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You Belong (Ephesians 2:19, 20)

December 11, 2016 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Body

Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 2:19–2:20

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You Belong
Ephesians 2:19, 20
(One Body: You are My People)
December 11th, 2016

 

I. Ever Been the Outsider?

If you've ever been a stranger in a strange place, if you've ever been the odd man (or odd woman) out, if you've ever felt out of place, or that you just didn't fit in, you've ever said, “I don't belong here”, then you know how important a kind welcome and genuine hospitality and unconditional love really are.

I've had the privilege of traveling to India three times, and in most cases, I can assure you, I stood out like a very sore thumb. But I was never made to feel like an outsider. I was always treated with great kindness and enjoyed extraordinary hospitality.

But I have, at times, felt like a didn't belong. Maybe you did as well, maybe as a kid, or maybe as an adult. Maybe you feel like that today. Not belonging, not fitting in, not being accepted, feeling like your always on the outside...is a terrible feeling.

But this morning, if you have trusted in Jesus as your only hope, in this life and the next, then be encouraged. A consequence of the Good News is the good news that YOU BELONG!

And that's precisely what Paul wanted to communicate to the Christians in Ephesus when he penned the words we find today in Ephesians chapter 2. Turn there if you would.

 

II. The Passage: “Fellow Citizens...and Members” (2:19, 20)

Listen one more time to these two verses and think about what they teach us about the One Body to which we belong....

So you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints [the holy ones] and members of the household of God [20], being built on the foundation of the apostle and prophets, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone...

Now there is a lot crammed into these two verses. So as we've done before, let's break these verses down. I see three parts to what Paul is describing here. Let's start by talking about...

 

1. Your Old Place (v. 19a)

Now usually, when I've talked about my 'old place' and my 'new place', I'm talking about my house. “Oh yeah, my old place had a much smaller lot, but great square footage. My new place is nice, but not as homey.” But when Paul talks about their 'old place', he has something very different in mind.

Paul reminds his readers, “So...you are no longer strangers and aliens”. Now this might seem strange to some because of what Peter wrote in I Peter 2:11 about Christians being “aliens” or “sojourners”. We also read in Hebrews 11:13 about people of faith who were, “strangers and exiles on the earth”.

But Paul says, “you are no longer strangers and aliens”! So what exactly does he mean? Is this a contradiction? Not at all. If we look at the context, we discover how we were strangers and from what we were alienated. Just look at verse 12 of Ephesians 2. Paul writes:

...Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

As verse 11 makes clear, Paul is speaking here to a Gentile, to a non-Jewish, audience. But even though they were once alienated from the nation of Israel, even though they were once strangers to the promises God made to Abraham and Moses and David and to all Israel through the prophets, even though they once stood (v. 13) “far off”, NOW, things are very different.

Paul spells out the consequences of such a heritage. As strangers and aliens to Israel and God's covenant with Israel, we once had “no hope”...we once lived in a world “without God”. Do you remember that? Do you remember your 'old place'...when you had no hope and were without God in the world? Of course, verse 1 of chapter 2 tells us even more about how bad off we were, how as Paul said in verse 12, we were “separated from Christ”:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

It's an awful place to be. There is no real and meaningful belonging in that place...except that (v. 3) “we all once...were by nature children of wrath”. But Paul was clear in v. 19... “You are NO LONGER”. That's the past! This is how Paul begins to talk about the present and...

 

2. His New Place (v. 19b)

If by the grace of God, we are “no longer strangers and aliens” in regard to God's people, what are we? Ah...we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Do you see what Paul is saying? He is not saying that God has made all the Gentiles into Jews. And He is not saying that God has made all the Jews into Gentiles. In verses 13-15, Paul tells us what God has done with Jew and Gentile, and how He's done it...

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace...

So in the first ten verses of this chapter, Paul speaks in big, bold, and beautiful terms about new life in Jesus. We who were once dead in sin (v. 1) have now been “made alive” in Jesus (v. 5). We have been (v. 8), saved by grace.

But in the second half of chapter 2, Paul wants to emphasize another consequence of the Good News, of the gospel of Jesus. Not only have we been reconciled to God through Jesus, we've also been reconciled to God's people.

You see, Paul wants emphasize both continuity and discontinuity when it comes to God's people. In Jesus, we non-Jews are made fellow citizens with (v. 12) “the commonwealth of Israel”. The “covenants of promise” mentioned in verse 12 have now become ours in Jesus. How? Because we are now “members” of God's household. They have become our birthright. That's continuity.

But there is discontinuity in the sense that God has, in the church, replaced the two categories of Jew and Gentile with one new man: Christian. By grace, through faith (v. 8), we now belong to God. And when you belong to God, YOU BELONG, in every sense of the word! There is no greater belonging than this. You are part of God's nation and God's family. But there's more. In verse 20, Paul wants to emphasize that we are:

 

3. Firmly in Place (v. 20)

If your 'old place' was built on the shifting sands of sin and self and the world, then you would understandably be concerned about what kind of foundation sits underneath God's new place. Well, Paul doesn't leave them in the dark. He reminds them about the solid ground under their feet. Verse 20...[As His people, we are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone...

