Ephesians 2:11-22 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does the apostle Paul describe the former identity of these Ephesian Christians? See Ephesians 2:11-12 (printed below?)

Therefore, remember that previously you who are Gentiles by birth—the ones who are called “The Uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “The Circumcised” (which is only a circumcision in the flesh done by human hands)—(12) I say, remember that you were at that time without Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and being without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12)

The apostle Paul reminds these Gentile Christians of their former identity. They were “Gentiles,” they were spiritually unclean and defiled. They were called “The Uncircumcised.” The Jews made it painfully clear to the Gentiles that they did not belong to the covenant community of Israel, derisively labeling them as “The Uncircumcised.” The former condition of these Gentile Christians is summed up in these awful words: “having no hope and being without God in the world.” They were separated from Israel physically and separated from God spiritually; in a word, they were “far away.”

2. What is now true of these uncircumcised Gentiles who have received Christ as their Savior? See Ephesians 2:13 (printed below)

But now in Christ Jesus you who previously were “far away” have been brought “near” by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

“But now,” declares the apostle in verse 13, “you have been brought ‘near.’” Now they have been reconciled to God and brought into the covenant community “by the blood of Christ.”

3. How is Christ and His redeeming work described in verses 14-16 (printed below?)

He is our peace, he is the one who made the two become one and who destroyed the dividing wall that served as a barrier. (15) With his flesh he destroyed the source of enmity by abolishing the law that consisted of commandments in the form of regulations. He did so in order that in himself he might create the two into one new man, thereby making peace; (16) and that he might reconcile the two—in one body—unto God by the cross, having put the enmity to death by it. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

Christ has destroyed the barrier—the barrier that is defined as “the law that consisted of commandments in the form of regulations.” That is to say, Christ, by His life of obedience and by His substitutionary atonement upon the cross of Calvary, completely fulfilled the Old Testament law: both the moral law as well as the ceremonial law. Christ did this so that he might bring peace between Jew and Gentile (verse 15). Throughout the Old Testament era, the ceremonial law—with its demands that the Jew keep himself undefiled by any contact with Gentiles—served as a barrier between the Jew and the Gentile. In the New Testament era, with the ceremonial law being fulfilled by the work of Christ, the barrier between believing Jew and believing Gentile has been removed. Ultimately, Christ accomplished His work of redemption so that he might reconcile both believing Jew and believing Gentile to God, “having put the enmity to death” (verse 16). By fulfilling the law, especially the moral law, Christ satisfied God’s justice and appeased God’s moral indignation against us (1 John 4:10). Christ accomplished this by both fulfilling the law’s requirement of obedience as well as by satisfying the law’s demand that punishment be meted out for disobedience—which punishment He suffered upon the cross of Calvary.

4. What now is the status of these Gentile believers who formerly were separated from God and His covenant community? See Ephesians 2:19 (printed below)

So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the family of God. (Ephesians 2:19)

Whereas formerly these Gentiles were strangers and aliens, now, writes the apostle, you are “fellow citizens with the saints” (i.e.; the Old Testament covenant people) (verse 19). Not only do we as believers in Christ now have the status of citizenship in the kingdom of God, we have been made members of “the family of God” (verse 19b).

5. What “construction work” is God presently doing in the lives of His people? See Ephesians 2:20-22 (printed below)

You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. (21) In him the whole building is joined together and grows into a holy temple for the Lord. (22) In him you also are being built together with the saints to become the place where God dwells by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)

According to verses 20-22, we are being made into “a holy temple for the Lord.” In Christ the whole building is joined together, each individual part of this spiritual superstructure is joined together to form one cohesive building. The various parts, being fitted together, are growing “into a holy temple for the Lord.” As Christian people, we are presently a spiritual temple under construction. The end product of this divine construction work is stated in the following terms: “you also are being built together with the saints to become the place where God dwells by the Spirit.”