As I am going through my reading and setting up my plan on how to teach the youth on Wednesday night, I wanted to include my little outline on here as well. We are in the middle of reading through the book of Ephesians. This week we are on Ephesians 2:11-22 – coming right after a short teaching on what it means to be made alive in Christ.
This section of Ephesians changes everything when it comes to labels and how people are to perceive others. On top of that, it calls out some false teaching and also brings into focus God’s ability to reconcile and unite others.
On a brief but important side note before we dive in, the Apostle Paul was actually the main apostle who was sent to preach to the Gentiles. Paul’s mission was to preach to the Gentiles and grow the Church amongst them. Multiple verses in the Book of Acts point to this:
Acts 22:21 – (Paul speaking to the crowds about what Jesus said to him)
Acts 9:15 – (“this man” refers to Paul) “But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
Acts 13:46 – (speaking to the Jews) Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.
Now, as we start, there are a few different ways we can go about looking at this section of God’s Word.
Historical Context – Jews/Gentiles United:
Jews and Gentiles were fundamentally different and Jews did not associate with Gentiles as they were seen as “unclean” people. Only the Jewish people (in their eyes) were allowed to have a relationship with God – and that was based on the commands and regulations found in the Old Testament Law. Jesus himself set aside those differences to show that the only thing that matters is their togetherness in Him. Paul lays out in this section of reading that they are no longer a Jew or Gentile, but are rather a brother or sister in the family of God. The only label that matters is the label of believer or Christ follower.
It is also important to note that “circumsised” and “uncircumcised” are mentioned in the first section of our reading (verse 11). This was a major point of contention for the early Church in Ephesus due to some false teachers. Some people were teaching that a person had to get circumcised after being born again in Christ, even though Jesus never said this. This false teaching actually flies in the face of everything Jesus taught and is rather Pharisaical. The heart is what matters – external religious activities just for the sake of activities do not matter at all.
Salvation Context – Jesus Saves All
In verses 11-13, Paul talks about how Gentiles were excluded from citizenship in Israel and were foreigners to the promises of God…without hope and without God in the world. One of my favorite starts to a sentence in the Bible occurs right after that.
They were brought to Jesus through His work on the cross. Jesus was born on Earth, lived a sinless life, died a criminal’s death on the cross, rose to life again, and then ascended into Heaven – all of this for the Gentiles as much as it was for the Jews.
Salvation is for anyone who calls on the name of Jesus as their Christ – their Lord and Savior. It doesn’t matter what you are or who you are.
Present Day Context – Nothing Separates True Believers
If we are to read this with a focus on today’s culture, we can take the comparison between Jews/Gentiles back in Ephesus and look to other relationships in our modern world.
The labels that we give ourselves should not separate us from other born again believers in Christ – nor should the labels that we are given by the world.
It doesn’t matter if we are white, black, asian, hispanic, Native American, or any other race. It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter if we are a Republican or Democrat. It doesn’t matter if we are vaccinated or unvaccinated. It doesn’t matter if we are young or old.
Any division that our world throws at us does not exist in Christ. We all have significant differences, but we are united in something greater than all else – Christ. We are one unified body, made in order to further the Gospel and bring others to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Because we are made alive in Christ, we are able to enter into relationships with other believers that would not have been possible without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
I want you to look past the differences in others and see them for who they really are. They are either one of two things…
Either they are a member of our family in Christ
They are a soul that is in desperate need of reconciliation with God through our Savior Jesus Christ
No matter what camp they fall in, having this eternal outlook will change the way you look at others forever.