Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 6. Experiencing the power of the cross . No 21:- Dead to racism

. No 21:- Dead to racism

Experiencing the power of the cross. (Part 21)

Dead to Racism

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV) 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Introduction.

We continue in our series ‘experiencing the power of the cross’, and today we want to look at it in the context of racism. Our key text that has been driving this series is found in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (ESV) 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised”.

At the end of the day, after this sermon we want to be able to say, that with regards to racism it is “the love of Christ that controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; TO RACISM”.

Now, this is not a very complicated sermon. I can spend hours and hours to tell you stories that will prove that racism is still alive and well in the good old South Africa, but you know it. In spite of our constitution and the good will of many in this country racism is still a biggy amongst all races. Now it is easy for us to say that it is not alive here at Logos as we are a multi-cultural church, I just pray that this is the case in our hearts as well. The other day we had a black man walk in from the street, fresh out of prison, where he served for 20 years for things as bad as attempted murder. I appreciate the way in which we received him and welcomed him, and clothed him, and accommodated him and assisted him to get back to his own people to face them and deal with the stigma in the light of Christ’s forgiveness. But sadly this same person walked into another church in our town the previous week, and soon after sitting down was told by one of the leaders that theirs is not a church for blacks, he must please leave. Now, he actually has a legal case against them based on the equality act and the equity bill. However church family, the church should not be controlled by the law, but by the Word of God that is not silent on these issues.

I preached a sermon a while ago on ‘His Divine Tapestry’ where we saw that the manifold wisdom of God is now been made known through the church to both the fallen and the Holy angels. What is that mystery? It is that God in Christ Jesus have brought the Jews and Gentiles together through the gospel. And unless God changes hearts, nothing will bring us together. The law will make legal non-racists as you respect your fellow man because the law tells you to, but Christ makes sincere, genuine non-racists, because we all have come to drink from the same well for life eternal, and as born again believers we were bought into the same family.

Just imagine as God tells the angels in heaven and the angels in hell, ‘look at the bride I chose for my Son, and look, it is made up of people of all nations, tribes and languages, all washed clean by the blood of Jesus’. Sadly, if it was left to us, we will be inclined to want to wash the person’s skin to look like mine, while Christ washes the heart to look like His.

What is the church in any case? Paul spells it out clearly in Ephesians 1:23 (ESV) 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” All in all? Well some people thinks heaven will be for their race only. There are a few thoughts I want to drive home this morning.

  1. There was a time when us gentiles were not under God.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time 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."

The issue was not who were racist or not, whether it was the Jews or the gentiles. Paul is a Jew, but he is speaking here to the gentile church. Now, it was easy for the gentiles to write themselves off and say that faith in God in the Old Testament or Christianity in the New Testament was a Jewish thing. I have heard this many times, where a black person will say to me that they do not count, because Christianity is a white man’s religion.  Now Paul is not ignorant of the history of Israel, he is not ignorant of the Old Covenant, but he is now saying that the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, will be God's people, the glory of God's Son and the fullness of the Messiah's glory in the world, not just Israel.

Now, surely we all know many of the Bible verses in which Israel were told that they were God’ special people. Now we will all agree that it never was a black white thing, it never really was about race as if one race is better than another race. It was always an Israel and gentile thing.

The Old Testament is clear regarding Israel. Deuteronomy 14:2 (ESV) 2 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” So it is true that Israel was chosen out of all the peoples of the earth. Israel was God’s people in a unique way and God was Israel’s God in a unique way. Remember God’s promise to Abraham. Exodus 6:7 (ESV) “7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God,…”

They surely had privilege: Romans 9:4-5 (ESV) “4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

But they also had purpose: Jeremiah 13:11 (ESV) 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.” So they had purpose, but they did not honour that purpose.

  1. The Gentiles are now under God in Christ.

Now, something that is critical in the context of verse 11 & 12 before us as we look at it again is to focus on words like ‘remember’ and ‘you were’: 11 Therefore remember that at one time you (were) Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time 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."

So, what are the implications? You were, therefore you are no longer. The previous destiny of Israel is now the destiny of all believers.

Now, let me tell you what the Jews are comfortable with today. They love to say that they are under God outside Christ, and we as Christians are under God in Christ, but let’s just all live happily ever after as we both serve Jaweh. The same kind of statement is made in racist terms, I am a white Christian, and you are a black Christian – okay so we are both Christians, but let’s remain separate.  This is simply a way in both arguments to be politically correct, and to express some respect while there is none. Both of these arguments do not understand the cross by which we have died to racism.

Yes there was a time when all gentiles were strangers to the covenants of promise, but it is no longer so. There is not a covenant with Israel any longer. Jeremiah 3:8 (ESV) 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.” Israel broke covenant, Judah broke covenant and today in Christ there is only one new covenant. There is not one for Jews, one for gentiles, one for blacks or one for whites. The Old Covenant has been made obsolete. Hebrews 8:13 (ESV) 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” What is it to be obsolete? It is to be outdated, old fashioned, superseded and archaic. It has no value for the present time.

