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Ephesians 2:11-13


Darlene

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Well, let's see if I can get this posted correctly today. It's never fun to lose a couple of hours work. frown

 

Heavenly Father,

 

Please protect this work Lord...I really need to be able to write this all out, and to go back, and re-read what You teach me as I go. This time that I spend doing this, is increasingly becoming special to me, and I'm willing to do it, but I need Your hand of protection over it.

 

So, from here on out, I place these writings into Your Holy Hands and trust You to not only protect it, but to bless it as well. What the enemy may mean for defeat, You will reign victorious.

 

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;

 

Wesley notes, "11. Wherefore remember - Such a remembrance strengthens faith, and increases gratitude. That ye being formerly gentiles in the flesh - Neither circumcised in body nor in spirit. Who were accordingly called the uncircumcision - By way of reproach. By that which is called the circumcision - By those who call themselves the circumcised, and think this a proof that they are the people of God; and who indeed have that outward circumcision which is performed by hands in the flesh."

 

Calvin writes, "Wherefore remember. The apostle never once loses sight of his subject, marks it out clearly, and pursues it with increasing earnestness. He again exhorts the Ephesians to remember what their character had been before they were called. This consideration was fitted to convince them that they had no reason to be proud. He afterwards points out the method of reconciliation, that they might rest with perfect satisfaction on Christ alone, and not imagine that other aids were necessary. The first clause may be thus summed up: “Remember that, when ye were uncircumcised, ye were aliens from Christ, from the hope of salvation, and from the Church and kingdom of God; so that ye had no friendly intercourse with God.” The second may run thus: “But now ingrafted into Christ, ye are at the same time reconciled to God.” What is implied in both parts of the description, and what effect the remembrance of it was fitted to produce on their minds, has been already considered.

 

Gentiles in the flesh. He first mentions that they had wanted the marks of God’s people. Circumcision was a token by which the people of God were marked out and distinguished from other men: Uncircumcision was the mark of a profane person. Since, therefore, God usually connects his grace with the sacraments, their want of the sacraments is taken as an evidence that neither were they partakers of his grace. The argument, indeed, does not hold universally, though it does hold as to God’s ordinary dispensations. Hence we find the following language:

 

“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man.”

(Genesis 3:22,23)

 

Though he had devoured the whole tree, he would not, by merely eating it, have recovered the possession of life; but, by taking away the sign, the Lord took from him also life itself. Uncircumcision is thus held out to the Ephesians as a mark of pollution. By taking from the Ephesians the token of sanctification, he deprives them also of the thing signified.

 

Some are of opinion, that all these observations are intended to throw contempt on outward circumcision; but this is a mistake. At the same time, I acknowledge, that the qualifying clause, the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, points out a twofold circumcision. The Jews were thus taught that they should no longer indulge in foolish boasting about the literal circumcision. The Ephesians, on the other hand, were instructed to abstain from all scruples on their own account, since the most important privilege—nay, the whole truth expressed by the outward sign—was in their possession. He calls it, Uncircumcision in the flesh, because they bore the mark of their pollution; but, at the same time, he suggests that their uncircumcision was no hinderance to their being spiritually circumcised by Christ.

 

The words may likewise be read in one clause, Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, or in two clauses: Circumcision in the flesh, meaning that it was carnal; made by hands, meaning that it was done by the hand of man. This kind of circumcision is contrasted with that of the Spirit, or of the heart, (Romans 2:29,) which is also called the circumcision of Christ. (Colossians 2:11)

 

By that which is called. Circumcision may be viewed here either as a collective noun for the Jews themselves, or literally for the thing itself; and then the meaning would be, that the Gentiles were called Uncircumcision, because they wanted the sacred symbol, that is, by way of distinction. This latter sense is countenanced by the qualifying phrase; but the substance of the argument is little affected."

 

I understand the differences and meanings between circumcised and uncircumcised in the flesh. I dunno why, but the commentaries, while I'm understanding them, I'm still kinda confused a little. So, when I read the actual verse, it says to me that Paul is pointing out that in the past (a reference point before Christ), that the Gentile's alienation from God was confirmed or exhibited by outwardly physical proof of their uncircumcision in contrast to the 'circumcision' that the Lord had decreed was a sign of belonging to Him, which was done by man.

 

Clarke comments, "Wherefore remember] That ye may ever see and feel your obligations to live a pure and holy life, and be unfeignedly thankful to God for your salvation, remember that ye were once heathens in the flesh - without the pure doctrine, and under the influence of your corrupt nature; such as by the Jew's (who gloried, in consequence of their circumcision, to be in covenant with God) were called uncircumcision; i.e. persons out of the Divine covenant, and having no right or title to any blessing of God."

