Author: Ron Graham
Studies in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2
"We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:10)
"the covenants of promise" (Ephesians 2:12)
"reconcile them... through the cross" (Ephesians 2:16)
"one body...God’s household" (Ephesians 2:16,19)
"fellow citizens with the saints" (Ephesians 2:19)
Before we look at each of those particulars outlined above, our first lesson below will take a general look at the chapter to give us some background for our study. You might like to read the chapter first.
Ephesians 2 falls into three strongly connected parts. Let's look briefly at each of these.
"...You formerly walked according to the course of this world... the sons of disobedience... children of wrath... dead in trespasses... By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves — it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:1-10).
In this portion, Paul shows how anyone who is saved must walk in good works, because "God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".
If we believe we can be saved whilst we remain "sons of disobedience" then we are not Christians but foolish followers of "the prince of the power of the air" and are still "children of wrath".
Paul however emphasises that, on the other hand, "you have been saved by grace". All who are saved, are saved by God’s lovingkindness. They are not saved by their own merit, as if the good works they do are the whole story. Unless God exercised "his kindness in Christ Jesus", none of us could be saved from God’s wrath.
Through God’s grace we are able, by our obedience, to be reconciled and re-united with God and have our access to him restored.
"You were once Gentiles in the flesh... aliens from the commonwealth of Israel... But now you, who were once far off, have been made near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:11-17).
In this portion, Paul recognises the barrier that existed between Jew and Gentile. There was a great need to bring together those who loved and feared God among both Jews and Gentiles, those like Peter and those like Corneilius (Acts 10).
Something was needed to "put to death the enmity" not only between people and God, but also between people and people. Something was needed to "reconcile both groups into one body". Nothing could do that, except the cross of Christ.
Christ came and "preached peace to him who is far, and peace to him who is near" (Isaiah 57:19). The message of the cross is good news (gospel) for both Gentile and Jew.
In a certain way, Jew and Gentile had always been one. They had shared a common problem, namely the problem of sin which Paul has already discussed in the previous portion we studied above (verses 1-10).
The thing that separated Jew from Gentile, "the law of commandments in ordinances", had not solved the problem of sin for the Jew. It had merely highlighted the problem and given a "promise" of a solution.
The cross of Christ was the solution for both Jew and Gentile. In his flesh and blood sacrificed on the cross, Christ abolished the old dividing covenant-law, and replaced it with his new covenant-law, the gospel of peace. Through the cross of Christ Jew and Gentile can be united in one body.
Paul extends this principle to other groups who sometimes feel alienated from each other. For example "male...female" or "bond...free" (Galatians 3:26-29). There is no reason, either, why we should limit this principle to groups. Individuals who are at enmity with each other can also be reconciled and united by Christ.
"Through Christ Jesus we both have access by one Spirit to the Father... built together in Christ for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:18-22).
In this portion Paul weaves together the perfection of three unities.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in working together to save us. Christ suffered on the cross, and the Spirit disseminated the message of the cross, in order that we can have access to the Father.
And in this present time, both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ intercede for us when we seek access to the heavenly Father. So whether in their finished work, or whether in their continuing work, we see the three who are God united for our good.