One of the beauties of marriage is that it creates something new, something that didn’t exist before. When a man and woman come together in holy matrimony, they leave their former lives and families behind to form a new family. This new indissoluble bond gives them a new identity (husband and wife), a new place, (no longer living on their own), and a new purpose (love and respect).

The new reality that a marriage creates helps us see what Christ has done for us in a new light. The analogy is not perfect, but our union with Christ forms us into something new. Not only does He unite us to Him, but He unites us to one another. He welcomes us into his new family and we are growing into a place where He dwells. Let’s see how Paul describes this in Ephesians 2:11-22 with some help from the CSB Study Bible.

Unity in Christ

2:11-12 Gentiles in the flesh: Not only were the Gentiles morally separated from God (vv. 1-3), but they were also separated from God’s covenant people. They were without any knowledge of Christ and had no rights in God’s family and were not recipients of God’s covenants. They were without hope and ultimately without God. Paul did not reproach the Gentiles for their plight; he merely recorded the sad truth of the matter.

2:13 Paul used the strong transitional phrase But now in Christ Jesus to point to the Gentiles’ new relationship in Christ. The Gentile believers no longer were in their alienated state. They knew Christ, took part in God’s covenant blessings, and had hope and fellowship with God. This remarkable turnaround took place “in Christ Jesus.” Those who trust in him have a present salvation and a future hope.

A New Man

2:14-16 Who made both groups one: This verse emphasizes the centrality of Jesus Christ in bringing Gentiles and Jews together, not only with one another but also with God. Christ is both our peace and our peacemaker. His reconciling death on the cross has made the two—Jews and Gentiles—into one. Gentiles do not become Jews, but the two groups become one at a deeper level than ethnicity, forming Christ’s church.

The new humanity is greater than the former humanity; God has torn down the dividing wall of hostility and removed the hatred forever. By “dividing wall” Paul likely had in mind the area in the Jerusalem temple that separated the court of the Gentiles from the temple. Around the temple was the court of priests. East of this was the court of Israel. Farther east was the court of women. These three courts were all on the same elevation as the temple. From here a walled platform was five steps away. Fourteen steps away was another wall, which was the outer court of the Gentiles. There was an inscription on this wall warning Gentiles of their ensuing death if they entered the enclosure around the temple.

In Christ this dividing wall was broken down, thus banishing the specific commandments that separated Jews from Gentiles because Gentiles did not observe the Jewish law. The burden of the commandments was taken away at the cross in our Lord’s crucified body.

2:16 Reconcile both to God: The phrase extends the concept of “peace” and involves the idea of restoration to a unity. The goal was not merely to reconcile two groups but to reconcile them to God. The one body is the church, the new humanity, the place of peace. At the cross, everything that caused the disunion was destroyed.

A New Family

2:17 Far away and near refer to Gentiles and Jews and derives from Is 57:19.

2:18 Access to the Father is available to all who come to Christ. The imagery is of a court official who escorts visitors into the king’s presence. Through Christ’s reconciling work we have been ushered into God’s presence.

2:19 Foreigners means short-term transients, nonresidents with no rights. Strangers is a similar word, pointing to resident foreigners who had settled permanently in the country of their choice but who nevertheless had only limited rights. These terms described the Gentiles’ position before Christ. Fellow citizens . . . and members are terms that picture the Gentiles’ new position. Now they enjoy all the privileges of God’s household, where “household” describes their togetherness and inclusion. Believers are adopted into God’s family and are united with the saints of every era—past, present, and future.

A New Temple

2:20 God’s new family is not only a new nation, but also a new building with a distinctive foundation. The apostles and prophets in their unique relationship to Christ, exemplified by the authoritative teachings they communicated to the church, are the foundation. Paul proclaimed Christ Jesus as the cornerstone of the foundation. “Cornerstone” holds an entire structure together. In ancient structures it was placed at a right angle joining two walls, with the royal name inscribed on it to signify the ruler who took credit for the building’s erection.

2:21 “By virtue of its connection to the Lord Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, the universal church as a whole is in the process of becoming the holy dwelling place of God. The passive being put together indicates this is not being accomplished by us, but by God himself” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians).

2:22 You are also being built together: The description of a building under construction is indicated by the word “grows” (v. 21). It conveys the idea of a dynamic church in the process of expansion. The major theme of union with Christ reappears in Paul’s conclusion to this chapter. Paul declared that God’s abode is not in the Jerusalem temple but in the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the community of believers.

The CSB Study Bible

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