Introduction: “Horizontal Atonement?” That sounds like
geometry. Before the math challenged among us get worried,
we are talking about relationships and not math.
Specifically, our relationship with others and not the
“vertical” relationship between God and us. Today this is a
complicated issue. In Revelation 2:20-21 we read of a church
member who, among other things, “is teaching and seducing my
servants to practice sexual immorality.” That church in
Thyatira is warned not to “tolerate” that member because she
will not repent. Today we have churches that not only
tolerate sexual sins, but take “pride” in them. Really,
pride? How do we show love to those around us without
crossing the line into being a “Thyatira” church? What was
the problem in Ephesus and how was it resolved? Let’s plunge
into our study of the Bible and find out!

I. The Other

A. Read Ephesians 2:11. What is a “Gentile in the
flesh?” And why does Paul refer to “the
circumcision” being made “in the flesh by hands?”
(Since humans can create these distinctions (being
circumcised or not) it sounds like Paul thinks
this distinction is artificial.)

1. What parallel do you find in our society
today? (Superficial differences based on
appearances that can be changed. That would
include clothing, hair, external ornaments.)

2. What Paul is talking about is not exactly like
the way we wear our hair because circumcision
had important spiritual meaning. What would be
a modern parallel? (Let’s look back before we
look forward. The Jews considered the Gentiles
to be outcasts, rejected by God. Today the
parallel would be pagans or Christians in
churches that we consider to have inferior

B. Read Ephesians 2:12. What is the more serious
problem with the Ephesians being Gentiles? (They
did not have God, and they did not have hope. God
had not made promises to them, rather He made
promises to His people – the Jews. These are not
artificial distinctions.)

II. Eliminating the Other

A. Read Ephesians 2:13. The Gentiles have now been
brought near. How? (“By the blood of Christ.” This
is an obvious reference to what Jesus did for us
at the cross.)

B. Read Ephesians 2:14. It says first that Jesus is
“Himself our peace.” How can an individual be

1. We find a clue to the above question in the
statement that Jesus “has made us both one.”
How did Jesus make Gentiles and Jews “one?”
(They no longer were Gentiles or Jews, rather
they became Christians – they are now one.
That is how Jesus “Himself” is our peace.)

2. This verse also says that Jesus has “broken
down in His flesh” the division between Jews
and Gentiles. How is that true? (Jesus died
for both Jews and Gentiles. He gave the Jews a
new path to God and He gave Gentiles a path
for salvation.)

C. Read Ephesians 2:15. How did the “law of
commandments” create a divide between Jews and
Gentiles? (Keeping the law and the ordinances is
what caused the Jews to feel superior to the
Gentiles. There was a lot of truth to the feeling
that they held an advantage – see Ephesians 2:12.)

1. How does “abolishing the law of commandments”
create one “new man in place of the two?”
(Read Romans 8:1-4. I don’t think Paul wants
to abolish the Ten Commandments, rather he is
teaching us that Jesus kept the Ten
Commandments for us. He did that for both
Jews and Gentiles. For that reason there is no
reason for anyone to feel superior.)

D. Read Ephesians 2:16. The cross is an equal
opportunity source of salvation. How does that
fact kill hostility? (The Jews and Gentiles were
hostile because one felt superior, and the other
resented it. The cross levels the playing field.
There is no longer an “other.”)

III. Applying the Principle Today

A. Read Ephesians 2:17-18. How do we equally have
access to God? (Through Jesus we have access
through the Holy Spirit to God the Father.)

1. Let’s discuss the complexity that I raised in
the introduction. There is a battle going on
in my church and others over how we should
deal with sinners who are proud of their sin.
The Methodist Church just split over this
issue. Should we apply Paul’s teaching about
reconciling Jews and Gentiles to the current
question about how to deal with those who are
proud of their sin? Can that be reconciled in
the same way?

2. Read Romans 8:4-6. Will those who are led by
the Holy Spirit promote sin or be proud of it?
(No. We are called to “walk” according to the
Spirit and not according to the flesh.)

3. What about Paul telling the Jews that being
proud of their obedience ended when everyone
understands that they are saved by the
obedience of Jesus? Doesn’t that apply to the
current situation? (Neither the Jews nor the
Gentiles were perfect in their obedience. Only
Jesus is perfect. Thus, pride in obedience is
out. But that does not mean we should support
the idea of being proud of sin. See
Romans 8:6. If being proud of obedience is out, how
can we think that pride in sin is in?)

B. Read Romans 8:12-13. Are those who live through
the leading of the Holy Spirit concerned about
obedience? (Yes. Verse 13 says that we “put to
death the deeds of the body.” It does not say
promote the deeds of the body.)

1. If we were to dive deeply into the pride
movement, I think we would find that few are
arguing that humans should be proud of their
sins. Rather, their argument is that what they
are promoting is not sin. Admitting that
simplifies the discussion.

2. Some may complain about me raising this issue.
If a battle is raging, should you stand in a
battle line with your uniform adjusted
properly, or should you move to the point of
the actual conflict?

3. Is there more than one sin in the church about
which the sinner claims he is proud?

C. Read Ephesians 2:19-21. During the time of Paul
Gentiles were literally banned from the temple in
Jerusalem. What is their status now as Christians?
(They are part of the structure of the temple!)

1. Let’s explore what this means. If we are a
part of the temple of God, is there a precise
place (location) for all of us? (We all have a
specific role in being the temple. See
1 Corinthians 12.)

2. What was the purpose of the temple in
Jerusalem? (It was a dwelling place for God.
It was a place which gave glory to God.)

a. If you are now part of the new temple,
are those aspects of the Jerusalem temple
applied to you? Is God to dwell in you?
Are you to bring glory to God?

D. Look again at Ephesians 2:21. Is “the whole
structure” the church today?

1. If you answered, “yes,” to the prior question,
then should you worship apart from a church?
(The discussion we have been having points
towards fellowship. We get our attitude
towards others right, and we form a proper
temple of God.)

2. How would you define “the church?” (I have
always been a member of a denomination that
believes its doctrines are superior. When I
became an adult I realized that many other
denominations have similar views. Why else
would they have a denomination?)

a. How should the idea of denominations
impact the idea of every Christian being
a part of the structure of the temple? (I
think denominations are fine. You worship
with people who generally share your
understanding of the Bible. What is not
fine is thinking that you are superior
because of your denomination. This is a
replay of the hostility between the Jews
and Gentiles.)

E. Read Ephesians 2:22. How does God dwell in you and
in the church structure? (“By the Spirit.” We must
be sure that we have invited the Holy Spirit into
our life. Without it we are truly “the other.”)

F. Friend, in the horizontal relationship between
Christians we are one in Jesus. We are not hostile
and we are not proud based on our doctrines or
practices. It is Christ alone who has saved us. It
is the Holy Spirit that lives in us who are part
of the temple of God. Will you join that temple?
Will you rely on the sacrifice and life of Jesus?
Will you live by the Holy Spirit? Why not make
that decision right now?

IV. Next week: The Mystery of the Gospel.

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are
from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard
Version ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within
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link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.