Peace time mentality

“The word of the Lord came to me: “Take note, son of man, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision that he sees is for distant days; he is prophesying about the far future.’ Therefore say to them, “This is what the sovereign Lord says: None of my words will be delayed any longer! The word I speak will come to pass, declares the sovereign Lord.’”
Ezekiel 12:26-28

“This is because they have led my people astray saying, “All is well,” when things are not well. When anyone builds a wall without mortar, they coat it with whitewash. Tell the ones who coat it with whitewash that it will fall. When there is a deluge of rain, hailstones will fall and a violent wind will break out. When the wall has collapsed, people will ask you, “Where is the whitewash you coated it with?”
Ezekiel 13:10-12

The Israelites lived in a time of peace and prosperity. No war, no famine, no drought to worry about. They built houses, had children, farmed the land and bred their life stock. They did all the normal things that one would do in life. But all this time the Word of the Lord had been forgotten and pushed aside. They were pre-occupied with the good and comfortable life.

Ezekiel comes to the scene and prophesies their exile and destruction, yet they thought that it was the far future and didn’t concern them. They turned to the prophets who declared “all is well”; after all, who can deny that all is well? It certainly looks well. Anyone who thought otherwise was weird. Ezekiel was certainly weird, what in the word was he doing digging holes in the walls and packing up his stuff (Ezekiel 12:3-11)? Yet their doom was looming. What God had promised in the Law (Deuteronomy 30:15-20), He was sure to deliver.

This comfortable, peace-time mentality seeps in unknowingly. Our life is good, our needs are met, everything is at peace. There is a war going on in our backyard, right at our door step, yet we do not see. When someone brings it to our attention, we turn away and dismiss them. We find prophets, teachers and preacher who tell us that “all is well” and “Christ is coming, but not in our generation” (2 Peter 3:1-13)! The worst part of it all is that we lose the sense of urgency and gravity in God’s commands. We water His words down to our level of comfort and our pace of life.

Let’s rewrite the Great Commission and see what it looks like:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. If you have the time and money go and make disciples of the people in your backyard, bringing them to church in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to choose bits and pieces of Christianity that sound positive, fits the current culture and is tolerable from what I have given you options for. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age to give you great things like a big house, a nice car, a club membership and a rewarding career.”

Time to wake up, the world is at war and we stand at the frontline.

The need of the hour is global wartime mentality. I say “wartime” because life is war (1 Timothy 6:12; Ephesians 6:10ff; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). I say “global” because “the field is the world” (Matthew 13:38).
John Piper

The Build

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesus was a modern bustling city of momentous proportions. It featured a library, a gymnasium, a huge auditorium seating 24,500 and an enormous temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis (Diana). Ephesus laid claim to Artemis as their own god, it was their cult and culture. It permeated all of society, causing the city to be known for its hedonistic celebrations and festivals and temple prostitutes.

Here Paul writes to a church that understands the grandeur of architecture. He uses this understanding to describe how Christ’ finished work causes the reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles and how this builds the church. His focus is set firmly on the nuts and bolts of this building: Christ, Jews and Gentiles. He addresses the Gentiles to show how they have been reconciled to Christ even though the Law was not given to them (v11-13, 19). He teaches how Christ creates the peace between the Jews and Gentiles (v14-18). Then goes on to say how this results in building God’s temple (v19-22).

  • Pre-Christ Gentiles
    • were Gentiles by birth
    • called “uncircumcised” – not given / accepted the Law
    • was separate from Christ
    • excluded from citizenship in Israel (God’s chosen)
    • foreigners to the covenant of the promise
    • without hope
    • without God in the world
    • once far away (from God)
  • Christ’s work
    • brings Gentiles near by His blood
    • is our peace
    • reconciled the Jews and Gentiles
    • destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility
    • set aside the law with its commands and regulations in His flesh
    • create one new humanity out of the two in Himself
    • making peace
    • reconcile both to God through the cross in one (His) body
    • put to death their hostility
    • came and preached peace to those who were far away (Gentiles)
    • preached peace to those who were near (Jews)
    • is the access to the Father through Christ by one Spirit
    • the chief cornerstone
  • Post-Christ Gentiles
    • brought near (to God)
    • no longer foreigners and strangers
    • fellow citizens with God’s people
    • members of God’s household
  • Result
    • whole building joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord
    • all of us being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit

Paul outlines in detail how Christ reconciles us as one and to Him:

  • He does away with the Law that was the separation between the Jews and Gentiles. He does this by setting aside the Law and putting to death it’s hostility and divisiveness in His flesh (that was crucified). 
  • He creates a new humanity out of the Jews and Gentiles in Himself – its not evolutionary, its revolutionary. The two has been reconciled as one new humanity.
  • His one body reconciles us to God through the cross
  • His life on earth was one that preached peace and reconciliation (to God) to both Jews and Gentiles
  • He is the singular access point to the Father in the same Spirit for all of us

The purpose of the cross wasn’t just salvation for the Jews, it was also the unity of the Jews and Gentiles and salvation for the world! His death accomplished that, His life reflected that, even now, the Spirit testifies of this unity. We are united in His gospel. We are all fellow citizens, members of the same household. Our foundation is the same – build on the apostles and prophets. Our chief cornerstone is the same – Christ Jesus. The bolts that join us together is the same – Christ Jesus. In this unity, we rise to be His temple in which He dwells.

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:4-6

Notice that Ephesians 2:11 begins with therefore, meaning in the light of our resurrection and life with Christ (v5-6), we do not regard ourselves anymore as Gentiles. He says that we were formerly Gentiles by birth, but now we are a new person by His resurrection (and His handiwork, v10). As new building blocks in Christ, we play a role in the building. But the building is not done yet; we play a continuous role as ones who are being built together. What a picture Christ gives us! He breaks down the dividing wall between the 2 structures and builds a whole new building on top with all new handcrafted materials from the old structures. He is still building us together with them to be His building.

He describes this new building as a holy temple and a dwelling for God’s Spirit. A holy temple and a dwelling. We are a building set apart /reserved for divine purpose and activities in which God Himself lives in. That is the church. That is the product of the peace that Christ has attained for us. That we can be a part of that building, a brick in that church, is beyond what we deserve (v3). Christ has intentions for this church, work prepared for us to accomplish (v10).

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:10-11

This unity and peace we have is a marvellous thing, but lets not forget that it has a divine purpose – to spread the gospel (John 17:20-23).