Ephesians 2 Jew And Gentile Together In Christ: One New Man
“Together … in Christ” (v 6) summarizes and captures the essence of God’s new creation workmanship detailed in this chapter. There is an interesting structural balance evident in the chapter, as the apostle outlines the tremendous hurdles overcome: alienation from God, and of alienation between Jew and Gentile. The first section (vv 1-10) extends the exposition from chapter one of God’s mighty power displayed in Christ’s resurrection and exaltation, now directed upon us in salvation-bringing grace.
There is a fourfold description in verses 1-3 of our desperate spiritual condition, summarized as “dead … in sins” (v 1). “But God … made us alive” (vv 4-5) introduces and summarizes a corresponding four-fold description of the results of His intervention of grace in verses 4-10. The second section (vv 11-22) develops the wonderful spiritual privileges now shared equally and together by believing Jews and Gentiles in the new relationship in Christ. It begins with a five-fold description in verses 11-12 of the Gentiles’ desolate spiritual position, summarized as “afar off.” “But now in Christ … made near” (v 13) introduces and summarizes a corresponding five-fold enumeration of the results of the intervention of Christ in verses 13-22.
2:1-3 Former Spiritual Condition: Dead!
“Dead …”(v 1), is obviously not physical, nor even anticipating a final end; rather it is a condition of being disconnected from the life of our Creator (4:18) through sin. The Ephesian Gentiles had been living according to the prevailing current of a world deceived and manipulated by its unseen ruler, Satan, and reflecting his rebel principles. Jews and Gentiles alike manifested the same enslavement to flesh-dominated desires, and equally faced God’s displeasure.
2:4-10 God’s Grace Intervened: New Life, Relationship
“But God … ” (v 4)! His infinite power, motivated by mercy and love, “made us alive together … raised us up together … made us sit together in the heavenlies …” (vv 5-6) with the risen and enthroned Christ. Again, this is not physical, but in grace reconnecting us to Himself through Christ in a new creation, placing us beyond Satan’s authority. Associated eternally with Christ, we are exposed to His rich goodness, and anticipate the ages to come with delight instead of dread. It is vital for us to recognize and rejoice in our salvation as a gift of His grace alone, apart from any merit or effort of ours (vv 8-9). The deliberate parallel drawn with God’s original handiwork of creation highlights the glory and security of our salvation (v 10). Will we now honor His workmanship in us by reflecting His principles and goodness in our lives?
2:11-12 Former Spiritual Privilege as Gentiles: Far Off, No Hope
Remembering the past enables us to appreciate the greatness of our spiritual privileges in Christ. As Gentiles, they had been outside of the covenant promises associated with Israel, most notably concerning the Messiah Savior-King. They had no prospect of better things to come, for they did not even know the true God. How hopeless their position was!
2:13-22 Now United In Christ: Reconciled, And God’s Holy Dwelling
“… In Christ … made near” (v 13): as is evident even today, only Christ through His costly intervention at the cross is capable of accomplishing reconciliation and peace between men, and between man and God (vv 13-18). How has He “made both one” (v 14)? What grace is evident in the reality that the Messiah, rejected by Israel and crucified by the Gentiles, should be the Reconciler of both unto God! It is evident that the Gentiles are not brought into the fold of Israel, but that both are brought together into something entirely new. The divisions formed and distinctions enforced in the old covenant regulations are dissolved, nullified by His death for both, in order to “create in Himself out of two one new man” (v 15) in resurrection. This refers to Christ as Head, and the Church as His body, indivisibly united to Him and to one another as fellow-members (See 3:6, and 4:12-16). Both found reconciliation and peace with God through Him (vv 16-17); through Him both now enjoy “access by one Spirit unto the Father” (v 18) in the new relationship of sons, far beyond the privilege of even the priests of Israel. Both Jew and Gentile are equally blessed in Christ, and share the same power and life in the Spirit.
The reassuring conclusion to Gentile believers is that we are no longer “strangers” but “of the family of God,” not “foreigners” but “fellow-citizens with the saints” (v 19), fully sharing God’s holy and blessed inheritance. The glory of Israel was the Divine presence dwelling in His holy sanctuary in their midst; now the apostle reveals that the Church possesses the glory of being His eternal dwelling (vv 20-22). Of necessity, Christ Himself is the foundation cornerstone: His person and His work determine the character of the whole building. The apostles and New Testament prophets and their teaching form the foundation upon which all further building progresses to its intended purpose: “a holy temple in the Lord” (v 21)! “In whom ye also … ” (v 22) assures us that despite all differences of background, character, or privilege, in Christ every believer belongs and fits together with all other believers, to form a permanent dwelling place for God. The magnificent temple existing at Jerusalem was not the ultimate thing, far less the pagan temple of Diana at Ephesus. Rather than a sacred stone structure in a special location on earth, the living God yearned for a living temple composed of His holy people where He could be at rest. This temple is where He will be able to express Himself and make Himself known, where His glory will reside in fulness. This great glory will be seen in the millennial earth, when Christ reigns over the earth in visible glory. What a triumphant climax to the power and purposes of divine grace!