Vol. 15 No. 4
Eph 2:11-13, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands – 12remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
These words were written to Gentile Christians who had been brought out of the darkness of paganism and into the light of God’s grace and love. And as is the case with all man made religions, they were steeped in various kinds of human rituals and works. As such, it was easy for the Judaizers to come along and influence the early church into thinking they needed to keep the rituals of the Law in order to be saved, with circumcision as its main sign. So once again, Paul is writing to the early Church to exhort them to stay the course and not give over to the temptations of legalism and approbation lust, by reminding them of the depraved and hopeless state from whence they came, and how they got to the place and status they now enjoy.
This passage begins with Paul exhorting the Gentile believers to recall from memory the true doctrine of salvation, and the spiritual and physical depravity we once had, which he previously taught them and just noted in verses 8-9. Paul begins by saying, “remember,” which is the Present, Active, Imperative of MNEMONEUO, μνημονεύω that means, “to remember, recollect, recall, or be mindful.” It comes from a Present, Imperative Greek verb MNEMONEUETE, and could be translated, “keep on remembering.”
Principle: When you recall the doctrines you have been previously taught by your Pastor-Teacher, it will solve a lot of problems in your life.
In recalling the Doctrine of Salvation by grace through faith, and that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and that we are one body in Christ, he wanted them to also recall the first three verses of this chapter, that they were formerly:
1) Spiritually dead and living totaling in their sins.
2) Under the total influence of Satan and his cosmic system.
3) Under the total control of the Old Sin Nature.
4) Destined for the Eternal Lake of Fire.
This is the state that all people are brought into this world under, yet by God’s love, mercy, and grace He saved us from those things.
Paul then uses the imagery of circumcision to remind them of the Judaizers’ false doctrine of salvation by works, as some of the Jewish believers in the early Church believed that you had to not only believe in Jesus Christ, but also be circumcised and keep the Law, in order to be saved, Acts 15:1, 5. The Jerusalem Council settled this issue in Acts 15:6-31, but some did not follow this and wanted to hang onto the Law.
“Uncircumcision” is the noun AKROBUSTIA, ἀκροβυστία that literally means, “foreskin” and was used to denote those that were “uncircumcised, pagan in their beliefs, or a Gentile.” It was a derogatory remark used by the Jews towards Gentiles, cf. 1 Sam 17:26 that uses the Hebrew word ARYIL, while other O.T. passages use ORLAH. It meant that they were not of or from the privileged Jews. During the early Church, it was used by the Jewish Christians, i.e., Judaizers, towards the Gentile Christians. These Judaizers did not think the Gentiles were saved unless they also received circumcision.
“Circumcision” is the noun PERITOME, περιτομή that means, “circumcision or those who are circumcised.” It was used literally and as a representation of the Jews. It also has other figurative usages in the New Testament, including being Born Again.
Circumcision was instituted by God in Gen 17:10-14, as an external sign of the covenant He made with Abraham. This important rite signified externally what had happened to Abraham internally. However, by Paul’s time, this physical sign had become more of a sign of the difference between Jew and Gentile, than of a person’s relationship to God. Circumcision had become a status symbol, which gave the Jews a false confidence based on ritual.
The ritual of circumcision has no significance in the Church. It only intrudes as a false standard of salvation, 1 Cor 7:18-19; Gal 5:2-3; Eph 2:11. So Paul is reminding them of the false doctrine of the Judaizers and that circumcision and keeping the Law were nothing but human good works, i.e., “performed in the flesh by human hands,” and not according to Scripture, Col 3:11; Gal 5:2-6; 6:15; Rom 3:30.
The Greek uses the Noun SARX in the Dative Case that means, “flesh, human, mortal nature, or physical life,” and the Genitive Singular of the Adjective CHEIROPOIETOS that is a compound word from the noun CHEIR that means, “hand” and the verb POIEO that means, “to make.” Combined this word means, “made by human hands.”
Paul is reminding them that their salvation was provided by the grace of God and not by human hands, i.e., the works of the flesh, which means not by “human good works.” “Salvation is not by human works so that no one could boast,” Eph 2:9.
Circumcision and uncircumcision are nothing but superficial and outward distinctions, which in no way reveal the inner soul relationship to God, cf. Isa 55:7-9; 1 Sam 16:6-7. Therefore, believers are warned to not bring into the Christian life the false and superficial standards of the pre-salvation days, as these false standards victimize other believers, as they are contrary to Divine standards of evaluation. So Paul is reminding them and us that internal, not external, circumcision is what really matters, Gal 5:6; Col 2:11-14.
