The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
June 17, 2012
1) Ephesians 2:11-16 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
As we continue with Paul's instruction in the Ephesian letter, he
states in 2:11-13: "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 -- 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ."
Even without the phrase, "you, the Gentiles in the flesh" (v. 11),
we would very easily conclude from the passage and following verses
that Paul is addressing the Gentiles. For they were the
"Uncircumcision" in contrast to the Jews who were circumcised on the
eighth day, according to their law (Lev. 12:2,3). And it was
often used as a term of contempt when the Jew referred to the
Gentiles as being "uncircumcised" or of the "Uncircumcision."
Of course, many a Jew put great emphasis on external acts and
observances and falsely derived much confidence from them, even
while his heart was far from being right with God (cf. Phil. 3:2,3
and Matt. 3:8,9). As J.W. Shepherd points out, "The Jews were
a striking illustration of the effect of ascribing to external rites
objective power, and regarding them as conveying grace and securing
the favor of God, irrespective of the subject state of the
recipient. This doctrine rendered them proud, self-righteous,
malignant, and contemptuous...."
Paul speaks of the Gentiles as being those who were "excluded from
the commonwealth of Israel," with "commonwealth" being from the same
Greek word (politeia) that is also used in Acts 22:28 and rendered
as "citizenship." Thayer shows that though the term primarily
means "1) the administration of civil affairs," it also has the
meaning of, "2) a state or commonwealth," and "3) citizenship, the
rights of a citizen."
In Acts 10:28, we can see more of this exclusion of the Gentiles in
Peter's reminder to Cornelius and his household: "...'You yourselves
know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a
foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should
not call any man unholy or unclean.'"
While the Jews had the Law of Moses, during the Mosaical Age, which
lasted about 1,500 years, it wasn't for the whole world.
Consider, for example, Exodus 31:12-17, concerning the Sabbath
Day. God said, "It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel
forever..." (v. 17). So it was exclusively for the Hebrew
people, and the meaning of "forever" in this passage is "age
lasting." In other words, the observance of the Sabbath (which
a person could be put to death for violating) was to last throughout
the Mosaical Period and up until the time when Jesus would nullify
that Old Covenant by His willing and sacrificial death on the cross
(cf. Heb. 10:9).
During the Mosaical Period, the Gentiles were "strangers to the
covenants of promise." We think, for instance, of the three,
early promises that the Lord had given to Abraham (who is the first
to be called a "Hebrew" in the Bible -- Gen. 14:13). From him
was to descend a special nation (Israel), and one special "seed" who
would be the Christ, according to Galatians 3:16,19; and to
Abraham's descendants would be given the land of Canaan (when the
iniquity of the Amorite would be complete a few hundred years after
that promise was first given -- Gen. 15:13,16). These promises
were repeated to Isaac (Gen. 26:3-5) and Jacob (Gen. 28:12-15); and
though eventually the seed promise would lead to all the nations of
the world being blessed in Christ, it was initially given to Abraham
and the Jewish people that descended from him, as Paul speaks of in
Romans 9:4,5: "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, whose are the fathers, and from
whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God
blessed forever. Amen."
Paul says that these Gentiles formerly were "having no hope and
without God...." As E.M. Zerr writes: "The Gentiles were
without God as far as the provisions of the law of Moses were
concerned...." We can also note, however, that it
appears that many of the Gentiles were without God because of their
sinful ways, such as their idolatrous practices and belief in many
gods. We especially see this when Paul had come to Athens and
"his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the
city full of idols" (Acts 17:16). They even had an idol "To an
unknown god" (Acts 17:23). And it was this God that they did
not know about, whom Paul was now going to preach to them -- the
true and the only living God. So these Gentiles had been in a
pathetic state. The passage mentions 5 things to describe
their deplorable condition: 1) They were "separate from
Christ." 2) Excluded from God's family. 3) "Strangers to
the covenants of promise" (that God gave to Israel). 4) They
were without hope (that those promises could give). 5) And
they were without God in this world. George E. Harpur breaks
this down into three main categories: "Physically they lacked the
ancient sign of the covenant; politically they had not part in
Israel's national or religious life, and spiritually they had no
knowledge of the true God."
