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9. The Guilt of Men and the Grace of God (Part 2) (Ephesians 2:11-21)

11Therefore 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—12 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.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 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, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Introduction

I love to read the story of Jacob’s marriage. Jacob was a man who felt that the rules were to be broken. He spent much of his life trying to make things work his way, rather than the way they were supposed to work. When Jacob saw Rachel at that well it was love at first sight. And after seven years spent working for this woman, the day of his marriage arrive. As was their custom, Jacob took his bride into his tent. Their sexual union consummated the marriage. What a shock it was for Jacob to wake up in the morning, with the sun streaming into his tent, illuminating the face of his wife—Leah!

With the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the church was born. Suddenly, Jewish Christians found themselves “married,” as it were, to Gentile believers. It was a much a shock to them as it was for Jacob to wake up and find Leah at his side. From the birth of the church to the present, there has been friction between Jewish and Gentile saints. In the Book of Acts, we find the Jewish believers resistant to the evangelization of the Gentiles (see Acts 10 and 11). And even when God’s purpose of saving the Gentiles was accepted, some insisted that the Gentile converts must become Jewish proselytes (circumcision and law-keeping) in order to be saved (see Acts 15). On the other hand, it appears that just as the Jewish saints were inclined to look down upon their Gentile brethren, Gentile believers were tempted to look down on the Jews for their unbelief and rejection of Jesus and their Messiah (see Romans 11:13-24).

Our text in Ephesians 2:11-22 is an extension of Paul’s teaching in the first 10 verses of the chapter. Both passages have a similar structure. Each falls into three divisions. The first division focuses on what we were in the past. The second on what Christ has accomplished. The third on the goal or result of this work. Verses 1-10 not only have their similarity to verses 11-22, they also have their distinct emphasis and focus. Verses 1-10 tend to focus more on our condition as individuals, whether Jew or Gentile, while verses 11-22 concentrate on our standing as Jewish and Gentile believers corporately. Verses 1-10 describe us as “dead” in our transgressions and sins and “alive” in Christ. Verses 11-22 speak of our previous condition as “far” from God, His covenant people, and His blessings, while the work of Christ on our behalf has brought us “near.” Though we were once separated from the nation Israel and a disposition of hostility existed between the two groups, we have now been united with them and the hostility has been removed.

There are many New Testament texts to which we could turn in order to find apostolic instructions concerning Christian unity. It is a vitally important truth, to believe and to practice. While other texts deal with the matter of the necessity of unity, and the attitudes and actions which are appropriate to it, no other text in the New Testament speaks more clearly and emphatically on the basis for Christian unity. Ephesians 2 speaks of the essence of unity; all other texts tend to teach on the expression of unity. Ephesians 2:1-10 deals with the reconciliation which God has brought between himself and fallen man through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:11-22 deals with the reconciliation which God has accomplished between Jews and Gentiles, through the work of Jesus Christ.

Let us come to our text with a spirit of expectancy, and with the heart of a learner, looking to Him who has reconciled us to Himself, and who has also reconciled us with Jewish saints as well to give us understanding hearts and minds. Let us seek to understand the essence of Christian unity, in order to be prepared for diligently pursuing its expression.

What We Were As Unbelieving Gentiles
(2:11-12 )

11Therefore 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—12 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.

Paul begins by urging his Gentile readers to remember what they once were, apart from Christ. Why do we need to be instructed to remember this, when we were not told to remember our condition as “dead in our transgressions and sins” in the first verses of chapter 2? I think I may understand. We would like to forget what we once were, as Gentile heathen. And, in many ways, we can forget.

Not so with our former condition in our transgressions and sins. Before, when we were “dead” in our sins, we were dominated by the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We still battle with these same three forces, which wage war on our spiritual lives. We cannot forget because the struggle continues on. We can’t forget what we cannot entirely leave behind.

But our condition as Gentiles can slip from our memory. Indeed, we want it to do so. In my dealings with prisoners and ex-offenders, I find that many of those who are released from prison keep touch with fellow-inmates, even when they have been close Christian friends while in prison. Some of this can be explained in the light of the prison system itself, which discourages (or forbids) felons from associating with our felons while on parole. But much of it is due to the fact that men want to forget their past, to leave it behind and to start over.