Talk about rock solid! But why emphasize “the apostles and prophets”, and who are the “prophets” Paul refers to here? Well, first of all, these “prophets” are a group of leaders who functioned in the NT church. Paul lists these leadership positions in I Corinthians 12:28...And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers... Closer to home, Paul provides a list like this in Ephesians 4:11...And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers...

But the emphasis here is not on the importance of specific men or the importance of a specific office. The emphasis is on the importance of what they revealed; what they taught. And we know this is the case because he makes that clear in the next chapter of Ephesians: Ephesians 3, verses 4 and 5:

When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, [5] which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

You see, through these “the apostles and prophets”, God provided the solid foundation of the gospel and of the sound teaching we find in the New Testament. We stand firmly on what God himself has revealed, not on man's imagination or wisdom. But it doesn't stop there.

Jesus himself is the cornerstone, that stone placed at the bottom corner of the building, that stone cut to perfect precision in order to ensure the building is both square and stable. So not only do we stand firmly on what God has revealed, but also on who Jesus is and what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection.

Brothers and sisters, we can and should be encouraged. We should be confident. Our life together, the family, the community, the people to whom we belong, all of us are standing on solid, solid ground.

But what does it mean we are “built”? Paul is using one image after another in this passage. He has talked about the idea of citizenship. He has talked about the idea of family. But now he using architectural or construction imagery. Look at how Paul goes on to fully explain the imagery in the last two verses of chapter 2...

[Jesus is the chief cornerstone] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

In talking about us being “members of the household of God”, the mention of being built understandably causes the reader to think about a family's house. But Paul tells us we are, in fact, “[growing] into a holy temple in the Lord”. For just like the literal brick and mortar temple in Jerusalem, we also have become the dwelling place of God's presence, God's Spirit.

In a way, verse 18 of brings the family and temple ideas together: For through him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

 

III. Where Do You Want to Live

Imagine you are a young boy who wakes up one day not knowing who you are or where you came from or how you got where you are. And “where you are” is living on the streets of a large, busy, cold city.

As you try to remember anything about your identity and your past, you also realize you have to survive. As you soon realize, life on the streets is hard and horrible; it's dirty and desperate and dangerous. But something seems familiar about this life. In a strange way, it feels comfortable to you. But it doesn't make you feel better. It feels like habit, not happiness. You seem to know it, but you don't like it.

Then one day, as you are trying to stay warm in a pile of boxes and trash, you find a newspaper that takes you by surprise. Right there on the newspaper is a picture of you; in fact, several pictures of you! There's a picture of you playing at a beach with several other children. There's you with a large group of people at some kind of party. There's you warmly sandwiched between a kind looking man and woman.

As you read the newspaper story, you learn about a little boy who wandered off from his adopted family. For weeks now, his mother and father, his brothers and sisters, his grandparents, and aunts and uncles, his cousins, have all been feverishly searching for him. You read quotes describing how much they miss him; how much they love him.
And you stare and stare at the photos. You look so happy in them. You look safe and loved. You look like you belong.

Brother, sister, this is your story. This is my story. Which of us has not wandered off, enticed by the deceitfulness of sin? Which of us has not wandered back to our old life, our old place; back to the familiar but destructive paths in which we once walked? And when that happens, it seems like we simply forget who we truly are.

But like that newspaper article, God's word describes the new life we've been given. We are no longer strangers and aliens. We are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. And in that new place, there is hope and happiness, there is safety and love. Brother, sister, where do you want to live? In the back alley of the world, or back in the arms of your heavenly Father?

God is reminding us this morning: YOU BELONG! You are no longer an outsider. We belong to Him and to his family; to His people. And that is the corrective we so often need.

But when, by God's grace, we embrace the amazing picture Paul has painted for us, what does it mean practically? How should this reality of belonging affect my attitude and actions?

Well, Paul goes on in Ephesians to address that very question. He moves in chapters 1-3, which are all about right perspective, to chapter 4-6, which are all about right practice. Let me finish today by reading several passages to you, passages about application.

As I do, I would ask you to think very, very carefully about how you are or should be living these things out. Maybe God will remind you of certain circumstance that needs your attention. Maybe God will remind you of certain attitude inside you that needs your attention. Whatever it may be, as I read...pray. Ask Him for his help. Paul writes to those who are now fellows citizens with the saints and members of God's household...

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] There is one body...[25] Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another...[32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you...[5:1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God...[18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints... (Ephesians 4:1-4, 25, 32; 5:1, 2; 6:18)

May God give us the conviction and encouragement we need to live as those who belong.

And if you do not belong to God's people this morning, please know the Father's arms are open wide; His heart is open wide to you. Put your trust in Jesus, in who He is and what he did in dying for sinners; in His victory over death. Entrust yourself to Him, for this life and for the next.