Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask that you would remind us this morning of all that you have done for us, how far you have brought us, and how merciful you have been to us all along the way. And having reminded us of your grace, give us the courage and wisdom to understand where we are now, and where we are going. Through Christ our Lord, Amen!
We’ve considered the fact that the people God has given to us are gifts, and that they form the tradition that God has bestowed upon us. We also considered the command to pursue like mindedness. And we insisted that unity of mind is not the beginning of apathy but the beginning of sacrificial transfiguration. Today we consider the place of Trinity Reformed Church in the broader body of Christ, and the fact that this transfiguration of the world includes the entire body of Christ together.
Overview of the Text
Paul begins by reminding the Ephesians where they have come from, who they once were (Eph. 2:1-3). But the rich mercy and grace of God has made them alive together and raised them up together and seated them with Christ together (2:5-6). Based on what comes after this, the ‘together’ is referring to the Jews and Gentiles being saved together (cf. 2:11-18). God has equipped them all to walk in good works and this is his ‘workmanship’ in them (2:4-10). All of this kindness should remind them of the divisions and alienation they experienced from God and neighbor (2:11-13), since Christ has broken down the dividing wall, making peace, reconciling men to God through the cross. Proof of all this is the preaching of peace to those both far and near (2:14-17). And Paul repeats the idea of being “one” several times (2:14, 15, 16). This also includes mutual access to the Father through “one Spirit” (2:18), and that means that there is a common citizenship in the household of God (2:19). This household is being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with the Messiah as the cornerstone, and as this structure is fitted together it grows into a “holy temple in the Lord” (2:21). And just so the Ephesians don’t miss it, he says they are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (2:22).
Soteriology is Ecclesiology
What theologians call “soteriology”, the study of salvation, is central to Paul’s argument regarding what the church is and what she is called to (“ecclesiology”). This comes out more if we consider the tabernacle/temple imagery throughout the passage: we are his building project (2:9), brought near by the blood of Christ (2:13), fellow citizens with the “holy ones” of the house of God (2:19), a holy temple and dwelling place of God (2:21-22). With this context the theme of being made “one” echoes the building of the tabernacle which was to be made into “one” (26:6, 11, 36:13, 18). Likewise preaching peace to those who are far and near is a quotation from Isaiah 57 which falls on the heels of God’s resolution to have a house of prayer for all nations on his holy mountain (Is. 56:7, 57,:13). Making alive, raising up, and sitting in heavenly places together has everything to do with being built up into the house of God. “We” are his building project together; in other words, salvation is being the house of God together with all of God’s people. Or, we might say that there is only one person who is made alive, raised up, and seated in heavenly places, there is only “one new man” and “one body” which has access to the Father through the “one Spirit.” This should cause great humility, thankfulness, and hope in us as we consider the past, present, and future.
Trinity in Context
Our immediate story is shaped significantly by Christ Church. We need to continue to work at humility, gratitude, and hope in this relationship. We are a little sister congregation, and we need to guard against the sins of little sisters. A robust, enthusiastic thankfulness for what God has done and continues to do with our brothers and sisters there needs to be the key note in our words and thoughts and actions. If there are accusations, we want them to be of the sort that would reveal a deep respect and love for those saints and nothing short of that. We are being built into the temple of God together with them.
We are also part of the broader Church in Moscow. Paul says that the unity we share in the body of Christ is a citizenship in the household of God. This city of God in Moscow is bound together by one Spirit. We are being built up into the temple of God; therefore we ought to get used to getting along. Together we are responsible for the state of our city. We are all being built up into one new man.
We are also related to the broader catholic church throughout the world. We are bound by oaths to the CREC, and this serves as broader accountability, encouragement, and fellowship. But we are also part of the historic Reformation tradition which has its roots in the Medieval and Patristic Church and includes many different communions and churches. We seek to build upon the foundation of the “apostles and prophets” (2:20) until we are all built up into the house of God through the Spirit.
This recognition of who we are in the broader context needs to be done, not so that we become muddled or rootless. Meeting your neighbors shouldn’t make you forget where you live. This recognition needs to be made so that we can be thankful, and so we can begin to know how God might lead us to serve others. And it should not be forgotten that your husband, wife, children, and roommates are some of the closest neighbors you are called to serve. Do this in humility, gratitude, and hope.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we ask that you would remind us of who we are and where we have come from not so that we might be haunted by sin but so that we might revel in your kindness to us. Therefore we thank you and we praise you for your mercy and for your wisdom. And we ask you to cause us to walk in thankfulness, through Jesus who taught us to pray…