Introduction

In our lesson last week, we saw where Paul focused on how all sincere believers are God’s workmanship, therefore, we should be producing fruit that is holy and righteous.  In our lesson this week, Paul, once again, speaks to what may have been an ongoing issue within the church of Ephesus.  Paul’s goal was for the believers of the church to recognize that they were all of the household of God.

An Issue in the Church of Ephesus

The Church of Ephesus, along with several other churches in the region, was made up of both Jews and Gentiles.  The reason I mention this is because of what we see Paul speak of in the opening verses of our lesson this week.

In the opening verse, we can see where the Gentiles, in the flesh, were called “Uncircumcision (uncircumcised)” by those that were called “the Circumcision” (v.11).  The Jews would refer to Gentiles as uncircumcised in a manner to put down Gentiles; they believed themselves better than the Gentiles because they were God’s chosen people. Does that conduct sound becoming of one who is supposed to be God’s chosen?

Now, we certainly know the harm that prejudice and segregation brings to a community.  To be frank, our society is in the position it’s in today because we still accommodate those who walk with an attitude of superiority as they look down on others due to a number of things – race, gender, sexuality, religion, and politics. Such conduct should not exist within a people that are supposed to move out of the love of God.

The church of Ephesus, you may recall from my series on the seven churches in Revelation, struggled with having compassion.  In Revelation 2:2, Jesus said that He knew the works of the church as they did not bear those who were evil and liars.  While that sounds like a good thing, Jesus’ message towards the church was to encourage them to return to a mindset of compassion when they first loved Christ and to do the first works (Rev. 2:4-5).

The church of Ephesus, from my studies, I believe, suffered greatly from a lack of compassion.  I believe that they not only lacked compassion for the sinner, but the Jews within the church struggle to truly love the Gentile believers that made up the church.  So, because of this, we see Paul speaking to Jews about their conduct, while at the same time, trying to uplift the spirit of the Gentile believers in the church.

Unity in the Household of God

Unison in the church was on Paul’s mind as we see him say to the Gentile believer, “at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (v.12).”  Yes, at one point in time, the Gentile was foreign to Israel, which speaks to the way that Israel should have moved in.  You see, Israel, as God’s chosen people, had received God’s law while the Gentiles had not received the law (Ex. 19:3-6).

However, Israel was unable to keep the law as the children of Israel chose to forsake the law, and therefore, forsake the Lord.  So, as we know, God gave the world His only begotten Son that whosoever – meaning anyone – believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  Paul states to the Gentile believer, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (v.13).”

Let’s be clear about this point from Paul with our added reference of what Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3:16.  While Israel is still God’s chosen people, we must understand that God has chosen all people by giving the world His only begotten Son.  As you have heard me say before, to Israel God gave them His written word on two stone tablets, but to the world, God gave His living word in the flesh.  I want you to understand that there is no segregation in the Lord!

Fellowship Together in Christ

So, it was good for the Gentile believers to hear this message from Paul as you have to imagine how much it may have weighed on them to have Jews bashing and looking down on them for not being Jews.

Paul wrote, “For He (Jesus) Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances (vss.14-15).”  Question for you:  who has Christ made to be both one?  If you answered the Jew and Gentile, then you’re certainly correct.

The Jews, within God’s law, were forbidden from being with the people in the Promised Land.  In fact, if you recall our lessons from Fall Quarter 2023, then you will remember that Joshua and the children of Israel were commanded to wipe away the Gentiles from the Promised Land.  

In Deuteronomy 7, you will see where God instructed Israel to conquer and utterly destroy the people; the children of Israel were not to make a covenant with the people in the land nor give their children in marriage to the children of the land (Deut. 7:1-5).  Why did God give the children of Israel those instructions?  Those instructions were given because God knew that the people of the land would corrupt Israel and be a hindrance to Israel becoming a holy people to God (Deut. 7:6).

The irony of it all is that the Jews, during the early church, looked down on Gentiles while their forefathers did their best to be like the Gentiles.  Yes, their forefathers wanted to have kings rule over them like the Gentiles did!  Their forefathers much rather worship the Baals and Asherahs, like the Gentiles, rather than worship the Lord!  Now that God had brought the Jews and Gentiles together through Christ, the Jews wanted very little to do with the Gentile believer because they had also been made equal and special in God’s eyes.

Again, there should be no segregation between those who sincerely believe in the only begotten Son of God; we are to be fellowship with each other and also be in fellowship with the Lord.  The “middle wall of separation” not only speaks to the once divide between Jew and Gentile but also speaks to the divide between man and God.  We will see Paul speak to the reconciliatory work of Christ through His preaching and death on the cross as well (vss.16-18).

Fellow citizens in God’s kingdom

Paul wrote, “therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (v.19).”  Simply put:  all believers make up one body – the household of God (the Church).

In his letter to the Corinthians, on this same subject, Paul wrote, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13).”  Notice that Paul speaks to there being different members (peoples, nationalities) in the body of Christ, but all come together in one body.

Within the body of Christ, Paul even spoke to how we will all be blessed with different gifts but it’s the same Spirit that has blessed us so greatly (1 Cor. 12:4-11).  With that in mind, Paul also stated, “For in fact the body is not one member but many (1 Cor. 12:14).  

To make a point, Paul then asked, “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling (1 Cor. 12:15-17)?”  

Do you understand the point that Paul was making?  His point is quite clear:  while we will all likely be different and bring different things to the table, this is for the best because we can accomplish more working together rather than all of us being exactly the same.  The real shame about this is just how much we hinder ourselves, not just in the world, but in the church because of our differences.  

Understand this:  there is a reason that God has blessed us with different gifts and having different cultures; we must stop being ignorant of this, but rather, we must celebrate our differences and learn to cooperate.  Dr. Rev. Martin L. King spoke a word when he said, “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation (America), one of the shameful tragedies at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hours in Christian America.”

To be frank, this is a message that still needs to be preached within the church today because there is still much segregation within the church walls.  Paul’s message on our differences within the household of God needs to also be shared because there should be no segregation in the Church.  And let me be crystal clear to this point: I am not simply talking about segregation along the lines of race but along the many other divides that we, mankind, have created that does nothing but tear us apart.

We are to be, as Paul said, fellow citizens that work together in unison to uplift each other so that we prosper in the works of love, holiness, and righteousness.  This is exactly as Paul said as he stated that we, the collective Church, have been built on the foundation of Christ who is the chief cornerstone.  As the chief cornerstone, Christ unifies the whole building – the household of God – for which we are able to grow into a holy temple to be a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (vss.20-22).

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