Gal 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”
Col 2:11, “And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Paul continues bringing them down memory lane when he states, “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Here he is reminding the Gentiles of their actual hopeless condition before they became united with Christ, i.e., “you were at that time,” EIMI HO KAIROS. EIMI meaning here “were,” is in the Imperfect Tense for ongoing past action. This was the state in which the unbelieving Gentile was in.
These following conditions go beyond what he has already told them in vs. 1-3. Their additional formerly depraved condition is summarized by a series of five descriptive statements.
1) They previously were without Christ, “separated from Christ,” CHORIS CHRISTOS. CHORIS, χωρίς means, “separately, without, or apart from.” The one word that best describes the Gentiles’ former life is “without.” It is in the Ablative case construction which in itself normally indicates separation. It means that they were not in union with Christ as they are now, and that they had no hope of a Messiah. It is the best definition of a lost man.
The Ephesians worshiped the goddess, Diana, and before the coming of the Gospel, knew nothing about Christ and had no relationship with Him whatsoever, which also means condemnation.
This is the first true standard and the most universal standard for all people who are unbelievers. All unbelievers are separated from Christ. This tells us that circumcision is a false issue; Christ is the real issue.
2) They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.”
a) “Excluded” is the Verb APALLOTRIOO, ἀπαλλοτριόω that means, “to estrange or alienate,” in the Perfect, Passive, Participle that means, “having been alienated from.”
b) “Commonwealth of Israel” uses the Noun POLITEIA that means, “citizenship or commonwealth,” and is also used in Acts 22:28 where it refers to Paul’s Roman citizenship. Here it stands for the superiority of Israel historically in God’s plan. It speaks to the privileges and blessings Israel was given that the Gentiles were not given. A Gentile could enter the nation of Israel as a proselyte, but he was not born into that very special nation. Even more important is that these unbelieving Gentiles had no rights of citizenship in “spiritual Israel,” Rom 9:6-7; 11:1-5, and they had no heavenly POLITEUMA privileges of Phil 3:20.
This is a reference to the previous Dispensation of Israel in which the citizenship with Israel was based on regeneration, e.g., Abraham, rather than physical birth. The pattern for the citizenship with Israel is found in Rom 4:2-25; 9:6-8. Only born again Jews were the true citizens of Israel. So this phrase once again emphasizes lack of regeneration; being on the wrong side of the Cross.
3) These Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants of promise.”
a) “Strangers,” is the Adjective XENOS that means, “strange, foreign, or alien.” It also means, “to be estranged, unacquainted with, or not operating under.” In other words, once again they were aliens in the sense of no citizenship. All of this means that they were foreigners to what grace was all about. It meant that the Gentiles were not owners or partakers of something. That something is:
b) “Covenants,” DIATHEKE, διαθήκη that means, “last will and testament, covenant, will, contract, or disposition.” It refers to God’s promises to Abraham, the unconditional covenants of Israel, Gen 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-5; 17:1-22; 22:15-18. The unconditional covenants all involve eternal life. So once again it is the same thing: they did not have salvation so they did not have anything. Until they and we believed in Jesus Christ, they and we were nothing. This is the Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic covenants. They are unconditional covenants, they are grace covenants, they have grace provision, they all have eternal life provision, and they are all for the Jews.
c) “Of Promise,” EPANGELIA, ἐπαγγελία or literally “the promise.” It is used here for the unconditional promises of grace and blessing; the Divine promises and gracious gifts of God. Israel’s “covenants” include the Abrahamic Covenant, Gen 12:1-3; 15:18-21; 17:1-8, the Palestinian Covenant, Deut 28-30, the Davidic Covenant, 2 Sam 7:16; Psa 89:1-4, and the New Covenant, Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:24-30. It is a reminder that all the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stemmed from that one great promise of the coming Messiah, Gen 3:15. These covenants all pointed to “the promise” of the Messiah and of blessings through Him that assured Israel of a national existence, a land, a King, and spiritual blessings. A promise is an assurance that something will be done, happen, and turn out well. The covenant promise is God’s guarantee to mankind that through faith in Christ, they will receive eternal blessings in heaven.
So Paul is saying that these Gentile unbelievers were deprived of direct participation in God’s covenants and thus had no hope of future glory and blessing as Israel did. The believer’s promise from Christ is found in John 14:2-3, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself: that where I am, there you may be also.”
4) They were in a state of “having no hope,” ME ECHO ELPIS. They had no confident expectation of anything good pertaining to the future and the afterlife, which is the natural consequence of being without Christ, 1 Thes 4:13.
