Thursday, November 03, 2005

No Distinctions

Remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard? Christ told it to illustrate that God the Father is not only fair, but impartial in His dealings with mankind. The story opens with a householder hiring day laborers to work in his vineyard. Typically, the men were hired early in the morning and worked all day for the agreed upon day's wages. However this householder deviated from the typical custom in that he had not only hired workers at varying times during the day, but had promised to pay each of them the same standard wage. At the end of the day, the workers gathered together to receive their pay. When the workers who arrived early realized that they were going to receive the same pay as the latecomers, they became angry. Confronting the householder, they accused him of fraudulent and unfair practices. Let's read the householder's reply in Matthew 20:13-16:

Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Matthew 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Let's make application of our story, first to the ancient Jews, and then to ourselves. The Jews felt entitled to a greater position in the Kingdom of God, than the Gentiles, because they had been chosen to 'bear the oracles of God.' Furthermore, the Jews felt that their religion was superior to the religious beliefs and practices of the Gentiles. After all, they believed in the one true living God, were circumcised, kept the Sabbath, had the temple, and the best sacrificial system, all unlike the Gentiles. As a result of their first comer status, the Jews felt that their reward should exceed that of the Gentiles. In the book of Ephesians chapter 2, Paul indicates that he is aware of this attitude.

Let's read Ephesians 2:11, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;" Here, Paul is saying, although you Jews are boasting of your circumcision and belittling the gentiles because they are uncircumcised, know this, circumcision is of no value if it is merely in your flesh and not of your hearts. Although in the next verse Paul describes the Gentiles as: "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:" (Ephesians 2:12), he does not attribute this condition to them alone. Instead, he tells the Jews, you too were once aliens and strangers from the covenant and without hope. You see, although the Jews, thought themselves righteous, they were still in need of Christ just as were the Gentiles. In Romans 3:23, Paul states that all have sinned and come short of the glorious character of God. As we continue reading in Ephesians chapter 2, we see him saying, 'you Gentiles, it's true, you were far from God, (and so were we), yet now, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have all been drawn into union with one another -- we've been made one.' Let's look at Ephesians 2, verses 13-22 to see the full picture.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14 For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Ephesians 2:16 And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
Ephesians 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone;
Ephesians 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Ephesians 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

As can easily be seen, it is only 'in Christ' that the Jews became truly close to God. It is 'in Christ,' that they became "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." And, it is 'in Christ' that they "have access by one Spirit unto the Father." 'In Christ,' they became "an habitation of God through the Spirit." Objectively, 'in Christ,' they had all of these things, and so too did the Gentiles. Thus they became one with each other. Yet, many of the Jews and Gentiles probably never accepted this great truth. And unfortunately, many of us fail to accept this truth as well. Because of our status 'in Christ,' we have all been made equal in God's sight, we have become one. As such, there are no discriminating or distinguishing negative differences-- no distinctions between male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, black and white; for objectively, 'in Christ,' we've become one.

Are there any of you out there that feel superior? If so, then you've not accepted the 'in Christ,' idea. If you find yourself saying, 'well I would never,' or 'how could he (or she),' then you've not believed the truth as it is 'in Jesus.' Of course accepting this truth doesn't mean you won't be tempted, because the enemy knows our human nature which is sinful, naturally he'll tempt us on this point. However, if you find yourself constantly giving in, or with a mindset of prejudice, then perhaps you're missing the wonderful and joyous truth, that Christ has already made us one in Himself.

As Hymn #587 says,

'In Christ' there is no East nor West, 'in Him' no South nor North;
But one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.

This great truth can also be found in Galatians 3:28, which says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one 'in Christ Jesus.' Join the heavenly host today in the sweet knowledge and experience of that fellowship, and watch your '-isms, and prejudices melt away.

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