Main Text: Ephesians 2:11-22
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The book of Ephesians is stretching us. Last week we learned how sinful we are. We are born spiritually dead. There is nothing we can do to fix ourselves or bring ourselves back into a relationship with God. When we want to steer straight we can’t because we are bent and warped. We are much more sinful than we thought we were.
Today’s text tells us that Jesus not only brings us back into relationship with God, but also restores our broken relationships with one another. Like “before and after” diet pictures, Paul talks about what we were before Christ and tells us the reality of our lives now that we have become a part of His people.
Before we were in Christ
Humans have a long history of putting themselves and others into identity groups that cause divisions, prejudices, wars, and even genocide. This comes from sin. One of the ugliest divisions in the ancient world was the hatred that existed between Jews and Gentiles. While God’s intent for Israel was for it to be a light to the nations, in practice, it wasn’t happening. Jews were taught that God created the Gentiles to fuel the fires of hell. That is serious arrogance and neighbor hatred. The Jewish law didn’t allow a Jew to aid a Gentile woman in giving birth. That would be helping to bring another heathen into the world. If a Jew and a Gentile were married, a funeral was conducted for the Jew and he or she was treated as if he or she were dead. The Jews were extremely arrogant when it came to their standing with God. They despised everyone else.
In verse 11, Paul tells the new Gentile (non-Jewish) believers to remember that they were formally called, “the uncircumcision”. This was a condescending term and stirred up hatred. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant for the Jews. Calling people the uncircumcision was a way of saying “You are an outsider. You are a reject. You are bound for hell. No matter how much you love God, you are not part of his people.” Verse 12 laid out the plight of the Gentiles even clearer:
You were separated from Christ. All of us are born separated from Christ. If you lived any significant part of your life without Christ, you know how dramatically He has changed you. Do you remember:
- The hopelessness of not being forgiven?
- The loneliness without His presence and ability to pray?
- Living in fear?
- The emptiness of associating your identity with your income, possessions, and accomplishments?
- The darkness in your heart?
You were alienated from Israel. Paul is asking them to remember what it was like when you were not a part of a community of God’s people. You didn’t have people to pray with you, encourage you, and worship with. When we are in Christ, we have this incredible community called the Church – it is a family.
You were strangers to God’s promises. God’s relationship with us is always defined by a covenant. A covenant is a promise. It is a promise that God will always be there. God did this with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He entered into a covenant with them. He promised King David that one of his descendants would rule Israel forever, that is Jesus. God kept his promises!
All of God’s covenants are summed up in Jesus. He is the ultimate promise of God. Think about God’s promises to us in Jesus and imagine living without them.
You were without hope. Remember when you were hopeless. That is harsh, but it is true. Apart from Jesus and what God has done for us through him, everyone’s future is hopeless. Before Jesus, life was hopeless. Apart from God, there is no hope in this world.
You were without God. You may wonder if this is true. Is it true that everyone outside of Jesus is apart from God? What about all the other religions of the world? What about all the good people who do not profess Christ? The Bible is clear that apart from Jesus, people are without God.
In Christ, everything changed
We have been brought near, and our relationship with God is restored (verse 13). Paul is emphasizing then and now. We were hopeless and Godless. We were separated from God and his people, but Jesus changed all this. How did we get close to God? We didn’t. Through Jesus, God got close to us and joined us to his people. How did Jesus do this? He did this by His blood.
He has become our peace and made us His family (verse 14). Jesus not only brought us back into a relationship with God, He also brought us back into a relationship with one another. Jesus is the only one who makes peace between all the warring factions in this world. He is the one who brings peace between the Republicans and the Democrats. He brings peace between blacks, whites and Latinos. He brings peace between the rich and the poor. Jesus is the one who ends all the hostilities between people not by taking their differences away but by giving them an identity that is bigger than their differences.
When God connects us to Himself through Jesus, He automatically connects us to one another through Christ. Paul tells us that through Christ, the wall that separates Gentiles from being a part of God’s people is obliterated. There are no in-groups or out-groups. There is only one group – those who love Jesus. Christ trumps every division!
