The Epistle to the Ephesians

This section commences with the words “Wherefore remember”, and at its close are the words “Now therefore ye are no more”, v. 19. The whole paragraph, therefore, has to do with the extraordinary change which has occurred in the ways of God with men, so that the position once occupied by them has been abandoned for a new position which believers now occupy. Between these two statements the means by which this has been achieved is explained.

An Illustration

In order that we may be able to understand the matter, we will use an illustration. Imagine a double-storied house, in which there are occupants in both the upper and lower apartments. The upper is to be preferred to the lower; it is better in every way. Unfortunately the occupants are at enmity one with the other, and on only one point are they agreed; they both hate the landlord. In an endeavour to secure the peace of the house, he has erected a barrier designed to keep the two parties separate from one another. This, however, had the opposite effect; it but engendered more enmity than ever. What, then, was to be done? The landlord demolishes the barrier thereby putting all the tenants on the same level, and depriving those who lived in the upper storey of their special advantages. Moreover, to them all he makes an offer that they may, on complying with his terms which are very generous, leave their present house and take up their abode in a new place which he has had built. This new place has no upper and lower apartments, for it is a bungalow, and every room is on the same floor. All that is requisite for the change of residence is the acceptance of the gratuitous and unmerited offer. Some of the upper storey occupants accept, but many more from the lower ground floor accept.

Let us use this illustration in examining the section of the Ephesian Epistle now before us. We will first consider

The Position

of the Jew and the Gentile prior to the effective operation of God’s grace towards them. The position of each is defined as “in the flesh”, v. 11, and “in the world”, v. 12, the “flesh” being their standing as connected with the first Adam who fell, and “the world” being that system of which Satan is the “prince”, John 14. 30. Those who occupied the upper storey are the Jews, for they had many privileges over the Gentiles. They had the physical right of circumcision which was the external seal of the promise given to their fathers. Religiously they were “near” to God, in that He had given them a ritualistic and typical system which gave them a right of approach to Him which the Gentiles lacked. Contemptuously they called the Gentiles the “uncircumcision”, v. 11, failing to see that this was but one of the several carnal ordinances which were imposed until the time of reformation, Heb. 9. 10. Their moral state is as stated in Ephesians 2. 3 which we have already examined.

Those who occupied the lower storey were the Gentiles, the uncircumcision. They were “without Christ” for “salvation is of the Jews”, and the Messiah was not to come through Gentile stock. Therefore, they were “without hope”, this hope being that which was entertained by Israel: “we hoped that it was he which should redeem Israel”, Luke 24. 21 R.V. They were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel”, 2. 12 R.V.; they had no rights in their national privileges. They were “strangers from the covenants of the promise”, 2. 12 R.V. - that is, all the detailed covenants made later by God amplifying the one great generic promise made to Abram, Gen. 15. 18-21, had no application to them. In fact they were “without God”, for their goddess Diana was no real god. Bodily they lacked the national sign of circumcision. Politically they were outside of Israel’s commonwealth. Spiritually, they were hopeless, godless, and lifeless. In fact, they were “far off”, outside. There was a legal barrier which kept them apart. Just as at Jerusalem the balustrade kept Jew and Gentile apart and no Gentile might enter the temple precincts under the penalty of death (as all well knew, Acts 21. 28, 29), so in the larger sphere the Gentiles had no share in the special privileges of the Jews. Moreover, their moral state was as given in chapter 2. 1, 2, which we have already examined.

The barrier which was erected was “the middle wall of partition”, 2. 14. It was “the law of commandments contained in ordinances”, or as Paul calls it in Colossians, “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us”, Col. 2. 14. To it Israel had, as it were, put their signature before witnesses. They had agreed to comply with its terms, not knowing that, because of their fallen nature, it was contrary to their leanings and against their best interests. It brought death, not life. Indeed, it provoked even greater enmity than already existed between them and God, and between them and the Gentiles. Israel’s legal code which contained enactments both civil and ritualistic only aggravated the position, and created more bitterness. Nothing but its destruction and the commencement of something altogether new could meet the case, and produce peace. Therefore, the Lord Jesus came being born “under the law”. He “magnified the law and made it honourable”, ultimately dying under its curse which He had not personally merited, but which was borne substitutionarily for those who believed. Thus He fulfilled its obligations and paid its extreme penalty. By that death He “broke down” the barrier; He “abolished” the whole divinely given legal system. He “took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross”, Col. 2. 14. The Epistle to the Romans should be carefully studied in this connection, specially chapters 7 and 8. Ephesians 2 is illuminated by those chapters, as well as by the whole Epistle to the Galatians, and the parallel Colossian passage.

