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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ephesians Deconstructed part 6

Rhea’s note: I know that it has been a long time since I last posted an Ephesians Deconstructed. Despite my best efforts to stay ahead of the game, we have made it through chapter 3 in my community group and I’ve only made it through half of chapter 2 here. Hopefully in the coming weeks I can make some progress.

If you need a refresher or are new to the series you can find previous parts here:  part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.


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.
Ephesians 2:11-12

Uncircumcision...CircumcisionEphesians

Circumcision today is different thing than it was in the days of Paul. Outside of Judaism it is a common medical procedure that has nothing to do with faith. In Bible times, starting with Abraham in Genesis 17, circumcision was a physical sign that one was consecrated (set apart, holy) to God and symbolic of one’s spiritual purity.    

On the other side are the uncircumcised. Uncircumcision was a condition in which the corrupt desires that are rooted in the flesh were not yet extinct. The Jews also used this as a term for Gentiles. It was an insult really. They considered the uncircumcised to be unclean and believed that they would become ritually unclean if they came in contact with them.

Separate...Excluded...Strangers...Having no hope...Without God

The Gentile’s position before their inclusion into the family of God was precarious. The had no part of Christ and were not included in the covenant promise originally given to Abraham and passed on through his descendants to the nation of Israel. The only way they were able to find redemption was if they converted to Judaism and become circumcised as a sign of their conversion to one of the LORD’s Holy people.

They were excluded from the people of Israel. The unclean designation of the Gentiles spoke about above was never a distinction made by God but an assumption made by His people. Yes His chosen people, the Israelites, were chosen to be holy—a set apart people just as we are to be today, but I do not believe that means that we are to keep ourselves physically separated from those who are not.

Gentiles were also cut off from God. Gill’s exposition says that this means that they were without any knowledge of God, faith in God, love to God, communion with God or subject to God, His gospel, government, love and ordinances (commands).

This is our condition before Christ.

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

Where Gentiles were once kept apart from God, now that Christ has come we are reconciled to Him and are able to experience spiritual intimacy with the Creator.

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one
and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
by abolishing in His flesh the enmity,
which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances,
so 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.
Ephesians 2:14-16

our peace

Like many words, the Greek word that is translated as peace has many definitions. It is unfortunate that we are unable to reach back through time, tap Paul on the shoulder, and ask him exactly what he meant. We must do our best to uncover it ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit and trusted Biblical teachers. The best way to understand the meaning of a word is to look at the surrounding text. When studying the Bible context is key.

Having said all that I believe the the word eirene in this context is the peace that resides between people. What Paul is writing about here is that Christ is the peace that exists between the Jews and the Gentiles.  

both groups into one

He created peace amongst all of His people by making them into one body. One  people. He put them on level playing ground.

barrier...dividing wall

In the Temple there was a wall that separated the Gentiles from the Jews and the Holy places within the Temple. Visiting Gentiles could go no further than the wall. While the physical wall was not demolished, any Jew reading Paul’s letter would understand the significance of what he was saying: Gentiles were no longer to be kept separate; they were no longer excluded from God’s presence.

abolishing

I hate this word. Well, not the word itself but the assumptions that are tied to this word within Christian circles. All of verse 15 actually.  I touched on this verse when I did my series on the Law and how this is one of those verses that is used to prove that the Law has ended.

That is not the case.

I direct you to Matthew 5:18 where Jesus said that the Law would not be done away with until heaven and earth passed away. Seeing that we are still here and the earth still stands one could infer that so does the Law.

However that does not mean that the application of the Law has not changed. Again the problem comes with interpreting the word abolish. Just because the same word is used doesn’t mean that it is saying the same thing. I believe that the Bible is the Holy Word of Jehovah and therefore does not contradict itself.

Therefore, It is my belief that when talking about the Law, Paul means that it no longer has efficiency in a believer’s life. It has no influence or power over them.

Enmity, which is the Law

This is what is being abolished. The enmity, or the hostility and hatred that existed between Jews and the Gentiles.  This enmity was created because of the Law and to create peace Christ had to remove it’s power over the situation.

And He came and preached peace to you who were far away,
and peace to those who were near;
for through Him we both have our 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 are of God's household,
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
in whom the whole building, being fitted together,
is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
in whom you also are being built together
into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 3:17-22

peace to you...far away...near

Peace is for us all. It is for those who are apart from God and those who are united with Him. I believe that is also true today. Christ still offers peace to those who are apart from—Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhist, etc. Peace is available to them just as it is to those of us who call ourselves Christians.

No longer strangers

Gentiles are no longer excluded from the covenant promise. They are no longer strangers to God’s holy people. They are included in it all. The promise, the kingdom, the family.

Corner stone

The corner stone is the stone that set the foundation. It made it firm. You cannot have a solid foundation without the corner stone. Jesus is the corner stone of the house of God, the apostles and prophets are the foundation, and we...we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

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