God The Builder

Title: God The Builder

Bible Book: Ephesians 2 : 11-22

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Church; Building of God, The Christian a



As most of you know on our mission trip to the Dominican Republic in January of 2011 our construction team built a church, THIS CHURCH, in a village called Pravodencia. Pravodencia is a community where the men work in the cane fields...fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. As we did fluoride treatments that week I remember noting how bad the children’s teeth were, which is understandable with all that sugar cane to chew on. It’s kind of like living in a candy store!

As I watched our construction team work that week I learned on that building a church in the D.R. is fairly simple because, thanks to their warm climate, buildings don’t need to be heated....or insulated. So basically, you put up a wood frame...add a corrugated tin roof...nail on the planks that form the exterior walls...pour the concrete floor...run some basic wiring for lights and fans...and you’re done! Since there’s no such thing as a building permit down there you can hold your first service less than a week after you break ground!


I mention this church construction project because in our text for this morning there is a sense in which Paul describes the construction project God has done...in the building of His church, THE CHURCH. Take your Bibles and turn to Ephesians 2:11-22. I’ve asked one of our AWANA kids to read the text for us this morning. As they do see if you can’t picture God’s church being built.

11 - Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men),

12 - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

13 - But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 - For He Himself is our peace, Who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

15 - by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

16 - and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.

17 - He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

18 - For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 - Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,

20 - built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.

21 - In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

22 - And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

Okay, let’s review God’s building project together. According to Paul’s letter what is the process that He went through to build His church, THE CHURCH?

(1) Step one was DEMOLITION.

Walls had gone up where God wanted to build, so before construction on the church could begin those walls had to come down. You see, in God’s church there can be no divisions, no barriers to fellowship and unity. There can be no “...dividing walls of hostility.”

The first dividing wall that Paul references is a wall of prejudice that stood between the Jews and the Gentiles of his day...or as he puts it in verse 11, the division between “...the ‘uncircumcised’” and “those who call themselves, ‘the circumcision.’” This was a tall “wall” indeed. In fact, a study of history tells us that none of our social distinctions, none of our racial barriers, none of our prejudices today...are more exclusive or unrelenting than was the separation between Jews and Gentiles in the first century.

In fact, as Paul was writing this letter all Jews had been exiled from Rome. There had also been a time when Gentile laws forbade the Jews from reading from their scriptures or circumcising their children. So, back then the typical Gentile didn’t think too favorably of the typical Jew.

And the Jewish feelings of hatred and distrust for Gentiles were just as strong...perhaps stronger!

For example, the Jews believed Gentiles were created for no other purpose but to fuel the fires of Hell. There was a common saying among the Jews back then that went like this: “The best of the serpents crush...the best of the Gentiles kill.” It was actually against the Jewish law to aid a Gentile woman who was giving birth because in their minds that would just bring another heathen into the world. If a Jewish boy married a Jewish girl, there was a celebration that would last for days but if a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl would be carried out. You see, in their minds such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death. To even go into a Gentile house rendered a Jew unclean.

In the temple in Jerusalem this barrier between Jews and Gentiles was a physical one. There was an actual wall separating the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple areas. As you can see on this slide, in the temple of Paul’s day there were a series of courts. The innermost court was called the Court of Priests, where all the male members of the priestly tribe of Levi could enter. Out from that was the Court of Israel. It was for all the male Jews. Next out was the Court of the Women. That was as far as the Jewish women could go. All of those courts were on the same level. So even though they were segregated, there was some sense of “Jewish equality.”

But then came the NEXT court, the court of the Gentiles, and to get from the court of the Women to the Court of the Gentiles, you had to walk down a flight of 14 steps...indicating the belief that Gentiles were beneath Jews. At the top of these steps was this wall I mentioned. It was 5-foot high and every few feet along the wall was a sign warning Gentiles to go no further.

Archeologists working in Jerusalem have found two of these inscriptions in the ruins of Herod’s temple. This is a picture of one of them. It says,“No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” Not exactly a warm welcome was it!? And Paul knew firsthand how this “welcome” felt because Acts 21 tells us that the Jews thought Paul had led his Gentile friends to cross this barrier and this made the Jews attack him in the temple and threatened to kill him.

