“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV).
An Alien energy force has invaded and divided humankind sending us into a panic.
The announcement broke through CBS radio network just a few moments after 8 PM Eastern Standard Time on 30 October 1938. The deep baritone newsman’s voice interrupted the live radio silence. The man’s voice tightened like a bass steel string, close to quivering, theatrical-like. The correspondent read the incredible summary of the stunning situation:
“We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacence people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their dominion over this small spinning fragment of solar driftwood which by chance or design man has inherited out of the dark mystery of Time and Space. Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
Of course, I am referring to Orson Welles and the radio adaptation of HG Wells “War of the Worlds.” It was Halloween night in America when the Mercury Radio Theater was interrupted by this emergency newscast announcing the landing of aliens from another world — from the planet Mars — coming to earth to bring war.
Aliens arriving to wage war: What if I told you that the “war of the worlds” is a biblical concept? Careful: don’t write me off just yet. I certainly don’t mean to say that the Bible reveals there are Martians. It doesn’t say anything at all about creatures from other planets. The Scriptures do, however, say quite a lot about the creatures on this planet. And the Word of God is nothing less than a narrative of an alien force from another world come to this planet to bring about a veritable war of the worlds. The source of the introduction of this extra-terrestrial virile evil was that fallen angel, Lucifer. Rebellion begat rebels. Thus, the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden followed. This is the alien force that led to the brutal red tooth and claw of this present age: man against creation, creation against creation, the universe as a hostile self-abusing force. The foul alien virus altered the DNA of the human body and soul. Like William’s Norman army raiding his former friend, then King Harold, and decimating the Anglo legions at Hastings, to take Edward the Confessor’s contested crown, Humankind turned against itself. In a real way, this self-murdering conquest is more frightening than anything Orson Welles could have read in 1938.
St. Paul describes the situation quite clearly to the Ephesian church in his letter to them. In chapter 2, verses 11 through 22, the apostle Paul describes a battlefield within the church at Ephesus. Christians pitted against each other as if some alien power was at work within. His response to this warfare was to announce the prince of peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the moments that we have together, I want to address the war of the worlds which has affected our nation. Observers say that we ran one of the most divided times in our country since the American Civil War. We are divided by the essential matters of life, faith, family, and what it is to be human. What can be done?
We locate the answer in the Bible, in Ephesians. There is no end to the escalation of the war of the worlds—this wall of division between People, that has grown like a monstrous beast—without a treatise of peace drawn by God, and ratified on divine terms. The One who has mediated this Covenant is the One Isaiah called, “The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Despite the human battlefield of passion and prejudice, the fleshly war that wages, and the walls of division, ugly concrete barricades like the Berlin Wall with its indiscriminate graffiti and orange neon spray paint, that litter the landscape of humanity; there is hope for a cessation of hostilities. For in the war of the worlds, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace.
I know you might ask me “how so?” How is it that we sing “peace on earth and goodwill to men” when in fact we are engaged in such a ferocious battle against each other? I have heard you belittle us with your inquest: “Where is the promised peace of which you Christians sing? Where is the evidence that Jesus Christ has, indeed, brought a treaty of peace to this divided world in which we live? Where?” I would point to the very words of St. Paul in Ephesians 2:11 through 22 to discover our answer.
Jesus Christ is presently engaged with our tragic “war of the worlds” on the following three fronts. The first front is to tear down the wall between God and Man. Here on this old field of battle, we see the flag of victory, a Lion of Judah embroidered with the words inscribed in scarlet and gold:
Jesus Christ brings peace with God.
The Apostle Paul declares that when the Ephesians received Jesus Christ, they became new people. Once they were at war with God but that is no more. Jesus Christ has torn down the wall of division between rebellious post-Edenic humankind and the one, triune God Almighty. And how? His life and his death, his righteousness for ours, his atoning sacrifice for us. Paul uses one potent phrase to convey the full measure of the saving work of Jesus: The Cross.
At the cross, the wall came down as the curtain in the Temple emblematically declared victory for Christ and peace with God and man.
At the cross, the wall came down in the perfect life of Jesus Christ covered the sins—past, present, and future—of those who entered into this Treaty of Peace.
At the cross, the wall came down as Jesus uttered those words of victory, “It is finished!”
The Ephesians had previously sought to please God by paying homage to some supposed supreme being, mere mythology of the mind, or to a plurality of pagan idols, hoping life against death that one of these imaginary beings, made in man’s image, might redeem the apparent tragedy that had befallen humanity. Yes, and we have our idols, our own supposed supreme beings. We have cleaned them up, given them new names, but they are as Calvin would say, a product of the idol manufacturing plant in our minds. We call them, “Self-realization,” self-actualization.” We might even call them, “Good works of charity,” or “entertainment.” But they are gods nevertheless. You can put a red ribbon on a boar’s neck, but he is still a swine.
