of historical record.

However, it was only intended ever to be an interim arrangement. It was a mosaic law for a select group of people in a select place for a select period of time. And the rituals and the food regulations and the material sacrifices all pointed forward to the fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. I need no other sacrifice.

I need no other plea. It has been dealt with in Jesus. And so then the believing Jew and the believing Gentile discover that their relationship with God is on the same basis, and on the only basis that we have access to the Father through one mediator, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, you see, loved ones, this is why the notions of our society about how you create, for example, Middle East peace are destined for failure. Because the only way that you can actually get an Arab and a Jew to unite at an organic heart level, I suggest to you, is in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The issue is that when the Jew and the Gentile stand up and sing together, what do they sing?

They sing the same song. In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song. He is my cornerstone.

He is my solid ground. The Jew says, I had all of these things in my heritage, but I realized that they only were pointing me to Jesus. Now that I have Jesus, this thing has been broken down. Now, don't misunderstand it.

It's not for this morning. Some people take this and they say, And that's why, once you're in Christ, we were once under law, but now we're under grace, therefore there's no law. That's not what we're dealing with here. Christ has fulfilled the law insofar as he has exhausted its demands and borne its punishment and kept it in all of its fullness. The law remains, for the believer, a mirror in which we see ourselves. So the Ten Commandments is not a ladder up which I climb to acceptance with God, but it is a mirror in which I see the fact that I did tell lies and that I have been covetous and that my only hope is in Christ alone. And that when I am wondering what it means to live in purity and in holiness and not to covet and not to tell lies and to honor my father and my mother, the work of the Spirit of God is to show me the moral law of God, not as a means of acceptance with God but as that directive by which, through the Spirit, I am able to seek and to follow God. With all that said, the fact of the matter is that the Jew and the Gentile are now united as a result of the finished work of Christ. He has broken down a wall.

Let me say a second thing. He has made one in place of two. And you see that there in verse 15.

He has done this in order that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two. And what Paul is saying here is that he has taken those who were once separated from one another, who were actually hostile towards one another, calling each other names—you don't have it, we don't want it, all that kind of stuff—and he has created one new man in the place of two. You see, all the insider-outsider stuff which marked the context of Ephesus has been obliterated in the cross of Christ. There is no longer, says Paul to the Ephesians, this distinction between those who are far away and those who are near. Those far away, being the Gentiles, in their unbelief. Those who are near, being the Jews in their proximity to God. But the converted Jew has understood that the scaffolding within which his forefathers lived has actually been dismantled. And therefore, the things that he used to hold dear, all I once held dear, built my life upon. You think about it in Philippian terms, where Paul says, I was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, I had a good background, I, as far as the law is concerned, I was fantastic. Then what has he said? But in relationship to all of these things, I now count them as nothing, as refuse for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. In other words, he says, I have found in Christ that to which all of this stuff pointed.

I was up really close, but I was far away. The Gentile had none of that. No circumcision, no laws, no dietary requirements, no special beating places. So what have they got to go on?

The exact same thing. All I have is Christ. And you see, Paul says to the Ephesians, the divisions and the distinctions that have marked you in bringing you to faith in Jesus Christ no longer may be tolerated. They cannot be promulgated, they cannot be elevated, you cannot hold onto these things.

And I'm not going to try and apply this, but you can apply it for yourself. We can't, as a church, chastise ourselves because we're not what we would like to be or whatever it is. We are what we are, but we long to be what God wants us to be.

And in some measure, at least, there ought to be the evidences of these very things. The basis of our unity in the Lord Jesus Christ preached both to Jew and to Gentile. He preached it to those who were far away, preached it to those who were near. It has been proclaimed.

It may be enjoyed, but only as it is believed and accepted. For all that Christ has done for us is as no value to us, so long as we remain outside of him. He's broken down the wall.

He's made two out of the one. And finally, just in a word, verse 18, and we both have access. We both have access. In fact, you will notice in verse 18 how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are involved in this great mystery. Through him—that is, Jesus the Son—we both have access in one Spirit, God the Holy Spirit. To the Father, there is the Father. And the remarkable thing, and so hard for the Jew to believe apart from the enabling of the Spirit of God, and so hard for the Gentile to believe, but I haven't done this, and I don't have that, and how could I go in there?

