We continue this morning in our study through the book of Ephesians. Let me take a moment and share with you where we are headed. It seems to be that there are five major topics that Paul covers in this book concerning the saint of God.
I. The Saints and Their Salvation ch. 1:1 – 2:10
We have learned that God established a plan before the foundation of the world for how He would save men from their sins.
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemptionthrough his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
The salvation of the saint is based upon the grace of God that comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast . 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesusunto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
II. The Saints and Their Citizenship ch. 2:11 – 3:21
Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
A. The Ephesians – A Far Off
1. Ephesian church – Primarily Gentile
By the time Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the church was primarily made up of Gentiles. Though it began with a great outpouring of Jewish conversions in Jerusalem, as time went on, the Jews became more and more resistant to the gospel and eventually men like Paul turned to the Gentiles. One such city was Ephesus.
a. Ephesus – pagan culture
b. Temple of Diana- i. goddess of fertility (Her temple – one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World)
Though the city of Ephesus was very affluent, its primary attraction was the pagan Temple of Diana. Diana was considered to be the ‘goddess of fertility’ and in her honor, silver figurines were sold and a massive open theater, capable of containing 50,000 spectators was built.
Yet it was within this pagan culture that God rose up a great church.
2. Jew vs. Gentile
Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
What is a Jew and what is a Gentile?
a. Jews / Hebrews
The people we today call Jews, originated from a man named Abram or Abraham. Back in the book of Genesis, we learn that God chose Abram to be the father of a special nation. That nation came through Abraham’s son named Isaac, and Isaac’s son named Jacob. Often we read in the Old Testament of God being referred to as – “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” This title reveals the way God brought birth to the nation Israel.
Throughout the Bible we read references to Jews and Gentiles. All those who are not Jews (i.e. – those from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), regardless of the color of their skin or nationality, are grouped together and referred to as Gentiles.
Paul reminds that believers at Ephesus of the time when they were without God. In his reminder, Paul lists three strikes the Gentiles had against them:
i. Hated by the Jews
‘… Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision …’
Jews couldn’t have cared less about the Gentiles. The regarded them as nothing more than – ‘Dogs’. Many Pharisees would pray daily – “O God, I give thanks that I am a Jew, not a Gentile.”
ii. Excluded From the Covenants of Promise
12 That at that time ye were without Christ … …being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
(I). ‘Without Christ’
‘Without Christ’ could be interpreted as – ‘without salvation’; however, most likely it meant that they were without the hope of a Messiah. ‘Christ’ is Greek for the Hebrew word ‘Messiah.’ The coming Messiah was the hope of Israel. Therefore, in the mind of the Jews, the Gentiles were without any hope of a coming Redeemer.
(II). Aliens From the Commonwealth of Israel
In the days of the Old Testament, a Gentile had to become as a Jew in order to have any hope of any kind of relationship with God. They had to become a proselyte to Judaism. Even then, they were forbidden from entering into the Jewish Temple of worship. Established outside of the Temple was an area known as the Court of the Gentiles. Only there could a Gentile come if he wanted to worship Jehovah God.
(III). Carry-over Into the Early Church
We learn from the book of Acts that when the church first began, it was primarily Jewish. Therefore, many of the early Christians questioned whether or not a Gentile could be saved. In the Jewish way of thinking, if a Gentile could, they would have to submit to many of the Jewish customs and ordinances.
Even many of the Apostles struggled with this. A perfect example is the story of Peter and a Gentile man named Cornelius. Perhaps you will remember that it took a special vision from God to convince Peter that – ‘What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.’
As Peter and his Jewish brethren witnessed the salvation of Cornelius and those in his household, Peter said – ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of person.’ (Acts 10:34)
I love to read Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying , Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.
iii. Had no hope
‘…and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.’
Many are offended whenever the church refers to those who aren’t saved as – ‘the Lost.’ Yet that’s exactly who they are. Paul described the Ephesians before their salvation as those having no hope, and without God in the world.
3. Did God hate the Gentiles?
At this point we need to ask ourselves – ‘Did God hate the Gentiles?’ Many of the Jews believed He did. Even in the book of Romans we read – ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’ (Romans 9:13)
Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau?
(I). God’s hatred
First we need to understand what God means when He uses the word hate. Hatred to God is not a reference to despising someone, but instead – preferring someone above them. Romans 9:13 is saying – “I chose Jacob over Esau.’ Romans 9:13 is a quote of the book of Malachi –
Malachi 1:2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3 And I hated Esau…
In other words, I chose Jacob over Esau, even though Esau was the firstborn. Another passage that makes this even clearer is Luke 14 –
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Does that mean that now that I am a Christian, I should go home and call my mother and tell her that I hate her? Is that what Jesus is saying? Of course not and we know that because scripture also says that a man who does not provide for his own is worse than a non-believer. Scripture can’t contradict itself.
Why did God favor Jacob over Esau? Or to be even more specific, why did God chose the Jews over the Gentiles? There are at least two reasons:
(1). Sovereign Choice
(2). Special Calling
Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. 9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
(II). God’s love
Who does God love? What did our Lord say in John 3:16? ‘For God so loved the world…’ Not – God so loved the Jew and hated the Gentile, but God loves the world; Jew and Gentile.
God chose Jacob or the nation Israel to be His special servants to reach the world with His love. Go all the way back to the very beginning when God first chose the father of the Jews, Abraham, and consider what God said – ‘ … in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.’ (Genesis 12:3)
When did God begin His plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles? At Pentecost? When Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles? When God first called Abraham? Before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world
Why then did choose Israel first? Part of it, to bestow His love upon them. But also, to bring His love to the world. Consider what the Bible says –
Is 49:6 I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
The Great Commission of Mark 16:15 (Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature…) is not an addendum to the plan. It is not Plan B because Plan A failed. The Great Commission is a revelation of the great plan God established, even before He made the world. Consider also what Simeon said concerning Jesus when Mary and Joseph first brought the baby to the temple –
Lk 2:29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
If Israel had been in their right spiritual state of mind, they would rejoiced over the privilege to be God’s instrument to bring salvation to the world. Yet instead, the Bible says –
As a nation the Jews rejected Jesus and as a result, God turned to the Gentiles. Today, we as the church have the glorious privilege of taking God’s Good News to the world.
B. The Ephesians – Made Nigh
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Those of us who were far off are now brought near. The veil has been torn, the wall has been torn down, the mystery of God has been revealed and God is calling men and women into His kingdom from every tribe, tongue, people and nation.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians- ‘Wherefore remember … ‘(Ephesians 2:11) Don’t ever let it slip from your memory the miracle of your salvation. Don’t let yourself become as Israel and begin to think that God owes this to you. It’s to the praise of the glory of His grace! Don’t become exclusive in your thinking. Don’t look at the church as ‘Us 4 and No More.’ Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Pretty soon we will begin focusing again on the Christmas Shoe Boxes and the Lottie Moon Christmas Missionary Offering. These are two great opportunities for us to help take the gospel to lands where we will never physically visit. In addition, everyday we come in contact with men and women who have never been told that God loves them.
‘Remember and go!’