Freedom in Christ – Peace in God’s House
Here is a quick review since our last message on Freedom in Christ was last year. There are many spiritual blessings made available to believers, we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee in life here and in eternity. Each of these truths must come to us personally through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; there is a big difference between head knowledge and the heart of a believer. One of the by-products of having a relationship with God “IN CHRIST” is freedom. Freedom in Christ involves liberty from our sins and Satan’s influence. Jesus is the answer and we have been “made alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph 2:5). Salvation has come to us by grace through faith, not by efforts on our part, so that the glory goes to the Lamb of God who was crucified and bled and died for us. With these thoughts in mind, Paul tells us “we are God’s workmanship” (Eph 2:10), God’s story or poem, so that in life we can reveal God’s love through good deeds.
Ephesus was established by the Greeks in the 10th Century BC, and around 550 BC the Temple of Artemis was completed which brought in 100’s of worshippers daily. As well, there was an established Jewish community. Around 129 BC, the Roman Empire took over Ephesus building the Library of Clesus and a 25,000-seat theatre. Ephesus was a port city engaged in lots of trade and was also a rich banking city that drew in money from both individuals and surrounding nations. It is in this backdrop that Paul uses words such as citizenship, body, family, household, and ONE to confront the institutions of his day. In other words, the family of God, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women and children, is the true temple for God in Ephesus; the church is a living organism in contrast to Ephesus being the religious center for the province of Asia.
One in Christ
In Eph 2:11-18 the Apostle Paul highlights another important aspect of our freedom “IN CHRIST” – unity. Paul speaks to the oneness that both the Gentiles and Jews can now experience which was unheard in their day. There were things that separated the Gentiles from God, there were non-citizens and foreigners to God’s promises. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13).
In New Testament times, there was great hostility between Jews and Gentiles. The Jewish people saw the Gentiles as uncircumcised heathen with all kinds of ungodly practices. And the Gentiles saw the people of God as proud and arrogant in their faith and righteousness. Kind of sounds like the world in which we live today.
Paul’s answer was simple – Jesus Christ, not an expression of the religious institutions of his day, but a person to be followed, loved and obeyed. Peace is a wonderful companion of freedom. Jesus is the Prince of Peace – “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph 2:14-18).
Unity, peace and freedom
The trinity of unity and peace and freedom is wonderful to experience. Believers “IN CHRIST” know the Presence of God as one. This unity with God touches our thoughts and emotions and brings about great peace because we know by revelation that we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and filled by the Spirit of God. What a joy it is to walk in this experience of freedom. However, more often than not, when we are struggling in life with temptations, sinful habits or the attacks of the enemy, believers isolate themselves for various reasons. Maybe like Adam and Eve we hid ourselves away from God hoping he won’t see us or we cover ourselves hoping to avoid any shame. Maybe we separate ourselves from our Christian friends because we fear rejection. Maybe we think we can fix the problem ourselves which is really just our pride in action. Whatever the reason, we find ourselves out of unity with God and the family of God, lacking peace within our hearts which results in a lack of true freedom…
The challenge is too stay in relationship with God and the family of God. We must learn to change our ways, ask God for forgiveness, allow the Holy Spirit to deliver us from evil. We need to learn three important words when struggling in relationship with others, “I am sorry”. After all we are part of the family of God…
The Family of God
Family is at the core of God’s design for mankind. A healthy and caring family is a joy to be a part of; unity, peace and freedom abound. Being born or adopted into a loving and caring family is the desire of God for you and me. The “one body” truth that Paul highlights is foundational for our freedom “IN CHRIST.” As a result of Jesus’ death on the cross, “You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home” (Eph 2:19–22 The Message). It is interesting to note that the Temple of Artemis has its own cornerstone, a meteor that fell from heaven; “The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: "Fellow Ephesians, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?” (Acts 19:35). In contrast, Paul uses Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone of the Temple of God.
And so, as part of God’s family, we inherit much: the kingdom of God (Matt 25:34), and the spiritual blessings highlighted in Eph 1:3-14 – chosen, adopted, redeemed, filled by the Spirit of God). As earthly children, we eventually inherit what our parents leave behind for us after their death. But in God’s case believers are already reaping the rewards of our salvation – unity and peace and freedom “IN CHRIST”.
The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians is important for Christians to study today. It helps us to discover our unity “IN CHRIST,” and to understand the peace and freedom that can be ours in the family of God. We are not to think of our churches in religious or institutional terms; such as buildings or programs, policies and procedures. We are a part of Jesus’ Body and are being built into a family and dwelling that can be inhabited by God. It is in this Temple of God that we can discover, experience and enjoy our freedom.
Here are a couple of questions to ponder?
What is keeping me from giving my life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour?
What is hindering unity with God in our lives today?
Where peace is lacking in my heart?
By answering these questions honestly, we can then begin to discover for the first-time true freedom or rediscover freedom once again.
Let’s contemplate these questions and listen to “No Longer Strangers” …