Israel and the Church – [Eph 2:11-22]

All Scriptures quotes are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Ephesians 2:11-22
11 Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands;
12 that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition,
15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace;
16 and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh:
18 for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father.
19 So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,
20 being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone;
21 in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord;
22 in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.


This is such a significant passage regarding Israel and the Church. As I’ve been saying all along, in order to correctly interpret prophecy, one must have a correct understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Church. Paul talks so much about it in so many places, that I think it’s obvious he went out of his way to provide that understanding. This is one of the most extensive passages about this in the New Testament.


11 Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands;


Speaking to Gentile Christians, Paul refers to the days under the Old Covenant, before the cross. The Jews looked down upon Gentiles as being second-class citizens. They viewed themselves as being the recipients of the special favor of God (though they didn’t/don’t understand their true calling), and in truth, they were…..but they were arrogant about it and very prejudice. They looked upon Gentiles with disdain.


In fact, during the transition period of the early Church, from Old Covenant to New Covenant, it took awhile even for believing Jews to look upon believing Gentiles differently as they were accustomed to. So Paul had to reorient their way of thinking. They needed to learn that in Christ there is no distinction between the two groups, that together we are a whole new creation:


ESV – 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  (Gal 6:15)


“made by hands”


Here Paul mentions the fact that circumcision was something that was done or “made” by human hands, in contrast to the “circumcision of the heart,” which is done by the Holy Spirit (vss. 15,18,22):


28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.  (Ro 2:28-29)


In Christ, we are spiritual Jews, true Jews in Christ, for He is True Israel.


So we see that both believing Jews and believing Gentiles had to have their way of thinking reoriented under the New Covenant. They both had to learn that in Christ we are a new creation, a whole new entity. In Christ there are no Jews and there are no Gentiles, but a whole new people:


28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.  29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.  (Gal 3:28-29)


As believers in Christ, we are spiritual Jews, and together as the Church, we are spiritual Israel. Our identification as such is in Christ, who is Himself True Israel. Paul further confirms our identification as spiritual Jews by referring to us as “Abraham’s seed.” It’s not the physical seed of Abraham who are Jews, but those who share his faith:


7 Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham.  (Gal 3:7)


Sam Storms (from book Kingdom Come):


Quote:
By “new man “ Paul means the Christian community in its corporate identity, the Church. This new man is not simply an amalgam of the old in which the best of Judaism and the best of the Gentile world are combined. This is a completely new creation in which distinctives of Jewishness and Gentileness are irrelevant. Thus, as Lincoln says, “they have not just been brought into a mutual relationship, but have been made one in a unity where both are no longer what they previously were (cf. vv. 15, 16, 18). In accomplishing this, Christ has transcended one of the fundamental divisions of the first-century world.” Therefore, it’s not as though Gentiles are transformed into Jews or Jews into Gentiles. Rather “the resulting new humanity transcends the two old entities, even though unbelieving Israel and disobedient Gentiles continue to exist.
Unquote


Since we are are spiritual Jews in Christ and the true “sons of Abraham” through faith, that means that Jesus is True Israel. Thus if Jesus is True Israel, then all the promises to Israel and for Israel are ultimately and actually made to Him and fulfilled in Him, as Paul says in Galatians:


16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ…….28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.  (Gal 3:16,28,29)


12 that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.


Here Paul is talking about how the Gentiles were at one time separated from the “commonwealth of Israel.” Paul explains this commonwealth in Romans 9:


3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.  (Ro 9:3-5)


This “commonwealth of Israel” refers to the state, citizenship, privileges, blessings, and promises that were given to Israel by God. The Israelites were God’s chosen people (Ro 11:1). It was through them that He revealed Himself to the world. It was to them and through them that the Word of God came. It was through the Jewish prophets that God spoke and taught and warned and encouraged. It was to them and through them that He performed miracles and displayed His glory. It was through Israel that the Savior of the world came.


Paul’s point in this whole passage is, that together as believers, 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, as the Church, we are now the New Israel of God — spiritual Israel. The Church doesn’t “replace” Israel. On the contrary, Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in the Church.


Apart from Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike are separated from the “commonwealth of Israel” (true, spiritual Israel), separated from all the spiritual blessings that were promised in the OT prophecies relating to Christ. In Christ, “The covenants of the promise” are for both believing Jew and Gentile.


It’s vitally important that we understand that Paul is using Jewish terminology and applying it to all who are in Christ, who together make up the Church. We saw this same thing in our study of 1 Peter 2:3-10, where Peter used Jewish terminology and applied it to the Church, indicating that Israel is reborn in Christ as a spiritual Israel.


In regard to “the covenants of the promise,” again, Sam Storms is helpful:


Quote:
The plural “covenants” points to a series of covenants: with Abraham (Gen. 15: 17), Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5), Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15), and David (2 Sam. 7). These covenants were all characterized by or based on “promise,” namely, God’s pledge to be faithful to his people and to fulfill his word to them. One might even translate the phrase, “the covenants which embodied the promise” of God. Though Gentiles had no part in this promise they are now co-heirs with Christ.
Unquote


Thus in Christ, Gentiles are co-heirs of all the promises made to Israel, for those promises are fulfilled in Christ (Eph 3:6). We enter into those promises through Him:


14 For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition,
15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace;
16 and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:


Paul reveals that where there was once a “wall” between  Jews and Gentiles, in Christ there is now unity, a “oneness,” and not simply being as one, as being in harmony, but a “new man” in Christ, a whole new creation.


Regarding this wall, Albert Barnes says:

Quote
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…..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.
Unquote

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).


