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Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(3/14) Ephesians 2:11-22

Introduction – What are some famous walls?

  1. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
  2. The Great Wall of China
  3. The Vietnam War Memorial Wall
  4. The Berlin Wall

I don’t know how much you know of the Berlin Wall, but I will tell you a little.

When WWII ended, another war started. For more than 35 years it was called The Cold War. As World War II came to an end in 1945, a pair of Allied peace conferences at Yalta and Potsdam determined the fate of Germany’s territories. They split the defeated nation, Germany, into four "allied occupation zones": The eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union, while the western part went to the United States, Great Britain and (eventually) France. Europe itself was divided. The Division between East and West became known as the Iron Curtain.

Even though Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet part of Germany it sat about 100 miles from the border between the eastern and western occupation zones), the Yalta and Potsdam agreements split the city into similar sectors. The Soviets took the eastern half, while the other Allies took the western. This four-way occupation of Berlin began in June 1945

The Berlin Wall: Blockade and Crisis

The existence of West Berlin, a conspicuously capitalist city deep within communist East Germany, "stuck like a bone in the Soviet throat," as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev put it. The Russians began maneuvering to drive the United States, Britain and France out of the city for good. In 1948, a Soviet blockade of West Berlin aimed to starve the western Allies out of the city. Instead of retreating, however, the United States and its allies supplied their sectors of the city from the air. This effort, known as the Berlin Airlift, lasted for more than a year and delivered more than 2.3 million tons of food, fuel and other goods to West Berlin. The Soviets called off the blockade in 1949.

After a decade of relative calm, tensions flared again in 1958. For the next three years, the Soviets–emboldened by the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite the year before and embarrassed by the seemingly endless flow of refugees from east to west (nearly 3 million since the end of the blockade, many of them young skilled workers such as doctors, teachers and engineers)–blustered and made threats, while the Allies resisted. Summits, conferences and other negotiations came and went without resolution. Meanwhile, the flood of refugees continued. In June 1961, some 19,000 people left the GDR through Berlin. The following month, 30,000 fled. In the first 11 days of August, 16,000 East Germans crossed the border into West Berlin, and on August 12 some 2,400 followed—the largest number of defectors ever to leave East Germany in a single day.

The Berlin Wall: Building the Wall

That night, Premier Khrushchev gave the East German government permission to stop the flow of emigrants by closing its border for good. In just two weeks, the East German army, police force and volunteer construction workers had completed a makeshift barbed wire and concrete block wall–the Berlin Wall–that divided one side of the city from the other.

Before the wall was built, Berliners on both sides of the city could move around fairly freely: They crossed the East-West border to work, to shop, to go to the theater and the movies. Trains and subway lines carried passengers back and forth. After the wall was built, it became impossible to get from East to West Berlin except through one of three checkpoints: at Helmstedt ("Checkpoint Alpha" in American military parlance), at Dreilinden ("Checkpoint Bravo") and in the center of Berlin at Friedrichstrasse ("Checkpoint Charlie"). (Eventually, the GDR built 12 checkpoints along the wall.) At each of the checkpoints, East German soldiers screened diplomats and other officials before they were allowed to enter or leave. Except under special circumstances, travelers from East and West Berlin were rarely allowed across the border.

The Berlin Wall: 1961-1989

The construction of the Berlin Wall did stop the flood of refugees from East to West, and it did defuse the crisis over Berlin. (Though he was not happy about it, President Kennedy conceded that "a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.") Over time, East German officials replaced the makeshift wall with one that was sturdier and more difficult to scale. A 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide mass of reinforced concrete was topped with an enormous pipe that made climbing over nearly impossible. Behind the wall on the East German side was a so-called "Death Strip": a gauntlet of soft sand (to show footprints), floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight.

In all, at least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under or around the Berlin Wall. Escape from East Germany was not impossible, however: From 1961 until the wall came down in 1989, more than 5,000 East Germans (including some 600 border guards) managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying in hot air balloons, crawling through the sewers and driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds.

The Berlin Wall: The Fall of the Wall

Some of you may remember that on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan standing on the west side of the wall gave a speech that included these words, "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

On November 9, 1989, as the Cold War began to thaw across Eastern Europe, the spokesman for East Berlin’s Communist Party announced a change in his city’s relations with the West. Starting at midnight that day, he said, citizens of the GDR were free to cross the country’s borders. East and West Berliners flocked to the wall, drinking beer and champagne and chanting "Tor auf!" ("Open the gate!"). At midnight, they flooded through the checkpoints.

More than 2 million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin that weekend to participate in a celebration that was, one journalist wrote, "the greatest street party in the history of the world." People used hammers and picks to knock away chunks of the wall–they became known as "mauerspechte," or "wall woodpeckers"—while cranes and bulldozers pulled down section after section. Soon the wall was gone and Berlin was united for the first time since 1945. "Only today," one Berliner spray-painted on a piece of the wall, "is the war really over."

The reunification of East and West Germany was made official on October 3, 1990, almost one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Much of the Preceding was copied from the History Channel Web Site).