On what basis can I go? And that big sign has been up there for so long. Well, Jew and Gentile share the same access.

Access to where? Not to a temple building in Jerusalem but directly to the Father. You see, Christ's death on the cross and the tearing of that curtain basically finished that temple.

Finished it. AD 70, it was destroyed. And when people talk now about going to the temple, going to the temple, I presume they're not reading their Bibles. They read the book of Hebrews. We have come to this place. We have come to Mount Zion. We have come to the temple. We are here in the New Jerusalem.

The access which Jew and Gentile have is not to a temple building in the Middle East. It is to God the Father himself in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. All of that alienation that marked them, all of that separation that spoiled them, has been dealt with in Jesus. And all the alienation, the alienation that is present in our culture this morning, is ultimately subsumed under the fact that both Jew and Gentile are alienated by nature from God, because we're sinners.

Jewish sinners, Gentile sinners, white sinners, black sinners, Chinese sinners, Japanese sinners, but sharing this reality. In fact, when Paul writes about it in Romans 5, he says, if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God. So God reconciles his enemies. In other words, we all have a relationship with God. We either are related to God as his enemy or we're related to God as his friend. If while we were enemies we were reconciled, how much more then that he has made us his friends through Jesus? Well, I wonder where you are this morning in this continuum.

Let's come back. Let's end with John, shall we? Not the Gospel of John. Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try, apparently. I haven't tried.

I don't know. Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try.

There's no hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. Well, that last part is not hard to imagine, is it? If you watch a golf tournament this afternoon on TV, you'll only be watching it about fifteen seconds, and somebody will start on about, and he's just in the moment.

And they interview him afterwards, and, How did you get on on the thirteenth hole? Well, I just tried to stay in the moment. Like you had a choice. You were in the moment.

You only had that moment. Well, just imagine all the people living for today. That's the issue, loved ones, we are living for today. With no thought of yesterday and no prospect of tomorrow, by nature, without hope and without God in the world, and into that hopelessness and into that alienation steps the Prince of Peace, takes our punishment on himself, grants to us a forgiveness that is entirely undeserved, and looks out over the city of Cleveland and says, Oh, if you would only know what makes for peace. You know, I hope John Lennon did not actually believe that deep down.

I hope it with a passion. When he and Yoko Ono went to Scotland in that big gigantic Rolls-Royce, the old silver shadow or silver cloud that they had painted in psychedelic colors—you can see it if you read the books—and they ran it off one of the narrow highland roads in Scotland, and both ended up in the hospital. The minister that went to see them, the local Church of Scotland minister, the free church minister that went to see them, was my friend Davey Patterson. I've told you about Davey Patterson.

He's the guy who told me, Is it steak or is it mince? But that's another story altogether. But Davey went to see them in the hospital and told me afterwards he had the most amazing opportunity to share the gospel with them, that he told them straight up.

He didn't go in and ask for autographs. He went in and did what he should do. And some days, when I'm thinking about it, I say, Oh God, I hope somehow in the dying embers of his existence that he remembered what Davey told him and that he didn't have to imagine anymore because he found the reality in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I don't know where you are in relationship to these things. You're sensible people. You've got to read the Bible. You think these things out.

Are you going to live in an imaginary world, or do you want to deal with the real world? In the end, true and lasting peace is only found in and through Jesus. We're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg outlining the ways that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has dealt with our world's brokenness. Helping to address the issues of brokenness is a part of what is involved in being called a ministry, and that work can be both challenging and rewarding. Today, we want to recommend to you a book that provides encouragement for both the challenges and the rewards of ministry.

This book is for a different audience than you might expect. The book is titled Partners in the Gospel, 50 Meditations for Pastors and Elders' Wives. It's a collection of 50 devotions specifically prepared to encourage the wives of church leaders, those who are typically serving behind the scenes. This book draws from scripture to help clarify what a wife's role should look like in a local church. This is a great book to give to the women in your church who serve alongside their husbands. You can request your copy of the book Partners in the Gospel when you give a donation at truthforlife.org slash donate.

I'm Bob Lapine. How can you be certain that you are truly following Jesus? Join us tomorrow as we take a look at the real and observable differences between true Christians and unbelievers. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-27 09:10:58 / 2022-12-27 09:19:42 / 9

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