That the moral requirements of the Mosaic law are evidenced in those who walk after the Spirit is approved by all (see Romans 8. 4). They are not a means of approach to God nor a ground of righteous standing before Him, but the essential product of His life within, producing such evidence as His righteousness required. Now let us look at

The Offer

which was made “to the Jew” first and then to the Gentile later. It was made to all, both those who were in the upper and lower storeys. As verse 17 shows, the offer of “peace” between the two parties, and between both God and man, was made to both of them - “to you that were far off” (the Gentiles) and “them that were nigh” (the Jews), R.V. His design was to reconcile them both in one body to God. That work of reconciliation was effected “by the cross”. Paul amplifies this in 2 Corinthians 5. 18ff. As an Emperor may make a proclamation of peace to them with whom he has been at war, so the Risen Christ was the first to make the proclamation, Heb. 2. 3, and He thereafter sent His Spirit to enable His apostles and others to further that proclamation. He “came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh”, 2. 17 R.V. The word “preached” is that for evangelizing - proclaiming good news. It certainly was good news to be told that both parties might have access to the Father; none need remain at a distance, but all may come within the ambit of the family if so be they will, and may know God as their Father. We will finally examine

The Position

in the case of those who have accepted the offer. They have an altogether new position. He “made both one” - that is, they both occupy not differing positions as hitherto but one and the same. The word “one” is neuter and has to do with their position. They are no longer “in the flesh” nor are they regarded as “in the world”, but they are “in Christ Jesus”, a phrase characteristic of Paul’s doctrine. They are in association with and in identification with Him whom God hath made “both Lord and Christ”; Acts. 2. 36. That identification we have already seen in chapter 2. 1-10. They have been quickened; raised; and seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Their position is altogether different from that which they once held.

They are, as it were, now resident in a new bungalow which has no upper and lower storeys, for all are on the same level. None has privileges above the other. There is no middle wall separating one party from the other, but they are at “peace” and have been reconciled both to each other and all to God. They are made nigh “by the blood of Christ”, not by the symbolic blood of an animal sacrifice. Out of the “twain”, that is; out from among the Jews and the Gentiles, God has created in Himself “one new man”, v. 15. He has made “both one”, in that they occupy a common position, v. 14. He has reconciled them “in one body” so that they all are vitally and harmoniously linked with the Head and with each member; v. 16. Both have access in one Spirit to the Father, v. 18. There is no separating balustrade. “So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints”, v. 19 R.V. Note the variety of words Paul uses: fellow-citizens of one common heavenly Jerusalem which is the metropolitan city of us all. Gal. 4. 26; “of the household of God”, having been put among the children and been given the privileges of sonship. We are part of a “holy temple” in which God dwells. The Ephesians were over zealous concerning the temple of Diana, in which the image of the goddess resided. Demetrius was there, the silversmith, making silver shrines, miniature figures of the temple, but those who had become believers in the Lord Jesus were inbuilt into the vast divine temple, wherein God dwelt, and their local church was a holy temple in which the Spirit dwelt, 1 Cor. 3. 16. The Greek word translated “temple” does not relate to the outer buildings or the court, but is that which denotes the “most holy place”, the inner sanctuary wherein was the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim of which God’s presence was to be seen.

Paul’s use of the metaphor of a “body” is peculiar to him. No other New Testament writer employs it. It did not exist in Old Testament times nor in the days when the Lord Jesus was here on earth. Its birthday was the Pentecostal day of Acts 2. It is a “new man”, an altogether new departure in the ways of God. It was not revealed in Old Testament times, and although there are types of the church there, there is no type of a body. There is the type of Solomon’s temple, and there are the types of brides such as Joseph’s wife Asenath, Moses’ wife Zipporah, and David’s wife Abigail. But there is no type of the body.

In this section Paid, clusters them all together - “one new man”; “one body”; “fellow-citizens”; “of the household of God”; a “holy sanctuary”, R.V. marg. “One new man” stresses its newness not only of date but of character. “One body” stresses the notion of harmonious unity, each diverse member doing that which contributes to the good of the whole. “Fellow-citizens” emphasizes the equality of privileges. “Of the household of God” signifies that all have a common Father and a common nature. A “holy sanctuary” denotes the fact that holiness becomes God’s house for ever, Psa. 93. 5.

There is no doubt that there is here an intended allusion not only to the Ephesian temple but to that of Solomon, which latter had its sundry chambers. So, too, this Universal Church has its many local churches. We believe that verse 21 envisages that the various local churches constitute the whole Universal Church, but verse 22 refers to the local church itself wherever the letter went. While the notion of God dwelling among His people was not unknown in Old Testament times, it was altogether new that God should dwell among the Gentiles, but this is so now since Christ is risen and glorified. The pronoun “ye” denotes this. Finally, let us look at

The Foundation

of this new place. It is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone”, Eph. 2. 20. The prophets alluded to are the New Testament prophets, not the Old. When the Old Testament prophets are intended they precede “apostles”.

This “holy sanctuary” is well founded. The Lord Jesus is the chief corner stone, binding both Jew and Gentile securely together. The apostles and prophets were not only chronologically in the foundation, but by their ministry they “laid the foundation” (see 1 Cor. 3. 10).

What unity and harmony God has wrought! Yet what havoc, discord and worse have been wrought by those who should have learned better. They certainly had not “so learned Christ”.

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