Far, Near, and One
by Joseph Franks
Before our divine appointment with the Holy Spirit, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Horribly, we walked according to the game-plan of this world and followed the leadership of the Prince of Darkness. Consequently, we were sons of disobedience who naturally and habitually followed the fluctuating whims of our fleshly lusts. Therefore, because of our exceeding and growing sinfulness, we were declared to be children of wrath. In the hard words of the Apostle Paul, “We were without Christ … having no hope … without God … we were far off.” (Ephesians 2:1-3; 12-13)
Then came the precious influence of the Holy Spirit. When the time was right, we were beautifully and eternally affected by God. Because he was rich in mercy, and because he abounded in great love towards us, even though we were totally deprave and dead in our trespasses and sins, he overwhelmed with his grace. Sovereignly, God made us alive together with Christ. Internally, we enjoyed a spiritual resurrection and revival. We then are viewed as one with Christ, sitting together with him in glory. Identified with him, we were irreversibly promised eternal delight; Christ’s inheritance became our inheritance. Oh, God was so, so kind to us, and all of his blessing had nothing to do with our labors, or works, or performance. No, it was all of grace; it was the gift of God. Then we heard our fantastic mission — as Christ’s workmanship in whom he worked, we had been recreated to do good works. What a God! What a love! It is a fantastic truth, “We who were without Christ … having no hope … without God … and far off, were brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-11, 13)
Therefore, how should we, who once were far off, but now have been brought near, relate to one another? Let us hear the counsel of the Apostle Paul:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13-22)
This is how we would have interpreted Paul’s words:
- Jews, Greeks, and Romans were to be one.
- Former Religious Traditionalists and Former Pagan Idolaters were to be one.
- Formal Moralists and Former Immoralists were to be one.
- Pork Abstainers and Pork Consumers were to be one.
- Saturday Evening Worshipers and Sunday Morning Worshipers were to be one.
- Circumcised Believers and Tattooed Believers were to be one.
- Wealthy Members and Poor Members were to be one.
- Elderly Saints and Twenty-Something Christians were to be one.
- Ancient Psalm Singers and Modern Hymn Singers were to be one.
- Synagogue Gatherers and Home-Church Assemblers were to be one.
- Darker Skinned Brothers and Lighter Skinned Brothers were to be one.
- Ceremonial Law Maintainers and Ceremonial Law Passers were to be one.
- Slaves and Owners were to be one.
- Masculine Worshipers and Feminine Worshipers were to be one.
- Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, and Saints were to be one.
- Peter’s Disciples and Paul’s Disciples were to be one.
Christian brothers and sisters, we were all far off; now we have been brought near. According to sacred scripture, we have been destined to be one. Therefore, we might as well honor our Father and practice such unity and harmony today. We do not all look alike. We do not all live alike. We do not all worship alike. We do not all think alike. In some ways, in our theology, we are the stronger brothers. In other ways, we are the weaker brothers who are not cognizant of our really being such. In our various communities, we do not all desire the same political ends. In our various churches, we do not all desire to build identical institutions. However, as we differ in the finer points of political ideology, theology proper, anthropology, soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, and eschatology, etc…, let us keep in mind there are to “be no dividing walls of hostility.” Instead, there is to be “peace” for Christ intends us to be “one man.” He desires for us to act like “fellow members of the household of God” which we are. Friends, we are his body. We are his people. We are his kingdom. We are his army. We are his flock. We are his temple. We are his bride. We once were far off. We now have been brought near. And he who did this work in us, desires that we be one.