But, of course, none of these god’s supposed powers and none of the Ephesians’ religious efforts had any effect on the poison of pride, pettiness, passions, prejudice, and downright misery in their lives (and in ours). Now, by repentance and repudiation of their former ways and faith in Jesus the Lord of all, these same idolaters had become saints, God’s children, and heirs to the Covenant of Grace. They were God’s chosen People as much as any Hebrew child of God. The Apostle Paul would say in Romans that they had been engrafted into the “one true Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
“And as for all who walk by this rule, peace, and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
In the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, the war of the worlds between God and Man is over.
We each know that while the treaty, the Covenant of Grace, ratified in the blood of God’s only begotten Son, has ended the great war between you and God, it is possible for you to violate the terms of the treaty. The residual poison running through my spiritual veins makes it possible for me to act as if there were no treaty, or as if an agreement doesn’t have any import for my life. “I have walked the aisle.” “I made my profession.” “I did my bit. Now, I can do as I please.” And that, my beloved, demonstrates that you never indeed entered into the contract of peace with God through Jesus Christ. Thus, it is possible for me to go about sinning once again against this glorious God of peace. And if that is a description of you and your life with (or without) God in these days, then come to the table of peace again. Come and be healed. Come and be welcomed again into the new Family of God in Christ.
I once knew a man in the Army was a Soldier and I might say a “Soldiers Soldier.” The graduate of West Point, an infantryman, he found himself in an unenviable assignment for a young Army Infantry officer—at least that was his sour testimony. Captain Cook, we shall call him, had been assigned to the Army Chaplain School to teach Army doctrine. Now, “Army doctrine” is not about theology. Army doctrine is about standards of military strategy. Army doctrine is about fighting, securing, and holding a piece of ground for the defense of our nation. It involves all of the things necessary to accomplish this mission like logistics, armor, tactics, weaponry, the best use of air, land, and sea power, and a host of other constants and variables. I can never forget when our Captain Cook addressed the class and said that he didn’t know “what he had done” to get that assignment. The West Point graduate saw an assignment to teach Chaplains about war as punishment. The poor fellow said that as far as he was concerned the only good use he had for Chaplains was to “give cookies and juice to my boys” so “they can kill the enemy better.” How one kills “better” remains a mystery. Oh, he was a hardened soul, a hardened soul, indeed. We prayed for our Captain Cook. We witnessed to him of the mercies of Christ. He heard the story from Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Nazarenes, Methodists, Lutherans, and even a Presbyterian or two. On one occasion our hard-hearted Captain addressed our class and said, “There’s no reason for you Chaplains to be sharing your good news with me. I’ve heard it all. I’ve been at this job for more than a year and you, my dear friends, are not the first students that have tried to convert me. Leave me alone!” So, we decided to pray for him. Oh, if he could have heard his name uttered in reverence in the barracks, in the chapels, and in the field prayer meetings. We watched as God began to soften the heart of this man. We watched as he changed. We saw a Soldier come to peace with God. His facial expressions changed from an apparent irreparable scowl to the hint of an undeniably contented smile. Was the change due to one of us who witnessed to him? I don’t think so. I believe prayer began to moisten his spirit. Perhaps, it was a book, a message on the radio, or some other means. But the Word of the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord converged on his soul. The young West Point officer was gloriously defeated and brought to the peace table of God. The young Captain’s manner of speaking began to change (though there was still a lot of sanctification left to go in his choice of adjectives). Captain Cook became a new man. He was a man at peace.
My beloved in Christ, if you have received Jesus as your God and Savior then He is indeed the Prince of Peace of your life. He has brought you your peace with God. He has atoned for your sins. He has lived the perfect life and the righteousness that he has intrinsically is now yours positionally. Should anyone hear my voice who is still in a state of war with the Almighty, you must know that you can never win. The fate of the war is inevitable. Either you will surrender to Almighty God by accepting the treaty of God’s grace or you will fire your artillery of resistance and self-reliance against God as you fall into the fires of hell where you will remain forever.
The good news of the gospel is that God’s love is greater than your resistance. God’s mercy is wider than your sins. God’s pursuing power will bring you to the peace table. Do you sense his urging now? Do you sense that Jesus the Savior is drawing you now to come to him? Oh, my beloved, lay down your weaponry, the weaponry of your mind, the walls of a resistant spirit. Lay it all down and place your weapons of self-defeat before the cross of Jesus Christ. Make peace with God by receiving the treaty of peace he has made with you through the blood of his only begotten Son.
So, that is one front in the war of the worlds where God is victorious. There is another great front that is critical to each and every one of us here today.
