Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Ephesians 2:11-2:22 (web)

The Transition into God's Family

From Strangers to Citizens

2:11 Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh,
who are called "uncircumcision" by that which is called "circumcision,"
(in the flesh, made by hands);
2:12 that you were at that time separate from Christ,
alienated from the commonwealth of Israel,
and strangers from the covenants of the promise,
having no hope and without God in the world.
2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ.
2:14 For he is our peace,
who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition,
2:15 having abolished in the flesh the hostility,
the law of commandments contained in ordinances,
that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace;
2:16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross,
having killed the hostility thereby.
2:17 He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near.
2:18 For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners,
but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,
2:20 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone;
2:21 in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
2:22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

Discussion Questions

Observation

  • What are some terms that Paul uses to describe our relationship with God before we became Christians?
  • What are some terms that Paul uses to describe our relationship with God after we became Christians?
  • What evidence of the concept of the "trinity" can be found in this section?
  • Interpretation

  • The main introductory verb of this section is "remember". Why does Paul emphasize to "remember"? What may have they forgotten?
  • Do you think Paul's main emphasis in this section that God reconciled Gentile to Jew or that God reconciled man to God?
  • How do you resolve the contradiction between the peace described here with that in Matt 10:34?
  • Application

  • What is the difference between you and a Jewish believer?
  • Of the terms that Paul used to describe our separation from God before we became Christians, which could you identify with the most?
  • Of the terms that Paul used to describe our condition in this section after we became Christians, which would you identify with the most?
  • What role do you see yourself playing in the body of Christ?


  • Comments

    The previous focus of God's categorization of people as Gentiles or Jews was changed under the New Covenant. Now the focus is "he who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1John 5:12 Before the focus was on the circumstances of one's physical birth. But now the focus would be on the circumstances of one's spiritual rebirth. Before the focus was on the flesh, but now on the spirit. For what God was doing through the Jewish people was only symbolic of what he is doing through the Christians. Gentiles used to be symbolic of non-Christians, dead in sin. But now the reality had come which was replacing the symbolic. Christians are the true Jews, the true people of God, irrespective of the circumstances of their physical birth.

    Likewise in Christ "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:28 While there are issues of role and issues of appropriate behavior, ethnic, racial, and cultural boundaries should not be an issue among the body of Christ. "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." 1Cor 1:10



    Legalized Aliens

    Eph 2:11-13 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

    Today this is not so much an issue in people's minds, but realize that it was very difficult, even for the apostles to accept the idea of Gentile believers being accepted as Christians. Thus in a church with a mix of Jews and Gentiles, the Jews may feel superior just because of their flesh, while the Gentiles made to feel like outsiders. But Paul, a Jew himself, tried to give the sense that we are all in the same family where there are no such distinctions. One's background is irrelevant to one's status in Christ, and should not factor into issues of fellowship.

    This became a major issue as we see in the book of Acts and Galatians.One aspect of this issue is the fact the according to the gospel, religious rituals have no sanctifying value. And this is difficult for many religious people today to accept, even many "Christians".

    "That done in the body by the hands of men". Paul is referring to circumcision, a religious ritual which God instituted, much like water baptism. But regardless of whether a religious ritual has been instituted by God or man, that which is done to the flesh has no sanctifying value. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." John 3:6 While that which is done to the flesh may be symbolic of something spiritual, that which is done to the flesh cannot give spiritual regeneration. Sacrimental theological constructs are contrary to Biblical theology. "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." Gal 6:15  "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain——if indeed it was in vain?" Gal 3:2-4

    Sacrimental theologies have been a basis for institutional elitism and consequently for illegitimate divisions among Christians historically, whether they be the sacramental concepts of Catholicism, like their concept of the sacramental nature of their "Eucharist", or of the heresy of infant baptism practiced by some Protestant denominations. But even more subtely Christians have divided over issues of form over function. All are contrary to the spirit of unity Paul is teaching here. It was through the blood of Christ, and not through a ritual done to the flesh, which brought us all near to God and consequently near to each other.



    Reconciliation of Jew to Gentile

    Eph 2:14,15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace

    "Peace" here is not simply a feeling of tranquility, but rather an ending of hostility between two sides, Jews and Gentiles. But it seems that God had started the hostility to begin with, chosing certain people based on genetics over others. And then having them live by a set of rules and regulations foreign to the other. But he was simply distinguishing actors in a play, who represent those near to him and those far from him. But just as Christ brings peace as an ending of hostility between man and God, so he brings peace between Gentile and Jew, for all those who put their faith in Christ.

    It was the Law of Moses which divided the two, even in very practical ways. The law had symbolic rituals which caused divisions. Just to be safe, Jews would not even eat with Gentiles. Christian fellowship would be impossible between the two unless Gentiles became Jews and came under the Law of Moses. But that was not God's plan in Christianity. Rather, Christ abolished the Law of Moses with its commandments and regulations.

    But what was actually abolished? For surely the Ten Commandments have application even to Christians today. The phrase "commandments and regulations" is more literally "commandments in decrees" or "the regulatory commandments". ("and" is not the conjuction, but "in") The Law of Moses is a set of regulations, or particular applications, based upon general principles. But while the particular regulations found in the written code were nailed to the cross, the spirit of those regulations (which is the general principles upon which they were based) are still applicable to the Christian.

    "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Col 2:13,14
    Here, for example is a particular regulation:
    "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Deut 25:4
    And here is an example as to how it is applied in the Christian life:
    "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?  Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing?  For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest." 1Cor 9:7-10
    It is applied to justify ministering Christians getting paid for doing ministry. Seems quite far from an ox treading grain, but again it is the principle and not the particular regulation which is of concern to the Christian.

    Notice also that Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."Matt 5:17-19

    Jesus then goes on to speak of the general principles of the Law and applying them beyond the particular regulations found in the Law of Moses. For what has not been abolished is the general principles of the Law. Thus the spirit of every regulation in the Law of Moses has application in the Christian life. And Jesus is speaking of keeping the spirit of the Law - even the spirit of every particular commandment. Christians are not bound to keep the particular regulations in the Law of Moses in a literal sense, but rather to infer applications from them. In fact, as Jesus revealed in Matthew 5, to "keep" the particular regulations in a literal sense while violating the principles upon which they are based is to not keep them at all.

    So now, being freed up from the regulations, there is no longer a basis for conflict between Jew and Gentile Christian, as both strive to together to apply the principles of the Law to their lives.



    Reconciled to God

    Eph 2:16-18 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

    Through the cross peace has been established among the community of believers and reconciliation has been accomplished between the believers and God. Thus both horizontal and vertical relationships have been brought to reconciliation. But what role did the cross play in reconciling Jew and Gentile believer?

    Without the cross the only other righteousness available was a performance based one. One had to earn salvation by perfect performance. But if by performance, then there has to be some set of rules and standards by which one can measure their level of performance. That's what the Law of Moses was. It contained a set of particular regulations, like the fruit test with Adam and Eve, through which one could try and attain a performance-based righteousness. But through the cross, Christ opened up a different way to obtain righteousness. One which was based on faith rather than performance.  "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." Rom 3:21,22

    Under the Law one tries to obtain a performance-based righteousness, but under the gospel of grace one has righteousness-based performance. The Christian first becomes righteous through faith and then reveals his righteousness through works of faith. Under grace, one becomes free from the regulations of law, not being subject to the test, and is free to infer and derive applications from the spirit of the law as part of his living of the Christian life.



    Legalized Citizens

    Eph 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household

    It is unfortunate today, due to denominational or institutional pride, that a Christian will go to a church and be treated as a foreigner and not as a fellow member of God's household. Certainly being a Gentile in the early church one might have initially felt like a foreigner. Cornelius was the first Gentile convert. The apostle Peter preached the gospel to him and his household and had them baptized. Yet given the rhetoric of Acts 15 it was unlikely he was allowed to attend the church at Jerusalem, there being so much prejudice against Gentiles. Was he cared for as a fellow citizen and a brother in Christ? Indeed later Paul had to rebuke Peter for treating Gentile Christians with contempt. (Gal 2:11) Likewise today many Christians feel ostracized from Christian fellowship. And indeed many have been, for illegitimate reasons. Does your church treat Christians like members of a common family? Would you treat your family members like you treat fellow Christians? Fellow Christians should have a certain priority in our lives. "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." Gal 6:10

    Likewise with regards to citizenship. Being a citizen comes with it certain rights and privileges. Paul says to the Philippians, "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" Php 3:20 So, of the many possible responses a Christian could legitimately give as to why God should let him into heaven, one is simply that he has his citizenship, he has a heavenly passport stamped with the blood of Christ. All Christians have equal standing in this regards.



    The Foundation

    Eph 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

    By "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" he means the Word of God - the Bible. For it is the Bible that tells us of Jesus, the object of our faith, along with his teachings and promises, and the gospel revealed by Paul, as he writes:

    "At his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior" Titus 1:3
    We also see Jesus speaking of the Word of God as a foundation in the parable of the Wise Man's Foundation.
    But Jesus himself is also viewed as a foundation in 1Cor 3:11"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." But this is the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus declared by the apostles and prophets. For there many who declare a Jesus who is not conformed to the Biblical declaration. Nor is the Word of God without Jesus a complete foundation. For Jesus is the corner stone of the foundation. For cornerstones were used as part of the foundation. (Jer 51:26  No rock will be taken from you for a cornerstone, nor any stone for a foundation, for you will be desolate forever," declares the LORD.)

    Jesus as the chief cornerstone was also mentioned by the prophets.

    Isa 28:16  So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

    Zec 10:4  From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.

    If you take away the cornerstone, the whole house falls down. This symbolically happened to the Jews who took Jesus away, their house was quite literally destroyed in 70 ad, including the temple being torn down"I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." Matt 24:2


    The Lord's Building

    Eph 2:21-22 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

    The Christian community is likened to a building "For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." 1Cor 3:9 And in particular a temple to which people are drawn in their approach to God and in which is prayerful communication with God. Unfortunately post-Biblical Institutional Christianity has characteristically  associated "church" with a physical building. Thus Christians today speak of going to a church rather than thinking of themselves as the church. It is neither the buildings nor the institutions called "churches" which compose God's temple, but rather the community of those who have put their faith in Christ regardless of whether they go to a particular building on a particular day of the week.

    God lives in the believers through the Spirit, who imparts spiritual gifts for the mutual edification of the body of Christ. Everyone is important, not just pastors.


    Application of Eph 2:11-22

    Even today there are divisions based on racial and ethnic backgrounds within the Christian community. There are churches that are almost exclusively Black, White, Chinese or Hispanic and whereas there is some legitimacy in focussing a ministry on a particular peoples group, these can often become not much more than ethnic social clubs. But fortunately the Jew/Gentile conflict had been resolved in the New Testament, so also this resolution has led to  a sense of family unity within the Christian community throughout the world. Thus we reap the benefit of the early Christians going to the cross over this matter.

    The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


    Jul 29,2015