This is part 2 of the post “Integration” in which we are applying Ephesians 2:11-13 by answering the question, What are some divisions that we face which are contrary to the gospel? In the first post we discussed corporate applications. This post will cover some personal areas. And, I plan to post a “part 3” which will cover one cultural area for us in the American South.
Are we okay with other races, nationalities, ages, etc? – Perhaps there are remnants of the past…in our hearts, the way we view “types” of people.
John Stott’s, lengthy quote talking about the divisions which contradict the unity of God’s people is more helpful than I could ever be:
“These [divisions] are doubly offensive. First, they are an offence to Jesus Christ. How dare we build walls of partition in the one and only human community in which he has destroyed them? Of course there are barriers of language and culture in the world outside, and of course new converts feel more comfortable among their own kind, who speak and dress and eat and drink and behave in the same way that they do and have always done. But deliberately to perpetuate these barriers in the church, and even to tolerate them without taking any active steps to overcome them in order to demonstrate the trans-cultural unity of God’s new society, is to set ourselves against the reconciling work of Christ and even to try to undo it.
“What is offensive to Christ is offensive also, though in a different way, to the world. It hinders the world from believing in Jesus. God intends his people to be a visual model of the gospel, to demonstrate before people’s eyes the good news of reconciliation. But what is the good of gospel campaigns if they do not produce gospel churches? It is simply impossible, with any shred of Christian integrity, to go on proclaiming that Jesus by his cross has abolished the old divisions and created a single new humanity of love, while at the same time we are contradicting our message by tolerating racial or social or other barriers within our church fellowship. I am not saying that a church must be perfect before it can preach the gospel, but I am saying that it cannot preach the gospel while acquiescing in its imperfections (God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians, 111).
Are we okay worshiping with formerly “bad” people?
In Ephesus there were two types of people who worshiped together: Jews – the “good people” – religious-saved – the “older brother” (never left home); Gentiles – the “bad” people – irreligious-saved – the “younger brother” (left home).
In Christ, the division between the two is torn down.
Let me make this extremely relevant and current: How do we react when we read and apply these verses?
1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The Jews in the first century were known to say that “the Gentiles were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell.” They were not allowed to deliver a Gentile baby into the world. Into that hostility Paul delivers this expectation in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians.
The expectation is that the church is filled with not only the religious-saved but also the irreligious-saved. Is it okay if the former sinners (that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians) walk into our churches and attend with us? What about thieves and swindlers? Drunks? I’ve heard pastors say that homosexuals will fuel the fires of hell. Yet, Paul seems to think that there should be former homosexuals in the church. How will we reach them if we believe they are kindling?
We could go on and on.
Israel had taken her calling as “God’s special people” and twisted into an elitist position of privilege. God’s purpose was to make her a light to the nations. His purpose for his people has not changed.
Are we twisting it just like Israel did? We should expect that the formerly filthy are among us – we are, even if it’s the filth of self-righteousness. But now you are clean, holy and righteous!
There is much more that we can and should wrestle with so we may apply God’s Word in obedience. In the end, our work is to proclaim Christ’s lordship, destroying all divisions that are contrary to the gospel.