I. Our Perennial Problem

The Berlin wall is a picture of other walls. They are invisible, yet very real walls, that we have erected over the years. Walls that divide us.

  • There are doctrinal walls that have resulted in denominationalism and division in the Church that Jesus wanted to be united.
  • There are racial walls, that divide Black and White, or Black and White from Hispanic or Asian.
  • There are political walls that divide ideologies; such as, Republicans, Democrats, Libertines, Independents and more. Or as in the Cold war, Capitalist from Communist.
  • There are opinion walls that divide families and friends.
  • There are class or caste walls, that divide people by education or, finances, or as in India or here.
  • And there are probably a lot more, who we are separated from by an invisible wall, because they are not our kind. Question, "With whom do you have an invisible wall of separation?"

The last four thousand years, there has been an invisible but very real wall separating Jew and Non-Jews, usually referred to as heathen or Gentiles. There seems to have been a constant hatred between the two. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and slaughtered Jews in 70 A.D. Gentiles loathed Jews and Jews loathed Gentiles referring to them as dogs. In the Middle ages it was taught that Jews wore hats to hide their demonic horns, and that every Jew had a stairway in their basement that led to hell. This hatred was culminated in WWII under Hitler and even Stalin. It continues today between Palestinians, and the Arab nations around Israel. The tension and wars and fighting have been going on since Israel was declared an independent nation in 1948. A majority of the tension in the world today is over that pencil point piece of property along the Mediterranean Sea known as Israel.

Go back and listen, if you can hear the disdain in Pilates voice in John 18:35, "Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?"

The Jews felt superior to Gentiles because they had been chosen as descendants of Abraham as God’s Chosen people. Amos 3:1-2, Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 2 "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities."

Chosen to be different in every way from the rest of the world. Chosen to receive God’s Word and write the scriptures. Chosen to produce the Messiah. Chosen to reflect the light of God to the rest of the world. But, rather than reflecting the light, Israel chose rather to cover their light and keep it to themselves, observing the civil laws of Moses more than the Moral laws and believing that as God’s chosen they were okay, and all that the Gentiles were good for was to feed the fires of hell.

Remember Jonah? Not a happy prophet. He reluctantly preached to Nineveh only after a fish swallowed him and then vomited him out. Even as he preached he was hoping that they wouldn’t believe. When they repented was he happy for their conversion? No, he sulked. He did not want these heathen, and his natural enemies to experience the mercy and grace of God.

The Jews knew that the Temple in Jerusalem was to be a house of prayer for all nations (Isa 56:7). Our Lord even quoted that, as he drove the money changers out. Why did that have to happen? In the temple court was the area known as the court of the Gentiles. Non-Jewish people come in here to worship God. But why let dogs in when you can make money, so it was used as a place for financial gain.

And between the outer court of the Gentiles and the next court of the Israelites was a marble screen. And written on that, was what Josephus calls the law of purity, and this is what it said on that plaque, right on that screen in the temple. "No Gentile 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." We will come back to this.

While the movie Risen is a great story of grace and salvation, it did not depict the fact that no Roman soldier would have been accepted by the Apostles at that time, though Jesus had in Matthew 8 and Luke 7. Jesus? Yes! Apostles? No! It would be about ten years after our Lord’s Ascension and after Pentecost before an Apostle set foot in a Gentile’s home. The Apostles did not go into all the world as our Lord commanded until forced to by Saul’s persecution. The closest they had come was going into Samaria (Acts 8). Then Peter (Acts 10) went into Cornelius’ home as directed by God and shared the gospel with Him, but only after a direct order and vision from God. The Roman Soldier and his whole house received salvation in Jesus. Was the Jewish Church leadership excited or happy? They were not. They called Peter on the carpet and asked him, "What was you thinking? Peter told them the story and they said, "Okay, it appears that God is serious about this all the world stuff." End of story? No, it was not.

Many Jews said, that if Gentiles were going be saved they must first become Jews (Acts15). That meant that all the Gentile men who wanted to follow Jesus had to first have surgery and then keep the laws of Moses and then Jesus could be their Savior. After a debate, the Church council finally said, "They did not have to become Jews first." A lot of Gentile Christian men gave a big sigh of relief.

But it didn’t stop. The whole book of Galatians is basically Paul trying to undo that very kind of teaching that the Galatians were embracing; that is, that the gospel message was, first become a Jew, and then be a Christian. Paul even got up in Peter’s face for not fellowshipping with his Gentile brothers, when Jewish brothers from Peter’s hood came to visit him. Paul says, what hypocrisy? Peter, what are you thinking? Like Tom Sayer not letting his friend Huck Finn into his gang because what would people think of him if he let low life like Huck in. Certainly Huck would understand. Right?

Perhaps, though we don’t know for sure, this was a potential problem in Ephesus. Jews feeling superior because they were the chosen ones through whom the scriptures and the Messiah came. Or, perhaps the Gentiles were feeling superior because after all the Jews had rejected and crucified the one they accepted. More on this when we get to Chapter 4. We know from Acts 19, that the church in Ephesus was made up of both Jew and Gentile.

