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Ephesians Lesson 4: 2.11-22

SSL 4 - Eph. 2:11-22

LAST WEEK:   In Eph. 2:1-10, we heard Paul continue to describe the significance of Christ's work.  The lesson contained three main segments:  (1) vv. 1-3 focus on fallen man and his hopeless condition (i.e., dead) as a result of his sin, with the truth that in our fallen condition, we were enslaved by our own fleshy desires and under the control of a world dominated by Satan; (2) vv. 4-6 focused on God and on His mercy and grace in making provision for man's salvation in Christ, with the truth that God's mercy is not prompted by our potential or by any qualities we think we possess, but by our own pathetic condition; and (3) vv. 7-10 focused on the purpose of salvation and to the praise of the glory of His grace, with the truth that The primary purpose of God sending His Son to die in our place was not to bring about the happiness of the sinner, saved by grace (which it does), but to demon-strate His grace for all eternity.  Taken together, they spelled out the very essence of the Gospel.

THIS WEEK:   As we know from Acts 13-28, Paul traveled extensively on three missionary journeys during which many, many Gentiles were converted, with the result that the membership of the church over time shifted from being predominately Jewish to predominantly Gentile.  The tensions that existed between Jew and Gentile in the early church continued as Gentiles assumed a larger role.   In today's text, Eph. 2:11-22, Paul explains how those who are saved, by grace through faith have become part of a single family.  Prior to the coming of Jesus, the Jewish people typically considered Gentiles to be unclean and inferior.  Paul counters this bias with an explanation of how the gospel extends hope, promise, and a relationship with God to Jews and Gentiles alike.

Read Eph 2:11-12 - REMEMBER

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumci-sion" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands- 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

v. 11:  "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands"  - Before they can fully appreciate what God has done for them, these Gentiles needed to  "remember" where they came from and who they were.  The word for "Gentiles"  (GK. ethnos) means a nation or a race, but in NT usage generally refers to non-Jews.  The word "flesh" (Gk. sarx), which denotes all things carnal, is used here as a contrast between that which is spiritual and that which is worldly.  The terms "Uncircumcision" relate to Gentiles and "Circumcision" to Jews.  As we know from Acts 15:2-35, the Jerusalem Council determined that the church did not require circumcision as a condition of membership.  When Paul says "performed in the flesh by human hands," he's saying that circumcision, apart from true spiritual commitment, is a work of our hands rather than God's hands, and thus of no spiritual significance.  The point is that it's possible to go through the spiritual motions without making a spiritual commitment, like people who baptize their babies without making any commitment for follow-up or people getting married in a church ceremony with no commitment to Christ or the church.

v. 12:  "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the common-wealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" -   In this verse, Paul outlines four ways in which these Gentiles had been deficient:  (1) They were "separate from Christ" because, unlike Jews, they were unconnected to the one who made salvation possible.  (2) They were "excluded from the commonwealth of Israel," that is, not part of God's historical people.  (3) They were "strangers to the covenants of promise," that is, never under God's OT redemption and promises by His oath-bound covenants-Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic.  The phrase, "having no hope and without God in the world," was the bottom line:  These Gentiles had been without hope-without God-alone and adrift in the world-worshipping an unknown God rather than the Creator, the Living God, and the Loving Father.  In short, they were headed nowhere.

TRUTH 1:  Although our pre-Christian past is something we might like to blot out of our minds, Paul tell us to remember when we were separate from Christ.  We were like the Ephesian Gentiles Paul was speaking to:  people without hope, without God, alone and adrift in the word, and worshiping something or someone other than our Creator, the Living God, and the Loving Father.  If we "remember," we will not only be humbled and amazed (I am) but reminded afresh of the great wonder of God's saving grace.  Why did He choose ME or YOU?  Does it amaze you?            

Read Eph. 2:13 - ONCE FAR OFF, NOW BROUGHT NEAR

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  - This short verse is the key-the turning point.  These Gentiles were once far off, but Christ has brought them near.  They lived "far off" (i.e., in  darkness), but the "blood of Christ" has washed away their sins, brought them forgiveness, made them holy, and given them the rights and privileges associated with citizenship in the kingdom of God.  By being "brought near" (i.e., to the light), they now have access to God, and the old division of all people into two classifications, Jew and Gentiles or Jew and Greeks, has been transcended by a new body in Christ-the church. 

Read Eph. 2: 14-17 - CHRIST IS OUR PEACE, WHO MADE US ONE

14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15  by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contain-ed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR;

v. 14:  "For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" - The word "peace" (Gk. eiréné) has its roots in the Heb. shalom and appears nearly 100 times in the NT.  It refers to an inner peace, a well-being that is derived from a deep and abiding relationship with God, and is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:22.  Christ is the source of this eiréné and "has made both groups into one."  Christ has brought together people from both sides-the words Jew and Gentiles having no significance-and they have become one in Christ. When Paul says Christ "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall," it literally means the dividing wall of hostility between people. This brings to mind the wall of the Temple of Jerusalem that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple.  Signs on the wall warned Gentiles they were barred from entry into the Temple upon penalty of death.  But once Jesus completed His work, there was no longer a need for a wall in the Temple.  Jesus became the Temple, and there was no room in His heart to separate Jews from Gentiles.  People sometimes construct 'walls' in their minds and hearts-i.e., "them versus us"-but God want us to bring down the walls that divide us.