So, there was a lot of racially-fueled hostility, enmity, between Jews and Gentiles, and unfortunately that particular variety of wall-building of enmity has not died out.

Even today people are very familiar with this kind of barrier, because we still can’t seem to get along. We “wall” ourselves off from one another over every thing from differences in political party affiliation to worship style preference, to race. Don’t get me wrong, most people want to get along, they want the walls to come down. Sure, every once in a while we forget our differences long enough to rally around songs like, “We are the World” and the like, but the walls remain. On our own it’s next to impossible to bring the walls down, and when we do, someone just puts them back up again.

Bishop John Reed tells about a time he was driving a school bus in Australia, a bus that carried both white students and aborigine students. He grew tired of all the squabbling between the two groups as he drove them to and from school, and one day an argument broke out that was the last straw...so he pulled over to the side of the road and told the boys this kind of nonsense had to stop. He said that kind of behavior was a sin and would not be tolerated on his bus. Then he turned to the white boys and said, “What color are you?” They said, “We are white.” Reed said, “No...from now on you are green. Anyone who rides my bus is green. No what color are you?” The white boys replied, “green” Then he went to the Aborigines and said, “What color are you?” They said, “We are black.” He said, “No...from now on you are green. Anyone who rides my bus is green.” “Now what color are you?” And the Aborigines students said, “We are green.” The situation seemed to be resolved until several miles down the road, he heard a boy in the back of the bus announce, “Alright, light green is on this side, dark green is on that side.”

Well, Bishop Reed had the right idea. What was needed was the unity of a new race...like his “GREEN race.” But he couldn’t pull it off, because no human can. No, to bring down the barriers, the walls, that separate humanity, to accomplish this kind of demolition requires the power of God....because the real problem is never a wall between men...between races...between political parties...or whatever...no, the real problem behind all these walls is the wall that existed between the fallen HUMAN race and our Holy God. This “wall” is why people can’t get along.

Our lack of peace between each other for whatever reason can always be traced to our sin, sin that “walls” us off from God. As I’ve said in the past, racism is not really a SKIN problem but rather a SIN problem.

Let me put it this way: the reason there is enmity between man and man, is that there is enmity between man and God. The fact that we are born sinful, fallen beings, this is what fuels selfish, prideful hatred like the Jews felt toward the Gentiles. And sin continues to fuel hate and hate prompts us to build walls between each other today. In Romans 8:6-7 Paul elaborates on this by saying, “For to be carnally-minded is death; but to be spiritually-minded is life and PEACE. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Paul is saying that it’s natural for man to hate, to hate God and hate other people.

So, as we read a moment ago, Christ came to earth to do some needed demotion.

He came to tear down this wall of enmity that exists between us and God...He came to make it possible for our sins to be washed away so we could be forgiven...and come near to God. As Paul puts it in verse 18, “Through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit.” In that relationship, when we come to God by grace through faith in Jesus...we can then be empowered to love all people as He loves all people.

And let me just stop here and say that this is something the church MUST get right. To be effective we can’t have ANY walls, especially racial ones. I mean, to an extent, I can understand why non-believers build these kinds of walls, but Christians don’t have any excuse. After all, we have experienced God’s grace, we know by first-hand experience that He loves all people equally, so when we don’t get this right we are being outright disobedient against God. God’s people should always work to end racial discrimination, be it individual or systemic.

Now, let’s look back at the wall between the Jews and Gentiles for a moment. The wall between these two groups was built out of the JEWISH LAW those things that verse 15 calls “the law of commandments and regulations.” This refers to the parts of the Old Testament law that pertained to the Jews only, the laws that dealt with their government, the laws that separated them from the pagans in Canaan...the laws that dealt with feasts and sacrifices and temple worship. Well, Paul says that the “wall” built on those kinds of laws was abolished by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those laws...those regulations...are no longer necessary. After all, their purpose was to show people their sin, show their need for God’s forgiveness.