Sam Storms:


Quote:
The “one new man,” i.e., the Church, in which both believing Jews and believing Gentiles were united by the blood of Christ, was heir to all the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The dispensational idea that in the age to come Israel would hold privileged status and be the unique focus of God’s eschatological activity and blessing was ruled out by this passage.
Unquote


What Paul is explaining, is that this “one new man,” this “one body,” is not a combining of Jews and Gentiles, but an entirely new creation of a new people. We are all one in Christ, where there is no Jew or Gentile, but a brand new entity, a brand new organism. Together, we are heirs to all the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  


17 and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh:
18 for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father.


I don’t think the meaning of this statement in verse 18 is fully realized at first. But in light of everything we’ve been learning, it’s clear that Paul is not saying that we “have our access” as two distinct groups: as believing Jews and believing Gentiles. No, what Paul is saying, is that we “have our access” into the presence of the Father (“in one Spirit”) as one new and entirely different people. Old distinctions are done away with in Christ.


19 So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,
20 being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone;
21 in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord;
22 in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.


To demonstrate the harmony between what Peter taught and what Paul taught, I’m simply going to quote what I wrote (in part) in our study of 1 Peter 2:3-10:


Quote:
4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious,
5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.


In this passage, Peter alludes to the Old Testament temple. Here he reveals that the temple of God is now a “spiritual” temple, a “spiritual house.” That’s who we are in Christ. That’s who the Church is:


16 And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Cor 6:16)


The Old Testament temple was a type and picture of the Spiritual Temple of God that was yet to come in Christ. In Christ, we as the Church, are a “spiritual house,” a spiritual temple. The OT temple represented all of Israel. As a spiritual temple in Christ, does it not follow, yes, does it not require, that Israel also now be spiritual in nature? How could it be any other way? If the physical temple of the OT represented a physical people, then it follows that this spiritual temple must represent a spiritual people. Thus True Israel is the body of Christ, the Church. Is this not in harmony with what Paul taught regarding the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16) and the True Jew?


28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh:
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Ro 2:28-29)
 
“he is not a Jew who is one outwardly”
“he is a Jew who is one inwardly”


(see also Gal 3:6-9,16,27-29)


Since we already discussed this in detail before in this series, I will not spend any more time talking about that. I just wanted to make the point that the true Jew is a spiritual Jew, thus, True Israel is spiritual Israel, those of the faith of Abraham (not physical descendants). Peter and Paul describe the same thing, but from a different viewpoint.


The Old Testament temple represented the people and faith of national Israel. The New Testament temple (the Church) represent the people and faith of  spiritual Israel, those who are in Christ. Both the OT temple and national Israel were looking ahead, and was a type and picture of what would be fulfilled in Christ. This was God’s plan all along.


The idea that national Israel still has a place in God’s plan is contrary to what is taught in the NT. If  the fulfillment of Old Covenant Israel has already occurred, then what sense does it make that things would revert back to OT Israel and OT temple under the New Covenant? I think the whole book of Hebrews SHOUTS against that idea.


With that further background, I want to continue to look at our text in more detail:


4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious,
5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.


Jesus is a “living stone.” We in Christ are also “living stones.” The Old Testament temple was built with physical stones. The spiritual temple of the New Testament is built with spiritual stones, and Jesus is the “Chief corner stone.” In Christ, we are a “spiritual house.”


Notice that the dead animal sacrifices of the Old Testament are done away in Christ, and that we as a “holy priesthood,” are to offer up “spiritual sacrifices.” As believers, the spiritual sacrifices are the yielding of our bodies and lives to God:


12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. (Ro 12:1)


The Old Testament dead animal sacrifices give way to the live, spiritual sacrifices of God’s people in Christ.


7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner;


“The stone which the builders rejected,” refer to the Jews, who built the temple. They rejected Christ as their Messiah, who is “the head of the corner” (cornerstone), referring to what has become the spiritual temple of God.
Unquote


Conclusion


All things considered, how can it be that God still has a distinct and separate plan for the nation of Israel, apart from the Church? It should be clear by now that God no longer recognizes the ethnic, national Israel of the Old Covenant, for they were but a type and shadow of Christ, who is True Israel.


Not that ethnic Jews don’t exist today. Not that the nation of Israel doesn’t exist today. But God has already accomplished His plan and purpose for them. The nation of Israel was a type of the “holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9) which was to come, which is the the Church. In other words, national Israel has it’s completion and continuation in Christ and in His Church. The nation of Israel has its fulfillment as a spiritual nation.


In Christ all people distinctions have been removed. We are a whole new people group, distinctly belonging to Christ as one, and having our identity in Christ.


Sam Storms:


Quote:
The unmistakable language of the apostle here in Ephesians 2 forced me to conclude that all distinctions, all spiritual privileges, all grounds for separation and alienation based on one’s ancestry, have been abolished by the blood of the cross. One’s genetic history no longer has bearing or weight or significance in the sight of God. One’s ethnic identity no longer has relevance when it comes to the experience of spiritual privilege. The focus of God’s presence, the repository of his power, is no more and never again shall be an ethnically united people-group who share a common ancestry, but rather a spiritually united Church who share a common faith in Jesus Christ.
Unquote


What the Jews of today need to recognize, is that they have their completion in Christ, both individually and as a nation. They’re still looking ahead to a kingdom that has already been inaugurated, which is the Church. And that’s something that Premillennialists need to realize, as well.


The Davidic Covenant (vss. 12-13), that the Messiah would come through the line of David, and that He would rule in a kingdom from the throne of David, that promise has already been fulfilled. Jesus sits upon that throne today – “at the right hand of God” – within the kingdom of His Church (Acts 2:29-36).


This is a subject we covered in the series “Thy Kingdom Now.” I invite you to read that whole series. That series and the one we’re in now, go hand in hand.