What is the Church? Part II – January 14, 2024

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:11-22 is one of the greatest passages to look at to understand what the church of Jesus Christ is. In verses 11-13, we see that Paul reminds the Ephesian church, that was predominantly Gentile, of where they stood without God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus. Verse 12 tells us that they were cut off from the people of God, the promises of God, and the person of God. As far as they were from those things, in Christ Jesus they have been brought near to God and become a part of God’s people.

In verses 14-18, the subject matter changes to a wall. Paul focuses in on a specific wall that divided Jews from Gentiles and Gentiles from God that actually stood in the temple in the day that Paul wrote this letter. This “middle wall of partition” served to separate the court of the Gentiles (the outermost court of the temple) from the court of the women (the court into which all Jews could enter). For a Gentile to cross that wall was a death sentence. Jesus came as our peace and tore down that wall of separation so that Jews and Gentiles could both be reconciled to God and approach Him. While the physical wall stood, Jesus has spiritually torn down that wall of separation.

The key word of these verses is “peace.” It is used three times (verses 14, 15, and 17). Directly, he says, “He (Jesus) is our peace.” The hostility previously described in verse 11 between Jew and Gentile and the separation of Gentiles from God in verse 12 has been done away with in Christ and replaced with peace. Jesus came to bring peace with God (Romans 5:1). He did this through His death on the cross (Colossians 1:20). Additionally, Jesus came to bring peace for the people of God, Jew and Gentile who have been reconciled together in the Church. He accomplished this through abolishing “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” This phrase describes the law in all of its demands. It describes the ceremonial and ritual purity requirements that separated Jew from Gentile. It also describes the demands of the law that no fallen human being could live up to. Jesus perfectly fulfilled all of the requirements of the law, living the perfect, sinless life that we could never live, then He laid down His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our lawbreaking. In so doing, He has made peace and is able to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God in the church.

This peace manifests itself in the church through the unity the Church is called to keep (Ephesians 4:1-3) and in how believers are to act toward one another (Ephesians 4:25-32). Jesus referred to those in the kingdom of God in the beatitudes as “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).

In the church, God is not turning Gentiles into Jews, nor is He turning Jews into Gentiles. Instead, He is making of the two, “one new man.” He is conforming all believers into the image of His Son. It is important in any local church that we understand that the Church of Jesus Christ is not about fitting people into our mold or to see people conformed to our image. We all approach the Church of Jesus Christ with different ideas. What we must do is surrender our backgrounds, upbringings, traditions, and ways of thinking to God’s word and see people conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). To do anything else is to be working contrary to God’s entire purpose that He is working out in His Church.

The point of these five verses comes to a culmination to describe what Jesus has accomplished for this “new man” (new group of people) that He is calling to Himself, “access.” Access is a word that describes the right to approach God in relationship, communion, and fellowship. The Church of Jesus Christ has exclusive access to God through Jesus. The lost world may claim to know God. They may pray or do religious things. Other religions may claim to know or worship the same God, but the Bible is clear that access to God is exclusively given through Jesus Christ. Apart from a saving relationship with Him, people have no basis for approaching God.

The Church is not only a group of people who have been forgiven, reconciled, and redeemed by the blood of Jesus to be brought near to God, the Church is the group of people who, alone, has been given access to Him. Every believer has been made a priest unto God (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:10). The Church is God’s kingdom of priests in this world who have the right to approach Him. This is an amazing concept when we consider that Gentiles were far from God and had no access to God’s people, promises, or person. Further, the Jews could not go to God directly, but had to have their high priest who alone could approach God once per year. Through the Great High Priest, Jesus, every believer has permanent access to God.

Do you have access to God? The only way a person does is through a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you at peace with God’s people, the church? Are you reconciled to your brother in Christ? Are you actively involved in God’s mission of seeing people conformed to the image of His Son? If not, the solution is found in a right relationship with Jesus.