[Noted: the audio/video of this message is available here.]
There is no peace apart from Christ. There is no familial peace, marital peace, political peace, or any kind of social peace apart from Christ. All other claims to peace are at best cold war scenarios. All demonstrations, protests, riots, political solutions, resolutions, statements, movements, symbols are utterly powerless to bring peace apart from Christ. This is because apart from Christ, there is guilt, enmity, resentment, fear, and hopelessness. To say that Christ is the only way to the Father is to say that Christ is the only way to peace in this world. You cannot say that Christ is the only way to God and then pretend that economics or psychology or politics or peace circles can reconcile the enmity of people.
Summary of the Text: Paul writes the Ephesians and reminds them that they were Gentiles and outside the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, without hope and without God (Eph. 2:11-12). It was Christ who brought the Gentiles near to God (Eph. 2:13). And this is because Christ is our peace (Eph. 2:14). He demonstrated that He is our peace by making Jews and Gentiles one, and He did that by breaking down the middle wall of division between the two halves of the ancient human race (Eph. 2:14). He broke that wall down by abolishing in His flesh the enmity that existed between them (Eph. 2:15). That enmity existed because of the law of commandments contained in ordinances, which included both moral and ceremonial laws – moral laws exposing the sin and guilt of both Jew and Gentile and ceremonial laws drawing lines of ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:15). Jesus abolished that enmity in His flesh on the cross (Eph. 2:16). There is only one way for the human race to be united as one because Jesus only has one body, and all the enmity and animosity of the human race was laid on Him in the cross and put to death there (Eph. 2:16). When Christ died the enmity died. When this gospel is preached, Jesus Himself is preaching peace to Jews and Gentiles, those who are far away and those who are near (Eph. 2:17). This peace is thoroughly Trinitarian; without the Trinity, you cannot have peace. The only path to this peace is through Jesus, by one Spirit, to the Father (Eph. 2:18).
The Way of Peace
Christians commonly quote John 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me.” But what many Christians have falsely assumed is that the “way” Jesus is talking about is merely or only the way to heaven. While it is absolutely true that no one goes to heaven apart from Christ, what Jesus says is that no one comes to the Father, except through Him. We do go to Father when we go to heaven, but we also go to Father for all that we need (Mt. 7:11). If we must ask the Father for food and clothing, how much more so must we ask the Father for healing and reconciliation? Jesus also taught us to ask the Father for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10). If we confess that His is the kingdom and the glory and the power, then we are confessing that only He has the power to bring peace, and when peace is accomplished it will be to His glory alone. No one will credit the riots or the protests or the demonstrations. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
God made the world in such a way that all human beings are related to one another in and through their relationship to God. You cannot relate to another human or group of human beings in a way that is unrelated to the God who made them, in whom they live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28). Imagine a cosmic 3-D pyramid (or cone if you prefer) with God at the very top. The only way for two or more human beings in this world to move closer together is for them to move closer to God. There is no other way. It is utterly impossible and futile to try anything else. The only way to move closer to another person is to move closer to the Father, and the only way to move closer to the Father is through Christ and by His Spirit. Apart from Christ you cannot have peace, and you cannot make peace. In our current cultural-political moment, all promises of peace are inherently competing alternatives to Christ: black lives matter, metoo, Trumpism, globalism, nationalism, antifa, socialism, libertarianism, anarchism, conservatism, whatever.
Do not misunderstand: some of these offered solutions are better or worse temporarily, some are tactically better or worse momentarily. Some will buy Christians more time than others. But make no mistake: Anything without Christ crucified at the center is a competing gospel, a competing religion. And it cannot bring peace. It only rearranges the animosity. This is because the further you get from Christ, the further you get from other people. If you move away from Christ, you are by definition moving further away from other people. The further you move away from Christ who alone heals animosity and enmity, the more you will have of it. To say that you might move closer to other people apart from Christ is to say that you have some other solution to the enmity. You are claiming another cross, another Christ, another gospel. But there is no other Christ. There is no other name under heaven whereby men may be saved.
All of this is why C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, pictured Hell as people constantly quarrelling and fighting and moving farther and farther apart, thousands and millions of light years away from one another, toward an utter and absolute isolation. The only way back toward other people is back toward Christ. Even in situations where the other(s) don’t seem interested in making peace, the only way toward that peace is toward the Father, through the Son, by His one Spirit. If you are drawing near to the Father in Christ, then you are getting as near as possible to anyone you might be at odds with.