II. Our Past Position as Gentiles (vv. 11-12)

Verses 11-12 are directed to the Non Jewish Christians and verses 13-22 are directed to the whole church; that is, both Jew and Non Jew.

Verse 11 begins with, "Therefore remember," In your B.C. days you were:

  • Once Gentiles – Heathens- Non-Believers
  • Uncircumcised – No connection with the children and chosen of God, not under the Abrahamic covenant. Considered no different than Goliath
  • Without Christ – There was no Messianic promise outside of Judaism. No hope of a Hero-Rescuing Savior.
  • Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
  • Strangers from the Covenants of Promise - God made no promises to you outside of Judaism. What did our Lord tell the woman at the well? Salvation is of the Jews.
  • No Hope – B.C. there was only the power and pleasure of this life and any after life was a place of misery.
  • Without God in the world - They had gods, (little g) superior beings that toyed with man, and images made of stone and marble and wood with no power whatsoever. All you had was superstition.

III. Our Peace in the Plan of God. (vv. 13-18)

Verses 13-14 are a reference to Isaiah 57:19, "I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near," Says the Lord, "And I will heal him." What did our Great God do? He brought us near; that is, He brought us to Himself as Paul is referring to verse 19.

  • First, He made peace between Himself and us. He reconciled us. Who is the us? Both Jew and Gentile. Two with one shot. He made peace by reconciling us to Himself. How? He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Our sin nature and our trespasses and sins separated us from God. The blood and the death from that blood of Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and removed the invisible wall between us and God. That invisible wall created by sin has been torn down by the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross. Anyone who exercises Faith and receives God’s grace in Jesus is reconciled to God. Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
  • He has taken two distinct peoples and made one new body (v. 14-18). The death of Christ was where God tore down material walls. The veil that kept everyone from the Holy of Holies and the invisible wall keeping the Jews and Gentiles separated was torn down by God Himself. The distinctive ceremonial laws and sacrificial laws that Israel had under Moses are no longer valid. However, the Moral law is still very valid. The Ten Commandments are summarized in two but the moral law is still God’s law. But the food and clothing laws, the laws of sacrifices and the like are gone, abolished by the death of Jesus. Now everyone can approach God the exact same way, as God is building His Church where there is no distinctive.
  • Through Jesus, every believer has the same access to God the Father, through the Holy Spirit. We don’t need a priest. Jesus is our High Priest and we can commune with our Father through prayer because of His Holy Spirit living in us.

IV. Our Present Position In Christ. (vv. 18-22)

These verses are symbolic of what God is doing. He is building a church. One body from people of the whole world. Do you understand that. We are all in the family. We all are built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets; that is, the teachings of the entire Bible. Jesus Christ is the foundation as 1 Cor. 3:9-11 reminds us; For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. He is the chief Cornerstone that aligns the entire structure. And through the church, Jew and Gentile together, He is building a Holy Temple where He is living, so that we can attract the world to Him everywhere we are. God lives in every believer. God is in the House. You are God’s House. You take God to the world. You are to demonstrate the reality of the difference Jesus Christ makes when he moves in. Is that awesome?

Now that’s the teaching. Now we are going to be preaching for just a moment.

V. Overcoming Our Prejudices-We have to overcome our prejudices.

  • First, if you have not by faith repented of your sins and received Jesus, why not? There is nothing stopping you. The wall between you and God has been torn down by Jesus on the cross when He died for you. You can be rescued from hell and the power of sin and have the assurance of eternal life, adopted as a chosen child of God, if you will receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord by faith today.
  • Second, if you are prejudice, stop it! Repent and stop it today. The Hispanic, the Asian, the African, the Russian, the Jew, the inner city, the communist, even the Muslim are all people for whom Jesus died and rose again. While we are angry, as God is with sin and even sinners, we know that every person we meet is either our family or our mission field. Look at Revelation 5:9-10, And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." Heaven is not just for white people, or Jewish people, or any other race or nationality. You will lock arms and join hands and worship together in the presence of God, so start now.
  • We must work to unify the church. Our Lord prayed, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will[e] believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me," (John 17:20-23). Do you understand His prayer? Unity is what He wants so the world will see that Jesus can do what the world cannot. Then they will know the reality of the love, grace, and power of Jesus Christ.

While I understand denominational divisions, because they pertain to doctrinal differences, I think they grieve our Lord.

And while I understand ethnic churches are designed to reach the people of a particular ethnicity like Hispanic churches, Korean Churches, Black Churches, Messianic Churches, and others, they still divide us and are not Biblical. A church must reflect the community it is in. We are supposed to be one and we need to work to achieve that oneness so the world will see that the church is the one organization that pictures what the world is supposed to be.

These invisible walls need to come down. Its isn’t a matter of being the rightest church. It is a matter of humbly realizing that we are what we are for one reason - the grace of God. We need to be praying together and seeking God’s forgiveness for the walls we have left up or built up.

With whom do you have walls up? It’s time to repent and repair as we tear the walls down.

Let’s pray.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman