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. (ESV)
Jesus died to create a unified church, where Jews and Gentiles are equal members of the New Covenant.
I pointed out in my post on Ephesians 2:1-10 that the whole second chapter of Ephesians focuses on who we as believers used to be, who we are, and on who accomplished that transformation. But verses 1-10 focus on the fact that our salvation is a gift of grace, while verses 11-22 focus on the fact that our salvation is an accomplishment of unity.
Before I show you the beauty of what verses 11-22 proclaim, notice that verses 11-22 are an Inference of verses 1-10. God saved you to reveal his glory to you forever, so that no-one can boast, and so that you will do good works (v. 1-10); therefore, remember where you were and where God has brought you.
The main point of verses 11-13 is in verse 13: Through Christ’s blood, God has brought believing Gentiles near to him. Even though Gentiles who are in Christ through faith used to be far away from God’s covenants and from Israel, yet now we are near to him!
The main point of verses 14-18 is in verse 14: Christ has accomplished peace between Jews and Gentiles. How did Jesus do that? “In his flesh”—on the cross, through his death and his fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, bringing it to an end, wrapping it up in his person.
Within verses 14-18, the emphasis is in verse 16-17, showing that the result of Jews and Gentiles being made one body, with no distinctions between them, was the purpose behind the death of Christ.
The main point of verses 19-22 is in verse 19c-d: Believing Gentiles are now equal members with believing Jews in God’s covenant people.
And in a Bilateral relationship, the emphasis is on the outer two sections. And within those sections, the emphasis lies in verses 13 and 19b-c.
Therefore, here is what these 12 verses are saying: Because Christ died and fulfilled the Law, Gentiles and Jews are equal members of God’s covenant people. Another way to say this is that saved Jews and Gentiles are together God’s New Covenant temple—the church! Or we could say that believing people of every race make up the true Israel in Christ.
How should we apply this? I want to hear your thoughts, so please comment below with applications or critiques of my arc!
Thanks Brent. This is a very helpful passage. How should we apply this? Three thoughts to start with: (1) In our interaction with other believers, our confidence must be based on our shared status and hope in Jesus. That is, we must not approach these relationships with any sense of superiority or inferiority based on, for example, nationality or ethnicity. We are members of God’s household, enjoying peace with God and other believers, on the merit of Christ alone. (2) Gentiles (like me) who have trusted in Jesus and so now have access to the Father once did not. We are called to remember our previous alienation and its utter hopelessness. In remembering, we are reminded of the tremendous privilege of membership in God’s household - we must not take this for granted or neglect it. (3) The purpose of Christ’s work on the cross was to bring peace with God; to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God. Our actions and attitudes towards other believers should be characterised by great humility.
@Rob-Elphick Those are great applications, Rob. Your first and third both relate to Christ’s work and our hope in his work, and are external, while your second is internal. If we as believers really had the truths of this passage soaked deeply into our souls and so acted rightly externally because our internal attitude had changed, the problem of racism would fade away. So would interpersonal conflicts within the church!