Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 30
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber does a brief historical overview of the Bible to show how the Gentile nations began, where the nation of Israel began, and how the Gentiles came to be included in the Gospel message.|
God So Loved the World
Let’s remind ourselves of the theme so far in this book. Verse 9 of chapter 1 says, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” In verse 11 we find, “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose.” Verse 13 says, “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” What an awesome salvation! So in chapter 1, Paul, a converted Jew wants these believers in Ephesus, converted Gentiles, to understand the depth and the awesomeness of their salvation.
In chapter 2 he wants them to understand they had nothing to do with it. It was all God’s idea. In 2:1-3 he shows that they were totally helpless, dead in their trespasses and in their sins. If they were dead in their trespasses and in their sins, we are dead in our trespasses and in our sins. In verses 4-10, he shows them that grace, the grace of God, is what did it all for them. Look at verse 10. He is basically saying they are made in heaven by the grace of God. Verse 10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” It could be translated, “of Him we are the product.” God made you and me. No man can pat himself on the back for his salvation. It’s the grace of God.
Well, now he begins in verse 11 to show them that the Jew who is a converted believer and the Gentile who is converted have been made one in Jesus Christ. This is a beautiful truth, but sometimes you read through and just miss it. Let’s read verse 11 through the end of the chapter to catch the whole flow of what he says here.
- “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [Jew and Gentile] into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our 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 are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
Paul is saying, “You Jews, you have to come through Christ. You Gentiles, you have to enter in through Christ. The two of you now, in Christ, have been made one.” I wonder how many of us really grasp the significance of this. You know, if you don’t understand the history behind the Gentile nations and where Israel came from, then you don’t really understand the significance of how powerful this truth really is. We have a Gentile mentality, as if we deserved it and as if God immediately came right to us. We don’t seem to understand we are the late comers. We were the ones far off that the blood of Jesus now has drawn near.
Sometimes when you study Scripture it is good to do some historical studies to better understand what the author is saying. So, if you will give me that privilege, in 2:11, what does he mean when he talks about the Gentiles? What does he mean in verse 12 that the Gentiles and the Jews are now one in Christ?
There are three questions you ought to be asking right now. The first one is this: Where did the Gentile nations come from? Where does the Word of God teach us the Gentile nations came from? Well, turn to the book of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. I want you to see this. Oh, it is awesome if you can see it come together. It’s just thrilling to realize that we, that were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be far off? Well, the term “Gentiles” in verse 11 of our text is the word ‘ethnos. We get the word “ethnic” from it. From that word we get the idea of different cultures, different peoples, different languages, etc. But where did those Gentile nations come from? You say, “I thought God created Adam and God created Eve.” He did. From them the world was populated. Let’s go back through Scripture and see how we can learn from it.
In Genesis 1-2 God created man. Among everything else He created, He especially created man. He created Adam, one man, and out of Adam He made Eve. He gave them a command in 2:16-17. It says, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die.’” Well, very obviously in Chapter 3, man sinned. Eve was deceived, but Adam sinned. He chose between his wife and God and said, “I will do what she wants.” He made his own conscious decision. Some skeptics say, “Well, he didn’t die, so therefore the Word is full of holes.” Oh yes, he did. Spiritually, he immediately died. Mentally, his mind was ripped away from the thoughts of God, and physically, his body began to decay. Death became a reality where man had never known it. Now it was a reality as a result of the consequences of sin.
Romans 5:12 it says, “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin.” In other words, because of Adam’s sin, every single person born from then on was born into sin. That’s why Ephesians 2 is so important. It says in verses 1-3, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” There is not one thing you could do. You are hopelessly depraved because of Adam.
Well, in chapters 4-6, we find the downward plunge of man, beginning with the death of Cain by his brother Abel. In Genesis 7 God judges the whole earth. Now, it would look at first that God is so frustrated that He is going to annihilate all of mankind, but we’ve learned from Ephesians that He already had a plan before the foundation of the world. Part of that plan was to judge the world with water and to save a family out of that to repopulate the earth. We know that the earth was judged with water by the flood. We know one day it will be judged again, not by water, but by fire. So we know another judgment is coming. He has judged the world once and that is why we know the next one is coming.
In chapter 7 He puts the flood on the earth. In chapters 8-10, the world is repopulated by those in the family of Noah who survived the flood. But they became proud. Look over in Genesis 11. In chapters 8-10 they have just repopulated the earth. In chapter 11 something happened. In verses 1-8 God sees how proud man is because of the depraved heart that he got from Adam. Men thought that they could now be as God. 11:1-8 reads: “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar [Babylonia is another name for that] and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them [or will be withheld from them]. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.”
