For He Himself is Our Peace
January 13, 2019
People are different from one another. And it is not easy to have unity. Athletes may struggle to build chemistry and win together. Families may face conflicts between the youngest child and the oldest child and the middlest child. It may not be easy to finish team projects at school or at work. It may not easy for our country to be united when there is racism.
There are daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law. There are Bears fans and Packers fans. There are thinkers and feelers. There are those of us who add salt to their Korean BBQ pork belly slices as they cook on the grill and those of us who add salt to their sesame oil on the side and then dip their finished Korean BBQ pork belly slices to taste.
Alas, it is not easy to have unity. People are just so different from one another.
When Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, there was disunity in the church. There were believers who were Jewish. And there were believers who were Gentiles. They were all members of the same church. And yet, there was hostility and a lack of peace among them.
This even touched the lives of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. One time, Peter was eating with Gentile believers. But when some Jewish believers showed up, Peter drew back and separated himself from the Gentile believers because he feared the circumcision party. And other Jewish believers acted hypocritically with Peter. Paul saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, so he confronted and corrected Peter in that moment (Galatians 2:11-14).
The Jewish believers thought that they were better than the Gentile believers. The Jewish believers thought that they had certain things that the Gentile believers lacked. The two were different from one another. And so it was not easy to have unity. This was a serious issue in the church during Paul’s lifetime.
It is true that Gentile believers in Christ and Jewish believers in Christ were historically and corporately different from one another. There were walls for division. There was a far-ness and a two-ness. Gentile believers were indeed “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.”
But God’s promise and plan all along was to bring salvation to all the nations. His goal and glory all along was for both Jewish believers and Gentile believers to be one people together. His church and his children all along was to be a united church and a united children.
And this unity is a unity that is centered on Jesus Christ.
This simple but profound fact is the ultimate basis of unity in the church. This is a unity that is truly Christ-centered. God’s people are brought near by Jesus’ blood. His blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sin. His blood justifies us and makes us right again before God the Father. His blood is the payment that secures our redemption. His blood contains the suffering from wrath and the service of justice and the sadness of humiliation and the sorrow of rejection and the substitution of love. But he died because of a joy that was set before him. The joy of his spiritual family. The joy of graciously saving a glorious people and church who would struggle well to love one another in unity. And now, through Jesus, both Jewish believers and Gentile believers have access in one Spirit to the Father. I have no idea what type of blood Jesus’ blood is. A positive, B negative, AB, O? But his blood is compatible to cleanse all of our sin. His blood draws all types of sinners near. Jesus brought us all near.
This is a unity that is truly Christ-centered. God’s people are one people in Christ Jesus. Jesus made both Jewish believers and Gentile believers one. Jesus created in himself one new man in place of the two. And we who are the church are now one body. The head of our body is Jesus. And Christ is not divided (1 Corinthians 1:13). There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4). Jesus made us all one.
This is a unity that is truly Christ-centered. God’s people are not marked anymore by hostility. When Jesus fulfilled everything that the old ordinances of Moses and Israel pointed forward to, he broke down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. When Jesus reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross, he killed the hostility. And he replaced that hostility with peace. Jesus is for all of us our peace.
Praise the Lord! Jesus bought us all near. Jesus us all one. Jesus is for all of us our peace. Jesus is the reason for and the center of our unity at church.
Unity is a part of the gospel of Jesus’ salvation. And unity is inevitable. The late Martin Luther King Jr. once observed that the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour in America. In one sense, Martin Luther King Jr. is absolutely right. Believers in Christ throughout America have a long way to go in sanctification. There is still remnants of hostility and division in our hearts. We can still struggle with a lack of peace and reconciliation with brothers and sisters who are different from us.
In one sense, Martin Luther King Jr. is absolutely right. But in another sense, Martin Luther King Jr. is absolutely wrong.
The reason why he is absolutely wrong is because Ephesians tells us clearly that Jesus is the king and the head of his church, that Jesus calls his church his one body, that Jesus has killed and is killing and will kill all hostility and division, that Jesus has brought both Jewish believers and Gentile believers near by his blood.
Martin Luther King Jr. is absolutely right if we think of the church locally. Just look at our church. We are officially made up of Koreans and then Chinese, a few Korean-Chinese or Chinese-Koreans on the way, and one Scottish-Irish brother. We are absolutely not an accurate representation of the church as a whole. We are only minutely multicultural.
But that’s okay. Because when we declare the Apostles’ Creed, we do not say that we believe in Highland Church. We say that we believe in the holy Christian church. We say that we believe in the holy catholic church, that is, the entire universal church throughout the world - and on top of that, the entire church in the Old Testament (#thechurchdidnotstartinactspeople), the entire church in the New Testament, the entire church throughout ages past, present and future.
Let us think of the church globally. Because today’s scripture text is a gospel. We cannot deny this. The corporate church that meets at the proverbial eleven o’clock hour is ultimately the church that meets on Sundays at 10:00 AM Central Time in Bogotá, Columbia, the church that meets on Sundays at 5:00 AM Eastern Time in Lagos, Nigeria, the church that meets on Sundays at 1:00 AM Pacific Time in Kiev, Ukraine, the church that meets on Sundays at 9:00 PM Mountain Time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Our corporate church, the glorious bride of Christ that you are a part of, might meet at different times and different places filled with different people from different nations on this earth. But the proverbial eleven o’clock hour on Sunday, the hour when the church meets, it is actually the most exciting and unifying and peacemaking and reconciling hour in salvation history. America is not the center of the Christian world. Christ is. And his people are unified and one in him.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us live out the gospel that Jesus Christ has for his church. Unity is a gift from God. Receive it. Enjoy it. Use it. And don’t throw it away.
To the best of my knowledge, we here at Highland do not have to worry about any Jew vs. Gentile issue like that of the church in Ephesus. I believe that we are all Gentiles here.
But there are many other things for us to consider. Things such as race and culture. We may be not be a very multiethnic church. But considering that we are made of both Korean-speaking and English-speaking brothers and sisters in Christ, we are indeed a very multicultural and multigenerational church. We are to consider the fact that we have young members and old members, the fact that we have members at different stages and situations in their lives, the fact that we may have members with different personalities and preferences and political leanings and Super Smash playing styles. It’s going to be a work in progress. We recently dropped the word “Korean” from our church name of Highland Korean Presbyterian Church. We are now just Highland Presbyterian Church. Now we just need to update our sign at the road.
It’s going to be a work in progress. But our God gives us his grace.
As we consider these things, and as we wait for the return of Christ our King, let us rejoice and remember that Jesus himself is our peace. Jesus himself is our peace.