Lesson 6: Ephesians Study 2:11-18
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 at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise , without hope and without God in the world.
I dont like to think about the way I used to be, but I must remember. This chapter 2, started out by telling us we were once dead in sin and trespasses, following the course of the world and led by none other than the devil. But God, Who is rich in mercy and His Great love for us made us alive in Christ. He called us forth from the dead as surely as He called Lazarus forth.
Now we are reminded of what else we were separated from, excluded from and without when we were without Christ.
Lets look carefully at this section of scripture for in it we will find not only the cause of all our problems but the cause of all problems in the world. You say- oh you can tell us the root cause of all problems? Not me- the Word of God can tell us. The root cause of all our problems is sin. Harmony in our lives and in the world can only be produced by Holiness. That is why we are commanded to be Holy, as God is Holy. No holiness- no harmony. Know God- Know Peace. No God- No Peace. Therefore the only solution for our problems and the problems of the world is the removal of sin. That is why the Lord Jesus- God in Flesh is called, rightfully so, The Prince of Peace. For only He can remove our sins and blot out our iniquities creating Holiness and making harmony through reconciliation possible
Paul points out that Gentiles ( all non-Jews) are called the uncircumcised by those Jews who call themselves the circumcised. But notice Paul tells us this circumcision is done by human hands of men- a ritual done on Jewish male babies. A ritual that God had given to the nation of Israel as a sign of distinction and a seal to the covenant with Abraham
God sovereignly chose the Jews to be His special people. God chose the Jews not only to receive His special blessings but also to be a channel of those blessings to others. From the very beginning it was Gods plan that through Abraham and his descendants, the Jews, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. ( Genesis 12:3)
It is interesting to note that Abrahams journey begins as does all our spiritual journeys with God coming into our lives with an invitation to join Him. Abraham was uncircumcised and a pagan just like you and I were. There is a revelation that calls for a response, just as it was in Abrahams life. It is call of separation, a call that one must go out, not knowing where they are going- the journey of faith. And like Abraham- we also make detours and stops because our old nature loves and longs for the familiar and the known- not the unfamiliar and the unknown. Habits long in developing must be replaced by new habits. We must not be conformed by the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds.
The circumcision, as Abraham was instructed by God to perform in Genesis 17, was both a seal and a sign. True circumcision is the circumcision of the heart. Circumcision was a picture of the cutting away of the flesh- the old nature. It is also significant that this cutting away of the flesh was the foreskin of the male sex organ. Human beings are sexual beings. Much of the sin today, as it was in Pauls day and in Abrahams day was sexual sin. Sexual immorality was rampant in the day of the flood, in Sodom and Gomorrah and in Pauls day- the Romans and the Greeks were involved in every kind of sexual sin. And today we are a society and a world where sexual immorality is the norm.
God was also making His chosen people, the Jews, a peculiar, distinctive people. Israel was a chosen vessel through whom the knowledge of God would be spread into the world. The Lord Jesus could not have been clearer than in His instructions before ascension known as the Great Commission. He said go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Make disciples of all the nations. In both Jersualem, Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth. ( Matt 28 & Acts 1) These statements are really reinforcing statements of how God intended to make Israel a blessing to all the nations.
For this purpose, God made the Jews distinct. God wanted the world to see His people were different and did not live and act like other men. Also God wanted them to remain distinct and not be immersed through intermarriage into other races and religions and lose their distinction. Thus God gave them strict dietary, clothing, marriage, ceremonial and other laws so that they would not easily fit into another society. These distinctions were intended to be tools for witness. They were given Gods protection, His special blessings, the law and His covenants, the priesthood, and the sacrificial system. But unfortunately, Israel perverted these distinctions and they became a source of pride and self glory that isolated them from the world instead. I wonder if we as Christians are as guilty as the Jews in the pride of our position and relationship with God?
As a result of a persons lost condition we are told the following things are true of unbelievers: separated from Christ; excluded from citizenship in Israel; foreigners to the covenants of the promise; and without hope and without God in this world. I cannot think of or describe a more dire condition that is described here. Lets look at each of these conditions we formerly suffered from and that unbelievers still suffer from. In doing so we will see that nothing has really changed except technology- for mankinds nature is still the same. In fact, he is not getting better he is getting worse.
THE WAY WE WERE
Because we were separated from Christ, we were separated from the source of true light, of a Savior who could redeem us from our sins. Like civilizations and societies from the beginning of time, we created gods of our own. Gods that met our desires and were to our liking for all humans have a desire to worship something. Mankind made up its own gods, its own golden calves- its temples of Diana. We all develop a form of religion that excuses our sinfulness rather than condemns our sinfulness. What it really did was reflect our fleshly desires We did not know the truth and like Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4- you worship what you do not know.. Unfortunately in Pauls day and at the time of this writing, the Jews had become prideful of their condition and rather than using what God had given them to witness and draw the Gentiles into the nation of Israel- they had perverted these gifts into a form of pride, isolation and self-glory. The story of Jonah reflects the hatred the Jewish people had for Gentiles and their refusal to witness to them.
