Ephesians 2:11-22

A number of years ago, I received a package from Germany. Getting packages from Germany is no novelty, as my older brother has been a missionary pastor there for many years and this particular package indicated that it had been sent by him. When I opened it up, it was to find a bit of odd-colored crumbling masonry, speckled with reds and blues. I looked at it for a moment, wondering if he had attempted to ship a pot and whether the mail handlers had been particularly brutal. Then I remembered what had happened only weeks earlier in Germany. The Berlin wall had come down. A city which had been divided for nearly forty years was reunited.

If you had traveled to Jerusalem in the days of the Apostle Paul, you would have found another wall. It wasn't lined with machine-gun turrets or barbed wire. But it was no less divisive. It was a rather low stone wall, only about 3 or 4 feet high. It surrounded the Temple. It divided the outer court of the Temple, known as the Court of the Gentiles, from the inner court. A number of gates were placed into this wall at strategic locations. And by each gate, there was posted a sign. The sign held a warning in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. It warned that no Gentile was permitted past this point on pain of death.

You see, the Gentiles were excluded from worshiping god in the temple. They could come and worship from afar. But they were excluded from the community of God's people. They were outsiders. It was death for them to come closer.

Indeed, as Paul writes to the Ephesians from a Roman prison, the reason for his initial arrest was because of a riot that had taken place when it was thought that he had brought a Gentile past the wall.

Paul had a ministry to the Gentiles. He was noted as the apostle to the Gentiles. There were a number of Gentiles who labored with him in the ministry.

Paul had not always been like this. He had started out as a racist. His racism extended back all the way to his father and to his father's father - back all the way to Abraham. He had a cultural heritage of racism - of holding himself separate and aloof from all Gentiles. That all changed when he came to Christ.



Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands -- 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12).

Paul is writing to believers in the city of Ephesus. They are mostly Gentiles. They are known as being the "Uncircumcision." They do not share in their bodies the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. And there was a time that their situation was even worse.

They were....


from Christ

Shut off

from the commonwealth of Israel


to the covenant of promise

The Jews had the promise of a Messiah. They were the commonwealth of Israel - God's holy nation. And they were bound to God through his covenant promises. The Gentiles had none of these.

As we hear of Paul talking about how we used to be, we are reminded of a similar passage earlier in this chapter. The general outline is the same. First Paul speaks of their former condition in sin. Then he describes what God has done in bringing salvation.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Ephesians 2:11-22

You were dead in your trespasses and sins (2:1).

You were at that time separate from Christ (2:12).

You formerly lived in the lusts of your flesh (2:3).

Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel (2:12).

Indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind (2:3).

Strangers to the covenants of promise (2:12).

And were by nature children of wrath (2:3)

Having no hope and without God in the world (2:12).

But God made us alive together with Christ (2:4-5).

But you have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:13).

Paul says that they were "without God." The Greek says that they were - atheists. How about you? Are you an atheist? You might reply, "Of course not! I believe in a Supreme Being - someone who is bigger than I am." But are you living your life as though there were no God? If you are not loving Him with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your body and if you are not serving him, then you are a practicing atheist.



But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:13-18).

Just when things are seen to be as bad as they can get, we are introduced to a conjunction of contrast. Here is how things were... BUT NOW... You were formerly far off... you have been brought near.

Notice the change in the time and in the kind of action. The movement is from the continuous to a certain point in time.


Greek Tense

Time of Action

Kind of Action








Point of time

We were continually separated from Christ and shut off from Israel and strangers to the covenant. But then something happened in a point of time. That something is Jesus. He did a work that brought us near to God.

The means of your drawing near was not as a result of your own self effort. It was "not of works" (2:9). Rather, it was through the blood of Christ.

When we talk of blood, we are talking covenant language. When you made a covenant in the ancient world, you would seal it through a sacrifice. You would seal it in blood. Indeed, one did not sign a covenant. You would CUT a covenant.

This is the significance of the blood of Christ. The covenant into which we have entered was signed in His blood. He is both the maker of the covenant as well as the substance of the covenant.

Verses 14-18 are presented in the form of a chiasm. Notice the alternate uses of the words "peace" and "enmity."

He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier (2:14).

Abolishing in His flesh the enmity (2:15).

Made the two into one new man, thus establishing peace (2:15).

Having put to death the enmity (2:16).

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near (2:17).

The way in which Jesus brought about peace involved the destruction of those things which stood in the way of peace. Notice the destructive ministry of Jesus as it is described here.


Greek Word




Broke down (literally, "destroyed") the barrier of the dividing wall



Abolishing in His flesh the enmity



Having put to death the enmity

There had been no greater enmity than that which existed between Jews and Gentiles.

Neither were Gentiles above persecuting the Jews. There had once been an attempt in the days of Xerxes to pass an ordinance to exterminate the Jewish race. On another occasion, Jews had been forbidden to read their own Scriptures or to circumcise their young on pain of death. In Paul's day, all of the Jews had been banished from the city of Rome.

But Christ has brought peace. This has great application for the church today. It means that the church has a basis for racial reconciliation. Between Jew and Gentile. Between Black and White. Between Anglo and Hispanic.

The curse of Babel was visually overturned at Pentecost. The barrier of those languages that had once served to divide people of differing races was crossed in a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. The implication of that event is that our racial distinctions should no longer divide us.



So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22).

God has a continuing work in the church today. It is a work of unification. Three illustrations are given in verses 19-20 to picture the unification of Jews and Gentiles.

A City

Fellow citizens with the saints

A Family

Of God's household

A Building

Having been built (the building is actually a Temple)

God is building a house. Its foundation is upon the apostles and prophets. Christ is the cornerstone. This brings us to a question.

Why are the apostles and prophets called the foundation of the house? Why is Christ pictured as the cornerstone? Why isn't HE the foundation?

It is the apostles and prophets who presented the truth of the work of Christ to men who believed and became a part of the building. The Ephesians had never met Jesus in the flesh. But they did meet Paul and Silas. They laid the foundation of their faith.

Christ is the cornerstone. The cornerstone holds the two adjoining walls together. Christ holds the Jews and the Gentiles together. If you are in Christ, then you are a part of that building. You have been fitted together with me and with the rest of the church. We are a building. And not just a building, but a temple. You know what a temple is. It is a place where you go to meet God. It is a place where God abides.

We are the temple. This is not speaking of us individually. We ARE individually temples of God and that truth is seen in 1 Corinthians 6:19, but that is not what Paul is talking about here. This is not speaking of us as individuals. This is speaking of the collective of the church. All of God's people make up this single temple.

Think of it! Those who at one time made it their practice to worship false gods and goddesses in the heathen temples of Ephesus were brought into the commonwealth of God's covenant community to become a part of the very temple of God on earth.

This is a marvelous thing that God has done. He has made a single body of diverse peoples. Not two bodies. Not an Old Testament Israel and a New Testament Church. One body. One temple. To serve as the dwelling place for One Spirit.

My brother was in Berlin when they tore down the dividing wall. It was to him a moving experience to stand on the site of the old wall and share the gospel of freedom with a guard in that location where they used to shoot people who attempted escape the tyrrany of communism.

I still have in my study a crumbling bit of masonry. I keep it as a reminder that the gospel breaks down walls. And unites people. And builds up a house where God dwells.

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