But now, look at what has happened to them, as Paul goes on to show:
"But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been
brought near by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). Remembering
what they had formerly been, but now what they had become in Christ,
should evoke gratitude and motivation in their continual service to
the Lord. For what a wonderful change the Lord Jesus had made
possible for them.
Notice this expression: "you who formerly were 'far off'..." (Eph.
2:13). That phrase is also seen in Acts 2:39: "For the promise
is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as
the Lord our God will call to Himself." Since Peter is
addressing the Jews, the "you and your children" is pertaining to
the Jewish people, while the "all who are far off" includes the
Gentiles, which Peter probably didn't fully realize at the
time. For about 10 years later, God had to give Peter a vision
that enabled him to see that Gentiles could also be recipients of
the gospel and become fellow Christians (Acts 10:9-16). For
while he was still greatly perplexed over the meaning of the vision,
the men had arrived, whom Cornelius had sent to summon Peter (v.
17). The Spirit then told him, "...'Behold, three men are
looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them
without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself" (vv. 19,20).
So Peter went with them, and Cornelius and his household became the
first Gentiles converted to Christ.
As we think about the order of preaching, beginning with the day the
church was established, it was to first go forth from Jerusalem
(Luke 24:46,47; Isa. 2:2-4) and next "in all Judea and Samaria, and
even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8), which is exactly
how we see it carried out in the book of Acts.
Paul shows that these Ephesians who had formerly been "far off" had
now been "brought near by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13), which
parallels with Colossians 1:21,22: "And although you were formerly
alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now
reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to
present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond
reproach[.]" Without Christ's death, there would be no hope
for the sinner to draw near to God; but, instead, the doom of an
eternal separation from the goodness of the Lord. God's
desire, however, for man to be saved from that most terrible of all
outcomes is clearly seen in Jesus' sacrifice. For Christ "died
for sins once and for all...so that He might bring us to God..." (1
Pet. 3:18). In Revelation 5:9, John writes, "And they sang a
new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its
seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men
from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'" So
now, during this New Testament Age, the one gospel is for all --
whether Jew or Gentile -- with the same plan of salvation and
spiritual blessings for anyone who will submit to that plan.
In bringing out more on this, Paul states, "For He Himself is our
peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of
the dividing wall" (Eph. 2:14). Jesus "is our peace."
The Bible refers to him as the "Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6), and He
made that possible for these two groups to coexist in that.
But who do these "groups" stand for? Different people had
different ways of viewing the world's population in Paul's
day. To the Romans, you were either a "citizen" or a
"non-citizen." To the Greeks, you were either a "Greek" or a
"barbarian." But to the Jews, you were either a "Jew" or a
"Gentile." And, as we will see in the context, these are the
two groups under consideration. For the passage speaks of a
peaceful coexistence made possible by the Lord by His breaking down
"the barrier of the dividing wall" that is defined in the next verse
as the "Law of commandments," which is the Law of Moses that was
exclusively for the Jews; and, therefore, that which separated them
from the Gentiles.
Going on with this thought of the Lord having "broke down the
barrier of the dividing wall" (between Jew and Gentile), Paul then
points out that Jesus accomplished this "by abolishing in His flesh
the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in
ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man,
thus establishing peace and might reconcile them both in one body to
God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity" (Eph.
2:15,16). Notice that this particular law is twice referred to
as "the enmity," as well as described in the passage as being a
"barrier" and "the dividing wall." So for about fifteen
centuries, the Jews had their own unique law, the Law of Moses, of
which the Lord had never commissioned them to go into all the world
and preach to every person, as He did in the "Great Commission,"
concerning the gospel (Mark 16:15). So that Law did
serve to separate them from the Gentile world, which also included
the prohibition of intermarriage with the Gentiles (Deut.
7:1-4.). However, many of the Jews violated that law (Neh.