1 Thes 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.”
They had no expectation of a personal Messiah-Deliverer and Messianic Age. Any hopes or gods they did have were all false and powerless.
5) They had been “without God in the world,” ATHEOS EN HO KOSMOS. This means that even in this present life, they had no relationship whatsoever with a benevolent God, Gal 4:8. They were “godless.” They had no true god to trust and rely upon while here inside of Satan’s cosmic system. That means that they had no advocate in heaven and were completely helpless against the “prince of the power of the air,” vs. 2, i.e., Satan and his cosmic system. Therefore, they had no meaning, hope, purpose, or direction in life. They were in the darkness, wandering about with the rest of lost humanity.
It is worth noting here that the spiritual plight of the world and Gentiles was not caused by God, but by their own willful sin. Paul said the Gentiles knew the true God, but deliberately refused to honor Him, Rom 1:18-23. Religious history is not a record of man starting with many gods, idolatry, and gradually discovering the one true God. Rather, it is the sad story of man knowing the truth about God and deliberately turning away from it! It is a story of devolution, not evolution!
Is it any wonder that those in the world today who are without Christ are without hope, and the only thing they do is try to squeeze out whatever they can from this life, as they seek after the materialism of this world for their happiness? That is what it is like to be without hope and without God. If I too had nothing to look forward to, I would do the same.
Therefore, Paul reminds the Gentile believers of their past plight and hopelessness, so they might better understand their present blessings in Christ Jesus. This is a terrible, awful condition that Paul describes. But now notice in vs. 13 that something has happened to change it all.
Also, keep in mind that God called the Jews, beginning with Abraham, that through them He might reveal Himself as the one true God and Messiah. God deposited His Word with the Jews, and through the Jews He gave the world the Savior, Rom 9:1-5. Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles that they too might be saved. But sad to say, Israel became like the Gentiles, and the light burned dimly in them.
This fact is a warning to the Church today. It it is a reminder to avoid getting caught up in the world and involved in superficial rituals, post-salvation. In fact, when the Church is least like the world, it does the most for the world.
Eph 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Here we have the means of our reconciliation that gives us entrance into God’s blessings for time and eternity. Beginning here in vs. 13, and running through to the end of the chapter, vs. 22, we are shown the great contrast to vs. 1-3, 11-12. We are shown the contrast between the wrong and the right side of the Cross; the wrong and right side of the barrier noted in vs. 14. We are shown our relocation from spiritual death to spiritual life and many of the blessings it entails.
“But now,” is the Adversative Conjunction DE with the Adverb of present time NUN giving us a change in scenery. It is a sharp contrast between the former estate of these Gentiles and their new position in Christ. You see, you were spiritually dead living in your sins, Satan, and Old Sin Nature, along with absence of Divine blessings noted in vs. 12 with the phrase, “at that time.” “But now,” you are alive and have the blessings of God because of your union, “in Christ Jesus,” the Dative of EN CHRISTOS IESOUS. This is your new position that gives you a new life and new outlook on life that was absent before. In vs. 12, in your former unbelieving state, you were “in the world,” but here we see the believer is now, “in Christ Jesus.” It relates us to the strategic victory of the Angelic Conflict that was won on the Cross.
Our former state is then once again noted to remind us of the contrast in our lives, “you who formerly were far off,” HUMEIS HO POTE EIMI MAKROS. POTE EIMI actually mean, “once being.” So we should translate this, “you who were once (at one time) far off.”
Then in contrast, our present state as believers in Jesus Christ is given, “have been brought near,” which is the verb GINOMAI in the Aorist, Passive, Indicative with the Adverb ENGUS. So the contrast continues, we were far from God as unbelievers, but now we are near to Him as believers in Jesus Christ, because of “His blood.” To be near to God is one of the exalted positions into which each believer is brought at the moment he is saved.
This verse is closely related to vs. 17, cf. Isa 57:19. In vs. 12 only Gentiles are in view, but in this verse and the ones following, both Jews and Gentiles are seen. The Gentiles are identified as those who, because of no former covenant relation to God, were “far off,” while the Jews, because of their covenants, were “near.” Yet, the Jews were not “near” to the same degree in which the saved Jew and the saved Gentile are now because of being in Christ and redeemed through His precious blood.
Note too that this phrase refers to the commonwealth or the citizenship of Israel of vs. 12. It relates that the Gentile believers are not in the commonwealth of spiritual Israel, cf. Rom 9:16, but are near to it, in the sense of being born again. They cannot be in it because this is the Church Age, not the dispensation of Israel.
