Posts tagged ‘Jews’

Ephesians 2:13-18 – A new people–the church

God in his mercy and grace did not leave the Gentiles in their hopeless condition described in v.11-12. No, he explains in this section how he has brought all Gentiles near through the blood sacrifice of his Son, Christ Jesus. But Paul explains further this sacrifice is for all human beings to have a relationship with the Father and be saved and become a new people—the church.

v.13,“But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him though the blood of Christ.” Paul starts with “but now” to contrast all that he just explained in detail the Gentiles were before their conversion in Christ (v.11-12). Paul again reminds the Gentiles “once you were far away from God.” This described who the Gentiles were in relationship to God before their conversion. “But now you have been brought hear to him” is a description of the Gentiles presently in relationship to God after their conversion. The means by which the Gentile believers are “brought near to” God is “through the blood of Christ.” His sacrificial death on the cross where his blood was shed is what brought all who believe near to God (salvation). Without the shedding blood there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22). However, in this verse Paul is specifically speaking of Gentiles.

Gentile believers: it is not an afterthought that Gentiles are now included in God’s family. This theme may seem to be secondary in the Old Testament, but it is there. God’s covenant with Abraham had in view the Gentiles as well (Gen 12:2-3). Here Paul makes what seemed secondary (Gentiles being included in God’s family—the church), now primary.

v.14,“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Christ through his death on the cross destroyed the barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, bringing “peace to us” and “united Jews and Gentiles into one people.” This made way for peace between the two groups. But more importantly Christ reconciled them both to God. Those who believed in God would be made “into one people”—believers! Paul describes the peace that Christ had made between these two groups as a “wall of hostility” that he “broke down.” It was no secret that there was a great hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, a cultural and religious hostility that only God could break. The dividing wall Paul is referring to is the wall in the Jewish temple that separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple, which only Jews could enter. When Christ died on the cross this wall was broken down (not literally but spiritually). The actual wall wasn’t broken down until the Romans entered Jerusalem in AD 70. It also symbolizing Gentile alienation from God being removed, as well.

In the next two verse Paul answers the questions we all have, how did Christ do this? How did he get rid of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles? Between man and God?

v.15-16,“He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility  toward each other was put to death.” Paul gives us four ways Christ through his death and resurrection, destroyed the hostility between Jews and Gentiles and between God and man.

  1. “Ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations.” This statement sounds contradictory to what Christ says about the law in Matt 5:17 in his Sermon on the Mount where he said he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Paul is not talking about “ending” the law as the Word of God or as a moral guide. What is ended or abolished is the law as a set of “commandments and regulations” (for sacrifices, circumcision, dietary regulations, ritual cleansing and regulations regarding the sabbath, etc) that exclude the Gentiles. The moral instructions of the law will continue but it will no longer exclude Gentiles or require them to become Jews (Deut 31:11-13). In Christ’s death and resurrection, he made the law ineffective to make people right before God. Christ abolished the law’s way of salvation. We can’t obey the whole law no matter how hard we try. So it separates us from God and from each other. But Jesus perfectly obeyed the law in his life and in his death took on the consequences of our disobedience. Acceptance with God is now only through faith in Christ alone for both the Jews or Gentiles. Christ will accept the Gentiles on equal footing as he does the Jews. The law was a barrier between all of us (Jews and Gentiles) and God, but faith unites us, since all have come to God through Christ in the same way.
  2. “By creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” Paul of course is talking about the church. This “one new people” was created by Christ when he abolished the divisive law (mentioned in point 1) on the cross. In this new people group there is no discrimination because they are all one in Christ (Col 3:11, Gal 3:28). Believers are no longer Jews or Gentiles but now Christians. A whole new group is formed and the result is peace between the Jews and Gentiles (v.14).
  3. “Reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Here the hostility is between God and man (both Jews and Gentiles). It is not just our attitude and sins towards him has been an issues, but also his wrath and anger toward us because of our sin. It is only through Christ death on the cross that both of these hostilities has been reconciled. 
  4. “Hostility toward each other was put to death” The hostility was also between the Jews and Gentiles (mentioned earlier in v.14). And again, by Christ death on the cross that hostility was also put to death and no matter who we are if we believe, we are part of the family of God, united as one in Christ.

