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Ephesians 2:11-22, One in Christ:

  • Just as Ephesians 2:1-10, verses 11-22 begin with bad news! The bad news is our condition apart from God (vv. 11–12). In addition, both portions inform us of God’s intervention (v. 13) which leads to the good news of how God, in Christ, has solved the problem (2:14–18).
  • But then we also have the consequences the solution spelled out in terms of who we are in Christ (2:19–22). And so the point of this chapter is to proclaim the good news of how God has saved us from death and division by His grace.

 

  • 1) The problem of separation, v11-12
  • 2) God’s intervention, v13
  • 3) The solution in Christ, v14-18
  • 4) The result in Christ, v19-22

 

  1. The Problem of Separation: (v11-12)
  • The church is Ephesus was made up of Gentiles, non-Jews. Their identity problem seems to be characterised by 5 elements:
  • 1) They were separated from Christ, 2) excluded from Israel, 3) strangers to God’s promises, 4) hopeless, and 5) godless. And so the first word in verse 11 strongly emphasizes the change that has taken place: ‘therefore’

 

  • Paul reminds them of the old identity, referring it to being “uncircumcised.” This is an important term to be familiar with. In Genesis 17:10-14, God makes a promise with Abraham that he and his offspring will be God’s people. Now, the sign for this promise of being set apart was for the men to be circumcised.
  • This physical characteristic distinguished Jews from Gentiles and identified Jews as God’s chosen people. And so to be “uncircumcised” meant not being part of this privilege. But this isn’t the worst, the worst is being separated from Christ!
  • They were also excluded from citizenship in Israel, foreigners to the covenants of the promise, being left without hope, and being without God in the world (2:12). The Greek uses the word atheoi, plural of atheos (“without God”), from which we get “atheist.” It does not mean that Gentiles do not believe in God or gods so much as that their lives are godless because they are separated from the true God.

 

  • And so their identity was at first outside of God’s grace, being separated from Christ, and having no part of any privilege to take part in.
  1. God’s Intervention: (13)
  • The words, “but now” sets up a contrast between their former existence as Gentiles and their new existence “in Christ Jesus.” This intervention involves “the blood of Christ” which brought the Gentiles near.

 

  • Paul uses the phrase “by the blood of Christ” to designate Christ’s saving activity. This echoes 1:7, where Paul wrote, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
  • This points to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which involved the shedding of His blood to save us! This is how we are brought near from a far.
  • Unfortunately, many in the Word of Faith or charismatic movements refer to the blood of Christ as something we have access to, and if we declare His blood upon something, it is now covered & safe.
  • Christ’s blood was shed once for redemption, it is blasphemous to even think we have any say over His blood – which symbolized the giving of His life (Mark 10:45).

 

  1. The Solution in Christ: (v14-18)
  • And because Christ has given His life, Paul goes on to explain what being brought near involves and how Christ accomplished it:
  • Paul says Christ “himself is our peace… making peace… preaching peace… (2:14, 15, 17). Christ makes peace in that he removes the “hostility” between the Jews and Gentiles (2:14, 17), creating “one new humanity out of the two” (2:15), and reconciling “both of them to God” (2:16), through the Gospel (2:17), granting us access to the Father in one Spirit (2:18).

 

  • We can connect this back to chapter 1:10 as Christ’s peace is to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under” Himself. And according to Ephesians 2:17, Christ came and preached this peace to those who were far away.
  • Now in our specific context, this preaching peace does not refer to the gesture of comfort, it is the good news. Isaiah 52:7–10 uses this same approach where the messenger of God brings “good news” and “proclaim[s] peace.” So here peace is to unit all through the salvation He provides.

 

  • Interestingly, Paul says the Jewish law divided Jews from Gentiles. But not only did the barrier of the law keep Jews distinct from Gentiles, it also fostered hostility between Jews and Gentiles in the Roman world. The Jews looked down on unclean Gentiles for their failure to live according to God’s standards, and Gentiles despised Jews for their peculiar practices that kept them separate from common society.
  • So in Ephesians 2:14–18, Christ made peace between Jews and Gentiles by “setting aside … the law” (2:15). He did this “in his flesh,” which is a reference to his death on the cross (see 2:13). Furthermore in verse 16, Christ sought “to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

 

  • Furthermore, when we are saved by God’s grace (Eph 2:8), we become God’s handiwork created for good works (2:10) and become part of the one new humanity in Christ in which the division between Jew and Gentile has been torn down (2:15).
  • How? By reconciling this united people in one body to God. Verse 18 says we now have access to God the Father in Christ through this same outworking because the sacrifice of Christ opens up the way to the Father.

 

  • So in bringing nearness, Christ forged peace between Gentiles and Jews through His death on the cross, by which he took away the barrier of the law that had divided them.
  • But the peace of Christ is not just the absence of hostility, it is also unifying the two groups, creating one new humanity out of the two and reconciling this unified humanity to God. Therefore, all people now receive peace through Christ as well as have access to God the Father through him and by the Spirit.

 

  1. The Result in Christ: (v19-22)
  • Now there is a result to all of this, and Paul gives us thoughts to consider regarding our new identity:
  • 1) you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people (2:19). These “foreigners and strangers” are by implication Gentiles “excluded from citizenship in Israel” (2:12). And so the former Gentiles now are included as citizens not in the actual nation of Israel but among those who live in God’s kingdom.
  • 2) we are members of his household (2:19). Being members of God’s household is an even more intimate relationship than being a citizen in God’s kingdom.

 

  • 3) we are Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (2:20). Verse 20 moves from a family metaphor to a building metaphor. This building has a foundation, “the apostles and prophets,” and a cornerstone, “Christ Jesus.” But it is a very intimate metaphor as the next verse continues…
  • In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord (2:21). So the building in which God’s people are stones is not yet finished! But God’s people aren’t just parts of any building, we are stones in the growing “holy temple in the Lord” (2:21).

 

  • Paul makes this metaphor personal in verse 22: And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (2:22). “You too” highlights the inclusion of the Gentiles, while assuming that Jews are also part of this building (2:22).
  • But this truth now applies to all stones that are “in [Christ].” Yet, verse 22 is written in the passive “are being built together” suggesting that God is doing the building! So God is present in the community of Christians “by his Spirit”.

 

Conclusion:

  • As we come to the close of Ephesians 2, we hear the story of God’s grace in a new way. Not only has God raised us from death to life, not only has God saved us by grace through faith, not only has God created us anew for good works, but God has also united formerly divided people groups, namely Jews and Gentiles, bringing near those who once were far away and joining all in his kingdom, his family, and his temple.
  • Where we once were without God, now we are not only reconciled to God but are also joined together with the rest of God’s people as a temple, the dwelling of God on earth. The unifying of Jew and Gentile, far from being something extra in God’s plan, is a powerful symbol of the uniting of all things in Christ and a central element in God’s saving work.