Introduction: Have you ever felt like an “outsider?” How about in
high school? I took my driver’s training at a local public high
school. I recall walking up to the classroom and seeing a knot of
guys standing outside the door. I knew I was an outsider, but I
thought I knew one of them. Gathering my courage, I walked up to the
group and introduced myself. I did not like the feeling of being an
outsider, and wanted to move “in” as quickly as possible. Our lesson
today is about moving from an outsider to an insider. Let’s jump in
and find out how that is possible!
- Read Ephesians 2:11-12. What is the significance of
circumcision? (Read Genesis 17:7 and Genesis 17:11.
Circumcision was a sign of agreement between God and an
individual. (Specifically Abraham and his descendants.)
They agreed on personal loyalty between God and man.)
- What, then, did it mean ( Ephesians 10:11)to be called
“uncircumcised.” (You had no relationship with God.)
- Why would a group call themselves “the circumcision?”
(They considered that act so important to their
spiritual life, that they were known by that name.)
- Is that a problem?
- What about being called a “Baptist?”
- What about being called a “Methodist?”
- What about being called a “Seventh-day
- What problem can arise from over-emphasizing one
portion of your beliefs?
- Notice Paul’s aside in Ephesians 2:11: “that done in
the body by the hands of men.” What would motivate
Paul to add this note? What point is he making?(In
contrast to those who identify themselves by this
single act, Paul downgrades the importance of the act
by pointing out it is done by men.)
- Paul has tossed some insults in the direction of the
“the circumcision,” but who really is (was) in
trouble? (The Gentiles.)
- What were the problems of the Gentiles? (They
were without hope and without God.)
- Consider this for just a moment. In prior
times, was salvation only open to the
Jews? Make a mental note of your answer.
- Read Ephesians 2:13. What changed everything for the
- Read Ephesians 2:14-15. Paul tells us the two are now
made one. Since he has been talking about the condition of
the Jews and the Gentiles, are Jews and Gentiles now one?
(Yes – amazingly.)
- How did Jesus convert the “two” into “one?” (Paul tells
us: “By abolishing the law with its commandments and
- Wait one minute. What has the law got to do with
being a Jew or a Gentile?
- Aren’t we talking about people, not rules?
- Read Acts 10:9-16. What is this vision about?
- Read Acts 10:19 and Acts 10:28. What was at the base of
the problem between Jews and Gentiles? (The Gentiles were
“unclean” in the eyes of the Jews.)
- How did the rules (regulations) separate Jew from
Gentile? (The whole Mosaic system separated the Jew
from the rest of the world. The point of all of these
regulations was to be a “clean” and separate people.
See, e.g. Leviticus 20:25-26. Being separate from the
Gentiles had everything to do with the regulations.
Gentiles were “unclean.”)
- What subject started our discussion today? (Circumcision.)
- Was that a “dividing wall” ( Ephesians 2:14) between
Jews and Gentiles? (Yes.)
- The NIV translates Ephesians 2:15 a little differently
than many other translations. It appears to me that the
Greek text says Jesus “abolished in His flesh the
hostility, the law of commandments in ordinances.” How
did Jesus’ death on the cross abolish the “ordinances?”
(The Jews thought they were superior because of their
various ordinances, such as circumcision. Paul is saying
that Jesus fulfilled these ordinances and thus they no
longer serve as a point of distinction between Jews and
- Can an ordinance be commanded by God? Or, are
ordinances just some things the Jews thought up to
make sure they did not violate God’s law? (Since the
specific point of discussion is circumcision, let’s
go back to Genesis 17. Read Genesis 17:9-10. This was
a command direct from the mouth of God. This was not
something cooked up by Jews as a “good idea.”)
- If an “ordinance” comes straight from the mouth of
God, is it any different in importance than one of
the Ten Commandments?
- Now One
- Let’s review for just a minute so we can dig deeper. Re-read Ephesians 2:15-16. Who is the “one man?” (The
combined Jew and Gentile. There is no more conflict
between Jew and Gentile. We are now to be at peace.)
- You remember that mental note I asked you to make before?
Tell me what salvation looked like for the Jews before
Jesus came? (They had no hope of salvation either since
they had all sinned. Romans 3:23.)
- If that is true – Jews also had no hope – why was
Paul saying ( Ephesians 2:12)that they had all these
advantages when it came to salvation? Why would he
imply that the Jews had hope and had God? (The Jews
had the hope of a coming Messiah (Jesus) and they
literally “had” God in the sense that Jesus was one
of them. However, in many respects they were just
like Gentiles. Without the Messiah they had no hope.)
- What does Paul tell us in Ephesians 2:16 was done for the
“one new man” ( Ephesians 2:15). (That “one new man” not
only has internal peace (between Jew and Gentile) he also
has been reconciled to God. Jesus not only fulfilled the
ceremonial law – thus eliminating the wall between Jew and
Gentile, but Jesus fulfilled the obligations of the Ten
Commandments – thus eliminating the wall of hostility
between God and us. Romans 8:1-4.)
- Is this “one new man” a clean or unclean man? (Do you
follow Paul’s line of argument? The Jews said the Gentiles
were unclean because they did not follow the Mosaic law
(given by God.) Paul tells us that Christ cured that
problem. But Jew and Gentile both still had this problem
that they were “unclean” in the eyes of God. They were all
sinners. Paul tells us that God cured that problem, too.
This new man has, to use a computer term, a “virtual
clean.” He is likely not “clean” (obedient) under the
Mosaic law, and he certainly is not “clean”
(obedient)under the Ten Commandments (especially as
explained (expanded) by Jesus – see Matthew 5:27-28).
Jesus did the impossible, He made us all clean in the eyes
- Read Ephesians 2:17-18. Were Jews nearer to God? (It seems
that is what Paul is saying.)
- Did it matter? (No!)
- Friend, notice this. No matter how far (or how near)
you are to God, with Jesus it does not matter. Not
only do those who are far away from God now have
access to Him through Jesus, but those who are near
need Jesus for their access. You cannot be too bad or
too good to be eligible to come. All must repent of
sin and claim the salvation made available through
- A New Church
- Read Ephesians 2:19-22. What is the real church of God?
- How many walls does this church (household) have?
(See Ephesians 2:14 – it has none!)
- What does this text teach us about arrogant “remnant”
claims made along denominational lines? (When you start
thinking that your little group is “clean” and the rest of
Christianity “apostate,” then you need to re-read this
chapter. God has a remnant all right, a remnant of “God’s
people and members of God’s household, built on the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus
Himself as the chief cornerstone.” That is the remnant
- Friend, God’s church is completely open to you. Will you
repent of your sins, and become part of the household of
- Next week: God’s Mystery: The Universal Fellowship.