24: New Relationships

Lesson 24

“New Relationships”

Ephesians 2:19

Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

The story has been told about a church that had gone through a long, careful process and finally found a new pastor whom they felt would suit their needs very well. And the first sermon he gave reinforced their positive feelings about him. His presentation was dynamic without being overly dramatic; the major points of the sermon were solidly supported by the text he had chosen, and perhaps best of all in the thinking of most of the congregation was the fact that it was exactly 25 minutes long! Imagine their surprise, therefore, when the next Sunday he delivered to them the very same message he had preached the Sunday before. Although they were surprised, most folks were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, after all he was young and probably nervous . . . But when on the third Sunday he gave the same message word for word for the third time, people weren’t quite so gracious in their response. The chairman of the deacon board waited around until after most folks had left the building, then he took the preacher aside and as kindly as he knew how, said, Brother Pastor, we feel you are off to a good start with us, but most us have been caught a little off guard about your repetition of the same sermon for four weeks now, and we are just wondering when we are going to hear a new one. Without batting an eye the young pastor said, “I’m going to bring you a new sermon when you start doing what I’ve already told you to do three separate times!

And you know, with all due respect, that is God’s method too, it is interesting to see how often He repeats the same principles again and again. And Ephesians chapter 2 is a good example. The whole second half of the chapter is a review of the first half. And if we weren’t going verse by verse you might accuse me of preaching the same sermon over and over again. But let me remind you that it is God who set it up like this.

So today we are going to see another illustration of the things that come to us with our salvation.  As we begin our study, let’s review the outline of chapter 2: In verses 1 through 3 we have “an assessment of the past.” Then in verses 4 through 10 we have “an appraisal of the present,” and in verses 11 through 22 we have “an affirmation of the purposes of God.”

In our last several studies we have been looking at that third section of the chapter, “an affirmation of the purposes of God.” We have seen the great contrast in His purpose described in verses 11 through 13. Then we looked at the completion of His purposes as it is detailed in verses 14 through 18 – The way God has brought it all together and broken down the enmity between God and man and between man and man.

So in this study we want to look at these last few verses of the chapter, which I am calling “the consequences of His purpose,” as we find them outlined in verses 19 through 22. The word “consequences” is suggested in the first word of verse 19 – “therefore.” In other words, because of the way god has broken down those barriers between God and man there are two results (or consequences.) The first result is “a new relationship” in verse 19. And the second is “a new residence” in verses 21 and 22.

So let’s look first at the new relationship that is described in verse 19:

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

In this verse there are three pictures of the new relationship that results from Christ’s death on the cross. The first one is that of “citizens.” This picture of relationship is actually brought out from the negative standpoint – notice the phrase “you are no longer strangers and foreigners.”     If we are no longer “foreigners” then it follows that we are “citizens.” Back in verse 12 we were told that before salvation we were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” The tremendous spiritual implications that carries can be understood when you think about what is involved in traveling or trying to do business in a foreign country – you are completely an “outsider.” I well remember an instance of experiencing that situation myself several years ago. I had been invited to Guatemala to bring a series of messages at a retreat for all of the missionaries of a missionary sending agency in that country. It was a wonderful experience for me. My hosts had thought of every convenience for me, making me feel right at home among them, even giving me, at the end of the week-end. a beautiful platter made by local artisans.

The original plan had been for one of the missionaries to travel back to the U.S. with me, since he was planning to go there on business for the mission anyway. Unfortunately that man got sick during the night before we were to return, so I had to return to the U.S. by myself.  I was taken to the airport a couple of hours before my flight, so perhaps you can imagine my  concern as I sat in the waiting area, listening to announcements of the various departing flights, all of them in Spanish. Eventually I was able to recognize those beautiful words “Dallas Fort Worth Airport,” so it all ended well.