Jewish saints, who are proud of their heritage as Jews, do not wish to forget who they were. Many Gentile believers, whose past brings nothing but feelings of shame and regret (see Romans 6:21), are quick to blot the past out of their minds if they can. And thus they are challenged by Paul not to forget their past, but to recall it to mind. As they do so, they will be humbled, and will be reminded anew of the wonder of God’s grace, by which they were saved out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

In verses 11 and 12, Paul describes the Gentiles’ former condition from two very different perspectives. The first is from the point of view of the self-righteous Jew. The second is from the perspective of God Himself, and of His word. The first perspective is external, the second is internal. The first is physical, the second is spiritual. The first is inconsequential, while the second is of eternal significance.

Self-righteous Judaism tended to look only at the outside, to judge according to external appearances, rather than the essence of the matter (see Luke 16:15).50 Judaism and the “Judaizers” (those who wished to place the yoke of Judaism on the necks of Gentile converts to faith in Christ) judged a man on the basis of whether or not he was physically circumcised. To be circumcised was, in their minds, to be a part of the covenant people, assured of divine blessing. To be uncircumcised was to be a heathen, destined for God’s eternal wrath.

Elsewhere, Paul speaks about this matter of circumcision, and its meaning. In Romans 4, Paul reminded his readers that Abraham himself was not a circumcised man at the time he was regarded as a true believer by God. In the Book of Galatians, Paul teaches that circumcision does not profit a Gentile convert, and forbids Gentile believers to be circumcised (see 1 Corinthians 7:18; Galatians 5:1-12). True circumcision, in the Old Testament and the New, is the circumcision of the heart (see Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Colossians 2:11). This is the circumcision which counts. The other is but an external sign, which has no value apart from a genuine faith in God and obedience to His commands (see Romans 2:25-29; Galatians 5:6; 6:15).

The tone of Paul’s words in verse 11 make it clear that the external distinctions of circumcision is the basis for the discrimination of Jews against the Gentiles. Being “uncircumcised” to such Jews does not merely mean that you are a Gentile, but that you are a heathen. From a Jewish perspective, being uncircumcised is to be accursed, because one is not a Jew. This is not an accurate perception of the Ephesian saints’ past. Paul describes the condition which the Ephesian saints should remember in verse 12.

Verse 12 sums up, in Paul’s terms, what it meant to be an unbelieving Gentile. Circumcision is not mentioned here. What is mentioned is the essence of the hope of a true Jew. What the Gentile saints were missing as unbelievers is what a true Jew, a true Old Testament saint, understood to be the blessings associated with Israel.

I believe that Paul sums up the pathetic condition of unsaved Gentiles in the phrase, “separate from Christ.” Christ is the “son of David,” who will rule eternally as Israel’s king (see 2 Samuel 7:14). He was the “lamb of God” whom the prophets said would take away the sins of the world (see Isaiah 52:12–53:11; John 1:29). He is the “seed of Abraham,” through whom the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16). He is the “prophet like Moses” for whom Israel looked (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:19-26; 7:3:37). He is even the “rock” which followed the Israelites in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is the one and only way by which men may be saved:

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14:6).

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone. 12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).

If being separated from Christ is the essence of the Gentile’s pitiable condition, Paul fills in some additional details in the remainder of verse 12. As unbelieving Gentiles, the Ephesians were formerly alienated and excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. The presence of God was associated with Israel, the place. Jacob first realized this as he was about to leave this special place (see Genesis 28:10-17). Solomon later acknowledged the same truth (1 Kings 8). When foreigners wished to worship and serve God, it must be on this soil (see 2 Kings 5:17; Isaiah 66). To be an Ephesian Gentile was to be removed from the nation and the place where God showered blessings upon man.

To be an unbelieving Gentile also meant that one was a stranger to the covenants of God, the covenants by which God promised to bless His people. First and foremost among these covenants was the Abrahamic Covenant:

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

God purposed and promised to bless all the nations of the earth, but this blessing was only through the “seed of Abraham” and only to those who blessed him. To be a Gentile was to be a stranger to God’s covenants.

The desperate condition of unsaved Gentiles is now summed up by two phrases, “without hope,” and “without God in the world.” Godless and hopeless; this is what the we Gentiles are without faith in Christ. God has provided but one way for man’s salvation and blessing, the Lord Jesus Christ:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 John 5:11-12).

The Lord Jesus was a Jew. He was the offspring of the Eve (see Genesis 3:15), of the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12), and the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Luke 1:27, 32). If one is to be saved from his sins, he or she must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was a Jew, receiving God’s salvation, which is “of the Jews.”