Jesus Christ brings peace with others.
St. Paul says that once the Ephesians, the peoples of modern-day Turkey, with the many other nationalities there from other parts of the Roman Empire, were aliens. They were aliens from the things of God. Israel was the one small light in the entire darkened world that knew of the true God. The rest of the world had known the truth but rejected it. That is the story of regression in the human race. God graciously gave Israel the law of God. They had the covenant of God which said that he would give them not only land, and a nation, but to do so to bring forward who would rule over the entire earth. That Messiah would be the Prince of peace. The Apostle Paul says that one is Jesus of Nazareth. There was a division between Gentiles and Jews. The division was based on ethnicity, history, culture, land, and many of the same divisions that we have in our own day. And yet the apostle Paul says that because of Christ activity in their lives that war is over.
The truth is, though there has been a treaty of peace through the covenant of grace, some of us violate the agreement. We act as if we were never redeemed, never set free, never entered into the covenant, the treaty of peace.
Jeremiah prayerfully and tearfully sought a time of peace between Israel and their neighbors. Jeremiah wrote,
“The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: 2 “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: 3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. 4 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: 5 They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. 6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them an abundance of prosperity and security. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel and rebuild them as they were at first. 8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it” (Jeremiah 33:1-9).
I read this week that there is a candidate for a congressional seat who is of one political party and his parents are another. His parents said they would not only vote for him, but they have actively, openly endorsed his appointment. Moreover, the candidate says that he has received Jesus Christ as Lord. His parents, he said, are unbelievers and think he has gone mad.
The Lord said that he came to bring the sword.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 ESV).
Friends, families, and neighbors will be divided because of faith and following Jesus Christ. So how is it that he both brings a sword and he is the Prince of Peace?
That young man who is running from office is at peace with God as a Christian. Christ reigns in his life as a peacemaker. This young politician made it very clear in the interview that he loves his parents and is praying for them to yield to God, not politics, to God. Now, this young believer’s stand, quite apart from politics, (his stand for Christ) is truly “peace with a price.” The price is that to gain the peace of Jesus others may pick up the sword against you. Peace is alien to this world. Hostility is the poison weed of the Fall.
I have a friend, an African-American minister from Jackson Mississippi. I used to invite him to come and preach the Word of God at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. This excellent man of God once told of how he used to have a hatred of “white men.” He had suffered much under the Jim Crow laws and the racists’ perpetual torment. At length, this man committed a crime of passion and went to prison. While my friend was incarcerated God graciously saved him as he heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ from another inmate, the Gospel message that he had heard on his mother’s knee as a little boy. My friend repented and received Jesus Christ. Immediately, the peace of God washed over him like a cleansing agent, curing the wounds of hatred, and healing his hardened heart towards others. He spent the rest of his life dedicated to the reconciliation of human beings of different ethnicities.
Whether it is race, sex, geography, generations, complexion, ideas, or any of the other world’s fortresses without bridges, Jesus Christ is undeterred. Christ has assaulted these prisons and leveled them by the power of the cross at Calvary. The Lord has replaced the ruin and ruble of hatred with a broad open sunlit upland field of joyful peace, peace with others.
Do you know this peace with others in your life? I’m not talking about a momentary cease-fire for a holiday, or for Sunday. I’m talking about coming to the God who made you and signing by faith the blood-stained Treaty of peace that storms the gates of your self-constructed citadel of the soul and brings peace with God and peace with others.
Let no one exit the doors of this church building until you have made peace with God. Do not depart until you have made peace with another person in your heart. You may not be able to tell the person. But you can tell God. Do not be the fool who says in his heart, “I have plenty of time for mending those fences later.” But on that very day, his soul is required by the Almighty. Come to Christ now. Make peace by repenting of your sins and receiving the Savior by faith.
It is so true that it is easier to love the world than it is to love your brother-in-law or your next-door neighbor. To love the world requires only talk and perhaps a check written to a missions agency to say that you have obtained peace with people unlike yourself. But genuine peace with others requires peace with God. Only then, can we have peace with others.
The last front that I want to address is that most resistant of battlefields: ourselves. But even on this front, we learn:
Jesus Christ brings peace with self.
The force of all of the passages we have read is this: that the Ephesians have peace among themselves. “Once you were . . .” “but now” is an A/B construction of a sentence that says “the old has passed away; behold all things are new.”
James, the familial brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, says that human beings have a war going on within themselves. James states that those without God are in a perpetual state of war with God and as a result of a war of the worlds within the self. Thus, St. James:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within? You desiring you do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1,2).