 

I understand how back then, this was one of the initial defining moments per se, of the transition of the outwardly example of a person's covenant with God, expressed in the physical circumcision...I was starting to wonder how this verse then translated in today, when that outwardly expression is or can be commonly placed. And while this example was evident in man, I found it curious that there was no outward example found in women, with their own unique physical characteristics. Perhaps it was because of the man, according to God's plan was the leader/head of the home, and his covering was over his family? (which I still believe applies today). I don't know. But then, I remembered that the one true circumcision, provided by God, through Christ, is the circumcised heart...and that crosses all gender differences or physical manifestations.

 

I'm not feeling settled with this so I went and looked into a couple more commentaries, cause I'm feeling like I'm missing what is important here, getting caught up in what isn't. In John Gill's Exposition of the Bible (1690-1771) he writes, "Wherefore remember, that ye be in time past Gentiles in the flesh…

 

This, with what follows in the next verse, the apostle puts the converted Ephesians in mind of, in order to magnify the grace of God in their conversion; and to humble them in a view of their former state and condition; and to teach them that they could never be saved by any works of theirs: particularly he would have them call to mind, that they were in "time past Gentiles"; which does not so much regard the nation and country they were of, for in that sense they were Gentiles still; but their state and condition; they had been very blind and ignorant, were Gentiles that knew not God; they had been very wicked and profligate sinners of the Gentiles; and they had been "Gentiles in the flesh": not according to the flesh, or by birth, for so they were then; but in the time of their unregeneracy they were carnal, and minded the things of the flesh, walked after it, and fulfilled the lusts, and did the works of it; particular respect seems to be had to their uncircumcision in the flesh, to which circumcision in the flesh is opposed in the next clause:

 

who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

 

that is, they were by way of reproach and contempt called uncircumcised persons; than whom none were more abominable to the Jews, and hated by them, who were called circumcised persons from that circumcision which is outward, in the flesh, in a particular part of the body; and which is done by the hands of a man, who was called (lhwm) , "the circumciser"; which any one might be, except a Gentile F21; an Israelite adult and skilful was preferred; yet these were not circumcised persons with that circumcision that is inward, and is of the heart, in the Spirit, and is made without the hands of men, and by the Spirit and power of God."

 

Finally, in Robert Jamieson's Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1802 - 1880) writes, "The Greek order in the oldest manuscripts is, "That in time past (literally, once) ye," &c. Such remembrance sharpens gratitude and strengthens faith (Eph 2:19) [bengel].

 

Gentiles in the flesh—that is, Gentiles in respect to circumcision.

 

called Uncircumcision—The Gentiles were called (in contempt), and were, the Uncircumcision; the Jews were called, but were not truly, the Circumcision [Ellicott].

 

in the flesh made by hands—as opposed to the true "circumcision of the heart in the Spirit, and not the letter" (Ro 2:29), "made without the hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col 2:11)."

 

I'm thinking that this verse was to point out, as I said earlier, what WAS in the past, and the physical manifestation that proved the Gentile's alienation from God, but that with the advent of Christ and the work He accomplished on the Cross, that just like everything else that transitioned in the Bible from OT to NT (animal sacrifices vs Jesus' sacrifice, the veil being ripped in the holy of holies...Jewish priests vs our High Priest Jesus Christ). That the outwards physical sign was no long adequate...that the truest form of circumcision is the circumcision of the heart performed by the Holy Spirit, which makes me feel as that type of circumcision (that was once done by man's hands) is now a holy thing, done perfectly, completely and finally.

 

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:

 

Wesley writes, "Were at that time without Christ - Having no faith in, or knowledge of, him. Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel - Both as to their temporal privileges and spiritual blessings. And strangers to the covenants of promise - The great promise in both the Jewish and Christian covenant was the Messiah. Having no hope - Because they had no promise whereon to ground their hope. And being without God - Wholly ignorant of the true God, and so in effect atheists. Such in truth are, more or less, all men, in all ages, till they know God by the teaching of his own Spirit. In the world - The wide, vain world, wherein ye wandered up and down, unholy and unhappy."

 

I'm sensing seeing a picture at how black and white the difference was between the Jew and Gentile. There was a very clean and clear division between God's people and those that were not. A thought that crosses my mind is that today, I just feel like that clear and concise division between a Christian and a non-Christian, is many times smudged and faded. Many "Christians" sit on that fence of lukewarm that God hates so much...with one foot in the world and one foot attempting to live in peace and harmony with Him, which is impossible in that position. That makes sense because God is a god of simplicity, clarity...the enemy is the author of confusion, greys and unknowns.

 

Calvin writes, "That at that time ye were without Christ. He now declares that the Ephesians had been excluded, not only from the outward badge, but from everything necessary to the salvation and happiness of men. As Christ is the foundation of hope and of all the promises, he mentions, first of all, that they were without Christ. But for him that is without Christ, there remains nothing but destruction. On Him the commonwealth of Israel was founded; and in whom, but in Himself, could the people of God be collected into one holy society?