A New Relationship in Christ
(2:13-22)

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 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 new51 man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

We are all familiar with this passage in 2 Corinthians:

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

It comes as no surprise to the Christian the faith in Jesus Christ is a new beginning. Old things pass away, and new things are created. What Paul speaks of individually in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, he speaks of corporately in Ephesians chapter 2. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul tells us that we become a new person when we are born again. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul tells us that in Christ Jews and Gentiles lose their “Jewishness” and “Gentileness” and are fashioned into one new entity, the church. The blessing of the Gentiles was often addressed by Old Testament prophecy, but the birth of the church is something new and unexpected.

In the Old Testament times, a Gentile usually expressed faith in Messiah by identifying with the Jews. We can think of women like Ruth, who left her family and people and went with Naomi to the land of Israel, where she later married Boaz. We know of Rahab, the Canaanite woman who placed her faith in the God of Israel, and who became an Israelite. Both Ruth and Rahab were women who became of part of the messianic line (see Matthew 1:4-5).

There were also those who came to faith in the God of Israel who did not become Jewish proselytes. One early believer, a contemporary of Abraham, was Melchizedek, the king of Salem (Genesis 14:17-20). Another believer was Naaman, the Syrian captain (2 Kings 5). And there was the population of Nineveh, who heeded the warning of Jonah and repented (Jonah chapter 3).52

Many (probably the great majority) of the Jews believed that if a Gentile were to enter into the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant, he must first become a Jewish proselyte. They insisted that in order to be saved, a Gentile must be circumcised and must submit to the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1).

The Law of Moses became a kind of invisible barrier, separating Jews and Gentiles. The Jews felt that they possessed the Law, and they disdained the Gentiles because of their ignorance of and disregard for the Law.53

“The Gentiles were called the uncircumcision by those who laid claim to that circumcision which is a physical and man-made thing. This was the first of the great divisions. The Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. They said that the Gentiles were created by God to be fuel for the fires of Hell; that God loved only Israel of all the nations that he had made; that the best of the serpents crushed, the best of the Gentiles killed. It was not even lawful to render help to a Gentile woman in childbirth, for that would be to bring another Gentile into the world. The barrier between Jew and Gentile was absolute. If a Jew married a Gentile, the funeral of that Jew was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death; even to go into a Gentile house rendered a Jew unclean. Before Christ the barriers were up; after Christ the barriers were down.”54

There were certain portions of the Law which almost automatically distinguished Jew from Gentile, and which made fellowship and intimacy nearly impossible, as these laws were understood and practiced within Judaism. The ceremonial food laws made it impossible for a devout Jew to eat a meal with a Gentile, or to stay in a Gentile home. The Law raised a barrier between Jews and Gentiles. This barrier was also evident in the barrier which was constructed in the temple, separating Jews and Gentiles:

This is a picture from the Temple. The Temple consisted of a series of courts, each one a little higher than the one that went before, with the Temple itself in the inmost of the courts. First there was the Court of the Gentiles; then the Court of the Women; then the Court of the Israelites; then the Court of the Priests; and finally the Holy Place itself.

Only into the first of them could a Gentile come. Between it and the Court of the Women there was a wall, or rather a kind of screen of marble, beautifully wrought, and let into it at intervals were tablets which announced that if a Gentile proceeded any farther he was liable to instant death. Josephus, in his description of the Temple, says: “When you went through these first cloisters unto the second court of the Temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits. Its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek and some in Roman letters that no foreigner should go within the sanctuary” (The Wars of the Jews, 5, 5, 2). In another description he says of the second court of the Temple: “This was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription which forbade any foreigner to go in under pain of death” (The Antiquities of the Jews, 15, 11, 5). In 1871 one of these prohibiting tablets was actually discovered, and the inscription on it reads: “Let no one of any other nation come within the fence and barrier around the Holy Place. Whosoever will be taken doing so will himself be responsible for the fact that his death will ensue.”

Paul well knew that barrier, for his arrest at Jerusalem, which led to his final imprisonment and death, was due to the fact that he had been wrongly accused of bringing Trophimus, an Ephesian Gentile, into the Temple beyond the barrier (Acts 21:28,29). So then the intervening wall with its barrier shut the Gentile out from the presence of God.55

The cross of Jesus Christ was a monumental event. We know that when our Lord died on the cross of Calvary, the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), symbolizing the fact that the barrier between men and God had been removed. But Paul goes on to tell us that the separating wall was also removed, the wall which separated Jewish believers from Gentile believers:

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 … (Ephesians 2:14-15a).

