Are there really second-class Christians? Are some Christians not "as good" as others? Paul writes that his mission was to give the message to Gentiles. Why is this even an issue?
Second Class Christians
A. When the term “dog” is used in the Bible, how often do you think is means an animal you love, desire, and want as a pet versus a slang, derogatory term meaning that you are worthless, unwanted, and not a part of the group?
B. In slang today some people call others “a dog” to demean their physical attributes. It’s a hurtful term. It was a term used by some Jews to describe people outside the Jewish faith. They were “dogs.”
C. I want to take you to a story found in Acts 10. The reason for this story is to help you to understand the concept that Paul is writing about in Ephesians. So listen to this story. (Tell the story of Peter’s vision – Acts 10:9-23). God was doing something that Peter was troubled in accepting. Ever been there? Ever have trouble accepting a truth found in Bible that you know is a truth you are called to put into practice today? Yet Peter acted upon the truth that was revealed to him and the Bible tells us that he went to the home of Gentile named Cornelius.
D. But the idea of going to a Gentile was difficult for Peter. Even when he entered the home of Cornelius and was greeted with Cornelius bowing before him, Peter said these words (READ Acts 10:28).
E. After seeing the effects of the Holy Spirit come upon the Gentiles in that home, Peter called for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. That is significant. It was the first record we have of a Gentile becoming a Christian without first becoming a Jewish proselyte. The Jews had been God’s chosen people but now they were a light to Gentiles. How did the church respond?
F. READ Acts 11:1-2. They had a difficult time accepting that Jews were not better than Gentiles and that Gentiles had the same spiritual blessings as Jews. After Peter retells the story we get this conclusion (READ Acts 11:18).
I. Mystery Revealed
A. One would think that what we just read settled the matter. That Paul’s ministry, Peter’s teaching and work of the Holy Spirit cleared the way for unity in the church.
B. We love passages like Gal. 3:26-29. Our salvation is not dependent upon my pedigree, but upon the promise given through Jesus. I am a child of the king. I am bought with the blood of the Lamb. I am saved and sanctified. I am in the family of God and have all the blessings and rewards that come by being in that great spiritual family.
C. So Paul reminds the church at Ephesus that Jesus Christ tore down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile and created in himself ONE body. Therefore, in Jesus we are all built into a dwelling place for God.
D. It is with that idea that Paul starts to say something and then stops. Look at our text (READ Eph. 3:1). Now jump down to verse 14. Paul begins in verse 1 but doesn’t actually write what he was going to say until verse 14. Those verses in between, verses 2-13, make up a side trial of Paul.
E. Let’s go down that side trail for a few minutes. Paul talks about a mystery that has been revealed. Paul gives us the revelation of the mystery in verse 6. (read it)
F. The point I want you to take away today is that Paul’s ministry was to help non-Jews (Gentiles) come to know Jesus Christ as their savior.
G. The problem was not the Gentiles. Follow Paul’s ministry in Acts and you will see Jews seeking to stop Paul or teach Jewish mandates, like circumcision, to the Gentile world. It was an ongoing battle in the church.
II. Second Class Christians
A. Are the days of “second-class Christians” done? Theologically, YES. Practically, NO. What does it mean to be a “second-class Christians” in the church today?
B. A second class Christian is “second” for one of three reasons: (1) They are not accepted as saved even though they are saved, because a past forgiven sin is still placed upon them by others in the body. (2) They keep themselves from enter into unity with the body because they chose only fit it under their own conditions and the body doesn’t accept those conditions. (3) There are societal, ethnic or economic differences where some are treated “less than.”
C. Gentiles are saved exactly like Jews – by the blood of Jesus Christ. They came to Jesus humbly and realized that their sin separated them from God’s eternal reward. Knowing that, they responded exactly like Jews – by repenting of sin, being washed in waters of baptism for the forgiveness of those sins, and being endowed with the Holy Spirit that made them a new creation in Christ.
D. I want you to understand that Jesus Christ died on the cross for every single person that has ever been born or ever will be born. In his body the wrath of sin was placed so that we are justified before God as sinless because of the blood of Jesus. Let me start by asking you – have you been saved by the blood of Jesus? That is a YES or NO answer.
E. If you are saved I have no right to place upon you any other burden than to live your salvation to the fullest by walking in the light of God. There are not hurdles to jump over or hoops to climb through.
F. If you want to see people who don’t feel saved even though they are, go back and read the letter of Galatians. Those Christians were bewitched! They were convinced they had to “become more Jewish” instead of what Jesus asked them to do in order to be saved. They were taught that they were second class and they accepted that false teaching.
III. The Solution
A. Look at what Paul tells Christians in verses 7-10. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was so that EVERYONE would understand God’s plan that in the church there is no second-class Christians. The unity of the local congregation and the church as a whole is the solution to the problem that is placed upon people by others, or upon self by self.
B. Let me be bold enough to say that sometimes you need to get over you and think you should be coddled and cuddled and in reality worship. You are not God.
C. Let me say that for you to look down upon someone because of a sin that has been forgiven by God through Jesus is a sin you are carrying around, not the one you think is second class.
D. The solution is for us to be one in Christ and accept the unity of spirit in the bond of peace. And that is what the rest of this letter is about.
A. This church is a blessed congregation. We don’t have much of an issue of people thinking they are “better than” others because of a past sin. This church openly loves people who come before God and share their strengths and ask help in their weaknesses.
B. Love who you are in Christ. The church stands united and we want to be a family together. As difficult as that is in our society, this congregation stands ready to move forward in unity and oneness in the upward calling of Jesus.
C. So if you are here today, and are without a church home, will you think about this family as people to love and be loved by? If you are struggling accepting the grace of God that has already been given to you and finding it difficult to get over your past, can we surround you in love and prayer? Today we stand ready to wrap our arms in support of you. If you need to move into “first class” seating, then come as we stand and sing.