Commentary on Ephesians, 2:11-22

Ephesians 2:11-22

As an introduction to verses 11-22, please click on the link below:

True Israel

“11 Therefore, remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in [the] flesh, the so-called uncircumcision by the so-called circumcision in [the] flesh, made by hands,
12 that you were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, not having hope, and without God in the world.”  LEB

Outside of Christ, there is a sharp distinction between the circumcised (the Jews) and the uncircumcised (the Gentiles). Before the death and resurrection of Christ, the nation of Israel was God’s chosen people through whom He accomplished His will in the world. God chose to bring His Son into the world through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).

Apart from Christ, we Gentiles are separated from the citizenship of Israel (true Israel) and all its spiritual blessings.

“13 But now in Christ Jesus you, the ones who once were far away, have become near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of the partition, the enmity, in his flesh,
15 invalidating the law of commandments in ordinances, in order that he might create the two in himself into one new man, [thus] making peace,
16 and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, killing the enmity in himself.”

“broke down the dividing wall of partition” (the antagonistic, middle wall of partition)

Regarding this wall, Albert Barnes says:

“There is an allusion here undoubtedly to the wall of partition in the temple by which the court of the Gentiles was separated from that of the Jews; see the notes and the plan of the temple, in Matthew 21:12. The idea here is, that that was now broken down, and that the Gentiles had the same access to the temple as the Jews. The sense is, that in virtue of the sacrifice of the Redeemer they were admitted to the same privileges and hopes.”

The division and antagonism between the Jews and Gentiles, which was symbolized by  this wall (as well as the Law), was dissolved by the blood of Christ. Through His death and resurrection, Jews and Gentiles become one through Him. Where there was once hostility between the two, there is now peace because of their common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. The two become one in Christ, and together become true Israel, who are both of the faith of Abraham (Gal 3:6-9; Gal 3:26-29).

That believing Jews and Gentiles together become true Israel, is clearly revealed by his statement in verse 11 and 12, where Paul said that the Gentiles were formerly “alienated from the citizenship of Israel.” In verse 19, he says that they become “fellow citizens.” His whole point in this whole passage, is that together we are now citizens of Israel through the blood of Christ. The Israel that Paul is referring to is clearly not the nation of Israel, but those who share a common faith in Christ. Together, we are now the true Israel of God.

“17 And coming, he proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to the ones who were near,
18 because through him [we] both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
Jesus Himself preached the good news of salvation prior to the cross, as well as through His disciples, particularly through the Apostles. This was to both the Jews (near) and to the Gentiles (far away). Through Christ we both have access to the Father, and that is through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 18 clearly reveals the Trinity of God.

“19 Consequently, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God.

Again, both believing Jews and Gentiles are now fellow citizens of Israel. True Israel is not the nation, but those who share the faith of Abraham.

“20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”

It was through the Apostles and prophets that the gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, the Word of God given (the New Testament), and the Church established.

“21 in whom the whole building, joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are built up together into a dwelling place of God in [the] Spirit.”

Together, both believing Jews and Gentiles are God’s building, of which Jesus is the “cornerstone.” Together we “grow into a holy temple in the Lord.” Corporately, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as individual believers, as well (2 Cor 6:14-18; 1 Cor 6:19,20).

Conclusion

Considering the oneness that believing Jews and Gentiles have in Christ, and considering the fact that we are now fellow citizens of Israel (true Israel) through our common faith, and considering that the true offspring of Abraham are those who share his faith, it’s very difficult to conceive that God still has a separate plan for the nation of Israel.

I think it’s clear that all the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ, and thus, in the Church, of which He is the Head. I think what Paul says in the very next chapter (Eph 3:4-6) and in Galatians, confirms this.  Paul says that the “mystery of Christ” is that the Gentiles are now “fellow heirs” (with Israel) and “fellow sharers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” If we are fellow heirs with Israel, and if true Israel are all believers in Christ, wouldn’t that make the Church the heirs of all the promises to Israel?

In Galatians 3:16-29, Paul tells us that the promises made to Abraham and to His offspring, was a reference to Christ and to those who belong to Christ. Thus we become the true offspring of Abraham through faith in Christ. If the true offspring of Abraham, which has Israel in view, are all believers in Christ  (the Church), then how can the nation of Israel still be in the plans of God? For His plans for them are fulfilled in His Son, who is the Head of The Church, composed of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

Considering the fact that the 1000 year kingdom that premillenialists teach, is to be Jewish in nature, with a return to animal sacrifices, it seems totally contradictory to what we just learned in this passage of Scripture. Furthermore, in light of what the book of Hebrews has to say, a return to animal sacrifices seems extremely unlikely, if not completely out of the question.

So how do we interpret all the Old Testament end time prophecies about Israel? We have to interpret them with Christ in view. Clearly, those promises to Israel are all fulfilled in Christ, and thus, in the Church. I realize that not taking those prophecies literally, with a focus on the nation of Israel, is a little difficult to see at first, but when you take everything in consideration, I believe we are compelled to view them with Christ and The Church as the fulfillment of those prophecies.

I believe we’re much safer interpreting the Old Testament by the New, and not the other way around. I think we get ourselves into theological trouble when we do that. Not only are we safer by beginning with the New Testament, I believe we are required to do so. Reason being, is that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old.