A NEW ACCESS
Ephesians 2:11-22 NET
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh — who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands — 12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
For several weeks now, we have been studying what it means to be reborn — to be born from above.
On August 8th, we discovered from the prophet Jeremiah that God intended to make a new covenant with Israel because the old covenant had been broken. We learned that the new covenant would begin with forgiveness. We learned that it would involve discipleship and that it would produce a change of heart.
The next week, August 15th, we learned more about the new heart God promised his people from the prophet Ezekiel. It would be an internal change, not just an external change. God would take the initiative and share his Holy Spirit by pouring it out on them. The Holy Spirit would enable God’s people to bless the nations by sharing the gospel of salvation with them.
The next week, August 22nd, we examined this promise more carefully by looking at Joel’s prophecy of a new outpouring, and its fulfillment in Acts 2 at Pentecost. We saw how this outpouring enabled the believers at Pentecost to reach the unsaved wherever they went — that it helped them to fulfill Christ’s prophecy in Acts 1:8. Reaching the Gentiles was God’s plan all along.
The next week, August 29th, we looked at Christ’s interview with Nicodemus. This passage is the basis for this entire series because it revealed Jesus’ command for us all to be born from above.
Last week, September 19th, Penny shared the ultimate result of being born again — that Christ plans on making a whole new universe, and living in that new universe is our ultimate destiny.
I want to conclude the series by talking about the new access that believers have today as a result of being born from above.
Christ gave us all access to God without rituals (11,18).
In verse 11, Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that they were formerly “Gentiles in the flesh.” They were called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands.
The ritual of circumcision set the Jews apart as a seperate people. It identified them as a people of a certain race and religion. It served as a means of identifying who had access to God and who did not. But Paul’s point was that circumcision was only a ritual of the flesh. As a ritual of the flesh, circumcision could not identify the new birth. It could not be the symbol of the new covenant. It could not reveal who had a new heart. It could not symbolize forgiveness.
In fact, no ritual of the flesh could do that. In verse 18, Paul says that through Christ both Jews and Gentiles have access in one Spirit to the Father. Access to God is not determined by the religious rituals one performs. It is determined by the relationship one has with God. This relationship is made possible through Christ — by means of what he did.
Since the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on both Jews and Gentiles, possessing the Holy Spirit replaced circumcision as the sign of access to God. Circumcision could not be the permanent sign for two reasons. First, it was a matter of the flesh and did not reveal the heart. Second, it only included half the population. It only applied to males.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a sign of access to God, and is revealed by the power his gives us to minister in his name, as we pray for others, and share the gospel with others so that they too can be born from above.
Christ gave us access to citizenship in his kingdom together with all its perks (12,19).
Paul told the Gentile Ephesians that they were once “without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (12). It was a citizenship issue. Those who were citizens had access to all the benefits of citizenship.
Now, Paul tells them that they “are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household” (19). God’s kingdom work is done by means of his kingdom citizens. His family business is done by his household. Through Christ’s death on the cross, we all have access to citizenship in that coming kingdom. The Holy Spirit within us makes us part of God’s family and empowers us to do the family business — reconciling others to God.
Christ gave us access to the presence of God through his death on the cross (13, 16a).
Paul told the Ephesian Christians that now in Christ Jesus they who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ (13). God reconciled both Jews and Gentiles “in one body to God through the cross” (16a). The issue in both of those verses is the distance that sin puts between people and our holy God. When we are first born, we are born separated from God because of sin. That separation continues until we are born from above. When we are blessed with forgiveness, God welcomes us into his presence for the first time. Christ’s death pays for our sins and reconciles us to God, so that we can enter his presence.
Christ gave us access to peace by removing the barrier of the law (14-17).
Paul told the Ephesian Christians that Christ “is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility” (14). When we were born, there was a wall of partition between us and our creator. Christ destroyed that wall.
Paul explained to the Ephesians that Christ did this by nullifying in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. Christ did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. (15-16). The wall of hostility was the law itself. It was a barrier for all of us. Christ destroyed the barrier by fulfilling the law — both with his sinless life and his sacrificial death.
Paul told the Ephesians that Christ came and preached peace to them were far off and peace to the Jews who were near (17). The peace he had to offer was for everyone — both Jew and Gentile. This is the peace with God we can have if we accept the excellent message that Christ preached.
Christ gave us access to his eternal plan by making us part of his holy temple (20-22).
The temple in Jerusalem was a physical symbol of God’s presence among his people. But that temple was only a promise of the permanent temple that God plans for eternity.
Paul told the Ephesian Christians that they have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (20). That permanent temple incorporates both Old Testament and New Testament saints. It is not a place, but a people. But because God’s plan is to manifest his presence in the hearts of his people, we can be thought of as his temple.
Paul told the Ephesian Christians that in Christ the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom they also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (21-22). The good news for us today is that God wants to be among us. But he does not want to merely reside in a building and be worshipped by people who can visit the site. He wants to reside in us, and that all of us can experience that building process that makes us holy enough for God to live in, and work his miracles through.