Peace Leading to God

Ephesians 2:17-18

A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick. Since 650 B.C. there have also been 1656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved. We look again today at the subject of peace. Last time we saw how Jesus had accomplished peace, by putting to death the enmity between God and Man by interposing Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. This week, we see how that message is spread and what is the result of that spread of the Gospel.

Now, there is one difficulty in the text here, and that is to know what Paul means when he says that Christ has come and preached to the Gentiles. When did Jesus do that? There are very few instances of Jesus even talking to Gentiles in the Gospels. And, in any case, they would not be the people to whom Paul is currently writing. The people Jesus talked to are not the “you who were far off.” Therefore, what Paul must mean is that Jesus preached to the Gentiles at Ephesus through the pastors, evangelists and apostles who were sent by Jesus either in person or by command in the Great Commission. Jesus preaches through pastors and missionaries. Now right there, of course, we have a very important application. To the extent that the pastor is accurate in his handling of the Word of God, that is the extent to which Jesus is preaching through that pastor. Do you think of that when you listen to your pastor? I do not like to talk about my own credibility as a pastor. However, if the Scripture says it, so must I. To repeat myself here: to the extent that I preach accurately the Word of God is the extent to which you are not hearing just me, but the words of Jesus Himself. If I preach the Word of God, then it is no longer I who preach, but Christ who preaches through me. This is not said in order to exalt myself in your opinion. It is said in order to exalt Christ in your opinion, and to exalt the Word of God preached. How do you receive the Word of God? It is very easy to be distracted by the many imperfections of the pastor. In fact, it is easy to say something like this, “The pastor is not living up to what he is supposed to do. Therefore, I am not obligated to listen to what he says.” I’ve got some news for you. By that argument, you should listen to no pastor whatsoever since no pastor lives up to what he is supposed to do or be. Again, I say this to exalt Christ in your eyes: do not pay heed so much to the messenger as to the message. It is the message that is important, not the messenger. So, I plead with you, do not let my many failings blind you to the fact that it is Jesus who is preaching to you through me, if I preach the Word of God. Of course, this means that you must be Bereans. That is, you must read your Bibles to see if what I say is true. Search the Scriptures. That is your responsibility as Christians of the kingdom.

What is the message that I preach? I preach peace in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. I preach that Jesus Christ is the only way to access the Father. Notice here that Jesus is the way both for Jews and for Gentiles. The Gentiles, of course, are the ones described as “far off.” They were far from God, since they did not have the OT revelation. The Jews are the ones who were near. They had the law, and they had the covenant of grace with God. But what happened? When Jesus Christ came, He introduced THE way of peace. No longer could peace come by way of the OT sacrifices. Even those sacrifices were not enough to take away sin. But what is even more important for our purposes is to note that it is no longer enough to belong to the people of Israel. You need to belong to Jesus. If you were an Israelite at the time, you were closer to God than many pagans were. But close is not enough without getting the cigar, as the saying goes. You can so close to getting the airport on time. But if you miss the flight, you are no better off than someone who forgot the flight entirely. So, it does not matter whether you are far or near, you need Jesus.

But the corresponding truth is also vital: it does not matter how far away you were, you can still have peace with God by the blood of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice can make the foulest sinner clean. And Christ’s peace is more powerful than the worst world war. There hasn’t been much peace on earth. But when Christ came to earth, the angels proclaimed that peace has come. People can again have peace with God. And, as we saw last time, that means peace with one another. Christ’s Gospel is preached not only from this pulpit, if I preach the Word of God, but it is preached whenever reconciliation takes place in your lives. People will see that and say, “There is no earthly reason why those two people should ever be getting along, but they are. What in the world made that happen?” People will ask that question.

So, if peace through the blood of Christ is our message, reconciliation with God an reconciliation with man, then what is the result of the Gospel? The result is that we have access to God the Father by the Holy Spirit. Notice that all three persons of the Trinity are important here. “Through Him” refers to Jesus the Son. The Spirit is mentioned, as is the Father. The entire Trinity works together to secure our peace with God. Again, as we have said before, The Father’s primary work is to prepare our salvation, and to send the Son and the Spirit. The Son’s work is to secure our salvation in time and history by His life, death, resurrection and ascension. The Holy Spirit’s work is to apply that salvation to our lives. To a certain extent, all three persons are involved with all three of these works. However, the primary responsibility for each work has been delegated in that manner.

The result is that we have access to God the Father. What does that mean? It means that the veil to the Most Holy Place has been torn down. No longer is it just the high priest who can go into the Most Holy Place. It is now us who can do that. When you read about the high priest, and how he entered the Most Holy Place only once a year, doesn’t it make you want to be that person, so that you can enter that Holy Place? What a place of privilege and responsibility! Well, now you can have that access. It means several things. It means prayer, obviously. We can come freely before our Heavenly Father. It is precisely because He is our Father that we can now come to Him. He is no longer our judge. That is why Paul uses the word “Father” here. We come to our Father as His children. Good fathers will always let their children come to them. So it is with our Heavenly Father. He wants us to be in His presence. He invites us to lift up our hearts and join Him in the throne room of heaven to sing to Him, pray to Him, rejoice in Him, gladden our hearts, and see Him with the eyes of faith. Lift up your hearts!

But let us not miss this one last small detail that is vitally important. We come to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One who lifts us up to heaven. Paul says “in the one Spirit,” referring to the Holy Spirit, as you can see the word capitalized in the NIV. The Spirit is the One Who goes to the Father and intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. It is the Holy Spirit who purifies our imperfect worship here. God sees our worship as purified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, our worship is acceptable to Him. That does not mean that we have excuses to leave out portions of the worship that God has commanded. Nor does it give us permission to add things that God has not commanded. Nor does it give us permission to be lazy in our worship. No, it means that our worship, though always flawed in some way, will not appear to God to be flawed. The only people or things that can come into God’s presence are things or people which are entirely and utterly holy. And that is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He strengthens our prayers and our worship.

So make use of that access! Do not be shy, do not forget, do not put it off, and do not regard it lightly. You have what everyone except the high priest did not have, and even he only had it once a year: you have access to God. It is because you have peace with God.

Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner. The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power. A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil. That is our peace.

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