Ephesians:2:11-22,  “God’s Incredible Work In Calling Together All Into One Body

By

Jim Bomkamp

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1.     INTRO:

 

1.1.               In our last study, we looked at verses 4-10 of chapter 2 and we saw how that Paul detailed for us how that God reacted to men in their condition as lost and without hope in this world.  He reached out to them sending His Son to die for them and then infused new resurrection life through Jesus Christ to those who would believe upon Jesus Christ for salvation.

 

1.2.               In our study today, we are going to look at verses 11-22, and we will observe in this study the way in which now Paul begins to detail for us the incredible way in which God through Jesus Christ has worked in bringing down the barriers that exist between people groups.

 

1.2.1.  We will see the incredible miracle God performed in the early church in making all people regardless of race or nationality to be one “in Christ.”

 

2.     VS 2:11-13  - 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— 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. -  Paul tells the Gentiles in Ephesus to remember how that when they as a group were separated from God they were brought near by the blood of Christ

 

2.1.               In chapter 1, Paul told the church in Ephesus of the incredible riches that they possess through God’s grace and simply by being “in Christ.”  In verses 1-3 of chapter 2, Paul detailed very graphically to the Ephesian church what the condition of men apart from Jesus Christ is like.  In verses 4-10 of chapter 2, Paul told the Ephesians how that God in His love, mercy, and grace had regarded sinful men and in response to their sinful condition sent His Son to Calvary so that through Him and His death and resurrection He might infuse new life into those who were the spiritually dead, if they would be willing to believe in Jesus and yield their life to Him.  We talked about the identification that all genuine believers have with Christ.  Now, in this chapter Paul begins to expound upon the incredible work that God has done in the creation of the church and the resultant destroying of all of the barriers in this world that exist between people groups.

 

2.2.               The Jews had been called by God to be a people separated unto Him.  God made a unique covenant or oath between Himself and them stipulating that if they kept and obeyed Him and His Laws as found in the five books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), that He would bless them greatly, dwell among them, protect them from all of their enemies, and be their God.  In calling Israel to be a nation, it was not God’s intention for the Jews to separate themselves from and hate the Gentile nations (a Gentile was any non-Jew).  Actually, God’s intention was that they become a “light to the Gentiles” (see Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).  Things never worked out this way however.  Over time the Israelites instead began to despise the Gentiles and would not have anything to do with them.  A Jew would not even go to a Gentile’s house.  The Lord had commanded the Israelites to build the Court of the Gentiles in the temple so that the Jews could reach out to and win the Gentiles to their faith, however the Jews did no such thing as reach out to the Gentiles.  Several years ago an inscription was dug up at the temple site which the Jews had put up and it read, “Let no Gentile, let no man of the nations, go beyond this wall on pain of death.”  This inscription reveals how far apart God’s and the Jews’ attitudes were towards the Gentiles.  In Jesus’ day the reason why He twice drove out the money changers from the temple was because the Court of the Gentiles had been turned into a place where people had to go to buy animals that were certified for the sacrifices, and the people there were charging exorbitant prices for the animals.  The Gentiles were not able to worship in the temple because their court had been turned into a corrupt marketplace.  The Samaritans of northern Israel in Jesus’ day were half-breed Jews and as a result their religion was intermixed with Judaism.  Because of the inter-mixing, the Jews would have nothing to do with a Samaritan.  It is important to recognize that the Gentiles also despised the Jews in Jesus’ day.

 

2.3.               In the day that Paul wrote this letter, not only did the Jews separate themselves from Gentiles.  There were separations amongst all of the nations.  For instance, Greeks were proud of their culture and education and they considered the people of the other nations to be barbarians.  There were also many hostilities between slave owners and their slaves.

 

2.4.                  On this earth it has always been the case that because of our sinful nature as a fallen race that we are a divided people.  People groups are divided along the lines of race, nationality, culture, gender, and religion. 

 

2.4.1.  Race.

 

2.4.1.1.      I grew up in America not too many years after WWII.  That was a war that people in America believed was one of good against evil.  The Germans under Adolph Hitler planned on destroying from the earth every non-Arian person to make a superior race.  Thus, the Germans had gone about exterminating millions of Jews.  The thought of the genocide of races of people and such hatred as the Nazis had rallied the hearts and minds of people in America together to fight against the Germans.  However, as I was growing up I soon realized that we in America had our own racial hatreds also.  The Civil Rights Movement next began and I was astounded at how many white people hated blacks, and visa versa.  But then, I discovered that black and white people often didn’t get along with Mexican people or Asians either.  America was full of racial divisions. 