v.17-18,“He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” The “Good News of peace” which is another way of saying the “Gospel” was “brought” or preached equally both to the “Gentiles” and the “Jews.” In the NIV the word “preached” instead of “brought” (NLT) is used which could refer to Jesus’ earthly ministry (before his crucifixion and resurrection) where he preached the Gospel to those he came in contact with. It also could simply mean Christ act of his death-burial-resurrection-exaltation. Peace was achieved and access to God the Father was made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice. The Gentiles “were far away” from God because they knew little or nothing about him. And the Jews “were near” to God because they already knew of him through the Scriptures and worshipped him in their religious ceremonies. Because both groups could not be saved by good deeds, knowledge, or sincerity, both needed to hear the Gospel was available to them only through Jesus Christ. “All of us” (Jews and Gentiles) are free to “come the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done.” Rather than “can come” is better translated “have access.” Christ provides the access to the Father by the “Holy Spirit” who helps us when we pray and who baptizes and unifies us into the body of Christ. Notice the emphasis on the Trinity in these verses. All three persons of the Trinity are involved in redeeming humanity (salvation). God the Father developed a plan of grace for salvation through faith. Christ’s carried out the plan through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. The Holy Spirit became the means of immediate access to God the Father.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? The hopeless plight of the Gentiles is redeemed by God stepping in through Christ. The Gentiles who didn’t know God can now have a relationship with God and only because of Christ’s shed blood that access is available. Then Paul switches gears to talk about all of humanity. Christ brought the Gospel of peace to everyone (Jews and Gentiles) through his sacrifice and resurrection. He broke down all barriers that were in the way of allowing the Gentiles to have a relationship with God. He did this by ending the rules and regulations of the law to exclude Gentiles. Christ brought peace and access to salvation to both Jews and Gentiles through his sacrifice. He also broke down the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. And by his sacrifice he also created a new people (one body)—the church or Christians or believers.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  The only thing I can do is praise God for stepping in and not leaving me to die spiritually. Because of his grace and Jesus’ sacrifice I can be saved and have a relationship with the Father. I now have access to the Father and I can be part of the family of God—his new people, the church!

June 29, 2020 at 11:48 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 2:11-12 – Gentile’s plight before God

Paul presents a bleak picture of what the Gentile believers’ plight was before they were converted. It’s not a pretty picture. But thankfully God intervenes which Paul will go into more detail in the verses following this section.

v.11,“Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.” Paul states “don’t forget” or most translations say “remember” which is not just simply recollection, but as you remember act on the basis of that memory. In this case Paul wants to remind the Gentile believers what they once were (2:11-12) and what they are now (2:13-18) which would lead to thanks to God and their obedience. Paul describes the condition of the Gentiles before they had become believers. He calls them “outsiders” and “uncircumcised heathens.” At least this is what the Jews called them, because there was a huge separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews hated Gentiles and thanked God each day they hadn’t been born one. The Jews, who were called “the circumcision” had named the Gentiles “uncircumcised heathens” because they had not gone through the religious right to be circumcised. 

Circumcision: the Jews had the privilege of being God’s chosen people to whom he had given his covenant promises (Deut 7:6). One of the signs of his covenant was circumcision. Circumcision is an Old Testament physical rite or ritual that involved the cutting of the foreskin of the flesh from the Jewish male as a sign of the covenant  God had made with Abraham in Genesis 17:1-13. God required circumcision as a sign of obedience to him. As a sign of belonging to his covenant people, because once circumcised, the man would be identified as a Jew forever. As a symbol of “cutting off” the old life of sin, purifying one’s heart, and dedicating oneself to God. The Jews erred in believing circumcision was sufficient to make them godly without the necessity of inner renewal (Rom 2:25-29, Gal 5:6). What mattered to God was circumcision or cleansing of the heart (Deut 10:16, 30:6; Jer 4:4). The spiritual circumcision (cleansing of the heart) is equally available to Jews and Gentiles, to men and women.