 

A similar observation might be made as to the tables of the promise On one great promise made to Abraham all the others hang, and without it they lose all their value:

 

“In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

(Genesis 22:18.)

 

Hence our apostle says elsewhere,

 

“All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen.”

(2 Corinthians 1:20.)

 

Take away the covenant of salvation, and there remains no hope. I have translated τῶν διαθηκῶν by the tables, or, in ordinary legal phrase, the instruments. By solemn ritual did God sanction His covenant with Abraham and his posterity, that he would be their God for ever and ever. (Genesis 15:9.) Tables of this covenant were ratified by the hand of Moses, and intrusted, as a peculiar treasure, to the people of Israel, to whom, and not to the Gentiles, “pertain the covenants.” (Romans 9:4.)

 

And without God in the world. But at no period were the Ephesians, or any other Gentiles, destitute of all religion. Why, then, are they styled (ἄθεοι) Atheists? for (ἄθεος) an Atheist, strictly speaking, is one who does not believe, and who absolutely ridicules, the being of a God. That appellation, certainly, is not usually given to superstitious persons, but to those who have no feeling of religion, and who desire to see it utterly destroyed. I answer, Paul was right in giving them this name, for he treated all the notions entertained respecting false gods as nothing; and with the utmost propriety do godly persons regard all idols as “nothing in the world.” (1 Corinthians 8:4.) Those who do not worship the true God, whatever may be the variety of their worship, or the multitude of laborious ceremonies which they perform, are without God: they adore what they know not. (Acts 17:23.) Let it be carefully observed, that the Ephesians are not charged with (ἀθεϊσμὸς) Atheism, in the same degree as Diagoras, and others of the same stamp, who were subjected to that reproach. Persons who imagined themselves to be very religious are charged with that crime; for an idol is a forgery, an imposition, not a Divinity.

 

From what has been said, the conclusion will be easily drawn, that out of Christ there are none but idols. Those who were formerly declared to be without Christ, are now declared to be without God; as John says,

 

“Whosoever hath not the Son, hath not the Father,”

(1 John 2:23;)

 

and again,

 

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.”

(2 John 1:9.)

 

Let us know, therefore, that all who do not keep this way wander from the true God. We shall next be asked, Did God never reveal himself to any of the Gentiles? I answer, no manifestation of God without Christ was ever made among the Gentiles, any more than among the Jews. It is not to one age only, or to one nation, that the saying of our Lord applies,

 

“I am the way;” for he adds, “no man cometh

unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6.)"

 

Clarke comments, "That at that time ye were without Christ] Not only were not Christians, but had no knowledge of the Christ or Messiah, and no title to the blessings which were to proceed from him.

 

Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel] Ye were by your birth, idolatry, &c., alienated from the commonwealth of Israel-from the civil and religious privileges of the Jewish people.

 

Strangers from the covenants of promise] Having no part in the promise of the covenant made with Abraham, whether considered as relating to his natural or spiritual seed; and no part in that of the covenant made at Horeb with the Israelites, when a holy law was given them, and God condescended to dwell among them, and to lead them to the promised land.

 

Having no hope] Either of the pardon of sin or of the resurrection of the body, nor indeed of the immortality of the soul. Of all these things the Gentiles had no rational or well-grounded hope.

 

Without God in the world] They had gods many, and lords many; but in no Gentile nation was the true God known: nor indeed had they any correct notion of the Divine nature. Their idols were by nature no gods - they could neither do evil nor good, and therefore they were properly without God, having no true object of worship, and no source of comfort.

 

He who has neither God nor Christ is in a most deplorable state; he has neither a God to worship, nor a Christ to justify him. And this is the state of every man who is living without the grace and Spirit of Christ. All such, whatever they may profess, are no better than practical atheists."

 

Perhaps this teaching of Paul was to initially remind the Ephesians (Gentiles, you, me) of our seperation and alienation from God, that was only remedied by Christ dying for all, because God loved the 'world'...not just the nation of Israel. It is seeming to me, that Paul is attempting to paint two very vibrant pictures...the before and how stark that was, so that the Ephesians (and us) could realize and remember the huge sacrificial gift that God gave all of us in His Son.

 

When Clarke states, "Having no hope] Either of the pardon of sin or of the resurrection of the body, nor indeed of the immortality of the soul. Of all these things the Gentiles had no rational or well-grounded hope.

