The following are selected excerpts from my sermon yesterday I preached at Forest Hills Baptist Church titled "We Belong to One Another" from Ephesians 2:11-22.
Our Relationship was broken with God and His People (v. 11-12)
Ephesians 2:11-22 describes the unity of the church through the cross of Christ. The text can be broken down into three primary sections. Paul commands the church to remember that they were once alienated. There was once a rod of tension between Jews and Gentiles, the circumcision and the uncircumcision. Once Gentiles were outcasted and separate from the People of God and had no hope. A practical appellation to this section is that we all start off this way. Each and every one of us were alienated from God. However we were not only alienated from God, but we are alienated from the community of faith. We were strangers to the people of God. However through the miracle of the cross that will change.
We are Brought Together through Jesus (v.13-18)
Ephesians 2:13-18 describes how the walls of hostilities between the Jews and Gentiles were destroyed. In Christ, those who were far from God have now been brought near. How? Through the blood of Christ. It is through the death of Jesus that those who are alienated from God and the people of God come nearer. Through the cross, Jesus has made peace and has taken the two hostile parties, Jew and Gentile, and has brought them together and made them one. He does this by removing the wall of hostility, which is the law and commandments. Jesus fulfilled the commandments of the Law, so therefore the one who has faith in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, can now be brought into reconciliation with God and with one another. Peace has been made through the death of Christ. God has created a brand new humanity. He has created a new people, the church. He has created "one new man in place of the two". Therefore it does not matter what our racial background is. It does not matter about our religious background. It does not matter about our social-economic background. It doesn't matter who we were, through Christ we have been made together as a new people, unified through the blood of Jesus. In Christ, we are one. Peace has been made. Therefore in church we have been from all sorts of background. A church surely ought to be a melting pot of people. People of different ethnicities, different education levels, different age groups, different tax brackets. Why does this happen? Because we are a new people, created through Jesus. Despite all our differences we now have something far more in common than our skin color or check books. We have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are Built Together by the Holy Spirit (v.19-22)
Ephesians 2:19-22. Therefore since we who are alienated have been brought together as a new people, we now belong to one another. We are fellow citizens of the people of God. We are members of the same household. However in this unity what is our foundation as a community? Paul tells us in this passage, our foundation is the teachings of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Jesus is our foundation, he has the one who has brought us together in unity. However the framework for this structure is the teaching of the apostles and the prophets. Our church must be built and structured around the Word of God. The whole structure is being joined together. You and I are coming together, and through the power of the Holy Spirit you and I are being created as a holy temple unto the Lord. An outpost for the World to see God. Therefore the world should be able to look at us as Forest Hills Baptist Church and see God in our midst. When our community talks about us it shouldn't be negative. They should think those people love God's word and the love each other. I see the presence of God in their midst.
We must Take Serious our Commitment to One Another
When you join our church, you are not just putting your name on the church rolls. You are committing yourself to this people. You are declaring that I belong to these people and I am committed to them. Why? Because we have been brought together by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is why in our non committal culture, where if your marriage is getting difficult we give up and quit and get a divorce. Where when things start getting tough we decide to quit and find something else. That same lack of commitment and dedication has been carried over into how you think about church. Listen carefully, many of you think way to lightly about church membership. The reason so many of us take church membership so lightly is because we fail to realize that our unity with one another has been purchased through the blood of Christ. When you leave and go to another church just because you are frustrated and irritated you walk out on your family. You abandon the people God has called you too. You leave behind your brothers and sisters to fend for themselves. You leave the comrades in arms that you are fighting along side in the trenches. However most of us do not think this way about belonging to a church. As a result we have a generation of church hoppers who jump ship when community together gets difficult. It is a disgrace and it is mocks the supernatural work God has done in bringing us together as his people.
As a result, rather than visiting from church to church never getting committed, I would much rather you find one church, invest yourself in that community and belong there and be committed, even if that is not Forest Hills Baptist Church. I hope you want to be belong to our church. I pray that you want to be apart of what God is doing in us and through us. I pray that you will commit with us to make much of Jesus in this community. But if your not going to do it here, than at least go and do it at another congregation. Don't sit on the side lines, get involved and get invested.
Younger Generation, this is where the older generation has much to teach us. They know the meaning of commitment. We have several couples in this church who have been married 60 plus years. We have several seniors in our church who have literally spent their entire lives as members of this church. Why? Because they understand that this is my people. Christ has purchased my deliverance through the cross and has brought us together. Therefore I'm not going to give up when hard times come on our congregation. Therefore I'm not going to find another church just because it is a tough season, I'm committed! Why? Because I belong to these people and they belong to me.
We Must Act in such a Way in which We are Building up One Another
As a member of this church, you are given the responsibility and privilege of building up your brothers and sisters. Therefore speak and act and serve in such away in which you are adding to the spiritual maturity of the people around you. We must use our gifting and abilities to feed one another the Word of God. We must encourage one another, grab each others hands and pray for one another. This is not just the job of pastors. This is not just the job of deacons, but every person who is a member of our church. The Scripture commands you to build up your brother and sister, why? Because we belong to one another.
Paul tells us all throughout the book of Ephesians to build up one another. It is a common theme that runs throughout the book:
- Ephesians 2:22 - You also are being built together
- Ephesians 4:12 - “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God”
- Ephesians 4:16 - “When each part is working properly makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”.
- Ephesians 4:29 - “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.
Therefore, when we tear each other down, we hinder God's work as a church.
We Must Not Grieve the Spirit's Work in Our Congregation
In Ephesians 4:30 Paul gives the church the warning not to "grieve the Holy Spirit" What does Paul mean by this?
Ephesians 4:30 is in the context of church comminity. This passage is written about how church members should interact with one another. We are not to slander one another. We must not tear each other down. Why? Because we do not want to grieve this spirit of God. What does Paul mean when he warns us not to grieve the Spirit? Well in the context of the whole book of Ephesians it is quite simple. We grieve the Spirit when we tear down the body of Christ rather than building up the body of Christ. This comminity the Spirit is building is hindered when you harbor bitterness to the person in the next pew. The Spirits work is hindered when we do not forgive one another. Some of us strongly dislike each other. We avoid each other. When we do that we are grieving the Holy Spirit.
God is doing a miraculous work in our church as he builds us up as his people. Remember that you were once broken from fellowship with God and his people. You were brought near by Jesus Christ, and we are now being built together as a holy temple for the glory of the Lord. Therefore lets continue to hold fast our commitment to one another, build each other up, and watch the Spirit work in the life of our congregation. May God do this for the sake of His magnificent glory and for our good!