“11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22)
We’re in our fourth message on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Last week we covered the differences between the old life of sin separated from God and new life in Christ where salvation is accepted by faith. Today’s message is called Reconciled.
Building on the previous section (Eph 2:1-10) Paul elaborates on the former condition of the Gentiles. (Gentiles are those people not of the lineage of the Jews.) It’s important to note that Jews often shunned and excluded Gentiles calling them “the uncircumcised,” This was a significant insult, not a term of endearment. Though circumcision was an outward sign, and the Jews placed too much emphasis on the physical symbolism, nonetheless the Gentiles were not in a good place spiritually.
The Israelites were God’s chosen people and part of the covenantal relationship with him dating back thousands of years to Abraham. They had the Old Testament scriptures and the expectation of a coming Messiah. The Gentiles were far away as they had no connecting points with God and no expectation of a Messiah.
“But now” In Christ the Gentiles have been brought near by the blood of Christ. What an amazing turn around! Those on the outside are brought in. Those far away are brought near. Those excluded, are included. This is what God does. The lonely, the downtrodden, the outsiders, are given hope!
Paul now addresses the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. There were major cultural, racial and ethnic issues dividing the Jews and the Gentiles. These were two groups of people that did not get along. Though formerly hostile, now Jews and Gentiles are united in Christ. It’s hard to overemphasize how big of a deal this is. It would be like lifelong sworn enemies suddenly becoming business partners. The key is Christ. He is the necessary peace and the only possible bridge. He has destroyed the barrier between Jew and Gentile. “In contrast to ethnic Israel—all descended from Abraham—the body of Christ is not ethnically or racially delimited. It has no “Jewish” boundary markers that demarcate the insiders from the outsiders. The Jews needed to hear this well: there are no privileged races in the family of God—and many of us also need to hear this message clearly today.”
Today though we rarely speak of Gentiles, there are many human based dividing lines between different races and groups of people. Through the cross, reconciliation is possible. People can be reconciled with God and with each other. The dividing lines are thrown down. We need to understand that in Christ there is peace and reconciliation between even mutually hostile groups. How foolish and sinful that we would exclude one another on the basis of race, culture or skin colour. In Christ each person is part of the family.
Paul also addresses the issue of the Old Testament law, which was a major sticking point between Jews and Gentiles (See Acts 15:19-21). Through Christ, the law is set aside. This is not to say the moral law of God is set aside, but rather the Jewish law of sacrifices, diet, and regulations is fulfilled in Christ and no longer necessary. Again, those things that formerly divided are removed. There are no longer clean and unclean foods or people. (See Acts 10) Through Christ, both groups have equal status and equal access to God the Father.
In verse 19 Paul begins to wrap up the section as he employs a few different metaphors to explain the Gentile’s new situation and indeed the situation of every person who is redeemed in Christ.
“Citizens” – they have joined God’s people with the full rights of citizens.
In Roman times, citizenship was a big deal. Roman citizenship was reserved for those who were born into it or became rich or powerful enough to buy their way in. Many people living in Roman ruled areas were not Roman citizens. In Christ, every single person is a citizen with full rights and privileges! There are no exclusions, second-class citizens or foreigners
“Members of God’s household” – not just visitors, but members of God’s immediate family, part of the intimate relationship of the Trinity.
“Building” The Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the building and with Jesus as the cornerstone, the building rises and becomes a holy temple. In a very real sense, the body of Christ, Jew and Gentile, are together the dwelling place of God. The body of Christ replaces the Jewish temple as the dwelling place of God on earth. Finally, the sense here is of a building currently under construction. We “are being built” into this house, this dwelling place, this holy temple. As people live life in Christ, believers are continually being crafted and shaped together towards maturity by life in Christ.
Summary and take aways
- In Christ, mutually hostile groups of people are reconciled and brought into unity.
- Those who were outside, far away, alienated, are now members of God’s household.
- You are invited in. Accept Christ and you are part of the family, a full citizen. There are no rights denied to you. You cannot buy or earn them. They are given.
- Life is a work in progress. Eugene Peterson (writer of the message) says “I don’t want to be so impatient with the mess that I am not around to see the miracle being formed.”
- Struggling to find peace? Struggling to find reconciliation? Look to Christ. The gospel message is one of peace and reconciliation
 Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 75). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 77). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Barker and Kohlenberger III eds, Expositors Bible Commentary Abridged Edition: New Testament, 1994, pg 761
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1999 pg 1046
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1999 pg 1048
 Eugene Peterson. The Pastor. HarperCollins New York, 2011 Pg 285