Saturday, July 23, 2016

Abolishing the Enmity: Ephesians chapter two commentary

Last Sunday, I did a commentary on Ephesians chapter one. I showed that all of the declarations and decrees in chapter one belonged to both the Jewish and Gentle Christians alike, and that Paul's distinction between Jew and Gentile was one of time/seniority in God's program and not importance or privilege in status and stature before God. Paul now, at the beginning of chapter two goes back to making a distinction we/you just to clarify that both are equal under the New Covenant. It is with this we/you language, meaning Jew and Gentile, that I begin this probe into chapter two.

Ephesians 2:1-22 NKJV  
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,  (2)  in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,  (3)  among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Paul makes this distinction here to show, similar to what he did in Romans one and two, he showed all people, both Jew and Gentile are both equally guilty and without hope. He acknowledges that prior to the gospel, the Gentiles were dead in trespasses and sins, but now, with the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the unbelieving Jews, "the sons of disobedience" are equally lost without Jesus. When Paul mentions the desires of the flesh and mind he also includes self righteousness, religion, and the pursuit of acceptability to God as well as other things that would more commonly be associated with fleshly lusts. Yes, it is a fleshly lust to strive to be acceptable to God by ones own effort and merit. The distinction here shows that the Jews striving to live the law by fleshly means, and the Gentiles, totally disregarding the law, pursuing the lusts of the flesh were indeed equally erroneous.

(4)  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  (5)  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  Paul is back to us again with verses four and five, both Jew and Gentile are alive in Christ Jesus. When he writes "by grace you have been saved" he means that it was God's grace that made the gospel available for ALL. It is a result of God's love/agape. Need I remind you that the apostle John said that God is love/agape (1Jn 4:8.) God's love/agape causes God's mercy and grace. The focus of the good news is God's love/agape. Paul is showing us that God's love is the catalyst for all that the gospel offers. (6)  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  (7)  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  Do you see the focus of Paul's thinking? It centers on God's grace and kindness. Now, under the New Covenant, the Jew and Gentile are raised up together and seated in heavenly places. I would like to take special note of verse seven. Paul states that in the ages to come, not the age to come; he makes it plural as to more than one. I think that this is significant as it allows for a series of ages to come. It is interesting to me that there is roughly four thousand years of biblical history. There is roughly two thousand years (an age) between Adam and Abraham, and another two thousand year age between Abraham and Christ. Further, there has now been another two thousand year age from Christ to 2000AD, and we are just beginning yet another age. We can already see that there has been ages to come. Could the years from Christ to Y2K, be the church age, and could we be in the beginning of the kingdom age? Just asking to stimulate thought? It appears that God does something unique and big every two thousand years and we are just beginning a new one. The thing to remember is that in ALL the ages to come, whatever they may be God plans to show the exceeding riches of his grace and kindness.

(8)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  (9)  not of works, lest anyone should boast. This is one of the most powerful messages in the New Testament. I have disconnected it from verse ten, not because I want to eliminate the thought of verse ten. I have disconnected it because verses eight and nine are the prime drivers in Paul's discussion of the gospel, and the way it works spiritually/supernaturally.  This again, like Romans 10:9-10, and 2Cor 5:17-21 is a concise expression of the gospel. God's plan of redemption that was spoken of so eloquently in Ephesians chapter one. It is all by grace; all done by God; not of human merit; boasting is eliminated. (10)  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul states that it is God who works EVERYTHING to the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace. Verse ten is one of those things that God works. However, I do not believe that current evangelical doctrine and dogma properly understands the gospel well enough to know how God has planned to have each believer walk in good works. They erroneously teach that it will be from reading the law, and as a new creation be able to obey the law. They completely have missed the supernatural transformation process. This will be discussed in more depth as we look on in this chapter.

(11)  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. Paul reminds them of their former state. It is worthy of mentioning what the covenants of promise were. In short, they were the covenant of Noah, the covenant of Abraham, the covenant of David, and the New Covenant. These were covenants that were attached to the promise seed in the Abrahamic covenant. (13)  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (14)  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,. It was the death burial and resurrection of Jesus that brought the Jews and Gentiles together into the covenants of promise. The wall of separation was the law of Moses. The law of Moses was at enmity with humans because the only way to obtain righteousness through the law was to obey it all, always, (James 2:10.) Jesus abolished the law in his flesh on the cross. The one new man, Paul calls it the new creation in Galatians, receives righteousness by faith in the gospel. So then, why was the law enmity? Simple it was enmity because it was impossible for humans to be made right by the works of the law. Paul explains in Romans chapter eight that the law was actually the law of sin and death. The law showed humanities sin and it caused death. Jesus fulfilled the law and made it possible for their to be a law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which set humanity free from the law of sin and death. When Jesus died on the cross he abolished the law of sin and death, and when God raised him from the dead, he brought forth the law of the Spirit of life. This is what put an end, abolished the enmity. This made peace with the Father for all who would believe (Romans 5:1.)

(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.  Peace with the Father was what ended the enmity. Again, the preaching of peace with the Father, is the message of the gospel. There is no longer a cause for fear. Bringing death to the enmity meant bringing death to the law. The law that condemned humanity was rendered dead, abolished by the cross. It was no longer a means for judging righteousness. Righteousness was determined by faith in the gospel. Righteousness came strictly from grace, "for by grace are you saved through faith;" the enmity that came from the law was enmity with God. Grace and kindness, motivated from the love/agape of God ended once and for all the enmity.

Look at what comes next, (18)  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Who has access by the one Spirit? Both Jews and Gentiles. (19)  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. God ended the enmity so that by faith he could create a dwelling place for himself on earth. It is by the indwelling Spirit that we become members of the household of God. Here is where grace becomes ultra important. This fact, that God has abolished all enmity through Christ, will produce in the saint who truly believes it a deep abiding love for such a gracious God.

It is the deep abiding love for God, absent any fear because the enmity has been abolished, that begins to supernaturally produce the transformation of the saint into the image of Jesus Christ. The love God has for humanity is contagious. When one is truly exposed to God's love one cannot help but catch it. It begins to work supernaturally within the individual. It is the catalyst for change in the saint. It does not enable the person to begin to obey the law, how can one obey the thing that is abolished? No, this gospel fact, the abolition of the enmity begins to allow the saint to look at the law with fresh eyes. It is no longer a source of fear as it has been abolished. It could be a source of informing the saint what the good works of Ephesians 2:10 are if they realized that it was for informing and not condemning. Still so many evangelicals emphasize the law of sin and death. Sunday after Sunday they continually put saints under condemnation and reinforce the enmity. If they would but follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul and preach the gospel with encouragement explaining that peace with the Father is a reality 24-7.

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