Plus, the Jewish sacrificial system was meant to foreshadow Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Well, Jesus has come. His PERFECT sacrifice made the imperfect Jewish sacrifices obsolete....no longer necessary. This is why Paul says, “He abolished the law...”

Don’t misunderstand, all the MORAL law still applies and it is not divisive. To the contrary, when we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, it brings walls down and unites us. But Jesus’ coming made the CEREMONIAL law unnecessary. So He demolished it. He brought the wall down. And in so doing, He created peace. He created one man from the two. In essence He made a new race, not the “Greens” but the “forgivens.” Paul’s point here is that we need to be made right with God before we can have the power to be right with each other. Only as we experience the forgiveness of Jesus can the walls come down.

Warren Wiersbe tells of the time a man came into his office and said that his marriage needed help. He told Wiersbe , “My wife and I need a re-cancellation.” Of course he meant, “reconciliation” but in a sense “re-cancellation” was the right word. After all, these two spouses had sinned against each other and the Lord and there could be no harmony, the wall that separated them could not come down, until they repented and asked Jesus to forgive their sins, to cancel them out. That was our problem before Christ came, our problem was SIN, so God sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins, thereby revealing His love and meeting the demands of His righteousness. It was truly a “re-cancellation” for as Colossians 2:13-14 says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

When people are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Gentile. As His blood washes away our sins, it reveals that we are the same in God’s eyes. Walls come down and we become truly one in this new “structure” God built called THE CHURCH.

Now, I want you to think about that for a minute. God took two groups as diametrically opposed to each other as Jews and Gentiles. He took them, and when He saved them, He unified them, unified them to the point where the two became one race. God the builder, broke down the barriers that separated them. He abolished the hatred and enmity between them. He destroyed the divisions...brought down the barriers and He brought them peace. That was STEP ONE, and to fully understand this first step we need to see something else. As Paul has already reminded us, ALL OF US were born dead in our trespasses and sins. ALL OF US were equally dependent on the grace of God. That puts us all on LEVEL GROUND. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and it is, but it’s also level on the floor of God’s church.

That had to be understood before God’s church could be built, because you can’t build on uneven ground, even in the D.R. For a church to be stable and strong, it’s members must understand that they are equal in God’s eyes. In a very real sense we are ONE RACE.

Now, if you doubt that walls can come down such that different kind of people can become truly one like this....you only need look at the example of the first twelve followers of Jesus Christ. Even a casual glace at the makeup of those first twelve men would tell anyone that if any twelve individuals were destined to NOT get along it would be these guys. They were as different as night and day. We can hardly imagine a more diverse crowd. There were all kinds of walls with the potential of dividing that group. They had differences of temperament, difference of economic standing, differences in politics, background, and culture. Any other group of people with these vast differences would have been plagued with irreconcilable conflict. Yet miraculously these twelve vastly dissimilar men hung together and experienced miraculous unity. In fact, their commitment to each other and their purpose was so solid that after Christ left the earth, they continued to be unified....firm in their dedication to their Master and to His cause.

Let’s take a close look at these diverse men and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. PETER had a “TYPE A” personality that would drive wedges into any group. If you were a part of this group I would wager that you would constantly find yourself biting your tongue to keep from saying, “PETE, for once would you please sit down, stop talking, and let us think!” On the other hand, JOHN was soft and sentimental and would no doubt irritate the daylights out of more focused analytical types. And...ANDREW...Andrew was the quiet one. Then again if you grew up with a brother like PETER who couldn’t keep his mouth shut you would probably be quiet too. THOMAS was the perfect example of a questioning skeptic. His honest doubt was characterized by his being obstinate about his negative point of view and pessimistic about any positive perspective. He may have been the first to utter what has been dubbed the 7 last words of any church, “We never did it that way before.” He probably questioned each and every new idea and when things didn’t turn out as planned he would delight in saying, “I told you so!”

Among these twelve men, there were not only conflicting temperaments, but more serious, political, professional, and cultural differences that threatened the disciples’ capacity for unity.