 

Without God in the world] They had gods many, and lords many; but in no Gentile nation was the true God known: nor indeed had they any correct notion of the Divine nature. Their idols were by nature no gods - they could neither do evil nor good, and therefore they were properly without God, having no true object of worship, and no source of comfort.", that makes me believe that because we're all human beings, created in His likeness, and whether we were 'Gentiles' or not, never knowing Him before Jesus, that there was a 'God-consciousness' inside of us...a part of our soul (perhaps?) that longed for the connection with the Creator, but were left with no hope.

 

Clarke is right...If I had no knowledge of God the Father, or Christ my Lord, being in a 'deplorable' state, is putting it mildly.

 

13. But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

 

Therein lies the hope, the promise. I'm seeing how Paul, through his writings, was blessed by God to paint a picture that leaves me actually comprehending that deplorable state I was destined to, till Jesus intervened and changed all that. It's hard for me to put these thoughts into words, I just feel them very deep right now. Suffice it to say that I'm gleaning a deeper understanding of the "before vs after" that was forever changed by Jesus.

 

Wesley writes, "Far off - From God and his people. Nigh - Intimately united to both."

 

Calvin shares, "But now in Christ Jesus. We must either supply the verb, now that ye have been received in Christ Jesus, or connect the word now with the conclusion of the verse, now through the blood of Christ, — which will be a still clearer exposition. In either case, the meaning is, that the Ephesians, who were far off from God and from salvation, had been reconciled to God through Christ, and made nigh by his blood; for the blood of Christ has taken away the enmity which existed between them and God, and from being enemies hath made them sons."

 

My mother is right...I'm beginning to learn exactly who I am in Christ from studying the book of Ephesians, and whence I came from.

 

Clarke comments, "Ye who sometimes were far off] To be far off, and to be near, are sayings much in use among the Jews; and among them, to be near signifies, 1. To be in the approbation or favour of God; and to be far off signifies to be under his displeasure. So a wicked Jew might be said to be far off from God when he was exposed to his displeasure; and a holy man, or a genuine penitent, might be said to be nigh to God, because such persons are in his favour. 2. Every person who offered a sacrifice to God was considered as having access to him by the blood of that sacrifice: hence the priests, whose office it was to offer sacrifices, were considered as being nigh to God; and all who brought gifts to the altar were considered as approaching the Almighty. 3. Being far off, signified the state of the Gentiles as contradistinguished from the Jews, who were nigh. And these expressions were used in reference to the tabernacle, God's dwelling-place among the Israelites, and the sacrifices there offered. All those who had access to this tabernacle, or were nigh to it or encamped about it, were said to be nigh to God; those who had no access to it were said to be far off.

 

Hence the latter phrase is used to distinguish the Gentiles from the Jewish people; and this appears to be the meaning of the prophet, Isa. lvii. 19: I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; i.e. I give cause of praise and rejoicing to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. And to this scripture, and to this thing, the apostle seems here to allude. You Gentiles, who were unacquainted with God, and were even without God in the world, are brought to an acquaintance with him; and are now, through Christ Jesus, brought into the favour and fellowship of God. And as the Jews of old approached God by the blood of their sacrifices, so you approach him by the blood of Christ."

 

Heavenly Father,

 

I'm actually kind of surprised at how different this study has unfolded today, compared to yesterday. I can honestly say that I was missing key simple things, or not understanding them they way I'm beginning to do now. So, I want to thank You, being thankful in all things, for allowing that study to be lost yesterday. It bummed me out and disappointed me, but today I am so glad it happened.

 

And missing being able to post the study yesterday also showed me another thing. I'm really developing a fondness, a need, a desire, for studying Your Word like this on a daily basis because it it making me learn about You, making me feel closer to You, helping me to understand You better. It's getting to the point where I don't want to go back to the dry arid land of being caught up in life, not finding time to spend in Your Word. In all honesty, while I've always tried to pray and communicate with You through that medium, that was an exercise that is critical to my walk with You, but is also an exercise that stems from my heart and mind. Conversely, when I take this time to delve into Your Word, it is an exercise that stems from You...it's Your Word, You've annointed it, You have declared and stated and promised and laid it all out. There is a difference betwen praying and reading Your word, and while I believe they go hand in and and are part of our relationship with You, one cannot exclude the other. Please let those that are reading this Lord, understand what I'm trying to say.

 

Oh, Holy Father, please annoint each and every one of these studies. You lead, I want to follow. As I've said before, and I'll say again, Your Word is living, it's fertile, it's miraculous in it's ability to cause us to grow, so teach me and grow me, and us. We need You so much.

 

I love You, Lord, and am so humbled and grateful that You've called me, and us, and allowed us this relationship with You, that was intended before the heavens and earth were ever formed. We are human beings that are incomplete, outside of You.

 

I want and need so much, the secure feeling I have, being complete in You.

 

Ok, Lord, I'm going to post this, so preserve it, for Your glory.

 

In Jesus name,

 

Amen.

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