You can begin to see the formation of the Gentile nations right there when He scattered the people over the face of the whole earth. He changed their languages, and He put them apart. He disunited the people and put them in other places over the whole earth. That’s why today we have different nations. That’s why we have different languages.
There are different people groups. There are ethnic groups. There are cultural groups. They’re diverse in all the world. Where did it start? It was rooted in man’s pride. God judged that pride and scattered them and changed their languages. Long before He had a people called Israel, God scattered the people over the face of the earth.
So we begin to see the formation of the Gentile nations. Every nation on the face of this earth was formed right out of chapter 11 through humanistic pride and pagan dishonor for God. Therefore, you see nothing of a good root for all the Gentile nations in the world.
That’s where the Gentile nations came from. Well then, where did Israel come from? Some people think Israel was one of these nations. Oh, no. Israel hadn’t even been thought of in Genesis 11 by man. In Chapter 12 we have a man come on the scene. If you want to know where he is from, go back to 11:31, and you will find out that the whole family is from Ur of the Chaldeans. Chaldean is the word for Babylonia. All history revolves around the Middle East, especially in the area we are seeing all the problems today. All history is going to end in the Middle East.
Right out of Babylon, right out of the very center where all these proud nations came from that God had to scatter, He picked a man. God had a plan. He picked a man by the name of Abram. God said, “I love all of these people, but there is no way they are going to turn to me until there is a sacrifice.” God had the plan before the foundation of the world. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He pulled a man out from the very pit of all the pagan nations.
Abram was a man God wanted to covenant with. Look in Genesis 12:1-3. “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” By looking at Genesis 12, Genesis 15 and Galatians 3, there were three things that were promised to Abraham in the covenant, of which you and I are a part today. Number 1 was a land. That really doesn’t have anything to do with us. It has to do with Israel. Number 2 was a nation. That really has to do with Israel. Number 3 was a seed. Here we are. We become involved here. Galatians 3 says that seed is going to be the Lord Jesus Christ. It is going to be through Him that not only Israel is going to be blessed, but all the nations of the earth will be blessed. God so loved the world, but in order to do what He wanted to do, He had to make for Himself a nation through which would come the seed, through which all nations of this earth could finally find their way back to the Father.
Well, God promised him a son. It would be true to say that he had two sons. The one by Sarah was the one by faith. When Abraham first heard this, he was at an older age, about 99 or so, and Sarah just laughed. That’s what Isaac’s name in the Hebrew means, laughter. God got the last laugh. Sarah said, “Go to my handmaiden, go to my concubine, and he did. The result was Ishmael.
Ishmael was the beginning of what is now known as the Arab nations. The Arabs and Israel have not enjoyed one another over the history of the nations. They hate one another. It all happened because Abraham was not willing to obey God when God told him it was going to be through Sarah that He would start the whole process.
Well, his son from Sarah was a man by the name of Isaac. The covenant was passed to him and then through Isaac to his sons. Isaac had two sons. His two sons were named Esau and Jacob. Jacob had already been prophesied to get the birthright, but Jacob, being like his granddaddy, wanted to get it on his own. So he tried it his own way, and he connived his brother out of it. His name meant “deceiver.” Therefore, he had to have his name changed. Jacob’s name was changed from Jacob, “deceiver,” to Israel, “prince of God.” Israel had twelve sons, and the process now has begun. There was a land, called Canaan, which is Israel today, and there is a nation, which is Israel, with twelve tribes.
Why Israel? Israel was a conduit. The promise to Abram was through that nation. Every nation would be blessed. You have to go all the way to Galatians 3 to understand it says He promised him a seed. That seed was Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus that all nations will be blessed, including Israel. They don’t get into the kingdom of God just because they are Jews. They get in by their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are a conduit. The seed would come. Matthew 1 says it comes right through David, who was from the tribe of Judah, right down to Jesus Christ.
The third question I hope you are asking is this: What was the relationship between Israel, which was God’s own nation that He singled out through Abraham, and the Gentile nations in all of history that is past? God Himself purposely separated the two. God said, “You are not to get with them. You are not to intermarry with them. You are not to become part of their idolatrous worship. You are to remain separated unto me.” The feelings of the Jews down through the years though developed into sort of a proud feeling. “We are better than you are.” Moses said it real well. He said, “You are a stiff-necked, proud and rebellious people.” They misunderstood what God had them for. They thought they were the only ones God could ever bless and ever wanted to bless, not realizing they were a channel, a conduit. It was through them the seed would come, and that seed would be for all nations.
Well, they had the covenants. They had the promises. They had the Tabernacle. Later on they had the Temple. They had a means of worshipping God that the Gentiles did not have. Back in our text in Ephesians 2:12 Paul says, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” In other words, there was a time that God said, “I am not here for the Gentiles. I am here for the Jews to show them I have come to fulfill their covenants.” His message was just to the Jews all the way up to Acts chapter 8. That’s when the doors were finally opened up in honor of His promise to Abraham way back in Genesis 12.
