What began in the Old Testament with God choosing one man (Abraham) whose family becomes a nation (Israel), results in a question in the New Testament: as Gentiles become Christians, what place do they have in the “family of God”?

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul not only answers this lingering question but also showcases the power of God within the Church, the Body of Christ.

In this expositional sermon, Nathan Johnson gives an overview of Ephesians 2:11-22 and talks about the profundity of the Cross in bringing the Gentiles into the family and Kingdom of God.

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Key Passage: Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesians 2:11-22 – “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– 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 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, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

A Simple Bible Study Resource

The Special History of Israel

  • Genesis 12:1-3 – Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Genesis 15: The promise and covenant with Abram concerning his offspring
  • Genesis 16: Abram takes the matter into his own hands: Ishmael
  • Genesis 17: Circumcision & the rejection of Ishmael and promise of Isaac
  • Abraham’s Line Promised and Established
    • 17:1-14 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.  And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly. . . . As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. . . . I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.  Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” 
    • Genesis 25: Esau and Jacob (Gen 28 – God affirms promise and covenant with Jacob)
  • Promise and Covenants shift from a person to a nation
    • Exodus 19:5-6 – [Israel at Mount Sinai] Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
    • Ten Commandments: no other nation received direct commands from God
    • Laws and Ceremonies: no other nation were forced to live under the laws and celebrate the holidays that God established
    • Deuteronomy 7:1-11 – When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.  For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.  The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.
    • Deuteronomy 7:14 – You shall be blessed above all peoples . . .
    • Deuteronomy 14:2 – For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
    • Psalm 33:12 – Blessed is the nation [Israel] whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
    • Psalm 132:13  – For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place.
    • Psalm 135:4 – For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.
    • Isaiah 41:8-10 – But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

The Jew’s hatred of Gentiles

  • Going after or wanting to be like the Gentiles was seen as harlotry
    • Ezekiel 23:30 – I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols.
  • Jews saw Gentiles as dogs:
    • Matthew 15:26 – “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  (referring to the Gentile woman who wanted help)
    • Dictionary of Biblical Imagery – Moreover, it is written in the Jewish literature that “as the sacred food was intended . . . not for the dogs, the Torah was intended to be given . . . not to the Gentiles” (Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 13 a). In the Bible the dog appears as an utterly unclean animal. A filthy scavenger, the dog wanders about the fields and streets of the cities, disposing of refuse and even dead bodies. The animal thus symbolizes uncleanness (Prov 26:11; cf. 2 Peter 2:22; Rev 22:15), not affection and loyalty as in contemporary Western society. For the Jews the Gentiles are like dogs in their way of life: they live without the Torah, especially without its purity laws.
    • One of the reasons there was such strict purity/ritual cleaning before meals – washing feet/hands . . . dust from Gentiles could have contaminated you!

The Lingering Question

  • Where do I (a Gentile) fit in within the large scheme of God (Jewish History)?
  • Are the Jews more special than I am?
  • Jews are God’s chosen people, what about me?

Issue in the Early Church

  • Acts 10:44-45 – [Peter is preaching to Cornelius’ Household after dream]  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
  • Acts 15 – Argument between Christians (and apostles) of whether Gentile believers had to be circumcised and hold to the Laws of Moses like good Jews
    • Wrote a letter
      • Abstain from food offered to idols
      • Abstain from sexual immorality
      • Abstain from strangled animals and from blood
      • “If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well” (Acts 15:29)

Paul’s Response to the Lingering Question

» Ephesians was written to Gentiles! Paul is addressing Gentiles about their position IN Christ

The 3rd Illustration of the Power of God Demonstrated: The Church (Ephesians 2.11-22)

  • we have been brought near in Christ
  • He has made us one
  • middle wall of separation has broken down
  • He has created in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace
  • reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross
  • Jesus preached the same message to the Jews and Gentiles: peace
  • we both have access by one Spirit ot the Father
  • no longer strangers/foreigners
  • now fellow citizens
  • our foundation is the same as the Jews with Jesus as our cornerstone
  • we are both being fit together into a holy temple for the dwelling of God

*The position we have IN Christ is not inferior to that what the Jews had — In fact … the Church is not a separate group of Jews and Gentiles but both groups have been made into one body of “believers”

  • Romans 3:29-30 – Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:19 – Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.
  • Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
  • Colossians 3:9b-11 –  . . . you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
  • Galatians 3:26-29 – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
    • Roles may be different: male/female, slave/free, Jew/Gentile but God does not see any difference between us in Christ

In Our Next Study Together …

I invite you to join me on this journey from the book of Ephesians to discover God’s eternal purpose, His plan for your life, and learn how to practically live out an abundant and fruitful Christian life. 

  • The focus of our next study: Ephesians 2:11-13
  • We will examine the former way of life for Gentiles as found in Ephesians 2:1-3.
  • I encourage you to read through Ephesians a couple of times this week and focus specifically on Ephesians 2:1-10.

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About The Deeper Christian Bible Study Series

The Deeper Christian Bible Study Series in Ephesians is a Christ-centered practical in-depth verse-by-verse study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Join NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) as he expositionally preaches from this incredible book – which will help you grow in your faith, gain greater intimacy with Jesus, and understand how to study God’s Word.

Many Christians feel frustrated because they don’t grow spiritually. Deeper Christian equips Christians to understand the Word of God and cultivate a passionate love for Jesus that turns the world upside down.

About NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson)

NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) is a Christian who has an overwhelming passion for Jesus, the Gospel, and Studying God’s Word. He is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps Christians discover and experience a passionate love for God and His Word so that they can grow in their faith, live victorious lives, share the Gospel boldly, grow in their intimacy with Jesus, and transform the world through the indwelling life of Christ.
Read more about him here.

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