Week 3 Assignment: Read pages 65-98 in MacArthur and Eph 2:11-3:21 and comment on the three posts.
This week we begin studying the blessed and controversial doctrine of the Church or the Body of Christ (the third major doctrine of the theological section in Ephesians). This doctrine is most hotly debated between Covenant Theologians and Classic Dispensationalists.
What drives these opponents into opposite corners is their differing views of the church and Israel: “Are Israel and the Church the one people of God or are they the two peoples of God?”
Replacement theology states that the church has replaced Israel in this age and is the New Israel to the point of saying that the two terms in the New Testament are interchangeable according to William E. Cox in his Amillennialism Today on pages 46-47.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum presents a powerful refutation to the claim that terms Israel and the church are interchangeable in the New Testament when he states that the word Israel is used seventy-three times in the New Testament in Issues in Dispensationalism on page 118 and then proceeds to list all seventy-three references in the New Testament. When you read the seventy-three references to Israel, it is obvious that the two terms are not interchangeable. All of the seventy-three listings refer to ethnic Israel.
Covenant Premillennialist’s View
Mark Driscoll takes a mediating position. “The church is not Israel. Israel is an ethnicity, a nation, and a religious system. The church is none of these. When the Bible—Old and New Testaments—uses the term Israel, it always means a group of Jewish people, not the ‘ransomed people of God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Rev. 5:9), which is the church.” I totally agree. Driscoll goes on to refute Reformed theologians’ Replacement theology and also older, dispensationalist who believe in two different peoples of God which in Driscoll’s opinion “blur the distinction between Israel and church. But that negates the statements of God breaking down the dividing wall to form one new humanity” (Eph. 2:11-16).
Basically Driscoll’s view is Covenant Premillennialism which states there “is one people of God.” So today Israel and the church are one people of God. But in the future millennium “the Old Testament prophecies of a national restoration of Israel (Ezek. 36:22-38; Acts 1:5-7) will be fulfilled by racially Jewish Christians in the millennium” (Vintage Church, p. 58). This is where I part company with Driscol. In the millennium the Israel and the church will be distinct as they are today. I hope to show from Ephesians 2:11-22, that Paul is talking about a new humanity which is the church which is not Israel now and forever.
Here is the general outline of Ephesians which is the context for our text in Ephesians 2:11-22.
1. Ephesians 1-3-Theological Unity (In this first division are three major doctrines)
A. Trinity (1:3-14)
B. Salvation (2:1-10)
C. Church (2:11-3:12)
2. Ephesians 4-6-Practical Unity
A. “Therefore Walk” in Unity (4:1-16)
B. “Therefore Walk” not as the Unsaved (4:17-32)
C. “Therefore Walk” in Love (5:1-6)
D. “Therefore Walk” in the Light (5:7-14)
E. “Therefore Walk” in Wisdom (5:15-6:9)
Paul has already stated in Galatians 3:28 that positionally all people in the Body of Christ are united or are spiritually equal: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The problem is in our local churches, however, we are not practically nor relationally united. Our practice does not match our position.
1. There is Positional Unity in the Church (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Paul sets this new section off with “wherefore” (v. 13) and connects it with the previous section on salvation in 2:1-10. The individuals saved by grace through faith in 2:1-10 are not left alone. They are united together in Christ. This stresses the point that believers need one another in the church to move forward in their Christian walk.
A. Paul begins by elaborating on the past disunity in the Old Testament between the races (Jews and Gentiles).
Again, there is a contrast between 2:1-10 (sinners in general were “dead”) and more specifically, Gentiles in 2:11-13 were “far off” that is, in essence, second class citizens in the Old Testament with not the same access to God as the Jews enjoyed.
1. In the past, Gentiles were “uncircumcised” which was a term of derision as spoken by David with reference to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:26).
2. In the past, Gentiles were “without the Messiah” or without national hope for the Messiah was Jewish (Romans 9:4-5).
3. In the past, Gentiles were without citizenship in Israel. Individually Gentiles had to become Jewish proselytes.
4. In the past, Gentiles were without “the covenants.” As Jeremiah 31:31 says, God made the covenants with “the house of Israel.” Israel was promised a Land, King, and Blessing. Gentiles will receive blessings from the covenants (Genesis 12:1-3) but were not the recipients.
5. In the past, Gentiles were without “hope.” Gentiles lacked hope in general as stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
6. In the past, Gentiles were “without God” or the one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The English words “without God” come from one Greek word [atheoi] from which we get our English word atheist. Paul is saying that because the Old Testament Gentiles did not believe in Israel’s God they might as well be atheists. I know this thought is a blow to the pluralism of post-modernists.
The true Old Testament religion was racial but not racist, because God had chosen one nation. He chose one nation, however, to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). God gave 613 laws to Israel to make Israel different and blessed of God so the Gentiles would enquire as to their uniqueness and prosperity. This mission approach to the nations is illustrated by the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10. She came to Israel to see the wisdom and wealth of Israel’s king and nation and Solomon spoke to her of the Lord his God (10:9).
B. Because of the drastic change brought about by the death of Christ (2:13) now Paul can rejoice in the present unity Jews and Gentiles have in Christ.
Before the Gentiles were “afar off.” This was illustrated in the Gentile Court of the Temple in Jerusalem. The 4 ½ foot wall in the Jerusalem temple precinct that separated the court of the Gentles from the court of the Jews had an inscription in Greek and Latin prohibiting the entrance of a Gentile under the threat of the death penalty. The warning read: “No Gentile may enter within the barricade …. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”
“But now” the Gentile believer has equal access to God through “the blood of Christ.” There is no racial difference. Gentile believers no longer have to drink out of separate water fountains, ride in the back of the bus, or use different restrooms.
We will continue our exposition of Ephesians 2 in our next post for week three: Part 2 “The Church.”