For example, MATTHEW was a tax collector. Now having an employee of the IRS in a group could pose problems even today, but in the 1st century having a tax collector in a group of Jews was a recipe for disaster.These revenue collectors had sold themselves out for their own financial gain in the service of the enemy, the oppressive Roman Empire. They actually worked for these vile pagans and made a living by being a part of their subjugation of God’s people. It would be an understatement to say that tax collectors were not popular people. The Jews hated them almost as much as they hated the Gentiles. Well, if tax collectors were GUN POWDER...zealots were THE MATCH. And one of the disciples names SIMON was a ZEALOT. He was a member of the resistance force plotting against the Romans. Think of him as a combination Michigan Militiaman and ATF agent and you get the picture. I mean, it is amazing that SIMON did not slit MATTHEW’S throat one night and yet these two obviously forgot their differences and worked together to turn the world upside down! Throw in NATHANIEL, who, as Christ noted, was “squeaky clean,” with Matthew, whose very occupation as a government bureaucrat would make him suspect as one with a compromised integrity. Then to all this add four or five fishermen...and well, nuff said. But, this diverse, wall-building group worked together. The walls came down and they experienced AMAZING unity! HOW is that possible? Well, it’s, as JOSEPH STOWELL says, “When lives are consumed with the preeminence, PRESENCE, and passion of Christ, then personal agendas and idiosyncrasies fade into the background.” When we experience Jesus’ forgiveness, and then enjoy His indwelling presence, our world view changes. Walls come down and amazing things begin to happen in and through us.

I can’t help but compare the disciples’ differences with ours here at Redland. We have people with a wide variety of temperaments. Some are easy going. Others have kind of a short fuse.

Some are a joy to be around and others like myself require extra grace. We have different political views in our church. We have people with a wide variety of religious backgrounds and worship preferences. We have different races represented. Our members work at different jobs, white collar, blue collar, no collar...yet we enjoy a sweet, sweet, spirit! God has built a very powerful church here, because of the demolition He has done. When we experienced His grace...the wall came down between us and Him...and when that happened the other walls crumbled as well. But, remember Redland, we humans are good at putting walls back up, and we mustn’t do that because when we do...when we lose our unity...we lose our peace...and our effectiveness!

(2) This leads us to the second step in God’s church construction project: CONSTRUCTION.

Look back at verses 19 and following. Paul says that since God has demolished the walls of enmity, “...we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, BUILT on the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief CORNERSTONE. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”

Now, take a close look at the way God the builder builds His church.

A. He begins with the FOUNDATION.

Paul says God’s church has been built on the “...foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the chief Cornerstone.” He’s telling us that God built His church on the TEACHINGS of the apostles and prophets, teachings that became our BIBLE. You see, the Holy Spirit inspired these men to write down all that our Lord did and taught. So, Jesus is the focus of the Bible from cover to cover. Alistair Begg explains it this way. “In the Old Testament we have Jesus PREDICTED. In the Gospels we have Jesus REVEALED. In Acts, we have Jesus PREACHED. In the Epistles we have Jesus EXPLAINED. In Revelation, we have Jesus EXPECTED.” This should remind us that if a church doesn’t base everything it does on an understanding that the Bible is God’s Word, if it doesn’t preach Jesus, if it doesn’t focus everything it does on telling more people about the cross, that “church” will crumble...the same way any building without a firm foundation will fall down. God’s church is built on the foundation of His Word, with Jesus as the cornerstone.

B. The next step is the fitting together of the BUILDING BLOCKS themselves.

And when GOD builds His church He uses INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS as building blocks. They are “living stones.” He fits them together like Lincoln Logs or Lego pieces.As Paul says in verses 21 and following, we are “joined together.” And a church with members that are joined, bound together, by their love for God and for each other, that is a strong church indeed! Nothing can stand against walls like that! This week I read about a little group of Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean called the Azores. One of the unique things about these islands is the rock walls its people have built. The Azores are volcanic islands so the local farmers gather the volcanic rocks from their fields and use them as building materials. Each little parcel of land is bordered by these rock walls but the thing that makes them unique is the fact that they use no mortar. A wall could be anywhere from 5-10 feet tall and only a couple of feet thick, but it has nothing to hold it together....no cement...no mortar. You see, when those builders stack the rocks, they fit them together like puzzle pieces. And since they are fit together so well, those walls can stand through anything. Each rock is carefully chosen to fit in it’s particular place on the wall and every winter winds blow in excess of 125 mph on the Azores, but these walls still stand!

