1. There is Positional Unity in the Church (Ephesians 2:11-13).
2. There is Positional Unity in the Church because of the Reconciling Death of Christ (Ephesians 2:14-18). Two reconciliations took place at the cross.
A. The first was the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles.
The death of Christ is repeated throughout verses 13-16: “by the blood of Christ” (v. 13), “having abolished in is flesh the enmity” (v. 15), and “by the cross” (v. 16).
The death of Christ broke down “the middle wall of partition” that separated Jews and Gentiles in Old Testament. Is this the literal wall in the temple court referred to earlier? It can’t be the literal wall because that wall was not literally destroyed until A.D. 70. How then was this barrier figuratively destroyed? When the law was rendered inoperative “abolished” by Christ’s death. The Law that was given specifically to Israel to make Israel unique had caused hostility between Jews and Gentiles as seen in the “circumcision” holding in contempt the “uncircumcision” as seen in verse 11. Since the death of Christ we “are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The civic and ceremonial requirements including dietary laws that separated Jews and Gentiles in the Old Testament are abolished and also the hostility created by them. The difficulty of overcoming this barrier is seen in Peter’s reluctance to eat pork at God’s command in Acts 10:9-15. Now you can eat country ham biscuits from Bojangles guilt free.
Christ took these two hostile groups and created “one new man” in verse 15. This “one new man” is new in time (since the day of Pentecost) and quality (no racial distinctions) entity. Paul has already identified this new entity as “the church” 1:22 and Christ’s “body” in 1:23.
B. The second reconciliation between God and sinners.
In verse 16, Paul writes, “and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.” There was not only “enmity” between Jews and Gentiles (v. 15) but there was “enmity” between God and sinners (v. 16). Because of the death of Christ we can be right with God and each other in Christ.
Paul for the third time refers to the Trinity in 2:18. Because of the reconciliation of Christ at the cross, the Spirit makes former enemies “one” who both now have equal access to God the Father.
Jesus tells us how this practically works. If you have offended someone, “Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:24). Or if someone has offended you “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone; if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15).
Also from these two reconciliations, we learn that we not only have a relationship with Jesus but His church. Some people today say they love Jesus but not the church. How can they love Jesus and not love what He loves. Paul informs us later in Ephesians 5:25 that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” If you think the church is too old fogie and institutional, then get in there and help fix it and stop complaining about what Jesus died for.
3. There are Pictures of our Positional Unity in the Church (Ephesians 2:19-22).
A. Believers are One Nation (Ephesians 2:19a).
This includes believing Jews and Gentiles. Paul is not saying that the Church has replaced Israel and is the New Israel or he could have easily repeated “Israel” as he did in 2:11. Paul is simply saying that today there is no chosen nation as in the Old Testament and therefore no second class citizens. Peter said a similar truth in 1 Peter 2:9: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation.” In stark contrast to the Old Testament, not just Jews are chosen, not just Jews are priests, and not just Israel is the nation with access to God. This picture should promote unity in the church. Jesus died for all nationalities and commissioned us to take the gospel to all nationalities.
Therefore all nationalities should be welcomed and accepted in our churches. This is what makes the church Missional. Missional church researcher Ed Stetzer warns against being missional in wanting to reach your local culture but not being Missions in wanting to reach those not in your culture. Some Missional churches are focused on the local not the global. Some Missions churches are only concerned with cultures an ocean away. The remedy is for the church to be “glocal” as Bob Roberts says in Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives nd the World. Driscoll, in Vintage Church, gives a good introduction to the Missional movement in chapter nine, “What is a Missional Church?” He strikes a balance: “It is unfortunate that foreign missions is not part of the vision of many missional churches….It is also unfortunate the local community is lacking from the vision of many missions churches….Subsequently, their youth spends ten days building a house in Mexico rather doing repairs on the run-down apartment building across the street” (page 242).