Keeping & Making Peace
The Bible teaches that there is a fundamental difference between keeping peace and making peace. And the Bible teaches that you cannot make peace unless God has first given the gift of His peace which Christians then keep. This is why a little later Paul urges the Ephesians to “keep” the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Christian peace making is essentially receiving the gift of God’s peace and applying it to our lives. But you cannot apply what you don’t have. You cannot give what you have not first received. Fallen, sinful man cannot make peace. If fallen, sinful man could make peace, then we don’t need Christ. If we could reconcile warring nations, ethnic strife, family feuds, cold war marriages, or the deep wounds of separated parents and children, then we don’t need Christ. But the message of the Bible is that man cannot make peace. We cannot make peace. We are hopelessly hateful and malicious and resentful and defensive and bitter. This is why Christ came. He came to establish peace on earth, and so that is what the angels sang to the shepherds when Christ was born. Christ was born for this.
So there is only one way to peace and that is by believing and receiving the peace that Jesus accomplished on the Cross, two thousand years ago. This is the peace that just is. It was accomplished, and it is finished. And there’s nothing you can add to it. There is nothing we can do to help that peace. That is clearly taught here in our text: He abolished in His flesh the enmity between God and man, man and man (2:15). Why? So that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity (2:16). Who is the subject of the sentence? God is. Jesus is the subject. He is the actor. We do not make this peace. God makes it, and God already made it. How did it make peace? Christ abolished the enmity. He destroyed it. He put it to death. Therefore, He has already reconciled the raging enmities of men. He has already reconciled us in one body to God. The enmity died and was completely finished when Jesus cried it is finished and died. The enmity is dead.
This is why all human attempts to destroy enmity are worthless and useless and worse than useless. The only Christian path to peace begins with the announcement that the enmity and animosity is already dead. It died on the cross with Christ and was buried with Him, and when Christ rose from the dead, it was gone. The enmity did not come back from the dead. Only Christ came back, and He came back saying, “Peace be with you.” He kept saying peace, peace. Why? Because the enmity was gone, because the enmity is dead. And that message must be believed and received in order for there to be peace anywhere in this world. If you don’t believe that message, if you won’t receive that message, you are insisting on carrying a maggot infested body of enmity around with you. It’s still dead. Christ really did kill it, but no wonder no really likes being around you.
So, if we are in Christ, then we are already unified and we already have peace with God and one another. This is why you can meet believers in every place in the world and feel like you’re meeting family, because you are. Christ is our peace. We simply labor to keep that unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. But this is also why if you are not in Christ or if the one you are laboring to be at peace with is not in Christ, you cannot be at peace. There can be no true peace between light and darkness, between the righteous and the unrighteous, between Christ and Belial. What agreement does God have with Baal? So all the demonstrations, riots, and political plays are nothing if the peace of Christ is not at their center. At best, they are merely rearranging the enmity.
The Obvious Question & the Only Answer
The obvious question after all of this is: so why are there riots and violence in our streets? Why is there so much animosity in our land, so much division in the church, so much brokenness in our families? If Christ accomplished our peace and the enmity is dead, why are we so divided? But you know the answer: because we have turned away from Christ. The further you move away from Christ, the further you get from those around you. There is no other way to draw near. Christ is our peace. Christ is the only way to draw near to God, and therefore, He is the only way to drawn near to anyone who bears God’s image. There is no peace apart from Christ.
This current cultural moment is the death-throws of Darwinian relativism. The riots and angry demonstrations are merely large collections of people hauling around dead bodies of enmity and animosity, bitterness, guilt, and fear. And for many, they know the whole thing smells like death. And this is why it is getting so violent. Despair and guilt and fear mix together to make a terrible social cocktail. But the message of the cross is for this moment. Christ is our peace. He abolished the enmity in His flesh. He has made peace in His body. The enmity is dead.
It is this proclamation that God has determined to use to bring about peace in this world. When this gospel is preached, Christ-crucified is presented to the world. He is lifted up as the death of all enmity. And just like when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent pierced on a stake for the healing of Israel, preachers of this gospel lift up Christ bearing our enmity in His body pierced on the cross. Just like Israel, we are snake-bit. The problems we have are not fundamentally political, economic, social, or ethnic. The problem we have is spiritual. We are snake bit, and we are dying. There is only one way out of this mess, and it is by looking to Christ our Peace. He was struck for our enmity. He was crushed for our animosity. He became our serpent-sickness and was crushed so that it would die. Christ is our peace. He is our only peace. In Him all enmity is dead. It is finished.
Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash