College & Career Class Lesson Summary, August 12, 2018

We began class by establishing some necessary background as it will relate to the remainder of chapter 2 and into chapter 3. Paul is laying out how it is that all believers, regardless of Jew or Gentile, have been made ONE in Christ. And, from this, he will then describe what this oneness entails us, together. We wanted to establish this background because a casual reader may not recognize that distinctions between Jews and Gentiles were not only real, but purposeful. This post will be a little longer as it is a conglomerate of part of last week’s lesson with this past Sunday’s lesson.

Genesis 3:15 promises us that there will be a seed of the woman that will have his head bruised by Satan, yet He will crush Satan’s head. This is an implication to not only putting an end to the entity that is Satan, but to his reign – his HEADship (as prince of the power of the air). The rest of the Bible describes God’s workings to bring about this promise.

Genesis 3:15  And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

In Genesis 12, God calls a Gentile out from his people. This was Abram (later to become Abraham). Unto Abram was a promise made that in him would all nations of the earth be blessed. God predicated this promise not upon He and Abram meeting their terms of the deal, for God understood that Abram would play no part in the exacting of this promise. God conditioned the promise to Abram upon Himself. (Read Genesis 15 and 17) This promise became the ‘family blessing’, as it were, and it was necessary to pass it along. Abraham had a son, Ishmael, who was a Hebrew (being of Abraham), yet was not the child of promise. Recall that God had told Abraham that out of the deadness of Sarah’s womb would a child come forth. Abraham believes he can have a child, yet is unsure about Sarah, who was 90 years of age. Abraham has Ishmael with Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, but this wasn’t the way God had foretold. Ishmael, although Abraham’s firstborn, was not the son of promise. Sarah does end up conceiving and she bears Isaac – the son of promise.

It is fascinating to see the typology of Isaac as it relates to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the promised seed of Genesis 3:15 and is the seed blessing of Abraham (according to Paul in Galatians 3:16-17).

Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.  3:17  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

The son of promise, Isaac, comes forth from death (Sarah’s womb) unto life, just as the Son of Promise, Christ, comes forth from death by His resurrection. Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau and God had predetermined that the elder should serve the younger. Jacob was the younger and it was through him that the blessing would continue to pass.

Jacob, who is later changed to Israel, has 12 sons: Joseph, Judah, Benjamin, Levi, Reuben, Simeon, Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, Naphtali, Dan and Gad. Joseph has two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph is sold by his brothers as a slave into Egypt and this is paving the way for Israel’s entrance into Egypt, as slaves. While in Egypt, Joseph earns favor with Pharaoh and is able to bring his family into Egypt. Genesis 46 records that there were 70 souls that came into Egypt.

The sons of Jacob (sans Joseph) and including the son of Joseph, Ephraim, become the 12 tribes of Israel and it is of these tribes that God is going to use their time in Egypt as a national pregnancy of sorts. In Exodus 4:22-23, we find that Israel is called God’s firstborn son (an implication to the firstborn nation of God’s design). Pregnancy has culminates in birth, but prior to birth, the mother usually experiences the pains of labor. These would be the plagues that befell Egypt right before Israel is born. Israel is in Egypt some 400 years and God calls Moses to deliver them out of the bondage they were in.

After their deliverance from Egypt, we know that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years due to their lack of faith that God would deliver them into the land promised to them. During this time, Moses stands up and declares (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) that one day, God will raise up a Prophet like unto Moses. As Moses delivered Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, this Prophet will deliver Israel out of the bondage of their sins. Paul records this in Romans 11:26-27.

Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 18:18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

We are getting more information about this promised seed from Genesis 3:15 – not only do we know the nation this seed will come from, but we also understand that this seed will accomplish a lot more than crushing the head of Satan. God had determined to use the nation of Israel to be the agency by which this promised seed would come to the world and offer the blessing to the world – the blessing promised to Abraham, which is God’s salvation. However, Israel often thought that being God’s chosen nation meant that the universe was to revolve around them.

In Isaiah 60:3, we see that Gentiles are to come to Israel’s light and kings to the brightness of her rising. Israel assumed this was all about them and that the light of Israel was Israel itself. However, we find an interesting account in Luke 2 when Simeon holds the Christ child and declares that Christ is the LIGHT OF THE GENTILES and the GLORY OF ISRAEL. Glory is another word for brightness. Gentiles will come to thy light and kings to the brightness of her rising. The ascendancy of Israel has everything to do with Israel accepting Jesus Christ, who is the LIGHT of the Gentiles and the BRIGHTNESS of Israel’s rising.

