Grace for All Peoples

Notes for April 22, 2017
Ephesians 2:11-22

Biblical Background

  • Gentiles: Non-Jews were Gentiles. The Jewish people considered Gentiles to be, “unclean”, “goy”, “non-Kosher,” “pork-eating” and uncircumcised. They were considered to be “without God,” not knowing the true God. This is ironic as the Jews and Christians were considered atheists by other religions –since they didn’t have visible gods or idols.

  • Circumcision: Literally it is the removal of the foreskin which covers the top of the male genitalia. It is first commanded of Abraham as a sign that he was a part of God’s covenant to bless his descendants. Theologically it is an outward sign of an inward grace – Sign of the chosen. Later in the OT, Circumcision of Heart is what God is really looking for.

  • Circumcision as entrance into Jewish nation: A male Gentile wishing to convert to Judaism had to be circumcised in order to become part of God’s covenant people. This is still true today in most forms of modern Judaism.

  • Paul writing from Prison: Paul is charged with taking a non-Jew inside the temple (Acts 21:28) and for this he is in prison.

  • The dividing wall: The temple had a dividing wall that kept Jews and Gentiles apart. Paul has been falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into the restricted area for Jews only. The dividing wall in the temple, however, is a visual illustration of the separation in the minds of the Jews between Jews and Gentiles, even among some Jewish Christians.

  • Isaiah 57:19: refers to the Jews who are scattered around the world. Jesus came to proclaim the Gospel through His disciples to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike scattered around the world.

  • Racial unity in the church: Paul is arguing that all disciples of Jesus Christ are now united and are citizens of the same nation – no more are there “foreigners” or “aliens” in the family of God.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is Paul addressing in vv. 11-12? What is a Gentile? What adjectives does Paul use to describe a Gentile? What does each description signify? Uncircumcised – unclean – not chosen – foreign – not a part of Israel, without hope, without God.

  2. What is circumcision in Judaism?

  3. “But!” What happened to the unclean, uncircumcised, atheist, hopeless, Goyim, Gentiles? Who and what has allowed the Gentiles to join the group of the chosen, hopeful, cleansed, nation of Israel?

  4. What were the promises made to Abraham and his descendants?

  5. What has Christ done for the Jewish people? What does it mean that he has abolished the law?

  6. How has Christ brought about peace between Jews and Gentiles?

  7. Is there peace today between Jews and Gentiles? In the 20th and 21st century? Why not? What is the only way true peace can occur between Jews and Gentiles?

  8. How easy would it have been for the Ephesians of both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds to live out this peace in Christ that Paul is speaking about here?

  9. Have you witnessed the peace making power of Christ in your relationships with other people from different backgrounds? In what ways is the church today divided along racial lines, cultural lines, etc.. What challenges do we face in the church in living out peace and reconciliation among one another?

  10. What is the ultimate purpose of Christ’s work on the cross? What does it mean to be reconciled to God?

  11. How can we be more inclusive in our own church body? What is the essential ingredient to having true inclusiveness and peace in the church? (Gospel truth)

  12. What differences can be accepted and which differences can not be accepted in the church?

  13. How does v. 18 reflect the unified work of the Trinity?

  14. Why is the metaphor of the Temple important both corporately and individually as a believer? What significance did the temple play in the nation of Israel?

  15. What other metaphors does Paul use to describe the new status of those in Christ? How do these metaphors resonate with you? What do they communicate to you personally?

  16. How have you experienced God’s peace in your own life?