Old Things Have Passed Away, All Things Become New
One New People
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — 12 that at that time you 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:11-13 (NKJV)
The Gentiles are told to remember their past separation from the covenant people. This is one of the only times in Scriptures people are told to remember something about their sinful past. Normally when sins are remembered this means judgment. If God remembers our iniquities, he is getting ready to pour out his wrath. But in this instance, the Ephesians are told to remember how they were outside the covenant of God and now they are inside.
Things to remember:
Uncircumcision – ceremonial exclusion
Without Christ – social, political, sociological, psychological
Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel – social, political, sociological, psychological
Strangers to the covenants of promise – social, political, sociological, psychological
No Hope – theological
Without God – theological
This list is interesting because the Ephesians prior to conversion would have most likely been in the cult of Diana or the Imperial cult. In other words, they would have had access to social, economic, and political power. But they gave that up when they entered into the community of faith. Yet Paul points out that they were on the outside (because the only real, lasting power in this world is in the covenant family of God). Therefore, even though they may have enjoyed certain temporary benefits, they were ultimately without hope and without God.
Two interesting side notes:
When Paul uses the phrase “made in the flesh by hands” this is in direct contrast with the work of God which is not made with hands.
2 Corinthians 5:1-2
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Now those who were far off have been brought near. This is a reference to Is. 57:19:
19 “I create the fruit of the lips:
Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,”
Says the LORD,
“And I will heal him.”
And yet, the Isaiah passage is referring to Jew and Jew. Those who are in exile and those are not. They will be restored. Eventually the rabbis thought this might apply to Gentiles as well. Isaiah 49:5-6
5 “And now the LORD says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him,
So that Israel is gathered to Him
(For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD,
And My God shall be My strength),
6 Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
One New Man
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 2:14-18 (NKJV)
Jesus removes the separation between man and man as well as man and God.
1. The two people (Jews and Gentiles) have become one. One culture did not trump another culture. Instead both cultures become one new culture in Christ.
2. Wall of Separation
a. Israel and the Nations (wall at temple)
b. The Law
c. Enmity between Jews and Gentiles
d. Enmity between Jews and Gentiles and God
3. Jesus offers his life as an intercession to break this wall of hostility: flesh, veil (think John 17 – extends beyond simply Jews and Gentiles)
Theology of the Cross binds people together (not multiple Christian bodies—one new man)
4. Jesus offers the pattern of sacrifice for all to follow. We sacrifice for those in front of us.
5. Old creation ends with the creation of man. New creation starts with one new man.
6. This one new man is a community of persons: mutuality, exchange, diversity, individualism, distinct cultures and histories (distinct stories), yet woven into the fabric of one new man—spanning all divisions: age, race, epoch, calling; freedom to love one another. Salvation is dependent upon our relation to one another. God doesn’t save individuals. He redeems one new man.
Matthew 5:23-25 23
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. NKJV
Worship is connected to our relation between one another. Perfect love. Prodigal son. Different ages: medieval man and modern man. Teacher and Soldier. Pastor/teacher, prophet, apostle and evangelist. Four directions. Peace – Shalom – Fulfillment of Potential. Enemies and friends.
One New Temple
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV)
Think of Hebrew idea of temple (place where heaven meets earth). Temple not made by hands. Temple of the Lord built out of God’s people spanning across space and time. Celtic idea of communion. Apostle and prophet.