What does it mean to be excluded from citizenship of Israel? First remember- Israel was a theocracy. God had made them into a nation of which He was Lord and King. God gave Israel His covenant promises and protection. Remember what Rahab the Harlot told the Israelites she hid in Canaan? She said they had heard of the mighty deeds their God had done in destroying the Egyptian army and they greatly feared the God of the nation of Israel. To be excluded from this nation- to be denied citizenship implies we are not under Gods protection nor are we heirs to the covenants and promises. But this was not Gods plan- His plan was to include everyone who would come being drawn to the Him by the citizens of Israel, the Jews (who since Gods covenant with Abraham) were to be a blessing to all the nations on the earth.
If one is not a citizen of the United States of America, they do not receive all of the blessings and rights that are guaranteed to us as citizens. Many have come to our country over the last centuries, drawn to a land of opportunity that was obviously blessed by Our God, the God of Heaven and Earth. God blessed the nation of Israel, provided and protected them and did so for one reason- to make Israel a vessel through which the knowledge of God would be spread to all the nations. His plan has not changed, but Israel was shelved for the time being- the time being, a time known as the time of the Gentiles. But God has not finished with the nation of Israel and in the Tribulation- God will raise up 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will finally fulfill the Great Commission. If God who we are told does not change and is the same today as He was yesterday- shelved the nation of Israel because they embraced other gods and turned from the True and Living God and became a compromised nation- what would one conclude God would do to a nation that once pledged allegiance to God an proclaimed itself to be one nation under God? Can we not conclude the He would act the same and are we now witnessing this occurring in our country today. A country referred to by our own president- as no longer a Christian nation. God deals with individuals and He deals with nations the same today as He has done in the past.
Becoming a Jew was not what God intended. Becoming a child of God is what God desired. Paul tells us: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond or free there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ. And if you be Christs then you are a seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise.
However, if you are not in Christ, you are excluded from the promises and the covenant and you are without hope- for you are without God. This section of Scripture builds like a crescendo- like a giant wave forming and then crashing to shorefirst- No Christ, No citizenship in the kingdom of God, no covenants, no promises, no God- and when you are without God one is without hope in the world. What a devastating place to be- in the world without hope. Hopeless and helpless. No wonder people do drugs and drink themselves into a stupor or try and find anything that will temporarily distract them from this emptiness within.
But now in Christ starts the next section of scripture that contains a remarkable passage as the Apostle Paul gives us the way of peace. It was Paul that told us in Romans 3:17: the way of peace they have not known. Now lets look at this passage: But now in Christ you(Gentiles) who were once far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For He is our Peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2: 13-18)
Peace is obviously the subject of this passage. First we see that Christ is the origin of peace. He is called in Isaiah, the Prince of Peace. He is our peace. In fact we see the biblical definition of what true peace is- oneness. It is not just the absence of conflict- it means you are one- you are united. The enemy sows seeds of discord and strife to cause division among family members and in the church and in nations.
Christ is our peace and true peace is oneness and it is Christ Jesus who makes peace between individuals or nations. His peace is satisfying and His peace is lasting. Any other method is simply a band aid- it is not a healing for only the Prince of Peace can bring true peace. But this is our promise- He is our peace. Once we have settled that fact in our hearts and once we have come to a place of neutrality- that is not trying to place blame on one party or the other then Christ Jesus , for whom nothing is impossible, can bring peace and can bring the solutions and remedies to work out the problem.
Here is the process as Paul lays it our for us in the three steps that must take place for one to experience oneness, which is the key to peace.
- The Lord has to break down the dividing wall of hostility.
- This allows Him to create in Himself one new man in place of two to bring peace.
- Then the Lord Jesus can reconcile us both to God in one body through cross, bringing the hostility to an end.
Paul could point to a physical wall in the temple, a wall approximately 3-4 feet high that ran through the court of the temple dividing it into two sections, separating and segregating the Gentiles from the Jews. There was a Court of Gentiles where the Gentiles could enter the temple area and a Court of Jews where only Jews were permitted to enter. There was sign which warned anyone who was not a Jew that dared to enter the court of the Jews would be executed.
What wall of hostility has been built between you and another? Only Jesus can abolish these walls and He has done so we are told by tearing down these walls in His flesh. You see it was the law that created the wall between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews thought they were better than the Gentiles because they kept the law or thought they did. The Gentiles hated the Jews because they thought they were superior to them because they had been given the law- but they saw and dealt with them in the world and saw their self righteous hypocrisy. (Self righteousness, selfishness is quite often the culprit in hostility.) So what did Jesus do- He did away with the law. When He did away with the law- the Lord Jesus put the Jew and Gentile on the same level- both needed grace, both needed forgiveness. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. The Prince of Peace removed that which caused the hostility.