The death of Christ was His death and ours, under the Law, and thus the payment of the Law’s penalty of death for sin (see Galatians 4:4-5). But our Lord’s death was also His death (and ours) to the Law, releasing us from some of its former demands:

“Because Christ has come, and by what He has done in his flesh, especially by His death (see Col. i. 22), salvation and acceptance with God in His people is offered to all men on condition of repentance and faith. Peter was sent to Cornelius and bidden to regard no longer the distinction between ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness (Acts x). The Church in its council at Jerusalem had agreed that there was no longer to be a barrier because the Jews had circumcision and all the other ordinances of the law, and the Gentiles did not (Acts xv). The Lord came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil (Mt. v. 17). Much of it (e.g. the sacrificial ritual) was preparation for, and foreshadowing of, the Christ, and so was fulfilled by what He did when He came. The moral demands and principles of the law were not lightened by Jesus, but made fuller and more far-reaching (Mt. v. 21-48). In the discipline of obedience that its detailed regulations demanded, and as the revealer of right and wrong, it was intended to lead to Christ (Gal. iii. 24). In an absolute sense it cannot be said to be made of no effect in Christ (Romans iii. 31). But as a code ‘specific, rigid, and outward, fulfilled in external ordinances’ (Wescott), and so serving to separate Jews and Gentiles, it was abolished (cf. Col. ii. 20-22).”56

As unbelievers, both Jews and Gentiles are “dead in sin” and “children of wrath” under penalty of death. Through the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, God reconciled all who are in Christ to Himself. The Jews, who were “nearer” in the sense that God had given them the Scriptures containing the promise of salvation, rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and only a remnant are, at present, “sons of Abraham.” We Gentiles, who were once “far off” are “brought near” through faith in Jesus Christ.

Gentile saints are not merely given membership in Judaism, both Jews and Gentile are reconciled to God in a new way, a way which removes the barrier which for so long divided them. God reconciled Jews and Gentiles to Himself as one entity, and that entity is not Israel or Judaism, but our Lord Himself.

This new unity which God accomplished through His Son on the cross of Calvary is something which no Old Testament saint ever imagined or conceived. This entity is described in several ways by the Apostle Paul. First, all believers are one because they are saved in the same way, through the same person, Jesus Christ. Jews and Gentiles are saved by obtaining a new identity in Christ.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 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. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

Second, when we are reconciled to God, both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled as “one new man” (verse 15). He has created us anew as “one body” (verse 16).

Third, when Christ came, He preached the same message of peace to both Jews (those who were “near’) and to Gentiles (those who were “far away,” see verse 17).

Fourth, Jewish and Gentile saints are one in that both have the same access to God through the same means, the Holy Spirit (verse 18).

Finally, as a result of the work of God on our behalf, Jews and Gentiles are being built up into a temple in which God Himself dwells (verses 19-22). Gentiles are no longer strangers, they are citizens. They are no longer strangers, they are members of God’s own household (verse 19). God no longer dwells in a building made with human hands, He dwells in the church, of which Jesus Christ is the head. The apostles and prophets laid the foundation for the church, and now it is continuing to be built up, completed just before our Lord establishes His kingdom on earth. There are not two walls, one Jewish and the other Gentile. The walls are made up of Jewish and Gentile saints, made one in Christ.

Conclusion

If there is anything which this text teaches us it is that God has created something entirely new and unexpected in the birth of the church. Jews are no longer distinguished from Gentiles. Gentiles need not become Jews to be saved and to enter into the blessings which God promised Abraham. The church is a new entity, born by the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of its Head, Jesus Christ. Everyone who believes in Christ is a part of His body.

We are not just reconciled to God, all believers are reconciled to each other as well. To become a Christian is to be born into a family, into His body, the church. There is no such thing as an autonomous Christian. It was never imagined that a Christian would live out his life as a saint in isolation. The shed blood of Jesus Christ not only joins us to God, but it joins every Christian to every other saint.

Our text teaches the reconciliation of men with God, and of Jewish believers with Gentile saints. By implication, this text and its message has much to say to us. Let us consider some of these implications as we conclude this study.

(1) Racism and discrimination cannot be tolerated in the church of Jesus Christ. In Christ, every believer has an equal standing before God. There are no “first-class” or “second-class” Christians, only those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.57

(2) Some of the tenants of contemporary church growth theology and practice fail to meet the standards of the gospel. Some of church growth theology is rooted in secular theory and practice. Thus, “homogeneous” church congregations are the ideal. “Birds of a feather flock together,” we are told, and thus churches grow faster which cater to a particular segment of society. In so doing, in my opinion, the principle laid down in Ephesians 2 is denied and violated. Paul seemed to hold the same point of view, because he strongly rebuked those in the Galatian church who hypocritically associated with the Jewish saints, to the exclusion of the Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-21). He saw this as a denial of the gospel.