 

2.4.1.2.      Every race of people has tended to think of themselves as being superior, and thus race divides people. 

 

2.4.2.  Nationality.

 

2.4.2.1.        We in America tend to think of ourselves as superior to all of the other nations, after all we are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We tend to see ourselves as being the world’s police and try to make all people agree with our ideologies and principles.

 

2.4.2.2.      When I spent some time in Japan I discovered that the Japanese see their nation as superior.  The Koreans see their nation as superior.  In fact, every nation has tended to think of themselves as being superior, and thus nationality divides people.

 

2.4.3.  Culture.

 

2.4.3.1.        Even within countries and states there are differences among people based upon culture.  Cultures tend to think of themselves as being superior and all other cultures as barbarian and thus culture divides people.

 

2.4.4.  Gender.

 

2.4.4.1.      Prior to the emergence of Christianity, women were viewed as been second rate citizens, mere possessions of men, and not being of an equal status.  Even among the Jews in Jesus’ day, women were not viewed the same as men.  Gender has divided people. 

 

2.4.5.  Religion.

 

2.4.5.1.      Religious exclusivism has divided people throughout history.  All religions tend to think of themselves as having the inside track and being right whereas all others are wrong.  There has been much division that has occurred even within the church that Jesus’ established, and in spite of the fact that Jesus’ prayer for His people recorded in John chapter 19 was that “they they all might be one.”

 

2.4.5.2.      Examples of “Religious Exclusivism” :

 

2.4.5.2.1.           Muslims do not recognize Jews as God's chosen people. 

 

2.4.5.2.2.           Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 

 

2.4.5.2.3.           Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian World. 

 

2.4.5.2.4.           The Catholic church doesn’t recognize other denominations. 

 

2.4.5.2.5.           The Anglican/Episcopal church does not recognize the laying on of hands of other denominations. 

 

2.4.5.2.6.           The Church Of Christ does not recognize others as Christians. 

 

2.4.5.2.7.           Baptists don’t recognize each other at Hooters.    

 

2.5.               Paul reminds the Ephesians of an incredible truth here, one that they really were already aware of, however, he wanted them to consider closely what it really means.  He reminds them of the incredible miracle that God had performed in the early church in bringing together as one body Jews and Gentiles, people of every nation, race, gender, and previous religious background.  In the churches that were planted in the three missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts, we see how God put together into one body people from all kinds of backgrounds.  God had called all of these people in these churches together “in Christ” and they had been serving and worshipping the Lord side by side with one heart and one mind, regardless of major differences among them.

 

2.6.               On this earth, the only place where all of the walls that divide people are brought down is in a Christian church that believes the Bible and preaches the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, of  His death on Calvary for the sins of mankind and His resurrection.  Sadly, not every church experiences this lack of division, however any church that makes Jesus its head and honors and obeys His word will experience the bringing down of every barrier that exists between men.  The bond that people have “in Christ” is so great that all other things that normally cause divisions among people are not great enough to bring divisions.

 

2.7.               The early church was slow to accept Gentiles into the faith. 

 

2.7.1.  In the book of Acts, we see in chapter 10 how that Peter was at first reluctant to go to a Gentile’s house but God intervened in his life through a vision in which he saw a bunch of unclean animals which God told him to kill and eat.  Peter eventually understood that this vision was to teach that now that the church had been inaugurated that Gentiles were not to be considered to be unclean but were to be won to faith in Christ and embraced as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Peter went to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, and the whole Gentile household came to saving faith in Christ.

 

2.7.2.   You would have thought that this experience of Peter’s would have settled the case and the church would have accepted Gentiles into the faith with open arms, however this didn’t occur.  We find that in Galatians chapter verse 11-14 that when Peter came to Antioch that initially he had been eating and fellowshipping with the Gentile believers in the church.  However, when some Jews came to him he separated himself and wouldn’t eat with the Gentile believers any more.  For separating himself like this and being a hypocrite in the process, Paul tells us there in those verses that he opposed Peter to his face.

 

2.8.               Paul uses some sarcasm here when he calls the Jews, ‘the so-called circumcision.’  Circumcision was instituted by the Lord for Israel as being that thing that would be similar to baptism in the New Testament, an outward symbol for an inward act.  If a man was circumcised that was supposed to show that he really did take God seriously and honor the Old Testament covenant.  However, the Jews had tended to look at everything in their religion as being merely external.  They thought that if a man was circumcised that he was one of God’s chosen people and “good to go” to heaven, so to speak.  However, the reality was that if a person’s heart wasn’t right with God and if he wasn’t obeying the Lord and His laws then the external circumcision of flesh didn’t make any difference.  External observances of the Law only were never enough.  God has always only recognized the remnant of His people whose religion is not all external observances but is sincere and of the heart.  Jesus vehemently condemned the Jewish leaders for their religion being only external and it is for this very reason that they murdered Him.