My beloved in Christ I have known many people who were at war with themselves. O, to turn the guns of hatred toward oneself. What a horrible thing it is!! And how often I have seen this as a Chaplain caring for Soldiers. Having returned from real war they fight a second war within themselves. So sadly, such cases are not even a case of friendly fire, but rather a case of self-abuse. It is the work of the devil to stir self-hate. It is the work of God to save you from it.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the war of the worlds within your members does not have to go on. You need not take up weapons against self. God has killed the root of the insurgency. He will also purify the branches.
It is possible for you to have peace with God and therefore to have peace with yourself. In Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. Your iniquities are no more. You are free. You are at peace with self.
Yes, there is a war of the worlds much more sinister in real in the radio panic of October 30, 1938. But let me refer to that dramatic presentation just one more time. For we remember the nation, at least those who heard might have panicked but they came together. Communities began to act to protect themselves against what they felt was a “real and present danger.” Within three years, one month, and seven days the nation would have to enter a real war of the worlds; on December 7, 1941. Who knows if this “radio mistake” served as a public service emergency test that fortified our communities, even in the slightest way, for the great challenge on the horizon in the Pacific and Europe. Sounding the alarm then, however unintentional, might just have prepared the nation for strength in times of genuine conflict.
And thus it is with the Church. Alien forces come into the world, and it is called sin and the devil. It has caused men and women to fight with each other, to quarrel with God, and even to be at war with self. But Almighty God shows us in Ephesians 2 that through Jesus Christ the walls of division have come down. Like Jericho’s walls tumbling down, so the walls of division between God and man, human and human, in person against self are but testimonies of Yeshua’s victory. As the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes forward from this place, one person at a time, one family at a time, we may anticipate in further destruction of dividing walls. We may dream with confidence of the new heaven and a new earth where there is no more sea, nothing dividing us:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1 ESV).
The division will be destroyed. Unity will be established. The City of God is the city of joy. For the Prince of Peace rides into and even through the stone-wall barricades of humanity and announces a truce: “repent and believe the Gospel.” And the Gospel, the Good News, is that the Lord of all allowed mega-tons of the deadliest firepower of sin to rain down on the Person of His well-beloved Son. On the cross, Jesus Christ was battered by the war against God, the war against others, and war against self. He did so once and for all. The burden of it crucified Him. But in three days, He rose again victorious. He ascended. And His kingdom of peace is on the march today, one day to climax in His return.
I have been sent here by God to tell you: lay down your weapons. Throw your pride on the ground. Who are you before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who bids you cease fire? Strip yourself of any hidden weapons. Come clean. How? Repent and believe the Gospel. He will cleanse you of the instruments of war and transform the instruments of death into the resources of life:
“And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4 KJV).
The Prince of Peace is calling you to a place there will be no more “war of the worlds;” only a new “world without end. Amen.”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Heavenly Father, Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ came to earth to lay down His precious life as a living bridge spanning the infinite divide between a holy God and a sinful race; so, grant that as we seek to receive Your Word of peace, to increasingly bring our lives under the ruling power of Your life, we might know that peace with God, peace with others, and peace with self that yields joy; and if, O Christ, there is one reading this who does not have that peace with You, may they know that You have come near to them in this Word, You welcome them, and You promise to heal us if we confess our sins and trust in the resurrected and reigning Lord Jesus Christ. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Boice, James Montgomery. Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2006.
Bruce, Frederick F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2007.
Chapell, Bryan. Ephesians. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2009.
Eadie, John. A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998.
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Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary : Exposition of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1996.
Hodge, Charles. Ephesians. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1994.
Hoehner, Harold W. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Baker Academic, 2002.
Hughes, R. Kent. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989.
Schwartz, A. Brad. “The Infamous ‘War of the Worlds’ Radio Broadcast Was a Magnificent Fluke.” Smithsonian. Accessed July 23, 2018. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/infamous-war-worlds-radio-broadcast-was-magnificent-fluke-180955180/.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society. Leicester u.a.: Inter-Varsity Pr., 1986.
Thielman, Frank. Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Books, 2010.
Wells, H. G. The Works of H.G. Wells. Ann Arbor, MI: State Street Press, 2001.
“Excerpt of War of The Worlds – Radio Broadcast 1938 – Bing Video.” Accessed July 23, 2018. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=war+of+worlds+broadcast+1938&view=detail&mid=7ECB2D9CE2431BDE74067ECB2D9CE2431BDE7406&FORM=VIRE.
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 H. G. Wells, The Works of H.G. Wells. (Ann Arbor, MI: State Street Press, 2001).
 I am indebted to these authors considering Ephesians 2:11-22. The Rev. George Barlow, Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 1,2 Thessalonians, vol. No. 28, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001); James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2006); Bryan. Chapell, Ephesians (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2009); John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998);Frank Thielman, Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Books, 2010.