Paul says that the Jews were “proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.” Paul was contrasting the Gentiles to the Jews in the second part of this verse to show that the Jews physical circumcision was no better than the Gentiles who were uncircumcised. The physical circumcision didn’t not guarantee that the Jew’s heart was affected or changed. The Jews needed to have their heart circumcised, their heart attitude needed to be one of submission to God, holiness and separation from the ways of the world.

v.12,“In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.” Now Paul gets right into what the Gentile believers were before their conversion. It is a very bleak picture of what they were before Christ. Five distinct disadvantages to the Jews:

  1. They were “living apart from Christ” or separated from Christ. Having no expectation of a Messiah to save them.
  2. They were “excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel.” Gentiles could never fully partake in the privileges promised to Israel (through Abraham), God’s chosen people. They could never truly be citizens of Israel. The best they could do was be a second-rate resident of Israel if they chose to go through training, baptism and circumcision.
  3. They “did not know the covenant promises God had made” to the Jews. The covenant promises were the basis for Israel’s distinctive privileges and made them God’s chosen people. Covenant promises made to Abraham (Gen 12:1-4, 15:1-6, 17:1-8), Moses (Ex 24:1-11), David (2 Sam 7:8-16) and the new covenant about which the prophets spoke of (Jer 31:31-34, Ezk 36:22-32). The Gentiles didn’t not share in these promises because they weren’t made to them.
  4. They lived in the world “without God.” The Gentiles had many gods, but they chose not to worship the one true God. Without God, the world was all they had.
  5. They lived in the world “without hope.” They didn’t know God, They didn’t follow God. This is the reason they had no hope.

Fortunately, their existence and their plight doesn’t end here, for God himself intervened. We will look at this in our next section v.13-18.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Paul gives a very good description of what Gentiles were before their conversion. It is a bleak picture but a good one to remember so that I can be so thankful for what God through Christ’s sacrifice did for me! Here is a reminder of what we once were: we were outsiders, uncircumcised heathens, separated from Christ, excluded from the citizenship in Israel, didn’t share in the covenant promises made to Israel, without God and without hope. Wow, what a hopeless state we were in. Key word is “were” because God chose to intervene. But I am getting ahead of myself. That is for the next section in this chapter.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  I am a Gentile (non-Jew) and when I read these two verses I realize without God intervening I have no hope of salvation. But thankfully I know the rest of the story. But this is a good reminder of where I came from.

June 24, 2020 at 9:24 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 1:11-14 – The believers’ inheritance

Paul concludes his lengthy spiritual blessing by writing about the believers’ inheritance from God. Both to the Jewish believers first, and then to the Gentile believers.

v.11,“Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” Paul when writing “we are united with Christ” is specifically referring to the Jewish believers (himself included). Paul writes that God chose the Jewish believers in advance or predestined beforehand to receive “an inheritance from God” before he included the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). The Jews were were given God’s inheritance as God’s chosen people (Deut 4:20) or they were claimed by God as his portion.“He makes everything work out according to his plan” is talking about everything is under God’s sovereign control. Because God controls everything, he will carry out his plan “according to his plan” or “in conformity with the purpose of his will” NIV and bring it to completion in his timing. God’s design was that the chosen people or the children of Israel or the Jews would bring salvation to the rest of the world but he had chosen the Jews as his personal possession or his portion first (Deut 32:9). Paul uses “we” to refer to the Jewish believers but later on this this passage he uses “you” to refer to the Gentile believers.

v.12,“God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God.” Now it is clear when Paul uses “we” he is specifically speaking of the Jewish believers. Salvation was first brought to the Jews, they “were the first to trust in Christ.” This means that the Jews were the first to believe in Christ because the gospel was preached first to them and that the gospel message would then be offered to the Gentiles through the Jews which brought unity in Christ to all believers, resulting in bringing “praise and glory to God.” God’s ultimate plan for all of his creation was to glorify himself.

v.13,“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, who he promised long ago.” Now Paul writes specifically to the Gentile believers using “you.” The Gentiles “also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves” which simply was speaking of “the Gospel of your salvation” NIV. The Gospel conveys the “truth”, which is able to save the believer. But while “hear[ing] the truth” brings knowledge, it does not bring salvation. These people also “believed in Christ.” When they believed, “he [Christ] identified you as his own” showing that they were included “in Christ.” How did he do this? He “stamped [them] with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit [the One promised by Christ] as owned and protected [by God]” AMP. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a once-for-all act at conversion, that gives believers continued assurance that they are saved—believers.