13:23-27; Ezra 9:1-3, 10-12,14). But during the days of
Ezra the priest, he exhorted them to separate themselves from their
foreign wives and make confession unto God, which they were willing
to do (Ezra 10:10-12,19,44). In addition, Jews and Gentiles
were not even to visit or associate with one another, as we saw
earlier in Acts 10:28. Consider also John 18:28: "Then they
led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and
they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would
not be defiled, but might eat the Passover." The "Praetorium"
was where a Roman governor would set up his headquarters. So a
place where Gentiles would be. According to the International
Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "The Pretorium was originally the
headquarters of a Roman camp, but in the provinces the name became
attached to the governor's official residence. In order to
provide residences for their provincial governors, the Romans were
accustomed to seize and appropriate the palaces which were formerly
the homes of the princes or kings in conquered countries. Such a
residence might sometimes be in a royal palace, as was probably the
case in Caesarea, where the procurator used Herod's palace (Acts
The "Samaritans" were a mixed race through the intermarriage of Jew
and Gentile, which began soon after many of the prominent people of
the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken into Assyrian
captivity in 721 B.C. by Sargon. For around 677 B.C.,
Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria, had Gentiles from Babylon, as well
as other foreign places, to settle in the cities of Samaria, which
led to this intermarriage with Jews who had been left in that
region. After the Jews had returned to Judea in 536 B.C.,
following the 70-year Babylonian captivity, some of the Samaritans
who are referred to as "the enemies of Judah and Benjamin" (Ezra
4:1) wanted to help in rebuilding the temple, but they were
prohibited from doing so (vv. 2,3). (The Samaritans built
their own temple at Mt. Gerizim, and later at Shechem.) In
thinking more of the friction between Jew and Samaritan, consider
also John 4:9: "Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, 'How is
it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan
woman?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" Also,
Luke 9:52,53: "and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they
went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements
for Him. And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying
with His face toward Jerusalem." That's all it took for these
Samaritans to not welcome Jesus. And to many Jews, the word
"Samaritan" was used and thought of contemptuously. For
example, John 8:48: "The Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not
say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'" What
person could be worse in the thinking of a Jew than a
Samaritan? But to compound that, they referred to Jesus as not
only a Samaritan, but also as a Samaritan with a demon. So
from these passages, we see the division and, at times, even the
hostility between the Jew and the Gentile (which included
But Ephesians 2:15,16 shows that Christ would make these two "into
one new man, thus establishing peace, and reconcile them both in one
body to God through the cross...." So this peaceful
coexistence for the Jew and the Gentile is in Christ and His
kingdom. For notice what the Bible says of those who are: "By
this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love
for one another" (Jn. 13:35). 1 John 1:7, "but if we walk in
the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one
another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all
sin." The Christians have a very special relationship with
each other because of Jesus Christ. Similarly, the principle
of Psalm 119:63 should also be equally true for God's people today:
"I am a companion of all those who fear You, And of those who keep
With that in mind, consider the prophecy in Isaiah 11:6-9 of this
new relationship between Jew and Gentile in Christ. Isaiah
foretold of the kingdom, the church (Isa. 2:2-4); and the peaceful
coexistence between wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, and calf with
young lion, etc. figuratively expresses the peace and unity between
Jew and Gentile. For God says this would be so "in all My holy
mountain" (Isa. 11:9), which represents God's authority, on which
the church would be built (Isa. 11:2) and which these individuals
had obediently submitted to and became united in Christ. By so
doing, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor
free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in
Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Yes, God is an impartial God who is
willing to save any person -- regardless of whether Jew or
Gentile. As shown in Acts 10:34,35, this was the conclusion
that Peter was able to reach, after having received a special vision
from the Lord: "And opening his mouth, Peter said: 'I most certainly
understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every
nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to
Him.'" As we saw recently, that actually sums up the whole
duty of man -- "to fear God and keep His commandments" (Eccl.
12:13). So it applies to all people, rather than to just one
How thankful we should be that we can enter into this relationship
with God and fellow Christians where unity and peace has been made
possible by the cross of Christ. For through the Lord's death,
one can receive a new life, by simply meeting the conditions.
For this is made possible through the Lord's atoning-sacrifice,
along with the peaceful coexistence He brought about "by abolishing
in His flesh the enmity..." (Eph. 2:15).
News & Notes
We are thankful that it did not turn out to be blood clots in Cheryl Crew's leg and lungs, but
she is now being treated for pneumonia. Let those of us who
are Christians be praying for a speedy recovery.
Clara Kemp was to recently
have a stent procedure. Let us also pray that everything will
be going well for her.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
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Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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