So there was a time the gentiles which included us were not under God, and therefore apart from the Jews, now they are under God in Christ Jesus, and one with Jewish Christians, so what happened?

  1. Jews and gentiles are united by the cross of Christ.

“13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

Everything changed with Christ’s death on the cross. How were we brought near? By the blood of Jesus, which is just another way of saying, by the cross. How did we become one? We became one in Christ. How is the dividing wall of hostility torn down? In his flesh, which is another way of saying, ‘by His death on the cross.’ How were we made a new man, a new race, a reconciled people and one body? Through the cross.

I think based on these verses, we can concluded with Paul that when one died for all, all died to racism. Can we say that the verse actually speaks about being dead to racism, or isn’t it just a matter of, okay – we are fellow Christians and I am cool with that, but just don’t ask us to worship together, just don’t speak about marriage across racial lines etc. Of course we can say that we are dead to racism. Verse 16 is clear: 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Hostility died on the cross. You can even jump ahead to Ephesians 2:19 (ESV) 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Christian we are clearly fellow citizens and we belong to one family.

I mentioned earlier that it is now through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made know to the fallen and the holy angels. But what is that wisdom? If you backtrack in chapter 3 you will notice that the wisdom is the mystery of God, and then we must ask what is the mystery of God, and I love the way Paul puts it: Ephesians 3:6 (ESV)6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Here it is, and it is undeniable. We are one body, the same body, fellow heirs, and if fellow heirs we are blood brothers in Christ.

So the blessing of New Testament faith is not that we somehow move into these blessings on separate, parallel tracks apart from Israel and apart from other races, but we move into them together on one track – through one Saviour, one cross, one new man, one Spirit to one Father. The picture here is that the true Israel is no longer Old Covenant Israel, but they are church of Christ, and the church of Christ Jews are true Israel as we saw last week. That is why Paul can say in Galatians 3:28 (ESV)28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

But there is more. Ephesians 2:17-18 (ESV)17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

Notice what Paul says in verse 18 in particular. Jesus preached peace to all in verse 17, but now verse 18 makes a very bold statement. We have access to one Father, our Father, by one Spirit. There is not a Spirit for Jews, another one for Gentiles, another one for whites and another one for blacks, and fasten your seatbelts: “we have the same Father.” Now just in case you do not believe me, look at Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV) “4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

How did we become sons and daughters of the Father? John 1:12 (ESV) 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John is clear, ‘all who receive Him and believe in His name, become children of God’. Now does all include all races? Yes – there is no doubt about it. John has more to say about it in 1 John 2:23 (ESV) “23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”

Jesus is the point in redemptive history where the true Israel becomes the church of Christ and the church (Jew and Gentile) emerges as the true Israel. However we do not talk about ourselves as Israel, we are the Church. There is still an Israel that God in the end times will raise up and bestow them with blessings based on promises He made.

So the gentiles were previously not part of God, now they were part of God in Christ Jesus, what made the difference is the cross of Christ, by which two became one, and there is and remains only one true church. So in closing we can state clearly.

  1. Racism is dead and does not belong amongst believers.

I hope you have concluded with me this morning that when one died for all namely Jesus Christ we all died to racism. There are not two saving covenants. There are not two saved peoples, and there are not two ways of salvation.  The same cross on which we died when one died for all, dealt completely and finally with racism. The Jews needed the cross and Gentiles needed the cross. After centuries of animal sacrifices that pointed forward to the True Sacrifice, Jews needed to be reconciled to God and Gentiles needed to be reconciled to God.

Christian we must not miss what the real issue was, and if you were sleeping throughout the sermon, it is now time to wake up as what I am saying now is of extra critical importance. The real issue was not enmity between Jew and Gentile, the real issue is not black and white in South Africa. At root the problem is enmity between Jews and God and Gentiles and God and whites and God and blacks and God, and the only thing that could overcome it is the peace that came by the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. There we became one. So because Christ dealt with the enmity that existed between us all and God, Christ automatically dealt with the enmity that exists between us. The dividing wall of hostility has once and for all been dealt with on the cross.

Yes, racism will remain alive between unbelievers, and they need to be controlled by the law, but you and I are controlled by the cross, where we died to racism. Because we are reconciled to God, we are reconciled to one another. Yes, we will have our struggles, we will offend, but we quickly deal with it because we are one church, one body, one bride and it is now through this glorious church that the manifold wisdom of God is being made manifest as the holy angels and the fallen angels look in and they see one people existing to the glory of one God, united in faith because of the cross, by which we are dead to racism.

Amen!

Logos Community Church: 1 September 2013