That is the way it is when we’re in the family of God. He has created each of us unique. He gives each of us different gifts and talents. Then, He calls each of us to join a certain local church because He knows that with our unique “shape” , our talents and spiritual gifts, we will fit in perfectly. As we get involved that church will be more powerful, more effective. It will be as strong as those rock walls in the Azores! One of my favorite Peanuts cartoon strips shows Linus watching television. Lucy enters the room and tells him to change channel. Linus asks, “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” Lucy doubles up her fist and snarls, “These five fingers. Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” Without another word, Linus responds, “Which channel do you want?” Then turning away, he looks at his fingers and inquires, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”

Well, when churches get ORGANIZED like that, when each member joins in and does it’s part, it is amazing what God does in and through them. It is indeed a SPIRITUAL weapon, that is terrible to behold. Let me just stop and say, if you don’t belong to a church, you need to! Attendance is not enough. To borrow Paul’s words, you need to be “fitly joined” into a local church. You need to go from attendance to membership to INVOLVEMENT! One stone can’t be a church all by itself. It needs to be “fitly joined” to a local body of believers.

(3) Okay, we’re ready for Step Three, which is when GOD moves in.

As Paul puts it in verse 22, the church is built, “...to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” That’s why every church exists...we are to be a place where God’s Spirit dwells. To use another word picture from the Bible, we are to be known as God’s body, a group of people bound together, to do His will just as a healthy body obeys the will of the brain.

Thanks to our steeple, when you drive down Muncaster Mill Road and pass by our building, there is no mistaking what it’s here for. It’s obvious that this building was built for the purpose of having church meetings. The specific nature of our building design is why banks don’t like to loan money to build new churches. That’s not their preferred building investment. There are a few reasons, but one of them is because churches are considered SINGLE-USE FACILITIES.

What that means is, if the church didn’t pay the loan and the bank had to foreclose, the only people interested in buying the building would be other churches. Most of the time, church architecture is so unique, that’s all the building could be used for. This highlights a very important fact: church buildings are built for one purpose and one purpose only...to become a place where God’s church dwells....a place where people gather who are known for the way they do God’s will....people known for doing what God would do.

Think about that for a moment. Those of us who make up Redland Baptist Church are literally God’s body. We are the flesh He wants to use. God has “built” us be the physical manifestation of His presence in our community and world. God’s presence no longer dwells in a tabernacle in the Sinai, or in a temple in Jerusalem. No...God has chosen instead to dwell in ordinary, even ornery, people like you and me. Philip Yancey says that his Pastor has a witty response that underscores this principle. When someone says, to him, “What a beautiful church!’ He replies, “Why thank you. I have been dieting, glad you noticed.” His point in this jest is that God’s church consists of people, individual people He fits together to form His church. Together this “living building” is the flesh He uses.

You and me, we are Redland Baptist Church. This is where God’s Spirit dwells. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 “When two or three of you are together because of Me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” (MSG). Yancey writes, “God now reveals Himself in the world not through a pillar of smoke and fire, not even through the physical body of His Son in Galilee, but through mongrel collection that comprises my local church and every other such group gathered in God’s name.” Here at Redland we are called to represent what God is like to our neighborhood, we are called to give God form in this world.


With all this in mind, as we close, let’s do a little “building inspection.” So, look within your heart, and answer these questions: Are there any walls in my life that God needs to knock down this morning? Am I “fitly joined” to a local church. Am I doing my part? Am I obeying my Head. By my actions and attitudes would others say the Spirit of God dwells in me? And then, here’s the most important question: Do you know Jesus personally? Are you a Christ-follower? Or, are you without hope, and without God in this world. You can have that hope! You can know God personally. All you need do is pray. Admit to Him that you are a sinner, and that you believe Jesus is His Son, that He died for you. Ask Him to forgive you and to lead you through life and the wall that separates you from your Creator will come down! Let us pray

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