Epistle to the Ephesians
Identity, Intimacy, and Influence
Introduction – In this Session, we will complete Ephesians chapter 2 and explore verses 11-22. In these verses Paul deals with the one of the most damaging divisions in the Early Church, which revolved around the identity of Gentile believers in Jesus as compared to Jewish believers in Jesus. We have the New Testament books of Galatians, Romans, Hebrews and Acts which are written to address the objections that Gentiles could be the people of God.
a) In verse 11, Paul begins to deal with the first division in the early Apostolic Church era, which was a division that revolved around Messianic Jews seeing Messianic Gentiles as a separate people, or as “saved” but inferior believers in Messiah, which created a type of spiritual elitism in the Acts Era Church. The Epistles of Galatians, Ephesians, Romans, and the Acts narrative all dealt with this deep division that caused Messianic Jews to even question the status of Gentile salvation and acceptance to God.
b) Paul mentions “circumcision” in verse 11 because circumcision was the sign of being in Covenant with God. Paul’s mention of circumcision really highlights the accusation of the spirit of religion that was operating in the early church era. One of the attacks from the spirit of religion is that there are spiritually elite people who God favors more than others because of who they are. In this case, Jews were considering themselves as spiritually elite compared to Gentiles who were believers in Jesus. This movement known as the Judaizers eventually ended up as the what church historians call the Ebionite heresy.
c) Let’s look at some Scriptures that give us more understanding: 1 Cor. 12:13 – For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Galatians 2:12 – For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. Romans 2:29 – No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
d) Paul is addressing the division in the Early Church between Jews and Gentiles and emphasizing the supremacy of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant and contrasting the grace of the blood of Christ over the written Law of the Old Covenant. The summary of the division revolves around: who are the Covenant people of God?
a) Paul is encouraging the Gentile believers to be thankful and grateful for God’s
plan in choosing Israel as the people from which the Messiah would come. See Revelation 12:5.
b) By implication in verse 12, Paul clearly includes Gentiles that have received Jesus as Messiah that they are indeed part of Israel and are accepted into the Covenant promises of God.
c) Without the knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior, all people are separated from a relationship with God. God could never leave a humanity that was made in His image, without the promise of Savior. See John 3:16-17 and Romans 1:2123.
d) When we have no hope in Jesus, we have no light, no peace, no spiritual blessings, no covering, and no access to relationship with God.
a) In the context of the culture, verse 13 is play on words. Paul being a classically trained Rabbi in his former life as a Pharisee who was a spiritual son of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), was using the idiom for a Rabbi making a convert. The common term for making a convert to Judaism was, “to bring near”. Greek – en-gü’s – near, of place and position, those who are near access to God, The Rabbis used the term “to make nigh” as equivalent to “to make a proselyte” – #G1451.
b) Paul is unequivocally saying that it is not a Gentile’s Jewish conversion to the Old Covenant which makes a person near to God, or gives one access to God, but it is the blood of Jesus, and faith in Him which makes one near to God in the New Covenant. John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
a) In verses 14-22, Paul begins to draw on the symbolism of Temple in Jerusalem, and shows the Ephesians that the symbolism in the Temple points to a greater spiritual reality in Jesus Christ. We should consider that at the time Paul is writing this Epistle to the Ephesian Church, the Temple in Jerusalem is still standing. This helps us see just how controversial and radical the message of Jesus Christ was in that time of redemption history, as God phased out the Old Covenant and exalted the New Covenant. Whatever we see in the Old Covenant, we see the fullness of those things in New Covenant revelation.
b) Paul mentions the barrier/dividing wall in verse 14. The barrier or the dividing wall is a reference to the court of the Gentiles/Nations that physically separated the two groups. Citizens of Israel, or Covenant Sons, could come closer to the Lord than Gentiles in the Temple of Jerusalem.
c) Paul presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Matthew 5:17-18 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Jesus, the Living Word/Torah was a perfect Law-Keeper, and that made Jesus the acceptable perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
d) Jesus gives us peace. Paul draws on the Jewish understanding of peace/shalom,
which is understood as holistic peace that encompasses every area of our lives, beginning with peace with God, peace within ourselves, peace in our relationships with others, peace in our nation.
e) Notice that the Scripture says, “one new humanity” Greek – kī-no’s ä’n-thrō-pos – new/unprecedented humanity, including male and female. It is important for us to understand that the people of God are those who have believed and received the truth about the promise of Messiah, His sacrifice on a cross and resurrection form the dead, and are in the experiential knowledge God through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
f) Notice the Trinitarian concepts woven throughout these verses. The Father is separated from humanity because of sin, the Son does the work of salvation by His death on a cross, the Spirit opens the access to experience the relationship with the Father/Godhead.
a) Paul continues to build Christ-esteem in the hearts of the people in the Ephesian Church by encouraging them in the truth that all believers in Messiah are the people of God. Paul uses Jewish descriptive language and applies it directly to the Church, I.E. “citizens, members of his household”.
a) The foundation of Christianity is built on the whole foundation of the redemptive history of God. The reference in the text to the prophets is a reference to the Old Testament prophets and the Word of God which came through them.
b) The reference to the Apostles are two-fold. 1 – Paul is referencing the Apostles like himself, Peter, James, John and others who were writing New Covenant Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 2 – Paul is referencing the original 11 faithful Apostles Philip, Andrew, etc. who were preaching the gospel that they received from Jesus. See 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Peter 3:16.
c) We should clearly understand that the foundation of the Church has already been built and that there is no more authoritative Scripture being written and no new revelation that would change the essential orthodoxy of the Church. d
) There are Apostles and Prophets today, however they do not hold the same authority as the eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ, and the New Testament Scripture writers like Paul, Peter, and John. The Apostles and Prophets today are Apostles and Prophets in terms of function.
e) Notice Jesus is the center, the chief cornerstone. This is a cultural play on words drawing from the construction of authoritative buildings in the First Century. Buildings like these would have a capstone inscribed with the name of ruling king on them. In ancient Greek architecture, the capstone was thought of as more important than the foundation.
a) Paul continues to present the New Covenant revelation that the Temple in Jerusalem was prophetic foreshadow of the greater reality in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:16 – Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 1 Peter 2:5 – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
b) In the Church, we see the following spiritual realities; The Church is honored because it is the temple of God, the Church of Jesus should be reverenced because God dwells in it, the Church should be unmovable because Jesus is its foundation, the Church is beautiful because it is graced with living stones of every era, who are creatives, scientists, educators, families, ministers, business leaders, and government officials. The Church is enormous and glorious because it inhabits the globe, the Church is alive because it lives by the Holy Spirit.
Summary – The theological debate that we wrestle with today in Evangelical Christianity is the question; Does God have two distinct people of God (the Jews) or 1 distinct people of God (believers in Jesus/Church? I would propose that God only has 1 distinct people of God, the collective Church based on Ephesians 2, and many other New Testament Scriptures.
1 – Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant, and all previous Covenants either prophesied Jesus or were fulfilled in Jesus. See Matthew 5:17-18, and 2 Corinthians 1:20 – For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 – All of the promises of God were conditional to Israel, and God did indeed fulfill all of His Words to Israel. 1 Kings 8:56 – “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. Joshua 21:45 – Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 23:14 – “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.
3 – The prophets prophesied a New Covenant that would supersede the Old Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 – “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.