In the Week 4 lesson of Ephesians, our scripture focus was Ephesians 2:11-22. Paul writes to encourage and to confirm to these Gentile believers their status in God’s household. He points out what they were formerly without Jesus Christ and also what they are after they received Jesus Christ. Our lesson directed us to mark several key words, list the major points of the passage, and then sketch out a pictorial depiction of these verses.
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands – remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:11,12
From this text, we learn that these Gentile [non-Jewish] believers were formerly separated from Christ, excluded and alienated from being a part of Israel, having no hope, and were without God in the world. They were also called uncircumcised and strangers to the covenants of promise.
Circumcision was the sign of a covenant made with Abraham. God promised to Abraham that He would be their God, and Abraham and his descendants would be His people.(Genesis 15,17) Jews used the term, uncircumcised, as an insult. They were expressing their belief that the Gentiles had no part in their covenant with God.
In the past, God’s people did not always follow His ways as they promised instead they followed the ways of other nations. This disobedience to God led to their exile from the land. But while in captivity, the people received messages of hope from God through the prophets.
“‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” Jeremiah 31:31-34
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26,27
These passages reveal God’s promise and plan of restoration. His Spirit would be in them and a new covenant would be written and circumcised on their hearts. In the New Testament, Jesus’ body and blood become the fulfillment of the New Covenant and bring Jew and Gentile believers near to God. These Gentiles believers, as we read in Ephesians 1:13, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit as are all who believe the message of salvation found in Jesus.
During the days of Jesus and Paul, a barrier made of marble stood between the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of Women in front of the Temple with notices warning of death if a Gentile crossed over into the Temple area. This barrier was a physical depiction of the spiritual separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus’ death on the cross put an end to the barrier of legalism and an end to the privileged access to God. (Hebrews 10:19-23) Now all believers are reconciled and are being built into a spiritual house, a dwelling for God made of Jew and Gentile.
“For He Himself is our peace who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, … for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Ephesians 2:14,15,18,19
Ephesians 2:15 states that “He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,“. The Greek word for new in this passage doesn’t mean new in terms of time but in quality. To make something that didn’t exist previously. We’re not being made into new Jews or new Gentiles but into Christians.
As members of God’s household, we are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22) The apostles and prophets laid the foundation for this dwelling with Jesus as the chief cornerstone. He is able to bring near all who confess and believe in Him. To the praise of His glory!
Begin the Week 5 Lesson.