brought near

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brought near

Sunday 03/10/24

Title: brought near

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brought near

Of course you know that the letter to the Ephesians is divided essentially in the two parts.

The first three chapters are addressing the spiritual blessings that God has wrought upon us IN CHRIST

The last three chapters are about what God expects out of us as the response to those blessings that have been given us. 

Ephesians 2:1-22, 

“(1) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,  (2)  in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,  (3)  among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.  

(4)  BUT GOD, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  (5)  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  (6)  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  (7)  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  

The word love there shows up three times in one verse, right? Because mercy means the tender loving kindness of God. 

So God  doesn’t just HAVE tender loving kindness. He’s rich in it! He possesses it in abundance.

But it is not just an inactive noun in these verses. God’s love for us was expressed towards us.

because of His great love with which He loved us!

Now, we need to stay mindful of the fact that the key phrase of this letter is – In Christ!

It’s all the way through the book appearing about 35 times in this one letter, more than any other letter in the entire New Testament.

So that’s clearly the overarching theme of the letter. You’re not apart from Christ. You’re In Christ. There is no separation. Separation has been vanquished. It does not exist for the child of God. We are in union with Him!

That is the primary spiritual blessing we have out of which all the others flow.

Also it is out of that union that we live our lives of responsiveness and obedience to God!

Let’s back up to verse 6 again. 

“(6)  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  (7)  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

(8)  FOR BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED THROUGH FAITH, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  (9)  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  

(10)  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  

He says we are his workmanship created where? In Christ.

Why? What was His intention in this? For the intent of good works!

The intention is – now that I am a branch connected to my vine, I might bear fruit. Good works. 

“(11)  Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— (12)  that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”  

What he’s talking about here is the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles

In the first century, for the first little while the message of the gospel didn’t even go to Gentiles. It went to Jews alone. 

Jesus had told His disciples to  go first to Jerusalem, then to Judea, then Samaria where the half breeds were – the mix between Jew and Gentiles – then to the rest of the world. 

God wanted the Jewish people to essentially be the evangelists of the world winning the Gentile world to Christ. But instead what is happening is God has set national Israel aside for the time being and has initiated the time of the Gentiles by which God is provoking the Jews to jealousy.

But that’s not really the way God wanted it. He would have loved to use the Jewish people, but they wouldn’t be used. 

So the question really is for us – whether or not we – as Gentiles – will allow ourselves to be used?

  • I can choose to live surrendered. 
  • I can seek God.
  • I can desire and seek His face that His kingdom first be formed in me. 

Also that through me, the kingdom of God might be ministered to and further formed in other people as well.

This is the beauty of being in Christ. I don’t have to worry about myself. I am freed from the chain of myself. I don’t have to look out for my own best interests. I’ve got God doing that for me. 

I am freed to look out for the best interest of Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God as it’s formed in me and in others through me. 

So in verse 12 Paul says, at that time we as Gentiles were without Christ, being alien from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 

“(13)  BUT NOWIN CHRIST Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  

Aren’t you glad there’s a but there just like it was earlier when I was dead, my trespasses and sins …but God! Thank you, Lord. 

So again, we have to understand what these early Christians were going through. They didn’t have the New Testament as we understand it today. This “book” was nothing more than a letter to them. A very important letter and one which both established and clarified doctrine no doubt, but a letter all the same. It was not really on par with scripture. It was more like a very reliable commentary on scripture and an explanation of the New Covenant – often from quotations from the Old Testament which was the only Bible they had!

Another point of importance is that the letters to the churches were just that. It wasn’t written to the pastors of …fill in the blank. It was written to the saints which included the pastors, but it wasn’t written to some monarchal type and then funnel down through that person to everybody else. It was written to the whole congregation of believers in a given city – like this letter to the believers in Ephesus

It was read aloud to everybody!

This wasn’t canonized as scripture yet. As I said, the only Bible these Gentiles had with the Old Testament. And that Bible spoke of Gentiles kind of like dogs and God did this for a reason. It certainly wasn’t to hurt the Gentiles, but to teach His covenant people the Jews to separate themselves from the world.

We’re going to read more about that in a minute. 

It’s far too easy for us to read the Bible with Gentile eyes which are 2000 years removed from the facts and viewed through the lens of Western ideas and ideals. That has a blinding effect causing us to often miss some of the points actually being made.

As such we want to be careful to be as certain as possible that we get what was originally being communicated to these first century Gentile believers and from what mindset these Gentiles were coming from in reading it. What did it speak to them? What did it mean to them?

The scriptures these Gentiles read made it sound very much like the Jews were in a privileged position and that we as Gentiles were just kind included after the fact as an afterthought. 