v. 15:  "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace" -The word "abolishing" (Gk. katargeó) literally means to make something inoperative.  Paul is saying, in effect, that the purpose of "the Law," which contained many commandments that separated Israel from other nations, has been completed.  While God's moral standards (i.e., the 10 Commandments, etc.) expressed in OT Law are not removed by the coming of Christ (Mt. 5:17; Rom. 3:31; 7:12), Paul is specifically referring here to the application of certain "commandments" and "ordinances" pertain-ing to Jewish religious ceremonies (i.e., circumcision, sacrificial system, etc.) and dietary regulations that are now without any purpose.  The point he makes is that the Law no longer separates Jews and Gentiles from one another, and instead, shifts the believer's focus to a common salvation in Jesus, which makes us one family and one body.  The end result of this change is "establishing peace" that transforms Jews and Gentiles into one group under the lordship of Christ-the church.

v. 16:  "and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity" - The term "might reconcile" (Gk. apokatallax─ô) literally means bringing together that which is broken apart.  Like repairing a broken bowl or vase, assembling all the pieces back into one whole object can be tedious and difficult.  On the human level, reconciliation involves a change in relationships from broken to whole.  God accomplished the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles through the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His cross became the instrument that "put to death the enmity [or hostility]" that existed between them.

v. 17:  "AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR" - In this verse, Paul ties-in a Messianic prophecy from Isa. 57:19 to illustrate the fact that Christ, as Messiah, "CAME AND PREACHED PEACE" to make the Good News of salvation freely available both to "YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY" (i.e., Gentiles) and "THOSE WHEO WERE NEAR" (i.e., Jews).

TRUTH 3:  According to Paul, the purpose of the Law, which contained many commandments that separated Israel from other nations, has been completed.  The Law no longer separates Jews and Gentiles from one another, and instead, shifts the believer's focus to a common salvation in Jesus, which makes us one family and one body.  The end result of this change is "establishing peace" (v. 15) that transforms Jews and Gentiles into one group under the lordship of Christ-the church.   God accomplished the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles through the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His cross became the instrument that "put to death the hostility" that existed between them" (v. 16).

Read Eph. 2:18 - THROUGH CHRIST WE HAVE ACCESS

18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. - The word "access" (Gk.prosagógé) lit. to come near, in normal Greek usage meant access to a king or very important personage, someone like our President.  It's used two other places in the NT (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 3:12), and in each instance signifies access to God the Father, to the very throne of God.  Contrast this to OT times when the priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:2-34).  Notice the Triune aspect of this access:  (1) Jesus-"through Him"(2) Holy Spirit-"in one Spirit"; and (3) God the Father-"to  the Father."  And also notice the words "we both," which means this access is given to Jew and Gentile alike.  So, if God makes no distinction, why should we?   

Read Eph. 2:19-22 - ONCE STRANGERS-NOW CITIZENS     

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

v. 19:  "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household" - In this verse, Paul outlines two things these Gentiles are not and two things they are:  (1) no longer "strangers" and "aliens."  The word for strangers (Gk. xenoi), from which we get the word xenophobia, described people of different cultures, values, and who worship-ed strange gods.  The word alien (Gk. pároikos) described a foreigner or traveler passing through who had no rights or privileges of citizenship. (2) But now, they are "fellow citizens" and belong to "God's household."  "Fellow citizens" (Gk. sumpolités), share the same rights and privileges of citizenship "with the saints" (Gk. hagios), which means they are a people set apart by God.  While the term saint came to be used for canonized sainthood, the NT uses it generally to refer to ordinary Christians, like me and you.  Being included in "God's Household" uses familial imagery to say that they now belong to an extended family of God that includes all believing Christians. 

v. 20:  "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone" - The word "foundation" (Gk. themeli┼Ź) lit. like one a structure is built on. Any builder will tell you that if you get the foundation right, the rest of the house will be stable.  In this case, the household of God has as its foundation the "apostles and prophets."  The prophets came first as God's spokespersons, often delivering an unpopular message and being persecuted or killed for it.  Then Jesus was sent by the Father (Mk. 9:37), and He chose the apostles to continue His work.  "Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone."  Architecturally, the cornerstone is the critical stone in the corner of the foundation that ensures that the rest of the building is square and true. 

v. 21:  "in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord" - In the OT, the Tabernacle, initially, and later the Temple were the sacred places where Jews came to worship God and where the High Priest annually invoked atonement of Israel's sins.  With His resurrection and ascension, Christ forms the new Temple-one not made with hands like the old Temple-and no physical Temple is required.   The "whole building, being fitted together" is a metaphor for the dynamic growth of the church and all of its individual members.  And it's still under construction and won't be complete until Christ comes again. 

v. 22:  "in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" - Just as God once dwelled on the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, God now dwells in each of us individually, in each congregation corporately, and in the entire church as a whole. 

TRUTH 3:  With the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the church was born.  With His resurrection and ascension, Christ forms the new Temple-one not made with hands like the old Temple-and no physical Temple is required.   The expression, "the whole building, being fitted together" (v. 21), is a metaphor for the dynamic growth of the church and all of its individual members.  And it's still under construction and won't be complete until Christ comes again.