(3) It is my opinion that Messianic Jewish congregations operate dangerously close to the evil condemned by Paul in Galatians chapter 2. A distressingly large number of Jewish converts to Christianity are unwilling to shed their Jewish identity and to identify with a normal church congregation. They wish to retain their Jewishness, and seem unwilling to associate with any degree of intimacy with predominantly Gentile congregations. I believe the practice, if not the motivation, is highly suspect.

(4) When we cease to be “strangers and aliens” to the commonwealth of Israel, we become “strangers and pilgrims” to this world. When we find a new identity in Jesus Christ, our old identification with the world rightly changes. As Christ was hated and rejected by the world, so will those who identify with Him (see Hebrews 11:13-17, 32-40; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11-17; 4:12-19).

(5) The Scriptures do not even conceive of an individual coming to personal faith in Jesus Christ, and yet somehow not become intimately associated with and committed to a church. There are autonomous Christians around, who confidently claim Christ as Savior, but who feel free to live their lives independently of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 2, along with other related texts, should expose this belief and practice as inconsistent with the gospel. You can be a part of the visible church without being a Christian, but you cannot be a Christian without being a part of His church.

(6) The unity which Paul elsewhere calls upon Christians to preserve, practice, and promote, is the unity which Ephesians chapter 2 is speaking. In chapter 4, Paul will challenge the Ephesians to “preserve the unity of the Spirit.” Ephesians chapter 2 describes the essence of the unity which we are called to express in chapter 4.

(7) Jesus Christ is the key to reconciliation. The hostility between Jews and Gentiles is deep-rooted and intense. World peace efforts today fail to grasp the depth of this division, or to comprehend that only Jesus Christ can make enemies fellow-saints. Christ alone is the key to reconciliation. Apart from Him, there can and will be no real and lasting peace. Peace will not be arbitrated or negotiated by politicians or diplomats; peace has been accomplished by Christ. All those in Him are reconciled.

For a number of years I have taught prison seminars. In one seminar, I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of another instructor. He told me a wonderful story of reconciliation which he witnessed in a prison in Florida. As I remember the story, a young woman was attacked and brutally killed by her assailant. The killer was apprehended, convicted, and sentenced to prison. The mother of this young woman was a Christian. The Spirit of God began to convict her concerning her hatred of her daughter’s killer. Eventually, she gave way to God’s leading and wrote to the man. She told him that God had enabled her to forgive him, and not to hate him any longer. After a while, she found that she must see the man face to face. When my fellow-instructor taught a seminar in the prison where this killer was serving his time, both the killer and the victim’s mother sat side by side in the meetings. And the Bible which the young man held in his hands was a gift from the mother, with this inscription, “To my son.” That, my friend, is reconciliation. Only God can bring about this kind of reconciliation. And He has done so through the cross of Calvary.

There is no alienation so great, no hatred so strong, that the cross of Calvary cannot reconcile men with men or men with God. The cross of Christ reconciles sinners to God and sinners with one another. The church should be a living testimony to the reconciliation which God has accomplished on the cross.

May your life demonstrate this reconciliation, if you have been reconciled to God in Christ.


50 No man is able to correctly judge another, or even himself, because he is not able to discern the motives of the heart. See 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

51 Barclay comments, “In Greek there are two words for new. There is neos which is new simply in point of time; a thing which is neos has come into existence recently, but there may well have been thousands of the same things in existence before. … There is kainos which means new in point of quality. A thing which is kainos is new in the sense that it brings into the world a new quality of thing which did not exist before. The word that Paul uses here is kainos …” William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, revised edition (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 116.

52 Remember as well the sailers in Jonah chapter 1, who became worshippers of God through their contact with Jonah and the storm.

53 Note the arrogance of the Jewish religious leaders for the masses who were Jews, but who were, in their opinion, ignorant of the Law:

The Parisees therefore answered them, “you have not also been led astray, have you? No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? But this multitude which does not know the Law is accursed” (John 7:47-49).

54 William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (Philademphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 107.

55 William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 111-112.

56 Francis Foulkes, The Epistle of Paul to The Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963), pp. 82-83.

57 Only those meeting certain qualifications may hold the office of elder or deacon, and women are prohibited from certain leadership functions in the church. This is not due to any inferiority, but rather on the role which they have been called to play in God’s program. Indeed, the submission and silence of women in public ministry is part of God’s program to instruct the angelic host (see 1 Corinthians 11:10).

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)