Next we have the Dative of Means/Instrument that relocated us from spiritual death to spiritual life, “by the blood of Christ,” EN HO HAIMA HO CHRISTOS, translated, “by the means or instrument of the blood of the Christ.”
This phrase is symbolic of what Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we would have the forgiveness of our sins. That invisible act of God judging our sins in the person of Jesus Christ, is made manifest for us through the image of His shed blood. The blood relates back to the Old Testament, to the sacrifices that were made to portray the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, in the phrase “the blood of Christ”, we understand the judgement He received on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins through which we receive the forgiveness of our sins.
This phrase was also used to identify the humanity of Jesus Christ in hypostatic union, as some denied the humanity of Christ in the early church. “Because the docetic Gnostics denied the humanity of Christ, Paul was very careful to specify that He was a real human with genuine blood. Redemption came through the death of Christ, and the means of cleansing was His shed blood. It was not an ordinary death.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary.) It was the humanity of Christ that paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, the judgment of Jesus Christ on the Cross means reconciliation to all who believe in Him. And His judgment is related to the Levitical sacrifices by the use of the word “blood.”
The Doctrine of the Blood
While our Lord did bleed quite a bit prior to and while on the Cross, He absolutely did not bleed to death, nor does His literal human blood have anything to do with the phrase found throughout the New Testament, “the blood of Christ.” Many Greek lexicons including BDAG, TDNT, Thayer, Strong’s, Louw Nida, etc. recognize this principle when defining the Greek word for “blood,” HAIMA. Also note that the Hebrew word for blood is DAM.
For example, the Complete Word Study Dictionary notes, “My blood” (1 Cor. 11:25; 1 Pet. 1:2) which designates the life of Christ offered for an atonement contrasted with the blood of beasts slain in sacrifice (Heb. 9:12 [Heb. 9:14, 25]).The blood of Christ, therefore, represents the life that He gave for our atonement (Matt. 26:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:27; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:14, 20; Heb. 9:12, 25; 10:19; 13:12; 1 Pet. 1:19; 1 John 1:7; 5:6, 8; Rev. 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11). This shedding of Christ’s blood was necessary for the satisfaction of God’s justice. Man’s sin could not go without expiation (HILASMOS), a means whereby sin is covered and remitted objectively, the act of propitiation.”
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “The ideas which the New Testament links with the blood of Christ, is simply a pregnant verbal symbol of the saving work of Christ.”
Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary states in the definition of HAIMA, “Figurative (the juice of grapes) or special (the atoning blood of Christ).”
The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary states, “As the New Testament writers sought to explain the impact of the death of Christ, the sacrificial metaphor took its place in the forefront.”
2) Blood is the basis for animal life. Animals do not have souls like humans. (Whatever soul the animal has, it is enough soul to be conscious of animals and of human beings. But no animal has God-consciousness in his soul.) A human being is not dead until the soul leaves the body, but an animal dies because his blood leaves his body. Only in analogy is the blood of humans used in the O.T. to represent physical death, as in the first mention of the word in the Bible, Gen 4:10-11.
In the book of Leviticus, animal blood is used extensively regarding the sacrificial system God had established with His people Israel. This system pointed to what Christ would eventually accomplish upon the Cross. God selected animals to teach the O.T. people about salvation. The Cross had not occurred historically. The Cross was going to occur historically. The Cross was a part of the Divine decrees, it is the key to the Father’s Plan of grace, and the Cross is the mechanics of salvation. So God selected these animals to portray the ministry of Christ in salvation; the work of Christ on the Cross.
This is why the altar came into being, whether it was Abel’s altar in Gen 3, Abraham’s altar in Gen 22, or the ones in the Tabernacle and Temple. It was a raised platform so that everyone could see, and animal blood was used in those O.T. sacrifices to represent the spiritual death of Christ on the Cross, Lev 1-3. Therefore, the blood of the animal becomes a representative analogy. This is not a direct or true analogy. A direct or true analogy would mean that Christ had to bleed to death on the Cross. But Christ did not bleed to death on the Cross. A representative analogy takes something that happens literally to portray something that is spiritual.
D.A. Carson noted, “The blessings that the Scripture shows to be accomplished or achieved by the blood of Jesus are equally said to be accomplished or achieved by the death on the Cross.” Therefore, when speaking of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, blood does not represent the literal blood of Jesus but the spiritual sacrifice and death He accomplished in His body while on the Cross.
If you would like more information on this subject,you may watch/listen to lesson:
#’s 16-009 through 16-011
A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life.
To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!