7.7 Ephesians -- One New Man
Paul initiates a new era in Jew-Gentile relationships with one word in Eph 2:11:
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision"...
The critical word is "formerly." This word is used frequently by Paul to denote actions that existed in the past, but no longer persist:
a. "you formerly walked according to the course of this world" (Eph 2:2)
b. "we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh" (Eph 2:3)
c. "you were formerly darkness" (Eph 5:8)
d. "just as you once were disobedient to God" (Rom 11:30)
e. "you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism" (Gal 1:13).
By the use of this one word, Paul is closing the door on the entire epoch of Gentile inferiority. Both the desperation of the Gentiles and their rescue were announced centuries before by Isaiah:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isa 9:2).
Paul describes the depth of the darkness:
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12).
In one sentence Paul summarizes the disqualifications of the Gentiles for the past 2000 years: no share in the expectation of the Messiah, no citizenship in the holy nation, no part in the covenants between Israel and God, no hope and no Presence of God.
But Jesus' death and resurrection have changed the status quo. In one remarkable passage, Paul sets aside not only the entire Old Testament legacy of exclusion and priority established by God Himself, but also his own personal upbringing as a Pharisee, "a Hebrew of Hebrews" (Phi 3:5).
But now in Christ Jesus you who once [lit. "formerly"] were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Eph 2:13-22).
We will now look in detail at each of the aspects of the achievement of Jesus for the benefit of the Gentiles, because this caused a revolution in race relations.