A Devotion for Feast Day, New Years Day, 1 January 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide(Please use attachment as part of this devotion)
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; 12 That at that time ye were 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: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 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; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, among other historical references, we are told of a wall that divided the outer court of the Temple as a trespass limit for Gentiles – the Court of the Gentiles. Each chamber of the Temple was considered more Holy as you approached the Holy of Holies. So, the Gentiles were limited in their access by that wall or partition from the greater Temple grounds. “14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 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; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” Ephesians 2:14-16 Some have taken this passage, especially verse 15, to mean that our Lord annulled the Commandments given at Sinai. This is unadulterated nonsense since God, unlike man, is unchangeable and Immutable! Not a single jot nor tittle of the Law has been abolished being just as pertinent today as when written by the very finger of God.
God has not changed His mind or His Way in His revulsion of sin. But God the Father has indeed provided an open gate to the sheepfold through the imputed merits and righteousness of His only Begotten Son. The ‘law of commandments contained in ordinances’ were ordinances that were outside the Ten Commandments and were offered as a shadow of better things to come in Christ. Once such ordinance was circumcision. Like baptism, circumcision was an outward sign of an inward grace that separated the people of God from the world. The ordinance of circumcision was fulfilled in Christ, and the sacrament of baptism has become the full expression designating those who belong to Christ and His Church.
I invite the reader’s attention to a lithograph copy of a painting by Otto A. Stemler (1872-1953) – a devout Christian artist most of whose art was applied to a Christian interpretive style. The painting is titled, ‘Christ and the Children.’ Please peruse this lithograph carefully, and before proceeding to read my own interpretation thereof with a view to defining the principle the artist is attempting to convey. (VIEW ART PIECE!)
You will note that Christ is surrounded by six children of different races – all of whom are touching our Lord, except ONE – an African child. Christ seems to be looking intently at the African boy. What message does this convey? I can tell you for certain that Stemler is not making the case that the African is less welcome than the others; so, what is the message? It is a perfect illustration of the leading text of this devotion.
At the time of Stemler’s painting this piece, the evangelical inroads into what was called the Dark Continent had barely just begun. Indeed, there were yet parts of Africa where neither explorer nor missionary had set foot. It is my view that Stemler is illustrating the fact that, though the continent of Africa had yet to fully receive the Gospel, the time was drawing near when the sheep of Africa would also be added to His Fold. His expression is inviting to the little black lad with what almost seems a trace of longing. “16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
Since that painting was published, Africa has truly been evangelized. Though it may not be true of the clerical superstructure of the Church in Africa, it certainly is true of the humble and lowly people of the bush country to whom I had the privilege to share the Gospel a few years ago. Their firm belief in the “faith once delivered to the saints’ was unshakeable. They are becoming more steadfast today in their faith than the nations who first sent Missionaries to teach them. They refuse to abandon the old paths of Holy Scripture and embrace the ‘willy-nilly gospel’ of the new age pseudo-church.
Bear in mind that Christ did not come to a people wholly His own in the Hebrew race. There were people of Israel who embraced the promise made to Abraham and were, indeed, children of Abraham. But the greater portion of Israel had become secular in their faith. They worship the nation-state rather than the King of Kings. There were others who had not been granted the privilege of hearing or knowing of that promise who must be brought into the fold as believing children of Abraham – that is, made one with true Israel. “And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” The Jews of that day were nigh, yet the Gentiles were far off. Those of faith must be made one of both parties. “26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 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. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29
The sacrament of baptism has replaced the foreshadowing ordinance of circumcision in designating that fulness in Christ spoken of both of prophets, law, and Gospel. I grow weary of hearing an earthly nation referred to ‘God’s Chosen People’ who deny His Lordship and redemption; who still cling to the hope of resuming animal sacrifices in rejection of that once-and-for-all sacrifice made by a Lord – a full and sufficient sacrifice. Can the Christin professor who yearns to see the Temple at Jerusalem resume animal sacrifices have any clue about that sacrifice made by our Lord Jesus Christ? I think not, for how would he describe those truths presented by Paul in the Book of Hebrews (and other passages)?
“1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Hebrews 10:1-12
The simplicity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ overwhelms the vain, copious and unending arguments of the scribes and Pharisees of our day . . . and His. Simply read and believe.