 

2.9.               Paul recounts for the Gentile believers in the Ephesian church how that at one time they had been separated from God but now had been brought near to Him through Jesus Christ, saying that they had been:

 

2.9.1.  Separate from Christ.’

 

2.9.1.1.      Prior to coming to faith in Christ for salvation the Gentiles had not had the hope of the Messiah that those who were true Jews had. 

 

2.9.2.  Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.’

 

2.9.2.1.      The nation of Israel had been called of God and had great privileges as being the called and chosen as God’s people.  However, to be considered one of God’s people your religious experience must not have been merely in external observances.

 

2.9.2.2.      In many of the churches and denominations across the world there is still today a reliance upon external observances only.  Many who were baptized as infants in the Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches believe that because they had this external rite performed upon them that they are God’s people, however their hearts are not converted and they are not saved and walking in fellowship with God.  Many believe that mere membership in a church guarantees them a place in heaven, however this is not the case if they are not saved and their’s is not a religion of the heart, and, if they are not abiding in Jesus Christ and His word (see John 15).  Even today, external observances do not guarantee that a “so called Christian” is saved and going to heaven.

 

2.9.3.  Strangers to the covenants of promise.’

 

2.9.3.1.      The Gentiles who were not Jewish proselytes never shared in God’s oaths or covenants which He made to Israel.  See Gen. 12, for instance.  

 

2.9.4.  Having no hope.’

 

2.9.4.1.      This is the sad state of all who have not come to saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  They have ‘no hope’ beyond this life. 

 

2.9.4.2.      Hope for the Christian is “confident expectation,” as we have discussed previously in this study of Ephesians, and we as Christians are blessed above all peoples because of the hope that we have “in Christ.”  God has given us many promises in His word and we can depend upon each and every one of these. 

 

2.9.4.3.      I do not know how people in this world can live who do not have the hope that we as Christian have “in Christ.”

 

2.9.5.  Without God in the world.  

 

2.9.5.1.      This is the most tragic statement that could be made about someone, that they are ‘without God.’  Since coming to Christ I have always wondered how people were able to live in this life who do not have God in their life.  To have to face every difficulty in life ‘without God’ would at times be unbearable. 

 

2.9.5.2.      It is always a great comfort for us who are Christians to be able to look to and turn over things to God in prayer.

 

2.10.          The incredible miracle that has occurred in every saved Gentile’s life is that though they were ‘afar off’ from God that through Jesus Christ and His blood they have been ‘brought near’ to God.  God has done this in their lives through their believing in the gospel message and turning their lives over to God.

 

2.11.          What we are talking about here in regards to the Gentiles being brought near to God is “access to God.”  When a person comes to be a Christian by faith in Jesus, though he once had been separated from God because of his sin (this is what sin does, it separates us from God), that now he has access to God.  Isaiah 59:1-2 describes the fact that our sins separate us from the Lord, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save.  Neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” 

 

2.12.          Notice that Paul tells us the means by which the Gentiles who had come to saving faith in Jesus Christ had been brought near to God, having gained access to God.  It was by ‘the blood of Christ.’  There is no coming near to God by any other means than ‘the blood of Christ.’  Though many today think the idea of blood is repulsive and outdated, Christianity in its essence is “a religion of blood.”  It was the power of the blood of the One who was 100% God and 100% man, and never sinned, which has the miraculous ability to cover and make atonement for mankind’s sins.  It is only by the blood of Christ that any person can know God and be saved.

 

2.12.1.  In Heb. 9:22, the author of that book writes that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

 

2.12.2.  So that we might forever remember that it was His body broken for us and His blood shed for us that has enabled us to come to salvation, Jesus instituted the remembrance of Him in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  Forever, the church is to bring to mind Jesus’ body being broken and His blood being shed.

 

2.12.3.  It is not man’s works, man’s efforts, man’s repentance, man’s will power to say no to sin, etc., that brings him to God.  It is ‘the blood of Christ’ alone that has the power to bring men near to God.

 

3.     VS 2:14-17  - 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 contained 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. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; -  Paul tells the Ephesians how that through the cross and the preaching of the gospel that the barriers and dividing walls that separated Jew and Gentile were broken down.

 

3.1.               Paul tells us that Jesus Christ ‘Himself’ is our ‘peace,’ the One who ‘broke down the dividing wall.’  This is something that the Lord has done, it is not a work of man.

 

3.2.               There is no peace for the wicked wrote Isaiah (Is. 48:22), and it is only when men and women come to have peace with God that they then end up coming to have peace with each other.  Paul wrote in Rom. 5:1-2 about the peace we have with God when we come to saving faith in Christ, “1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”  When we have peace with God we can have peace with men.

