Ephesians 2:11-22 “The Walls are Down”
May 20, 2017 // By:Dave // No Comment
Ephesians 2:11-21 (continued from Last week’s, In Ephesians 2:1-10)
To set the stage for today’s study, it seems wise to ensure we all understand a couple of cultural contexts at play here.
- Paul is writing to gentiles (non-jews), who were culturally rejected by the jewish communities and the Hebrew faith and laws.
- Paul is referencing them as the “uncircumsized” as they are called by the “circumsized”.
How would you look at someone with muddy shoes wanting to come into your living room that you just spent the afternoon cleaning and polishing ?! They would represent an unwelcome visitor who is going to make everything they touch dirty, unfit for use, disgusting, with no reverence for what you are trying to achieve in cleanliness. You may even resent the person himself if they show no appreciation for how you feel and your desire to have something not covered in mud and muck. How about if they wanted to bring in a dead animal and drop it on the counter in your kitchen (with it’s flies and maggots, decomposing with bacterial, infecting everything in the area with presence, with it’s smell spreading to make the entire house unfit for occupation)? That is how the Jews looked at non-jews; and they were told to do so by God Himself. They were told to remain separate, apart for His glory and service.
This separation started in Gen 12 when God called Abraham out from everyone else and promises to make his seed a great nation. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael then Isaac. Ishmael was not of the chosen line and Isaac was the father of Esau and Jacob. Jacob tricks both his older brother and father and is able to procure the father’s blessing and his brother’s inheritance and status of lineage and first born. This separation (as a nation) is “clarified” later in Gen 32:28 when God renames Jacob to be Israel. The term “Jew” appears to be a reduced name of one of Jacob’s sons named Judah who became the dominant tribe of the 12 tribes (one from each son).
It is Abraham who is first commanded to use circumcision (Gen 17:10-14) as a “mark on the flesh” signifying being set apart for God. Those who were not marked in this way were not acceptable to God during this dispensation. The conflict between jewish circumcision and greek un-circumcised (marked and unmarked) was elevated to fighting and killing 200 years before Paul even wrote this epistle. Greeks trying to forcibly prevent marking among newborns in jewish areas they had conquered (to the point of killing the mothers). The Maccabean revolt was a pinnacle of this conflict. Also important to note that Greeks considered the foreskin as an expression of male decency in public. Greeks competed in their games naked and this was considered a proper expression and display of the male body as long as the head of the penis was covered by a foreskin and even valued larger foreskins over shorters one (this went as far as Greek culture viewing lack of foreskin as barbaric and uncivilized).
This clash of circumcision was not just over having a foreskin, it was a clash between two cultures that both had demands regarding this foreskin for proper existance and acceptance and each culture viewed the other as barbaric.
Paul, now stuck in the middle of a conflict two centuries old that has already resulted in bloodshed of men, women, and children from both sides, is trying to reconcile two opposite factions into a new entity called “one man” in Eph 2:14-15. He is reminding them, the Ephesian believers, that they were once put away from God, by God because of the nature of the convenant God made with Abraham. He also reminds them that the laws that once kept them separate have now been satisfied by Christ Himself. Jesus’ blood is the means by which they are now “brought near” to God. This same concept is brought out in Rom 11:11-24 referring to the gentiles as a branch grafted into among the others already growing off one nourishing root.
What is grafting ? Grafting is a surgical technique whereby tissues (commonly of plants) are joined so as to continue their growth together. The upper part of the combined plant is called the scion while the lower part is called the rootstock. In other words, living tissue from one organism is attached or inserted into the tissue of another organism in such a way that the inserted portion is able to grow and develop along with the recipient so that they can function as one organism (even though the two may have differing appearances and even differing genetics). For success in grafting, both plants and animal tissue, it is critically important that the vascular portions be carefully aligned so that nourishment can be conducted between the two different parts in order for both to survive and grow together. For plants, this means the cambrium layer just below the bark (the green living portion), but for animals, this means the blood vessels. The point of grafting is obviously the weak point in a plant since the wood does not grow, only the cambrium layer grows new wood over time. So the longer the combined organism survives, the stronger the graft then becomes as the new layers of wood grown are the result of the new “fused” cambrium graft. A fruit tree with strong leaves but a genetically weak root system can be grafted on another type of tree with a strong root system so that more fruit can result.
This is what Paul is saying to the uncircumsized gentiles in Ephesus. That they have been inserted into the vascular system that used to be the circumsized Jews and the blood of Christ is flowing back and forth between the two making them one new organism! Eph 2:15 “… make the two into one new man…”. The war that these two factions were waging is to be put away for good, for all time. Look at Eph 2:18 telling them (and us) that the uncircumsized now have the same access as the circumsized in one Spirit to the Father. Verse 19 says that we are all fellow citizens and are all of God’s household, (His family). He then switches to a “building analogy” with all the parts being brought together and built on single common foundation of Christ Himself in Eph 2:20-22.
The war between circumsized and uncircumsized is over. To the Jew, it was s symbol of their separation from the world to God. To the Greek, it was a symbol of showing the glory of the human body at it’s best in public with honor and not humiliation. Now, made an non-issue, where we all have a sealing of the Spirit, still separate from the world, still revealing glory in public but together is a different way. The mark is now on our heart. Rom 2:25-29 a fulfillment of Deut 30:6.
Faith in Jesus Christ makes us heirs according to the promise given to Abraham Gal 3:29. True circumcision is a matter of the heart, not the body. Jesus Christ makes this possible for all who will receive Him John 3:16. There is no other way to set yourself apart for God than to do it in His prescribed way. Faith in Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no comes to the Father except by Me.” Only faith in Jesus can set you apart for His service, for His family, for His kingdom. Eph 2:8-9 is one of the basic reminders of this indisputable fact. Circumcision wont get you into heaven any better than any other work of the flesh, no matter how sincere, how painful or sacrificial it may be. Our own works and deeds are fully unsatifactory to earn our way in, or to pay back a debt so much greater than we could possible pay. That is why 2 Cor 5:21 exists. He payed for our sins so that we could become participants and recipients in His righteousness. Our vascular system has been made compatible with the stock prepared from Abraham so that we could be grafted in. The blood of Christ flows back and forth between the two making us one new organism, the Body of Christ. Gloriously set apart for His good pleasure; a bride awaiting her groom’s return. (Matthew 25 , Eph 5:22-27). Let us put away all works of the flesh and let our lives and dependancy fall fully upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. (John 10:30)
Next week Ephesians 3:1-7 “Prisoner of the Lord”
εν διακονια τω θεω, Dave Cadieux