For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility  by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:14-18 ESV)
God’s plan of redemption is much broader, much deeper, much more glorious than anyone anticipated prior to the coming of Christ. In the New Testament, we are told about the immensity of this plan, we are told about the gospel being taken to all the nations of the earth and we are led to conclude that this plan of redemption truly is world-wide in scope and truly will bring blessings to all the peoples of the earth, just as God told Abraham so long ago.
I want you to take a little time to think over this wonderful truth. There is a warped view of the gospel that has gripped evangelicalism in the West. When we ask folks in many of the churches in our city, the consensus is pessimistic when it comes to the extent and success of God’s plan of redemption. Ironically, it is somewhat like the attitude of the Jews in Jesus’ and Paul’s day. They thought that God’s plan of salvation is so narrow, so limited and so exclusive that they find it nearly impossible to think of the nations of the world being incorporated into the Church, the people of God.
It is ironic that a spirit of pessimism has gripped churches that profess to adhere to the gospel. This is not of the Holy Spirit. Yes, many are called, but few are chosen. The gate is narrow that leads to eternal life. But remember as well that the descendants of our father in the Faith, Abraham, are as the sands of the seashore and the stars of the heavens. If you look at the spread of the gospel of Christ throughout the nations, there exists today a far greater number in this world who walk in love in our Lord Jesus than was extant 50 years ago. Just counting Presbyterians in Korea, the number is near 9 million. Tallying all us Presbyterians of all stripes here in the USA and Australia, the figure is shy of 2.75 million. The booming places are in Africa and China. Are you thinking and praying Biblically with regards to the gospel here and abroad? Are you praying for the conversion of the nations on a grand scale?
If we are thinking Biblically, we are teaching our children to think this way and to prepare themselves for service in whatever way God should happen to use them as He expands the borders of the Church upon this earth. We do not honour God’s plan of redemption when we huddle together in our tiny groups and peer out our windows at all the bad people outside while waiting for Jesus to come and take us away.
Throughout most of our lives, we are isolated in our Christian experience. We normally experience our faith in a comfortable context, one in which others share our culture. Paul teaches, we are part of the Body of Christ, made up of people throughout all times and places. We can be thankful that God has ordained to include Gentiles in His plan of redemption–otherwise, most of us wouldn’t be here.
We have brothers and sisters throughout this world, brothers and sisters who don’t look like us, talk like us or live their daily lives like us. But they are among those appointed by God to eternal life, just like us. If you are familiar with Steve Saint, you may remember that his father, Nate, was speared to death by Aucas in South America in 1956. And through God’s grace, one of the men who murdered his father was converted, became an elder in the church there among those people, and baptized Steve. The late Francis Nigel Lee had a great gospel tract recounting the Lord’s mighty providence in the conversion of his father’s murderer, where Lee was permitted to speak with the man and was used of the Lord to lead him to Christ. The ways of God are past finding out!
We have brethren right here in our own country, our own city, who don’t necessarily look like us or talk like us or share our backgrounds. Realizing this truth helps us appreciate the beauty of the Christ’s Church. It helps us pray with greater insight and with more zeal. It makes us eager to meet some of brethren and learn from them even as they learn from us. And, perhaps most important of all, proper thinking about the makeup of Christ’s Church guards against a sense of superiority. That is always a danger when we allow ourselves to think of the Church in terms that are grounded only in our own experience and preferences. There are countless numbers of people in this world who are loved by God in Christ Jesus. We need to love them, too.
The cross is the element that ties together the fate of the Jews and the fate of the Gentiles. The cross, Paul taught, did two things: it destroyed that which separated them and it because the means of their union in one Body. In all our talk about the Christian experience, in all our expressions about our faith, let us not lose sight of the cross. There is where our Saviour, who also is the Saviour of my neighbour and that stranger I will never meet and that person from a culture I do not understand–that cross is where He paid for all our sins and that cross is the reason we are brethren. The cross is not just one more element in the story we tell, it is the story.