Clan | Heavenly Access to Earthly Diversity | April 24
Review: What three actions did God accomplish for believers “with Christ”? How did your knowledge of these benefits affect you in the past week?
Background: As mentioned in the first study guide in this series, the phrase “in Ephesus” is missing from the oldest and most reliable manuscripts that are currently available. This fact suggests that the letter may not have been addressed to a particular church, but rather to a number of churches in a geographical area. Other evidence supports this conclusion. Paul does not greet specific individuals by name as he typically does in his other letters. There are no personal reminiscences about Paul’s relationship with the readers. And unlike Paul’s other epistles, this one does not address any conflict, crisis, or problem. Furthermore, Paul implies that he does not know this audience personally, but that he has only heard about them (1:15). This inference would not be true for the believers in the city of Ephesus, among whom Paul lived and worked for several years (Acts 19:19).
Pray: Thank you, Lord God, for making us alive with Christ when we were dead in our sins, for raising us up with Christ, and for seating us with Christ in the heavenly realms—all because of your great love, mercy, and grace. Please teach us how to live out this radical new identity as we study your word together. Amen
Read: Ephesians 2:11-22
Discussion: In Ephesians 2: 1-10 Paul described how both Gentiles (v. 1 “As for you… ”) and Jews (v. 3 “All of us…”) had been brought from death to life because of their faith in Christ. Now in Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul discusses the effect that this reality has on the relationships of Jews and Gentiles with one another.
1. Paul begins by listing five ways in which Gentiles believers were even more disadvantaged than their Jewish brothers and sisters before they all experienced the saving grace of Jesus.
In v. 12, what five “lacks” characterized Gentiles apart from Christ?
All five of these disadvantages connect in one way or another to the privileges that the Jews enjoyed as God’s chosen people.
2. “But now…” (v. 13) the enormous gap between Gentiles and Jews had been closed. In vv. 14-18 Paul enumerates four changes in the relationship between Jews and Gentiles that resulted from their common faith in Jesus Christ:
a) What was the barrier or “dividing wall” that Christ broke down (vv. 14-15a)?
The “commandments and regulations” refer to the Old Testament laws that God had imposed upon Israel to distinguish the Jews from the surrounding nations.
b) What did God create (v. 15b)?
In Christ, their primary identity was no longer either “Jew” or “Gentile,” but “Christian.”
c) In v. 14, “hostility” refers to the animosity that formerly existed between Jews and Gentiles.
What other “hostility” ended for both Jews and Gentiles when they became believers (v. 16)?
d) What new privilege did both Jews and Gentiles now enjoy (v. 18)?
3. What three images in vv. 19-22 illustrate further the reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles that resulted from their shared faith in Christ?
Application: “Divisiveness is a constant characteristic of every community without Christ” (Stott, 1979, p. 96).
4. In this text Paul addressed the fundamental rift between Jews and Gentiles that was healed through their common faith in Christ.
What kinds of divisions threaten the unity of the body of Christ in our day?
5. How could the teaching of Ephesians 2:11-22 be extended to apply to these divisions?
6. What practical steps could be taken to encourage and strengthen unity in the church?
Pray: Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for permitting and enabling divisions to continue in your body. Teach us how to live in unity, so that a watching world may be amazed by how much we love one another. Amen.