College & Career Class Lesson Summary, August 19, 2018
Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 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: 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Paul reveals that Gentiles in their natural state had no hope, save they respond to the light of Israel. As Christ is the light of Israel, Paul makes it clear that it by Christ Jesus that those who were far off were made nigh, through His blood. “Far off” would be a reference to these Ephesians – Gentiles who had no hope, according to verse 12, yet by the blood of Christ, were made “nigh” to the very things that they were formally distant from. The catalyst to restoring a close proximity is Christ Himself. Gentiles had nothing of themselves to close the gap. Israel likewise had nothing of themselves to close the gap, except that Christ came forth out of Israel. As Peter told the lame man in Acts 3,
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
This is very important because it establishes the reality of our proximity with Christ. Many labor away trying to “get closer” to God, but fail to realize that you are close to God as you’ll ever be. The writer of Hebrews writes,
Hebrews 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
Our drawing nigh unto God is out of the better hope – not the law, but Christ. We drew nigh by faith and God responded to that faith by drawing nigh unto us. But, this isn’t a periodic getting close, for God immersed us into His Son, thereby being nigh to us forever.
Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
We noted that Christ Himself is our peace – that it isn’t just some temporary feeling of relief or solace, but He is the embodiment of peace and by being IN HIM, therefore, we are IN PEACE. Jews and Gentiles had this struggle between them because of their fleshly distinctions. There was a wall that separated them. However, this separation was not the separation that God ultimately had in mind. As we’ll see shortly, there is a “true separation” that God had purposed to exist, but it was not a separation WITHIN those of faith, but a separation OF those of faith.
So, what is this wall? Some might say it is the law. And, I think that is reasonable – the law was certainly a separating concept between Jew and Gentile. Others might say it is circumcision, and I think that is reasonable as well – circumcision was a separating concept between Jew and Gentile (recall from verse 11 above). I wouldn’t say either of these is necessarily incorrect, but perhaps these are both sub-components of this wall. Whatever this wall is, it is symbolic of ALL that kept Jews and Gentiles separated and not at peace. This peace wasn’t to be found in all of the Gentile deities that they worshiped, but was to be found in the only true God, Jesus Christ. It was this separation that Christ rectified by abolishing it in His flesh, through His death. The purpose of this was to establish UNION between these two groups. As verse 15 states, it was to make of twain one new man.
The union of Jew and Gentile, as we saw from the previous post, wasn’t necessarily a mystery (as Isaiah 56 seems to prophecy about it). However, how God would accomplish this and what would therefore come of it was still a matter of revelation (until Paul was called to reveal it). This one new man is the church, which is His body (as discussed at the end of chapter 1). Within the body of Christ, there is only unity. Jews and Gentiles, of faith, leave their fleshly distinctions and join in union, one with another, in Christ, and now abide by a Spiritual distinction, together. Not that this distinguishes Jews and Gentiles of faith from one another, but that they both are now distinguished by the same Spiritual reality and not by their separated physical realities. (As we get into the first part of Ephesians chapter 4, we will see this unity spelled out by Paul as having unanimous application to all in Christ)
Ephesians 2:16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
To reconcile is to restore harmony. It took the death of Christ to slay this struggle between Jew and Gentile. Christ didn’t just push the struggle out of the way, but He slew the struggle – He slew the middle wall of partition. As a side note, some would teach that in time future, the Jews will be put under a “different program” than that of Gentiles, but for this to happen, God would have to effectually resurrect the enmity that His Son slew. If that were to happen, then Christ would have to undo His death, which would mean the resurrection likewise would be reversed – I think you see the problem.
God reconciled both IN ONE BODY and this peace/reconciliation was not only preached those those who were already nigh (Jews of faith), but even to those who were afar off (Gentiles who came into Christ, by faith). Did you note the SAME MESSAGE is being preached to BOTH groups? It is the same message of peace because there is only ONE message of peace, which is Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace Himself.
It is through Christ, that our access to the Father is realized. Jews do not come through their own door while Gentiles must use the back door. Jews and Gentiles do not stand segregated in line. Both have access to the Father, by the same Spirit that Christ has access to the Father with.
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God
Therefore – Paul is drawing a conclusion about this unity of Jews and Gentiles – Therefore, “ye” (these Ephesian Gentiles) are no longer strangers and foreigners (from verse 12), but are now fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God. Those who were nigh to the covenants of God, who were of faith, were already citizens of the nation of God. They were already saints. Paul is expressing the reality of what this unity means – that Gentiles share the exact same status in the nation of God and they exist in Christ as fellowcitizens with the Jews.
Not only do they reside in harmony in their citizenship, but they likewise reside in harmony in their familial ties. God has a household and that household is founded in truth and righteousness; the thermostat is set to the love of God; the door into the house is opened with one key, faith. Gentiles are not in the basement while Jews enjoy the dining room. Likewise, Jews are not the favorite son while the Gentiles keep vying for attention. God looks upon all of faith as equal members of His household and views all as His favorites (beloved).
Paul is going to describe further how this house is fit together as chapter 2 closes. Then, as chapter 3 unfolds, Paul is going to remind the Gentiles that they are the reason his ministry exists. He was called to let the Gentiles know that they no longer have any reason to live in disharmony with the Jews. He is going to recognize that this information may have been kept secret, but now is the appointed time for these Gentiles to understand what is true about the “eternal purpose” of God (Ephesians 3:11).
Our story continues…