Thursday 26 September 2019

I am turning to the Epistle to the Ephesians, in Chapter 2

Our epistle looks at the hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile in Paul’s time.  The Jews hated the Gentiles, so much so, that if a Gentile woman fell into difficulty during labour, they would not help her, in order to stop another Gentile being born into the world; and the Gentiles were not too fond of the Jews either. 

The Jews saw themselves as God’s chosen people,  anyone else did not belong to God’s people, which they saw as justification for despising them.

The Jews had a national home in Palestine but were scattered around the Mediterranean area.  Wherever they went they took with them a high moral standard and pure faith in a holy and righteous God in contrast to the Gentile gods.  They did not want to be dragged down morally by those who lived in a world of moral and spiritual corruption.

It was a multi-faith society, and like those today who have their own gods of money, property, etc, all of which do not give the spiritual satisfaction of belief in the one true God, they were without hope, for there is no fulfilment in an empty product.

The Gentiles felt like many people today in that they did not seem to belong to anything and had no clearly defined belief.  They knew there must be something better within their grasp and wanted to find it.

We can see a parallel situation within the main line Churches to day.  People see clearly defined doctrine being ignored and re-interpreted to suit and embrace modern culture, and to make the Church appear worldly friendly, but which lacks a clear moral basis.  So each year there is a decrease in the number of members, whilst people go to the small evangelical churches or just drop away, which is extremely sad and very worrying for the future.     

The evangelical wing has formed an association called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is campaigning for a return to orthodox doctrine and biblical integrity, yet whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion, some of the remarks from the liberal establishment, you would think they were trying to destroy the Church and deprive people of their liberty.

Whilst Paul was an Apostle to the Gentiles, he still had great concern for the Jews and is striving to bring the two together.  He saw the need for all to get right with God, and saw the answer for this reconciliation to be achieved as being through our Lord’s death on the Cross.

So anyone can come to Church without acting as if you need some special dispensation, not like the foreigner who needs a passport, but as one who has the full rights of a citizen of the Kingdom of God.         

We should realise what a privilege and how wonderful it is to be a Christian and know the one true God, and to belong to a Church. The hymn puts it so well, ‘Christ is our corner stone on Him alone we build.’ Every Christian is like a stone built into the Church.  It is so tragic that far too often Christians seem to be at war with one another just as much as the Jews and Gentiles were.   When we are able to understand how God sees the Church, we will want to do all we can to make others want to become part of it and share together with no divisions.

We have to accept that our world has divisions.     In every walk of life we find hostility, even regrettably within the Church.    We don’t have to go back 2000 years however to find racial or cultural hostility. There is still bitterness between Protestant and Catholic keeping each other apart .  Such rivalry in the name of religion is appalling, but even more shameful is the fact that such rivalry could have been cut out if the Church leaders of both faiths had got together and told their peoples to stop, for clergy in Northern Ireland have more influence and are listened to more than here, but on either side there was support for their own factions, one especially so.  

There are differences between people, which God no doubt intended.  We are not, despite the efforts of the equality zealots in Parliament, all equal or the same.  Those inequalities and differences can be an asset.  You don’t have a body which is all hands or heads. If the body of Christ is to be complete and functional, it needs to have various qualities.  And each sex performs some functions in life in a better way than the other and should be allowed to get on, without interference.  Equality does not mean we have to be the same, each sex has qualities the other does not have, and failings.    

In the concluding verses of our passage Paul wants to encourage us to come into a living relationship with God.  We are children of God who cares for us and has a purpose for our life.  As Christians we belong to the heavenly family with one Father.  This means we meet not with strangers but as brothers and sisters of God’s family.

The sooner all Christians appreciate that and act like Christians the sooner the Church of Christ will grow and become an influence in society.  How a Church can deny access to its full communion to another Christian I have yet to understand; yet we have the ridiculous situation where even the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of a Church with millions of followers around the world, is not permitted to take Communion with the head of the Roman Catholic Church .

Make sure you are at a Church on Sunday, and make sure it is a Bible believing Church

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