Ephesians– overview of 2:11-13; The near and the far – God brings peace to the world.

Class Outline:

Tuesday June 11, 2019

EPH 2:11-13: The near and the far - God brings peace to the world.


The concept of the church as the body of Christ, and individual Christians members of it, was bound up in the understanding of Paul as the Christian experience “in Christ” - an existence in which social, racial, and other barriers with in the human family were done away with. Amon those barriers none was so important in Paul’s eyes as that between Jew and Gentile. If before his conversion he looked upon it as one that had to be maintained at all costs, after his conversion he devoted himself to demolishing it.


EPH 2:11 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 — 


The outward mark of the Gentile commonwealth was uncircumcision.


EPH 2:12 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.


EPH 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.


The difference between the Gentile world and the Jewish world was great indeed. As Paul writes in vv. 1-3, the difference wasn’t measured in sin - both Jew and Gentile “lived in the lust of the flesh and of the mind.” The difference wasn’t in the number of saved, which could not be objectively calculated.


The Jews possessed the revelation from God while the Gentiles did not. Whether the Jews believed it and lived by it was another matter.


The Jews had the patriarchs, the covenants, the Law, and the Messiah.


ROM 9:4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,


ROM 9:5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.


The Jewish world possessed the revelation of God’s morality and His salvation, though so many of them did not mix it with faith. The Gentile world could not boast of any such possession. They possessed only pagan gods, faces of demons, filled with lies.


That doesn’t mean that the gospel of salvation in Yavah Elohim wasn’t brought to them. It’s just that in most cases, we don’t exactly know how God did so.


PSA 96:4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

He is to be feared above all gods.


PSA 96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,

But the Lord made the heavens.


Their world was godless, hopeless, and Christless, but when the church began, that all changed.


Again, we must realize that the gospel has always been brought to the Gentile world, though we do not know how God did so in many cases. God’ gives us examples in the OT of a few Gentiles who came to believe in Him and know Him. Yet, any believing Gentile living in the ages of the OT, would have had to become a member of the community of Israel, which provision was given for, if he was to know the prophets, writings, and covenants.


So, imagine a saved Gentile, like Melchizedek for instance, who possesses no written Law from God, no prophetic writings, and cannot claim to be a recipient of a covenant made to the Jews. He can claim that he is blessed by God, his redeemer. So, at least in that understanding, he knows the part of the Abrahamic Covenant that belongs to all of us Gentiles, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (GEN 12:3)


Who knows how many in the world had heard some version of this covenant? I’m inclined to believe that it was far more prolific that anyone knows. We have to remember that historians in the ancient world are scarce, and historians who did write about ancient times were always biased. We also must remember that the Bible is not a history book. It only contains the history that is pertinent to God’s revelation.


We don’t know how Melchizedek came to be a priest and worshipper of God. We do know how Naaman the Syrian came to know God and believe and worship Him. We don’t know how Uriah the Hittite became a member of the Jewish army and a worshipper of God. Gentiles accompanied Israel through the Exodus. The Mosaic Law commanded them to treat aliens living among them with great civility and honor. How many Gentiles were saved in OT times and from what lands is impossible to know or calculate.


There are many reasons for the great division of Jew in Gentile.

Jews were descended from one man.

They had a common faith.

They had isolated communities in host nations.


They prospered due to the Mosaic Law.


The Jews were unlike any other nation in that they were all descendent from one man, Abraham.


It is common today for people to get their DNA tested for ancestry. Gentiles will almost always have a mixture of several different origins, but a Jew, especially from a couple of generations ago will be practically pure in one origin. They married within their community. They were different, isolated, successful, and practicing a 2,000-year-old religion.  They had a common faith, which was also unique among nations. And although they distorted it, they were united by faith in what they shared in common.


Israel were the people of God whom God called His son.


EXO 4:22

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My first-born.”’


The Gentile world, steeped in paganism, had their own internal issues to deal with in the first century. The old mythologies were losing favor while eastern oriental and Egyptian rites and religions were gaining influence.


Pic: extent of Roman Empire 117AD


The unifying force of the Roman Empire allowed travel throughout the Empire without much fear of bandits or pirates. There were well paved and guarded roads and the Mediterranean was stripped of its pirates. Trade flourished, but not only were goods travelled and traded, so were ideas, religions of the various lands, as well as the newest religion, Christianity.


To the Roman Pantheon were added numerous gods from different lands. Syncretism became the fashion of the time. Various religions, and their gods from around the world, were adapted and molded into systems that could be adapted to individual needs. These were “mystery religions” built on personal needs and desires, combining what people liked from each religion, into a system filled with promises of personal fulfillment in time and some form of afterlife.


COL 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.


COL 2:16 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — 


COL 2:17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.


COL 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,


COL 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.


Anything new was good, but especially if it pertained to the individual rather than the group. Pagan people were sick of the pantheon of disinterested privilege and longed for a personal flight into the divine. Gnosticism found fertile ground among them. Gnosticism promised a personal salvation through knowledge and secret rights, while it allowed fleshliness, or if that wasn’t your cup of tea, asceticism to combat fleshliness.


1JO 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.


1JO 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;


1JO 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.


1JO 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.


1JO 4:5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.


1JO 4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.


In the Gentile world, Jews and Christians were seen as unbending fanatics since they insisted on worshiping one God.


Yet, some Gentiles also found Judaism appealing due to its monotheism and morality. Hence, we find synagogues in many Gentile cities where rabbis and Pharisees proselytized Gentile converts. Paul found many converts among this group.


And yet, even in the synchronized religious world of the Roman Empire, things meant to work against God end up working for Him.


It is not odd that all religions would appeal to various types of people and that Christianity would appeal to all of those types as well. The unthinking man concludes that Christianity simply borrowed from all of them, but they miss the obvious. All religions have borrowed something from God, and so all of them contain something that is good, though it is perverted in some way. Freedom is good, but the freedom of paganism was of the wrong type. Discipline is good, but the discipline of Pharisaical Judaism, or other ascetic pagan religions, was misplaced.


Jesus brought the true religion which contained all of the good that was copied, but in an unblemished, unaltered, and not perverted way. It would make sense that it would appeal to all men, Jew and Gentile from all religious and cultural backgrounds. So why did some reject it? To accept it is to accept the person of Jesus Christ “by grace, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man boast.”


What is also appealing to all of mankind is pride and vanity.


All men who believed in Christ as Savior would be united in perfect peace, having all barriers destroyed. 


EPH 2:11 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 — 


EPH 2:12 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.


EPH 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.