v.14,“The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” Paul is using a term “guarantee” for the Holy Spirit that was used in ancient time to describe an engagement ring. It is like a promise to your fiancée that you are planning to marry them. In the same way God’s deposit of the Holy Spirit in believer’s lives is like an engagement ring that shows that we belong to Christ until we go to be with him forever in heaven. Our “guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people” is that God, unlike most people, never breaks his promises. If you have trusted Christ, you are his forever! “He did this so we would praise and glorify him” is a phrase Paul has used in the past (1:6, 1:12). Paul is saying the reason for this guarantee is so that God will be praise and glorified.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God has given all believers (Jews and Gentile believers) an inheritance, that is being saved from our sins if we believe in Christ and his sacrifice. And the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that we will receive this inheritance. And all of this was to bring praise and glory to God.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  So thankful that God chose to give me an inheritance and that the Holy Spirit guarantees it. I have assurance of my salvation and I want to give all honour and praise to God for it!

June 3, 2020 at 7:19 PM Leave a comment

Day 76…1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I know it has been awhile since I have posted my “Journey Thru the Bible” but I am back. C’mon along with me as I journey through the Bible, as I discover amazing truths that I missed the first time I studied or great reminders of things I had forgotten about. It’ going to be an amazing adventure!

I Corinthians 9:19-23: Chameleon for the Gospel

Paul wanted people of all cultures, backgrounds and races to hear the Gospel and be saved. So Paul embraced and adapted to culture he was in except when those cultures hindered or violated the Gospel.

v.19, Paul’s goal was to glorify God and bring everyone to Christ. Though Paul was “a free man with no master” which is to say free from all human control, he chose to be a “slave to all” without compromising the Gospel message. Paul could vary the style or method of his message becoming a accommodating to his audience so that he could “bring many people to Christ.”

v.20-23, Paul chose to be like his audience without compromising the doctrine of God’s Word and the Gospel message. Paul was willing to “live like” his audience in order to “bring” them to Christ. Paul mentions three groups: Jews, Gentiles and those with weak consciences.

Jews: When he was with Jews he “lived like a Jew to bring Jews to Christ.” Paul conformed his life to the practices of those“who follow the Jewish law” even though he was no longer “subject to the law” himself because of his freedom in Christ just so he could “bring” Jews who are “under the law” to Christ. He gained an audience with many Jews because he conformed to their regulations and restrictions (after he had been a Pharisee). However he never conceded that those regulations had to be kept in order to become a believer. Examples in Acts 16:3, 18:18, 21:20-26.

Gentiles: When he was with Gentiles “who do not follow the Jewish Law” he met them on their own turf. Paul lived according to God’s law because he didn’t “ignore the law of God” no “he obey[ed]” it. But when he was with Gentiles he did not require them to follow the Jewish law, unlike the false teachers of that day (Judiazers), in order to become believers. Instead he spoke a message that would “bring them to Christ.” An example is Acts 17:1-34.

Weak consciences: The “weak” that Paul refers to are believers who are baby Christians who needed to grow deeper in their knowledge of Christ and deeper understanding of their freedom in Christ. So Paul set aside his freedoms and starting living by their restraints for a time so that he might “bring the weak to Christ.” Paul chose to do “everything [he] could to spread the Good News” to all people and “find common ground with everyone, doing everything [he] can to save some.” But Paul never compromised the Gospel truth, God’s Law or his own conscience in the process.

Paul had one purpose, to take the Gospel to the unbelieving world. He did not preach with pride, counting the numbers or converts, instead he preached with love for the Gospel and those who heard it and in the end he could “share in its blessing.”

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  There was a number of things I took away from today’s study. First, to find common ground with the unbelievers in my life as I try to reach them for Christ. However to never have a know-it-all attitude as I speak to them. Listen a lot more than I speak. Then share in their needs and concerns, genuinely care for them. And always look for opportunities to tell others about Christ.

January 11, 2013 at 10:46 AM 1 comment


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