John Piper on racial reconciliation and Ephesians 2:11-22: “The issue of racial prejudice…is not a social issue; it’s a blood-of-Jesus issue.”

[The] issue of racial prejudice and snubbing and suspicion and mistreatment is not a social issue; it is a blood-of-Jesus issue. I could base that on many passages where love is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus…

The first is Ephesians 2:11-12. It begins with a description of the alienation between Jews and Gentiles, specifically Jewish Christians and Gentiles.

[Ephesians 2:11-12] “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands–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.”

Then in verses 19-22 the text ends with a description of the reconciliation between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.

[Ephesians 2:19-22] “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whome the whole buildign, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (NASB).”

That is what God is aiming at in our salvation: a new people (“one new man”, v. 15) that is so free from enmity and so united in truth and peace that God Himself is there for our joy and for His glory forever. That’s the aim of reconciliation: a place for God to live among us and make Himself known and enjoyed forever and ever.

Keep in mind here that the divide between Jews and Gentiles was not small or simple or shallow. It was huge and complex and deep. It was, first, religious. The Jews knew the one true God, and Christian Jews knew His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Then the divide was cultural or social with lots of ceremonies and practices like circumcision and dietary regulations and rules of cleanliness and so on. These were all designed to set the Jews apart from the nations for a period of redemptive history to make clear the radical holiness of God. Then the divide was racial. This was a bloodline going back to Jacob, not Esau, and Isaac, not Ishmael, and Abraham, not any other father. So the divide here was as big or bigger than any divide that we face today between black and white or red and white or Asian and African-American.

So here is the question: What happened between verses 11-12 that describes the alienation and separation between Jews and Gentiles and verses 19-22 that describes the full reconciliation and unity?

Here you could preach for weeks. Ephesians 2:13-18 is so rich and thick with doctrine that it would take many sermons to unpack it all. So I will make one main point that I think is the most essential thing. What happened between the alienation of verses 11-12 and the reconciliation of verses 19-22 was that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died, and He died by design. Yes, He rose and is alive. But the emphasis here falls on His death. Where do we see it? We see it in the word blood in verse 13b: “You who formerly were far of have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” We see it in the word flesh in verse 15, “abolishing in His flesh the enmity” (NASB). And we see it in the word cross in verse 16, “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross” (NASB).

The point is that God aims to create one new people in Christ who are reconciled to each other across racial lines. Not strangers. Not aliens. No enmity. Not far off. Fellow citizens of one Christian “city of God.” One temple for a habitation of God. And He did this at the cost of His Son’s life. We love to dwell on our reconciliation with God through the death of His Son. And well we should. It is precious beyond measure to have peace with God.

But let us also dwell on this: that God ordained the death of His Son to reconcile alien people groups to each other in one body in Christ. This too was the design of the death of Christ. Think on this: Christ died to take enmity and anger and disgust and jealousy and self-pity and fear and envy and hatred and malice and indifference away from your heart toward all other persons who are in Christ by faith–whatever the race.

If we want the meaning and the worth and the beauty and the power of the cross of Christ to be seen and loved in our churches, and if the design of the death of His Son is not only to reconcile us to God but to reconcile alienated ethnic groups to each other in Christ, then will we not display and magnify the cross of Christ better by more and deeper and sweeter ethnic diversity and unity in our worship and life?

John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, p. 205-207

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About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
This entry was posted in Church, Salvation, Scriptural exposition. Bookmark the permalink.

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