The Spirit of God through Paul is making it exceedingly clear that such was not the case! You have always been in God’s plan and have literally and legitimately been brought in. 

As such there’s not two bodies – there’s only one!

If we flip over to chapter four you find that it begins with a clear statement to this effect.

There’s one body, one faith, one baptism, one God Who is above all and through all and in us all!

Paul, by the Spirit of God is impressing the fact on these Gentile believers that there’s not a bunch of factions. There’s only one body of Christ.

Paul was telling them these things to cause them to realize that it doesn’t matter what Jewish person may have made them feel or anything regarding being separated that they may have seen stated in the reading of  the Old Testament. They might have gotten the impression that even though now they are In Christ that they still really don’t belong. So Paul is telling them – Now that you are IN Christ you DO belong. You are no stranger to God or the New Covenant!

Now you and I get this much more naturally. We’ve grown up with the knowledge that if we are in Christ – we belong. But to these early Gentile believers this was a faith affirming and heart settling truth.

Now it’s a very very important thing as we continue reading that we have eyes to see this as the focus of Paul’s words – especially in one of the upcoming verses. A lot of people misunderstand what Paul says in verse 15 because they don’t really READ what he said. They don’t understand what the words meant and they don’t look for it with insight because they miss the point he’s aiming at to begin with.

So let’s read verses 14-16 and then examine the actual meaning of what Paul said.


Who HAS made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,  (15)  having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,  

(16)  AND that He might reconcile them both to God in ONE BODY through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” 

Notice the wording. The law of commandments which are CONTAINED in ordinances.

So the first point is that Paul is NOT referring to the entire Law of Moses, nor the subdivision of the 10 commandments nor the Old Covenant sacrificial system. 

The focalpoint are the ORDINANCES! The reader who is uncareful, or already has an ax to grind against the Law reads INTO this verse and it’s sister verse found in Colossians 2:16-17

The greatest portion of the Law of Moses was NOT exclusionary, but there were many ordinances Israel was given, certain ways in which the 10 commandments were to be kept which were VERY EXCLUSIONARY by design!

So what were these ORDINANCES?

These included, but were not limited to dietary restrictions, Feasts and Festivals, New Moons, Sabbaths (not THE SABBATH, but rest days or “days of ceasing” which were associated with the feasts and festivals). These were designed to promote a separating effect between the Jews and the surrounding nations and when they kept them, it worked!

The Jewish people knew that if they were going to keep these ordinances, they would have to remain largely separated both in person and practice from the pagan nations around them.

God established these ordinances as types and shadows – they were external rites which helped illustrate and exemplify a glaring difference between what was holy and clean and what was common and unclean.

Now that the NEW COVENANT had been established by Jesus the Messiah, these items which encouraged an external and racial separation were nullified. Now, the only thing which separates is NOT being IN CHRIST. If ANYONE is IN CHRIST, regardless of who they are or where they come from, they are now all part of ONE BODY!

So is it that when Paul and the Apostles of the Lamb came and started talking about unity, the Jews were none too keen on the idea. They had been trained from their youth to think separation. They did not want to have anything to do with the Gentiles.

It took God giving Peter a vision on the roof of Simeon the Tanner’s house to receive the invitation of Cornelius to come under his roof and preach the gospel. In fact Luke records in Acts that Peter TOLD Cornelius that it was not lawful for him to even BE at Cornelius’ house! But came because the Spirit told him to come. Then when he saw the Spirit of God fall on these Gentiles in the same manner as He had on those in the upper room in Jerusalem he could not deny that salvation had in fact come to the Gentiles.

God used Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles to press this point to its full implications. They are not just included – the two groups were now unified as ONE BODY in CHRIST! This is why it is both unhealthy and inconsistent with the truth of the Gospel for Jews and Gentiles to worship and gather separately! To do so is to preach by example another gospel than the one which is IN CHRIST!

So, it was in view of the destruction of this separation both in person and practice that Paul brought up the separating ORDINANCES in his letter to these Gentiles just before pressing the point of ONE BODY in chapter 4!

This is made all the more clear by the next words from Paul…

“(15)  having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,  

(16)  AND that He might reconcile them both to God in ONE BODY through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  

(17)  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off [the Gentiles]

and to those who were near. [the Jews]


So Paul ends with these affirming words of belonging…

“(19)  Now, therefore, 


“(20)  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  (21)  IN WHOM the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  (22)  IN WHOM you also are being built together for A DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IN THE SPIRIT.”

The actual message from today also goes in other directions and adds much more to this teaching which we believe you would benefit from if you were to listen to it in addition to having read this related article.

Next week we will likely move on to chapters 3 & 4 as we see where Paul was going with this underpinning of understanding the Spiritual blessings all who are IN CHRIST have received!


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!