1. One of the greatest problems mankind has faced since the “fall” has been conflict. What evidence of conflict do we see in the first few chapters of Genesis? (Adam blaming Eve. Cain murdering Abel. Satan doing all he can to keep us from God.)
Humanity has been in conflict and needs reconciliation. The work of Jesus is the way God has provided for our reconciliation, both among humanity and most importantly, between humanity and God.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary explains reconciliation this way: “Bringing together two parties that are estranged or in dispute. Jesus Christ is the one who brings together God and man, with salvation as the result of the union. Reconciliation basically means “change” or “exchange.” The idea is of a change of relationship, and exchange of antagonism for goodwill, enmity for friendship. Attitudes are transformed and hostility ceases.”
Reconciliation, a positive change or relationship, is one of the blessings and outcomes of the gospel.
In the ancient world, reconciliation started through one of two paths. Either a third party would get involved or one of the alienated parties would take the first step. In Matt. 5:24 Jesus urged us to take the first step with our brother. Paul portrayed the Christian as a type of third party—calling people to be reconciled to God in 2 Cor. 5:18-20. As those who have been reconciled, we desire others to experience this blessing and joy as well.
2. Are there individuals or groups of people you are so alienated with that you would not seek reconciliation between you and them or them and God? (Be careful here and examine your heart carefully. What about those who wish to see you or our nation destroyed?)
The stark difference though, between our reconciliation with God and the processes of the ancient world, is that God, the offended party, is the one who takes not just the first step, but every step that makes reconciliation possible as He makes the path to peace for us in Christ. For reconciliation to take place, we, the offenders against God need only to come to Him in faith and repentance. An even further striking difference is that God is the one who uses us to bring others to Him, through the sharing of the gospel. As the church preaches the gospel, we’re agents of reconciliation!
3. Do we readily and eagerly accept that role and reach out to all people, even those who are openly hostile toward us?
As we explore the second half of Ephesians 2 pay attention to the metaphors Paul uses to help us better understand God’s reconciliation plan. Remember the church at Ephesus consisted primarily of Gentile believers!
Brought Near! Read Ephesians 2:11-13
1. When the Jews called the Gentiles “the uncircumcised” what tone of voice did they use? (Contempt or ridicule. Derogatory.)
2. What point was Paul making when he said circumcision was merely a physical action “done in the flesh by human hands”? (Paul was saying circumcision that truly mattered was spiritual circumcision of the heart. See Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3.)
3. The harsh reality is that Gentiles truly had been alienated from God and from God’s people. What are the five succinct descriptors Paul used here to illustrate that fact? (1-“Without Christ” or hope of the promised Messiah; 2- “Excluded from the citizenship of Israel.” 3- “Foreigners to the covenants of promise.” 4- “Without hope”. 5- “Without God in the world”. They worshiped the created not the Creator!)
The Jews were the “chosen”, but not for the reasons most Jews thought they were chosen. It wasn’t because of who they were, it was because of who God was! Many Jews in Paul’s day, most notably the religious leaders like the Pharisees, placed a greater emphasis on their rules and ceremonies than they did on belief in Jesus. They failed to see that sin, not race or heritage, was what ultimately separated a person from God. Paul reminded readers that apart from Christ, both Jews and Gentiles are without hope and separated from God. But in the same way, in Christ both Jews and Gentiles find redemption from sin and reconciliation to God. Jews and Gentiles are the same in Christ!
4. How does a lack of intimacy with God fuel division and prejudice among people? (We begin to get our eyes off Jesus and on ourselves, thinking we are special because of who we are and not because of what He has done for and in us.)
5. How do Paul’s words speak to a Christian’s responsibility about society’s lack of peace? (There is no room for prejudice in God’s kingdom. Salvation is offered to all people. Believers must view each person as valuable enough to warrant the sacrifice of God’s Son! As believers, we should work to break down walls of prejudice in our own hearts, churches, and communities.)
After establishing that Gentiles can be reconciled to God and united with Jews through the death of Christ, Paul declared that Christ alone brings reconciliation and peace to all people!
Peace Declared! Read Ephesians 2:14-18
There was a wall in the Temple area in Jerusalem beyond which Gentiles, even “God-fearers”, could not go. Here Paul, using various metaphors and illustrations (wall, body, etc.), described Jesus as our peace, the One who breaks down all the divisions sin creates among people. Because of the cross, people are united in Jesus and can love and serve Him together. A unified body of believers is especially important when we think about our calling to reflect the love and peace of Jesus to the world.
1. What two reconciliations did Jesus bring about and how did He do so? (Christ’s reconciling work is vertical and horizontal. All who trust in Jesus can have peace with God, others and themselves. God never intended for any of these separations to occur. The hostility between Jews and Gentiles was intensely deep. Both viewed the other with contempt—and outside of Christ it seems to be the same today!)
Jesus’ death satisfied the righteous standards of the law, eliminating the barrier. Everything that causes disunity was destroyed at the cross. Only Jesus can mend hostile relationships and make enemies beloved friends of God and each other.
“One new man from the two, resulting in peace”—verse 15. Here this phrase refers to the church as the body of Christ, through His death Jews and Gentiles became one.
2. How are we escorted into the presence of the Father? (Access to God the Father is given to all who believe through the Holy Spirit. Paul used a word for access that denoted a person in a royal court who escorted a visitor into the king’s presence.)
3. How does Jesus’ reconciliation create unity? (Christ created a new, undivided humanity. Jews are no longer Jews, and Gentiles no longer Gentiles. They’re all one in Christ. Union with Christ logically means unity with one another.)
Read Col. 3:11 “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.”
Read Gal. 3:27-28 “Those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Citizenship Granted! Read Ephesians 2:19-22
In verse 19 the two terms: foreigners and strangers both emphasize a lack of citizenship.
1. What is the great news they received after accepting Jesus as Lord? (The Gentiles became fellow citizens with the saints.)
2. What is the goal of Jesus’ reconciliatory work? (All become one “building” with Christ as the “Cornerstone”! Everyone is aligned with Jesus!)
When believers are unified with one another, we show the world a glimpse of the eternal kingdom of God. When we are fussing and fighting among ourselves we have a negative testimony!
3. Hopefully we all have a better understanding about our unity in the body of Christ. How does a shared citizenship in God’s family impact how believers view one another?
The church has none that are detached from the main body. All believers are stones in God’s single building where He dwells. We each have a specific place, fitted and bonded together perfectly, founded on the gospel, and held in alignment by focusing on Jesus!
Summarize and Challenge!
· Because salvation is offered to all people and all believers are made one in Christ, we must work to break down walls of prejudice.
· Only through faith in Christ can we have genuine peace.
· All believers are included in God’s family, having a place in His kingdom.
1. What’s the only lasting solution to society’s lack of peace? (No matter how many treaties negotiated and laws passed, there is no real, lasting peace apart from Jesus. Jesus is peace. He signed a peace treaty with His blood and proclaims peace to all.)
2. What could our class do to promote unity and reconciliation between believers in our community?
Close in prayer by thanking God for bringing peace to our relationships with Him and with others.
May our class be a clear reflection of unity in Christ to the rest of our church.
Father, break down any walls of hostility in our church and community.