There is a story in John 8 about a woman caught in the act of adultery. She was brought before Jesus with this accusation by a group of self righteous Pharisees. The Law under the theocracy of God was this woman was to be stoned to death. So the question was put before Jesus that according to the Law of Moses this woman was to be stoned to death- what was his opinion- what did he have to say?
Jesus stooped and wrote on the ground ( we do not know what he wrote)- but then he made this statement: he who is without sin- cast the first stone. And they all left one by one. You see, when Jesus brought the would-be judges under the same law- he put them in the same situation, exposing their hypocrisy. They realized they were guilty also and deserved punishment but wanted mercy. Jesus had with one statement and perhaps what he had written on the ground, removed the wall of hostility.
The second step after tearing down the wall that separated and created hostility was to create in Himself one new person where there had been two. Creating something out of nothing- creating something that did not exist before is the sole realm of Almighty God. Only God can make a new man- Only God can create a new unity which did not exist before. When I became a Christian, my wife began to notice I was different. She would later tell people she had a new husband. Even though we were already married and loved each other- our relationship became different. A new relationship which had not existed before, now existed- we were one, truly, in Christ. Would disagreements arise? Of course they did and will. But because we are one in Christ, we have access to the peace provided by the Prince of Peace. He has given us both His peace so we can deal with the walls that want to form.
The third step in the process we are told is: reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross. This reconciliation with God, this peace with God is the ultimate peace. When we view ourselves before Holy God, the self righteousness falls away. When we stand before Him, we realize that all have sinned and come short of the glory and whereas, one might think his or her sins less than anothers sins and thus view themselves as superior- when we stand before God we realize how sinful we are. After all, we are told we will stand before God and that our salvation and forgiveness has not been earned- for it is not of works lest any man should boast. We have nothing to be proud of that we have done in the flesh.
How can one experience this peace and lay hold of it in a real way. We are told two steps are necessary:
- He came and preached peace .Jesus came in the person of Paul to preach peace. When we preach and teach the message of reconciliation with God and thus peace with God the only thing left to the hearer is to believe or not believe. To accept or reject. Only then can the wall of hostility be torn down and only then can we be reconciled one with another for we are reconciled with God when we believe.
- This is the highlight in verse 18: For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. As believers, you and I can come before Him- God. In fact we have all of the trinity here in this verse- brought by the Son, to have access by One Spirit ( the Holy Spirit) to God the Father. You and I can experience a personal relationship with God. We can call Him, Father, because He has adopted us. We can begin a life now we could not experience before- it is called the abundant life. Jesus said that is what He came to give us. He invites us to come unto Him, all who are weary and heavy laden, all who thirst and hunger. He will supply our needs. He longs to bless us. We can bring all our cares and cast them upon Him. He wants us to unload our daily pressures, problems of our life on Him. He wants us to tell Him about our day, about our desires, about our concerns- for what concerns us , concerns Him. If God is for us who can be against us?
Now Paul finishes this section telling us what has occurred since we believed. We became fellow citizens with Gods people and members of Gods household ( family) ; as well as part of a building(the church) which is the dwelling place of God in spirit.
Before we believed we were strangers and aliens or foreigners. A stranger is different from a foreigner. A stranger is someone who is not familiar with his surroundings. They have no knowledge, they are ignorant. If I am walking down a street in a strange town and someone ask me directions- I tell them I do not know because I am a stranger in this town. A foreigner is different. A foreigner may have knowledge of his surroundings, may be familiar but they are not citizens of this country and thus are excluded from certain rights and protection. A citizen has certain rights and protection but they are also under authority which they must obey or face consequences.
There are only two kingdoms of which one can hold citizenship- the kingdom of darkness controlled by the devil or the kingdom of light the kingdom of God controlled by God Almighty.. Interesting when one becomes a citizen in our country, they must learn the history of our country, the laws and also the language. In fact they must pass a citizenship test. The same is true when we become citizens of heaven- we need to learn about the history of our new kingdom and the laws, the promises, the protections and the power of our new kingdom. If there was a citizenship test for heaven based on our knowledge could you pass?
We are also told we are becoming a part of a structure, a building- the holy temple of God of which we are living stones. And we are shaped and being shaped to fit in a certain way. The cornerstone of this building is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I wonder how are you enjoying living in this Kingdom of God? Are you experiencing the relationship as a member of Gods family?
Are you experiencing this kind of life that comes from this close, loving relationship with the Trinity?
This is eternal life, Jesus said, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom that has sent. ( John 17:3)