< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: The Sandals of Peace Ephesians 2:11-4:16

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Sandals of Peace Ephesians 2:11-4:16

This is part four from my Sunday School lesson based on Larry Richard's book The Full Armor of God:

The 3rd scheme is to destroy our inner peace and distort or shatter the harmony that should exist in our relationships with others. Satan wants us to respond with anger and bitterness when we are wounded. He wants us to be in turmoil, suspicious of others’ motives and quick to take offense. He wants us to remember and nurse our hurts. Anger and bitterness steal your peace! In the Bible peace is not the absence of strife. In Hebrews the word is Shalom. It’s harmony and wholeness. Colossians 3:12-15 tells us how to live as believers to experience this. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

In the Ephesian verses Paul talks about the military sandals worn by Roman Legionnaires. The heavy Roman military sandals were ½ boot and ½ sandal. They were tied on with leather thongs wrapped halfway up the shin. The sole was made with several layers of leather three quarters of an inch thick and studded with hobnails. This enabled the soldier to line up with his fellow soldiers and for all of them to dig their feet into the ground and hold their position. Paul warns us that it’s impossible for us to stand against our supernatural enemy without lining up with our fellow believers and digging our feet in.

There are several dimensions of peace in scripture. There’s the inner peace that Jesus knew and that He promises his followers. There’s the peace with God that is ours through faith in Jesus. And there is interpersonal peace which marks our relationship with others.

In this Ephesians passage it’s the “gospel of peace”. The good news of Jesus that enables us to live at peace with one another and Paul devotes a large space to this section. And he points out the powerful results of peace. When we “keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” the spiritual gifts God has given us function and the Body of Christ is built up and we become mature and more and more like Christ. No wonder Satan doesn’t want us to have peace. Christianity is the story of chaos to peace, hostility to love. Once we were enemies of God. Now through Christ’s love we are reconciled.

Ephesians 2:14-16 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Paul was writing about Jews and Gentiles and describing them as hostile was putting it mildly! The Jews had been persecuted by non-Jews for centuries. Their homeland had been occupied by the Romans and taxed mercilessly. Their faith and customs had been ridiculed throughout the Empire. And the Jews returned the hostility. They called the Gentiles dogs and immoral worshippers of idols. They even avoided a Gentile’s shadow; believing contact with it would make them ritually unclean. They were God’s chosen people and they felt contempt for non-Jews.

Jesus came to unite the two hostile people into a single community. The church that was to be marked by peace and love. How?

What set the Jews apart from all other people was Moses’ law, prescribing a way of life that was markedly different from the way of life of non-Jews. The Jews thought that their descent from Abraham along with their observance of the law guaranteed them God’s favor. The Gospel challenged that.

In the book of Romans Paul says God sees Jews and Gentiles both as sinners. So God sent His Son to die on a cross so all humans could have their sins forgiven. Rather then relate to God through the law, Jews and Gentiles are to relate to God through faith in Jesus. With the focus on the cross the barrier of the law became irrelevant. Christ’s death abolished the law.

For peace to exist the barrier to peace must be made irrelevant. With observance of the law no longer an issue, Jewish and Gentile believers could live together in harmony.

But how does this help a person who has no peace because of bitterness and anger from broken relationships?

The cross not only removed the cause of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles (the law), it is also God’s proclamation that He forgives sin. And it demonstrates that God is totally committed to punishing sin!

Romans 3:25-26 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

God let “sins committed beforehand” (prior to Christ’s death)  go unpunished because He knew He would one day send His Son to receive the punishment those unpunished sins deserved! God is a God of justice. The fact that God punished sin in Christ is proof He will punish all sin. We, who trust Christ, are only forgiven because Jesus took the punishment we deserve. Those who don’t look to Jesus to save them will bear the punishment themselves.  Because God is committed to this Paul says in Romans 12:19 we shouldn’t take revenge, but leave it to God. He will repay. God is the only one who has the right to punish sin.

Ideally we go to the person who has hurt us and tell him or her how we feel. And ideally they accept responsibility and apologize. This will heal a relationship. If they don’t do that we still forgive. And give it over to God.

It’s ok to feel anger, but it’s not ok to nurse it.

Ephesians 4:26-27 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

We free ourselves from the burden of continuing to hold the other person responsible. And even more as Christians; Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

This closes a window where a demon might have entered. The purpose of going to the person is not confrontation, but reconciliation. We all sin. The only way to maintain harmony is to be quick to confess our faults and just as quick to forgive the faults of others.

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