Monday, July 18, 2016

No More Strangers

When Paul taught the Ephesians, he knew they had grown up hearing the Jews' self-righteous claim that they were the chosen people of God. While they were to some extent justified in this, by the time of Christ it's clear that as a people they had fallen from the expectations the Lord had for them. It impressed me how Paul acknowledged that the Ephesians previously lived without the Gospel, yet were now invited to take part in it. He risks offending them, but instead makes an inspirational speech about the mercy of God. He begins by drawing them in, relating to them and painting a dismal picture of their past in Ephesians 2:

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

He discards their plight with the hope of his new message-But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

This fraternal sense of fellowship was no doubt a contrast to the condescension of other Jews the Ephesians knew. There is no middle wall now! We are children of God, and Christ has slain any enmity that existed between us by His cross. And now, you can hear him smile and raise his voice, powerfully and emotionally, "Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."  

And what are these blessings that Paul is saying they're so worthy of? The very church of God. He continues in the next verse, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the corner stone."  I like to imagine Paul preaching the same message across the ages to our own... "What? Like Christ cares what age you live in?" Yet does the fraternity of the Saints permit us to live in a church guided by prophets, apostles, and revelation. We can depend on the same miracles with the priesthood of God.

Last Monday, as we had just finished up eating our burgers as a zone, one of the workers at the restaurant asked us if we would give her a blessing. I asked her carefully what her knowledge of our church was. She confessed little to no knowledge, just that we as missionaries might be able to help her.  I methodically explained to her the claim we had of possessing the same priesthood found in the church of Christ in the Bible, being restored through a prophet in these days. Eight or so missionaries put their hands on her head in the back room, and the feeling of priesthood power was tangible. When I finished the blessing, we turned to her and the other workers witnessing and made appointments with all of them, each eager to meet with the missionaries who worked in their area. It was a powerful witness to me that we are no longer strangers or foreigners to the blessings of the kingdom of God...rather fellow citizens with the early Saints. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.