Israel was told by God to shut the Gentiles out of any means of worshipping God.
Inside the gates of their Temple, they had what they called a Court of the Gentiles, which was the outer court. The Gentiles could go no further. As a matter of fact, the barrier or the dividing wall that separated the Gentiles from Israel was three-fold. It was three walls thick. Only the Jews could go beyond the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Women was next. Only the Jewish men could go into the inner court of the Temple. The Gentiles were completely shut out. There was a barrier between the two. It was called the dividing wall.
Well, even though Israel had all the covenants and all the promises, they still had one thing in common with the Gentiles. Do you know what that was? If they didn’t believe when Jesus came with the Gospel, they were dead in their trespasses and in their sins just like the Gentiles were dead in their trespasses and in their sins. There is only one way a Jew can come to know the Father, and that’s through Jesus. There is only one way a Gentile can come to know the Father, and that’s through Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world.” That includes all of the Jews over here and all the Gentiles who are far away.
Look in Luke chapter 2. One of the most beautiful prophesies of the Lord Jesus came from a man by the name of Simeon. Simeon was told that he would see the Lord Jesus before he died. He was told he would see the Savior of Israel and of the world. In Luke 2:25-32 we find this beautiful, beautiful passage: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God and said, ‘Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.’” He came for every nation, Israel and all the Gentile nations.
Well, after Jesus had gone back to heaven, the time was right to bring in the Gentiles, the ones who were far away, the ones who had not even been dealt with up until this time. It was Israel; it was the covenants; it was the Christ; it was the Messiah. Now He is here; He has died; He has gone back to the Father, it is time to get the message out to everyone. In Acts 9:15 God found a man. Ananias was told to go give a message to him. Look what God said to Ananias: “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.’” God said, “I’ve got me a man now, and this man is going to go out. His main purpose is to get this message to the Gentiles, those who have been far off, but also to the sons of Israel.” He had a two-fold ministry, but his focus was now going to be on the Gentile world. It is time to bring them near, the blood of Jesus has been shed. It’s His blood that brings the Gentiles near to the salvation which was promised to Abraham.
Ephesians 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” These are Gentile believers. He said, “I am just writing you in fulfillment of the task, an assignment, God had given to me.”
Look in Acts 10:45, and you will see where God honored His word. God sent the Holy Spirit, not just to the Israelites that came to know Christ, but He also sent Him to the Gentiles. Verse 45 reads, “And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.”
Acts 11:1 it says, “Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.” The Gentiles were being brought in finally. Those who had been far off were being brought in because when Jesus died, it wasn’t just for Israel. It was for all the nations of the earth. 11:18 says, “And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” That is exactly what He told Abraham years before. He said, “Through your seed, through your nation, I will bless all nations.” God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. This is important to us. I’ll tell you why. Since the apostle Paul’s ministry is now focused on the Gentiles, Scripture shifts from Jerusalem as the center piece to the center piece being Antioch. Now the message is going out to the Gentiles. It has been to the Jews. The Jews have rejected it. Now it’s going to the Gentiles, just like it was promised.
Paul, on his second missionary journey, wanted to go up into a place called Asia. It was in the continent of Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. He got up there, and the Holy Spirit said, “No, you can’t go.” God slammed the door in his face. In the 20th century, we hear on television when that happens, bind the devil because it couldn’t be God. God slammed the door right in his face. He tried to go down to Bythinia, and God slammed the door right in his face. God sent him to Troas.
He got over to Troas and woke up during the night. He had a vision, and the vision was a man in Macedonia, which is the southernmost tip of Europe. God said, “I want the message given to those Gentiles who have never heard, who are far away. I want you to go over there and take the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul concluded that he must go.
He went over into Macedonia. That’s important. Christianity got into Europe and spread up through Europe. Finally it came to a little place called England. Out of England there were some settlers who believed in the Lord Jesus and wanted Christian freedom. They made their venture over the ocean, and lo and behold, we now have it in America. We were gentiles who were far away but now are brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Oh, folks, can you see that we are here only because of the grace of God? Like Paul said to those Ephesian believers, “You were without hope in the world, and you were far away from any covenants, any promise. You didn’t even know there was a Christ promised. Now He has come. He has died, and He has resurrected. Because of what He did, His blood draws even you near to the cross.” Those who were near and those who were far away have the same opportunity in Jesus Christ. Paul simply wants those Gentile believers to understand he does not have one single thing more than they do in Jesus Christ. Being a Jew, having had all the covenants of promise, he is no better off than they are in Jesus Christ. They all have everything, every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.