 

3.3.               There was one major separation of mankind that Paul and the Ephesians experienced on a daily basis, this was the separation which was based upon whether one lived under the Law of Moses or not.  Jesus took that separation away.  Paul tells us here that the way in which Jesus Christ broke down the dividing wall between people was by ‘abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances.’  Paul is saying that when Jesus Christ died upon the cross that the Old Covenant was abrogated by God and that it was the keeping of the Old Covenant by the Jews that brought about separation. 

 

3.4.               Jesus did not ‘abolish’ the “Moral Law” which consists in the Ten Commandments, rather it was the “Ceremonial Law” that He abolished.  This “Ceremonial Law” separated Jew from Gentile based upon the keeping of all of the ceremonial regulations regarding a person’s life.

 

3.5.               This atoning death of Jesus Christ upon Calvary’s cross was also the institution of a New Covenant and it caused the abolishing of the Old Covenant under Moses.   The fact that the Old Covenant was abolished when Jesus died upon Calvary is testified to by God when the veil of the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was torn into when Jesus breathed His last.  The veil in the temple had been established because under the Old Covenant people could not come into God’s presence because Jesus had not yet died on the cross.  After Jesus died upon the cross access to God was now open to all through Jesus Christ.

 

3.6.               Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings out in his commentaries how that the church today errors by trying to work towards bringing unity amongst different peoples by focusing upon that unity instead of by the preaching of the gospel.  It is the preaching of the gospel that will bring about any unity that mankind will have with one another.  When preaching the gospel is the focus men and women are brought into unity in the church, for this is a by-product.

 

4.     VS 2:18-19  - 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, -  Paul tells the Ephesians that through Jesus Christ we both (Jew and Gentile) now have access to God and are of God’s household

 

4.1.               Again, we see that Paul is referring to one who is saved as coming to have ‘access’ to God.  This is what salvation does, it gives people access to God through Jesus Christ.

 

4.2.               The ‘access’ that a true believer has to God through Jesus Christ is ‘access’ that comes to him ‘in one Spirit.’  This indicates that the Holy Spirit makes no division among men and that all races, nationalities, and cultures of people may come to the Lord on the exact same terms for God is not a respecter of persons.

 

4.3.               Paul tells the Ephesians that though they once were ‘strangers and aliens’ to God and the covenant promises given by God that now through Jesus Christ that they are ‘fellow citizens with the saints’ and that they also are ‘of God’s household.’  God is building a kingdom and He is also building a house for Himself.  All true believers in Christ are equally part of that building, they are part of God’s own ‘household.’

 

5.     VS 2:20-22  - 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.” -  Paul tells the Ephesians that the church is built upon Jesus Christ, the corner stone, and is being built into a holy temple in the Lord just as each one is a dwelling of God in the Spirit

 

5.1.               Paul elaborates for us here what the ‘foundation’ of our Christian experience is built upon.  He says that Christ Jesus is the ‘corner stone and that the ‘apostles and prophets’ in the early church built that foundation. 

 

5.2.               Ironside’s argument that these are New Testament prophets in the church that are mentioned here is a good one because the prophets follow the apostles in the order recited by Paul. 

 

5.3.               It was not the apostles and prophets themselves that are the foundation of the church, rather it is the foundation that they laid for the church that is the key.  Good foundations are a major key to good structural designs.  Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 3:10-11 that Jesus Christ is the foundation that has been laid for the church and thus every other foundation must be rejected, “10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.  But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

 

5.4.               Paul mentions here the fact that God is creating a ‘building’ here through the people that He has called out to Himself, or the church.  Just as God once worked through the called out people of Israel He is now working through the called out people of the church.  He is making of us a gigantic ‘temple in the Lord.’

 

5.5.               Each of us are a ‘dwelling of God in the Spirit’ and together we are being built up into a gigantic dwelling of God.

 

5.6.               Paul wrote to the Galatians in Gal. 3:10-11, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

6.     CONCLUSIONS:

 

6.1.      Lets put aside any prejudices that we may have against any race, nationality, gender, culture, or religion.  God loves all people groups equally therefore we must never make distinctions based upon these external things.  Jonah is the most famous bigot of the scriptures and he initially refused to preach the gospel to the Ninevites because he was afraid that they might repent and he knew that God was a loving and compassionate God and would forgive them if they did.  He was swallowed by a fish and stayed there for three days because of refusing to preach the gospel out of bigotry.  Lets never refuse to reach out to any people because of race, nationality, gender, culture, etc.

 

6.2.      Lets pray for the Lord to help us to reach out to diverse people groups with the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What a great testimony it is to the world when people see all different types of people gathered together and in unity simply because they are “in Christ.”

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