Luke 2:25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 2:27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 2:28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,  2:29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 2:30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 2:31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people 2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

(And, note, by the way, that this information was known prior to Calvary. It was no secret that Gentiles would come to Israel’s light (being Christ). It was also no secret that God would join Gentiles unto Himself, with Jews, in union. When we begin Ephesians 2:11 and following, we are going to see Paul describe the mechanics of how this union could be possible. I bring this up as there is a teaching that this union was a mystery in the old testament and not revealed until Paul, but as we will see, it was indeed prophesied in the old testament, but Paul was called to reveal the MECHANICS of this union, which was a mystery).

Israel did not have the advantage because of their heritage or their law or their circumcision, but rather had the advantage because unto them were committed the oracles of God. The spoken message of God, which ultimately is personified in Jesus Christ, was given to Israel to bring to the world. Unfortunately, Israel at large not only rejected Christ as their Messiah, but likewise rejected the notion that they were to be sharing their blessings with Gentiles (i.e. the story of Jonah).  However, despite the nation at large rejecting their purpose, there were still those of faith.  Paul draws on this reality in Romans 11 when citing 1Kings 19 where God revealed that there were 7,000 men who had not bowed unto the image of Baal.  There had always been a small remnant of faith in Israel and God honored their faith even when the nation at large was unfaithful.  This remnant of faith will be key in understanding this union between Jew and Gentile that Paul is going to expound upon in Ephesians 2 and 3.

So, in summary, here is what we need to know when heading into Ephesians 2:11 and following:

Jesus Christ is the promised seed to the world. This promised seed would bring unity and harmony back to mankind. Israel was chosen to dispense the Oracle of God to the world so that the world (and Israel) could share in the immeasurable grace of God. Now, let’s find out how God used Christ to accomplish His purpose for Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are call Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

The phraseology here is important. Paul describes a previous time when IN THE FLESH, these Ephesians were known by a distinction – being uncircumcised (again, IN THE FLESH). This distinguished them from another group of people, who, IN THE FLESH, were circumcised. Paul also draws attention to the fact that those who were circumcised IN THE FLESH were done so by human hands. This is important as when we read in Colossians 2, we see that there is a circumcision NOT MADE with hands and it is not a circumcision IN the flesh, but a circumcision FROM the flesh. Recall in Romans 8 where Paul says that we are NOT IN THE FLESH if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. That’s the key – if the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. So, Paul, speaking of a TIME PAST reality for these Ephesians is describing a fleshly existence that was not distinguished by the Spirit of Christ, but rather by their fleshly human identities.

Ephesians 2:12 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:

In this fleshly existence, as a Gentile, this was true about them:

1. Without Christ
2. Aliens of Israel
3. Strangers from the Covenants of Promise
4. Having no Hope
5. Without God in the World

This isn’t to say that Gentiles were kept away from the promises of God, but that God had called Israel to be the channel by which the Gentiles would be blessed.  Therefore, unless Gentiles responded to Israel’s message, by faith, they would have no hope.  We see some evidence of this throughout the Old Testament.  A quick example is the story of Ruth.  Note Ruth’s conclusion and resolve despite being encouraged to go back to “her country” and “her gods.”

Ruth 1:15  And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.  1:16  And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

For a Gentile to have any hope, they would need to yoke up with Israel, as Ruth did, but it wasn’t Israel that was the focal point – it was ultimately Christ.  As Ruth declared, “Thy God [shall be] my God.”  Israel was simply the door unto everlasting life – beyond the threshold of Israel exists the loving and gracious God who would die for the sins of His creation and restore them back in perfect fellowship (union) with Him.  …a God who would make those of faith to be joint-heirs with His very Son.

As I mentioned above, this union wasn’t a mystery.  The mechanics of how God would do this had yet to be revealed, but, the fact there was to be union between Jew and Gentile is a matter of prophecy.  Speaking of a future day, Israel’s prophet, Isaiah, writes,

Isaiah 56:1  Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.  56:2  Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.  56:3  Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.  56:4  For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;  56:5  Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.  56:6  Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;  56:7  Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.  56:8  The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

Whether it is the outcasts of Israel or whether it is the stranger or Eunuchs (Gentiles), both that are joined unto the Lord will be given a name and a place in the family.  They that choose the things that please God will have this be true about them.  The things that please God ultimately boil down to a root cause – faith.  For, without faith, the book of Hebrews records, it is impossible to please Him.

The rest of Ephesians 2 will demonstrate the mechanics of this union between Jew and Gentile and the ramifications thereof.  It will demonstrate how Jew and Gentile can be brought together into one building unto God.  It will demonstrate how these “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) that applies to both Jews and Gentiles, having come into Christ, or, as Isaiah put it, have joined themselves to the LORD.

Our story continues…