by Jeff Dominguez
Chapter 2:11-22 – A People Brought Near to God | The Church as the Temple of Christ
In the second half of chapter 2, we will continue to study the blessings that we received when we became Christians. In the first half (vv1-10), we learned that we are a people made alive and saved by the grace of God. Now, according to the Apostle Paul, Christ also brought us near to God. Let’s learn what this means.
I. A PEOPLE ONCE SEPARATED FROM GOD (vv11-12)
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
As he begins this new discussion, Paul cleverly used the word, “remember.” For the Ephesians to appreciate the next blessing that he will reveal, he wanted them to remember first their situation before coming to Christ. And according to Paul, they were “separated from Christ.” He even adds that they were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel,” “strangers to the covenants of promise,” had no hope, and without God in the world. In other words, they were alone and very far away from God’s presence. And one may ask, is this a bad thing? well, it is.
This condition implies that if we are far away from God, then we are left on our own. If problems or challenges come our way, then we will have to face them on our own. We have no higher power to ask for help. Some people may arrogantly claim that they can survive the challenges of life on their own, but the truth is, we can’t. We were not designed to be on our own. God made us to be dependent on Him. Therefore, to be separated and alienated from God is truly a serious thing.
And now comes the blessing.
II. A PEOPLE BROUGHT NEAR TO GOD (v13)
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
As Paul clearly states, the blood of Jesus brought us near to God. But to clarify, this is not about physical distance. To be brought near to God means we now have access to God. We can now come into His presence and call on Him for help. The best proof of this was the miracle that happened when Jesus died on the cross.
In Matthew 27:50-51, it states:
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”
The veil (or curtain) of the temple being torn in half was not a small matter. According to God’s design for the temple, the veil symbolizes the separation of God from man (Exod. 26:31-33). Therefore, when the veil of the temple was miraculously torn in half when Jesus died, then it also symbolizes that the separation between God and man is now over. Just like Paul stated, through Jesus, we now have access to God.
III. A NEW ENTITY: THE CHURCH (vv14-19)
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
This next set of verses is of great importance. In this passage, Paul was explaining the birth of the new entity that came as a result of Christ’s work on the cross: THE CHURCH. As a matter of fact, in the next chapter, Paul described the church as the revelation of the “great mystery” in the Old Testament. Ever since the beginning, the church has always been part of God’s plan. So what is the church?
According to Paul, the church is an organic entity made up of all believers in Christ regardless of race (Jew or Gentile). Before, Israel made a sharp distinction between them and the Gentiles. But now in the church, Paul explains that everyone is welcome and equal. Therefore, the church is not Israel. As Paul said, God “created in Himself one new man in place of the two” (the two referring to Israel and the Gentiles). Paul explains that aside from breaking the separation between God and man, Christ also “divided the wall of hostility” between the Israelites and the Gentiles. All of us, regardless of who were are, can come into God’s presence through Christ. There’s no more Jew or Gentile here. As Paul said, “we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” We are no longer strangers or aliens with God and with one another. We are now fellow citizens and members of the same household, with the same Father, God.
IV. THE CHURCH AS THE TEMPLE OF CHRIST (vv20-22)
“…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
In this passage, Paul taught that contrary to popular belief, the church is not a building, but the people. The believers themselves make up the “holy temple in the Lord.” Christ is the cornerstone and the rest of the believers make up the rest of the structure. This metaphor symbolizes many things. First, as the temple of God, like in the Old Testament, the church should be holy. Second, the church is “being built together.” It means the church should grow and must continue to grow. Third, since it is made up of believers, then every believer is an important part of the church. No one is useless or of no value in the church. Fourth, the church is the “dwelling place for God.” This means that the church should exist for God’s glory and reflect God’s glory. And lastly, the church is God’s special belonging. It is the masterpiece that was the result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As Paul would later state in chapter 5, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25).
Being brought near to God is truly a big blessing. In addition, Christ also brought us near to each other. This just shows that the cross is truly a symbol of reconciliation, peace, and unity. Therefore, as believers, we should maximize this blessing. Since we now have access to God, let us always pray to God and seek His presence in our lives. And when it comes to our fellow believers, we shouldn’t discriminate against anyone because of their race or background. As members of the church, we are all equal sons and daughters of God. Let us behave in a such way that people can truly see that God is near in our lives and our hearts.
God Bless! 🙂