What is the place of the Gentiles in the family of God?
Paul addresses this question by talking about how the Gentiles were cut off from God by the Israelites – but declares that in Jesus we are brought in and now have access.
In this expositional sermon, Nathan Johnson examines Ephesians 2:11 and talks about being cut off by the “cut-off ones.”
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Key Passage: Ephesians 2:11
Ephesians 2:11 – “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 …”
A Simple Bible Study Resource
Jew’s Perspective of Gentiles: Uncircumcised
Background: Abraham + the Sign of the Covenant
Genesis 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. . . . 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. . . . As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
- Circumcision symbolized consecration to God and became the distinguishing/distinctive mark of Israelites
- Uncircumcision became a symbol for stubbornness and unbelief (Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 6:10; 9:25)
- The Gentiles as uncircumcision were indeed the people of rebellion and disobedience, and they were thus viewed with contempt (Judg 14:3; 15:18; 1 Sam 14:6; 17:26,36; 2 Sam 1:20; 1 Chron 10:4)
Early Church Controversy Concerning Circumcision
- 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 15:1-2 – And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
- Acts 15:6-9 – Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
- Acts 15:12-17 – Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ (quoted from Amos 9.11-12)
- Acts 15:23-29 – They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
Cut off From the Cut-off Ones
1. Physical vs. Spiritual
- Circumcision was suppose to be an outward sign of an inward reality – pointing to something greater than the physical
- Deuteronomy 10:12-16 – And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
- Deuteronomy 30:6 – And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
- Jeremiah 4:4a – Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, And take away the foreskins of your hearts . . .
- God’s desire for us is spiritual
- Physical is not bad – both spiritual/physical affect one another but focus must be on spiritual
- Pharisees worried about the “outside” (physical) but Jesus called them whitewashed tombs with nothing but death inside
- Matthew 23:25-28 – [Jesus speaking] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
- Where in my life am I focused on the externals (circumcision)?
2. Barriers vs. Blessing
- Rather than be the blessing they were called to be, the Israelites focused on the physical … Producing a pride and superiority and therefore closed off (created barriers)
- Genesis 12.2-3: 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.
- Ezekiel 36:23-27 – And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I demonstrate My holiness through you before their eyes. . . . Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
- Isaiah 11:10 – And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.
- Isaiah 42:5-7 – Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”
- Isaiah 49:6 – Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’
- What if I became a blessing to those around me rather than establishing barriers?
3. Uniformity vs. Unity
- Ephesians 2:14 – For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility …
- God desires unity within His body!
- But unity is only found in Jesus
- Unity is not uniformity
- Am I seeking true unity?
- Where in your life is discord and a lack of unity with others?
- What keeps you from loving others and allowing them to become “family”?
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
- The focus of our next study: Ephesians 2:11-13
- We will examine the reality of the Gentiles brought into the family of God as found in Ephesians 2:11-13.
- I encourage you to read through Ephesians a couple of times this week and focus specifically on Ephesians 2:11-22.
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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
Read more about him here.