B. Believers are a family (Ephesians 2:19b).
God is our Father and we have brothers and sisters in Christ on earth and in Heaven (3:14-15). You have seen the license tag: The family that prays together stays together. The same can be true for God’s Family.
C. Believers are one Building (Ephesians 2:20-22).
In the Old Testament, God dwelt in buildings (The Tabernacle and the Temple) until He was driven out by sin. Today, God doesn’t dwell in material buildings, but in His body which is also depicted as a Building of God which is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (2:20).
The order, “the apostles and prophets,” means these men on whose teaching the church was founded were New Testament apostles and New Testament Prophets. If the church is in the Old Testament and has replaced the Israel in the New Testament, the order would have been the “prophets and apostles” or Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. Paul repeats this same order in 3:5. The new truth about the mystery of the church was unknown to Old Testament prophets and therefore was revealed to New Testament apostles and New Testament prophets. Paul repeats this order in 4: 11. When Christ ascended back to heaven to be head of the Church, He gave gifts and gifted men to build up this new entity which included “apostles; and some prophets” i.e., New Testament apostles and New Testament prophets.
In Revelation 21:3, John in describing the future eternal home of God’s people in the New Jerusalem in which will be “his people and God himself shall be with them.” John uses the plural for people (Gk. laoi) because the “peoples of God” will be distinct in eternity. This is made clear later when John states that on the 12 gates are written “the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 21:12). In eternity Israel will be distinct as one people of God. But in Revelation 21:14, John writes that on the foundations of the New Jerusalem will be written “the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” This corresponds to Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:20 that the apostles’ teachings make up the foundation of the church who is the new people of God.
There are huge ramifications if the church is in the Old Testament and is interchangeable with Israel. The covenants God made with Israel in the Old Testament concerning a land, king, and blessing have to be spiritually fulfilled by the church today and not literally by Israel in a future Millennium. This destroys a consistent historical/grammatical hermeneutic. All theologians use a historical/grammatical hermeneutic for the first coming prophecies of Christ which were literally fulfilled, but Covenant theologicans flip flop and use an allegorical hermeneutic for the second coming of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-3:13 teach that the Church is a new people of God that is distinct from Israel now and forever.
John MacArthur made this connection between Israel and hermeneutics in his controversial lecture, “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinists Is a Premillennialist” at his Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church on March 7, 2007.
What made MacArthur’s lecture controversial were the Reformed amillennarians present and several well-known amillennarians who were invited to speak at the conference by MacArthur.
When live-blogger Tim Challies posted his initial report about MacArthur’s lecture the blogosphere went nuts with e-mails: “Did you hear what MacArthur said about Calvinism?” “Did you hear what MacArthur said about amillennialism?” “Did you hear what he said about Calvin?” Here are some of MacArthur’s comments about Israel and literal hermeneutics.
“Now all that leads us to this: if you get Israel right you will get eschatology right. If you don’t get Israel right you will never get eschatology right. Never. And you’ll migrate from one view to another just depending on the last book you read or the last lecture you heard . . . . If you get eschatology right it’s because you get Israel right. You get Israel right when you get the Old Testament covenants and promises right. You get the Old Testament covenants and promises right when you get the interpretation of Scripture right. You get interpretation of Scripture right when you’re faithful to a legitimate hermeneutic and God’s integrity is upheld. Get your hermeneutics right, you’ll get the Old Testament promises right. Get promises right, you’ll get Israel right. Get Israel right, you’ll get eschatology right. The Bible calls God the God of Israel over 200 times. The God of Israel. There are over 2,000 references to Israel in Scripture, not one of them means anything but Israel. Not one of them, including Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16 which is the only two passages that amillennialists go to trying to convince us that that cancels out the other 2,000. There is no difficulty in interpreting those as simply meaning Jews who were believers; the Israel of God. Israel always means Israel, never means anything but Israel. Seventy three New Testament uses of Israel always mean Israel.”
The final post for Week 3 is “God’s Call to The Ministry Verses God’s Call to Ministry”: Eph 3:1-13.