November 19 – Ephesians 2:11-22


Main Focus: To sustain a multi-ethnic community, we must practice reconciliation.

The last few verses of this passage supply a vision for the church, while the rest of the passage explains the work that it takes to get there. All this work starts with God, who’s taken foreigners, strangers, and even enemies and made them fellow citizens, members of his household, and ultimately into a dwelling place for his Spirit. It’s critical for us to grasp this vision of unity and move towards it, and, as we’ll see in discussion, the way God enables this movement is through gospel reconciliation.

Ephesians chapter 2 is like a more thorough explanation of what Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:10, “Once you were not a people; now you are God’s people.” In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul makes a big case for how the mercy of God resurrects us from spiritual death into spiritual life through being made “alive together with Christ.” It’s this mysterious, holy union with Jesus that makes all our sanctification and communion with him possible because we have been reconciled to God through him.

But it doesn’t stop there; Paul starts Ephesians 2:11 with “therefore” (ESV) to relate all this to the church, specifically to the tensions between Jews and Gentiles experienced in the early church. Jews were frequently struggling to see how Gentiles could be a part of God’s people without becoming Jewish through cultural and religious practices, thus Gentiles were often treated as second-class citizens even though they were increasingly populating churches around the Mediterranean. But, as Paul puts it, God has taken these “two men” and broken down the dividing hostility between them through Jesus’s death for sin, making them into “one man.”(v.14-15)

To be clear, this was not to erase their cultural identities. The New Testament devotes significant airtime to address how Gentiles could become Christians without becoming Jews (1 Cor 7:17-19; basically all of Galatians), while Jews could continue their cultural practices after believing in Jesus as long as they didn’t trust in these practices for their salvation (Rom; 14:1-12, 1 Cor 7:17-19; 9:19-23; Col 2:16-23; Heb 13:9). Paul is a good example of this—he still referred to himself as a Jew (Acts 21:39; Phil 3:5), observed the Law while in the company of Torah-observant Jews (Acts 21:23-24; 1 Cor 9:19-20), and even undertook the Jewish Nazarite vow in Acts 18:18.

Being united with Christ thus doesn’t erase our cultural identity or identities, but it does reconfigure our relationship to this identity through a new, superseding identity in Jesus. You might say our new identity in Christ kicks our cultural identity out of the driver seat, but not out of the car. This has important implications for how we think about God’s multi-ethnic people: ex. there’s no single dominant culture among God’s people, no expectation on people to drop amoral cultural markers once they belong to Christ, no cultural assimilation or homogenization that needs to occur, plenty of opportunity to learn about one another’s cultures, etc. But, foremost among them is this: in Christ, God has so reconfigured our identity that no source of identity is now a legitimate means for division within the body of Christ.

The vertical reconciliation that God has worked between us and him extends horizontally. Black Christians, White Christians, Asian and Latino and African Christians, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated—all Christians are members of Jesus’s body and thus united together. Paul’s big point here in Ephesians is this: there is not an individual relationship with Jesus that is somehow separate from the shared life of God’s people. Union with Christ, the head, simply cannot be disconnected from union with the church, his body (Eph. 4:11-16).

And this supplies all we need to approach a shared life across any sort of social divisions or differences. As the passage explains, Jesus himself tore down the dividing wall of hostility so we could be one with God and one with each other; the two are inseparable, meaning if we focus only on one we’ll miss both. You’ll notice how all of this is a solid overview of our whole Divine Community series, which we’ll work to summarize in discussion. All along, God has been working to save a multi-ethnic people for himself, and through the cosmic work of Jesus, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation are brought into God’s family to demonstrate his work of reconciliation now and in the eternal age to come.

To close out our series, this text also presents us with an opportunity to revisit and commit to any course of action, or course correction, that God has brought to our minds during the series. Has God convicted you of the homogeneity of your friend group? Has he revealed you lack of awareness, proximity, or empathy towards people who are different from you? Has he uncovered biases you harbor against specific people groups? Let’s take a moment to draw all things into the sanctifying, grace-filled light of the gospel, and verbalize intentional steps towards growth in becoming the multi-ethnic people that God intends Vintage to become.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Ephesians 2:11-22?

• Verse 11 starts with “therefore”—how is this passage linked to the one before it?

• How does this passage help you think about what God has done for you through Jesus?

• Based on this passage, how does Jesus’s death connect to our reconciliation with others?

• How can this passage summarize what we’ve looked at through our Divine Community series?

• We’ve talked about a number of these during our series—what’s one or two ways you can commit to grow in your cross-cultural awareness or relationships for God’s glory?

• Prayer Prompt: Thank God for our study through the Divine Community series and for what he’s taught us through it, and ask him to continue the work of reconciliation that he’s started within us.