But  there is another scripture that by brings it out beautifully too – look at Colossians 1:13, which is speaking of this same relationship and says:

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

Although technically speaking the word “power” does not mean “kingdom,” it does refer to the king of the kingdom. So we could translate this verse “who has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His son.” If you are unsaved today, you are a member of the kingdom of darkness! And you are subject to the king of that kingdom, who is the devil. And even though you may not be “worshipping” him you are doing his will and accomplishing his purposes simply be being a citizen of his kingdom.

But Ephesians 2:19 tells us that all of that has changed for the one who has put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ: he is a citizen of a new kingdom and has a new king, Jesus Christ! And that citizenship is even more valuable than all of the treasures we have in our U.S. citizenship.

But going back to Ephesians 2:19, there is a second picture of our new relationship, and that is the picture of church members

[You are] . . . .  Fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

Not only are we citizens, but it goes deeper than that. It is a relationship with “saints.” Now who are these saints that we are fellow citizens with? Well, it is the fellow Christians in our local church, certainly, but it is much broader than that. Hebrews 12:22, 23 gives us the full picture:

 But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (23) to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

Here is the only “church roll” recorded in scripture! And notice where it is recorded: “in heaven.

But these various phrases indicate that this church is made up of all of God’s people from both the Old Testament (“just men made perfect”) and the New Testament (“Church of the first-born”).

Any good church has “church loyalty” and good, deep relationships – and it should have. But really, that kind of relationship should extend to all believers, no matter what local church they may belong to. We need to be careful that we don’t “look down on” other believers just because they don’t happen to be in the “right” church or denomination. (After all, they can’t all belong to “our” church!)

But there is a third picture of our new relationship back in Ephesians 2:19. The first one is “citizenship,” and the second is “church membership.” But the third one is “close relationship.” Notice the phrase “and of the household of God” “Have you noticed how each of these pictures describes the relationship in a little closer way? Citizenship is a wonderful thing, but it is really a general kind of relationship. And likewise, church membership is important – but still a general kind of relationship. But the family is the most important relationship of all! Of course, there are some families that are not close. And there are some individuals who don’t even have a human family, or who are away from their family (and we should reach out to them to see if we can help them.) But ideally the family is the closest relationship there is. And that is the illustration that God uses here to picture our relationship to Himself and to each other. The word “household” is a translation of the Greek word “oikeios,” which is translated in other places with the word “relative.” Now this may be a scary thought, but what this says is that as fellow believers in Christ, you and I are related! This is confirmed over in Ephesians 3:14, 15:

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (15) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named . . .”

One of the things that these verses remind us of is that some of the family is already in heaven. One of the joys of salvation is knowing that we will see loved ones there who have gone on ahead of us. And that is obviously true of our earthly family members. But don’t forget that it is just as true of other members of the family of God.

Now this relationship carries some responsibilities with it. Look at Galatians 6:10:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

We have a responsibility as Christians to do all that we can to help other people. But if we have to make a choice, our first priority in helping others is the members of our Christian family!  Would you let one of your own blood relatives go hungry if there was something you could do about it? Our obligation to fellow believers is that same kind of thing.

Have you ever been utterly alone and helpless? Now some people enjoy being alone; that is their nature. But I’m talking about that kind of situation where you need relationships and you can’t seem to find them. Many young unmarried people feel that way; that “nobody cares.” Maybe there is even someone who is reading this right now and you are in that category. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you will accept Christ as your Savior you will have “fellow citizens,” “fellow church members,” and become a member of a “forever” family with brothers and sisters all over the world.

You can have all of that today. Just pray a simple prayer, something like this: Jesus I believe that you are the Son of God and that you died to pay for the sins that I have committed. I believe that following your death God the Father raised you from the dead to live forever more. Please forgive my sins and bring me into your family.” And God’s promise is that he will receive you and make you a part of all of the relationships we have talked about in this study.

And, by the way,  if you are already a member of the family, are you taking advantage of all of the privileges and responsibilities that go along with that relationship?

 

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