We have become one in Christ (verse 15). Christ’s work not only abolished the wall that kept Gentiles from worshipping with God’s people, He also abolished Old Testament law that separated the Jews from everyone else. This may seem in contradiction to Matthew 5:17. However, some laws were abolished like civil laws and ceremonial laws while moral laws are timeless and in tact. God’s plan is not to make Gentiles into Jews nor Jews into Gentiles. His plan through Christ makes a whole new people who follow His Son Jesus Christ. The diversity of Christians is to include people from every nation. Jesus that joins us is bigger than anything that divides us – Christ is our common denominator (Ephesians 2:16-18).
Welcome to the family
Last week’s text, Ephesians 2:4-6, emphasizes the togetherness of our salvation. It is no accident that Paul uses “us” frequently in these verses:
- loved us
- made us alive together with Christ
- raised us up
Today, we often mistakenly see Christianity as primarily individualistic. There is a corporate side to the Christian faith. The Church of Jesus brings people together – Jesus restores relationship. We are knit to Jesus and each other.
God’s purpose is always closeness of relationship. Sin produces separation and isolation. Jesus produces closeness and intimacy. He does this in marriage. God’s purpose in marriage is to thrill us with intimacy. He created us for it. He also wants to thrill us with secure close relationships within the church.
The church is a family; eliminate the thought of outsiders (verse 19). We must go beyond friendliness and embrace those that are different than us in the church: young and old, rich and poor, conservatives and liberals, the highly churched and the unchurched, and so on. Eat together, play together, treat and love them like family.
The church is a family; don’t treat it like a business (verse 19). Families share chores and pitch in. Families will have a crisis when a few are doing all the work and the rest are freeloading. When you visit a business you judge it by how well it serves you and meets your needs – you don’t pitch in, help, or take responsibility. This is not how you treat family. In a family everyone needs to play their role to make the family run smoothly. Family means that everyone pitches in. Christ is glorified when we all serve one another and care for each other. Red Mountain is not a business where you try to get as much as you can for as little work and as cheap as possible.
The church where people are treated like family is a church where God’s Spirit dwells (verses 20-22). Everyone wants to go to a church that is alive. You can feel the energy in the room. The way people care for you and look you in the eye makes you want to come back. Paul is emphasizing the truth that when people grasp how big of a deal it is to be brought back to God through Jesus, and how God restores our relationships with each other, when we start treating one another like family because of Jesus, that’s when the Holy Spirit does His work. The church isn’t a building or a service; it is a family in Christ. Jesus trumps anything that tears us apart.
We are one In Christ!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 2:11-22
As you read this section, in what ways does it parallel or elaborate on verses 1-10?
What similar patterns do you see between the passage for this week and last week’s passage?
Take a moment to reflect on the dynamic that Paul was speaking to in this letter. In this section, he is saying that God’s People are being redefined. Prior to this, God’s People was the nation of Israel. However, now we see that God is including every nation, language, tribe, people, etc., into his family through Christ. How is God’s People redefined in this section of Scripture? Did this redefinition come without conflict? Explain.
Household of God
What does it mean that ‘strangers and aliens’ are now ‘fellow citizens and members of the household of God’? Does this type of Kingdom inclusivism have any bearing on other areas of your life?
Jesus’ family fled to Egypt and were by definition, an undocumented alien family living within the hospitality of the nation of Egypt according to Matthew 2:13-15. How are you hospitable to strangers and aliens? How do you view yourself at one time a stranger and alien, but now a fellow citizen?
When Paul speaks of this ‘foundation of the apostles and prophets’, what do you think of? What is Paul speaking to in this section? How is the Church’s grounding in the Word of God of utter importance to maintain health, unity and love?
Without the cornerstone, the building will fall and Paul shares that the cornerstone of this building is Christ himself. Relate this to four arenas of your life:
- The Church
- Your Family
- The Local Church