11 GENTILES are all those people who are not Jews. In Paul’s time, the Jews called Gentiles uncircumcised, because they didn’t undergo the ceremony of CIRCUMCISION, as the Jews did. According to God’s command, on the eighth day of life every Jewish male has the excess skin at the end of his penis cut off: this is called circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14). Circumcision is the outward sign of being a Jew; thus the Jews of Paul’s day called themselves the circumcision.
12 In this verse, Paul reminds the Ephesians of their former state. First of all, they had not heard of Christ. Second, they were not citizens of ISRAEL, that is, the Jewish nation. Third, they had no part in the COVENANTS of promise that God had made with the Jews. The greatest promise that God made to the Jews was that He would send them a Savior. For these three reasons, therefore, in the Jews’ sight these Ephesian Gentiles were without hope and without God. They did not know the one true God. They were far away (verse 13).
13 But Jesus Christ, even though He was Himself a Jew, came to save not only Jews but also Gentiles. Jesus came into the world to be the Savior of all people—both Jew and Gentile. Through the blood of Christ (through Christ’s sacrificial death) all believers are brought near—that is, they are brought into the family of God. Thus both Jews and Gentiles, once they have believed in Jesus, become joined together in one spiritual family (see Galatians 3:24 and comment).
14 Christ is our peace. Christ makes peace between man and God, and also between man and man. He makes peace between Jew and Gentile. He has broken down the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility11—the division, prejudice, and enmity—between Jew and Gentile, between high caste and low caste, between rich and poor, between different races, and between different nations. In this verse, of course, Paul is thinking mainly of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews considered themselves to be superior to Gentiles. The Jews didn’t even associate with Gentiles, because in their sight the Gentiles were unclean.
15 The Jews obeyed many commandments and regulations, which were contained in the Jewish law. The Jews thought that by obeying the law they could find salvation. The Jewish law had two main parts: first, the “moral law,” in particular the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17); and second, the “ceremonial law,” which consisted of all the regulations about eating and washing, and about offering sacrifices. By the standard of the ceremonial law, the Gentiles were unclean; thus they were not permitted to enter the inner part of the Jewish temple, lest they defile it. For this reason, the Jewish law itself was like a barrier, or dividing wall of hostility (verse 14).
Christ destroyed that barrier by abolishing … the (ceremonial) law.12 Christ taught that man is saved, not through obeying the law, but only through faith in Him (see Galatians 2:15-16 and comment). Therefore, by abolishing the ceremonial law and destroying the barrier between Jew and Gentile, Christ created in himself one new man out of two. That is, He created one new people (believers) out of two peoples (Jews and Gentiles). All who believe in Christ—whether Jew or Gentile, high caste or low caste, male or female—all are now one in Him (see Galatians 3:28). They are all members of one body (verse 16), whose head is Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:13,27; Ephesians 5:23).
16 Christ didn’t only make peace between Jew and Gentile; He also made peace between both of them and God (see Romans 1:18-20; 5:1 and comments). Christ, through the CROSS (through His death on the cross), has brought all believers into God’s family, the church. God treats all of His children equally; He shows no partiality toward one over another. And He wants no barrier, no dividing wall of hostility to arise among them.
Therefore, let us make sure that no “dividing walls of hostility” arise in our church. And if they do arise, let us quickly tear them down! If we are not watchful, such dividing walls can easily arise between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, men and women, foreigner and national, high caste and low caste. Let this not happen!
17-18 Those who were far away (Gentiles) and those who were near (Jews) are now equally able to draw near to God; they have equal access to God.
In verse 18, Paul mentions the three forms or modes of existence of God: For through him (Christ, God the Son) we both have access to the Father (God the Father) by one Spirit (God the Holy Spirit). But even though God has three forms—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—He is one God. Christians refer to these three forms of God together as the “Trinity.”
19 Here Paul tells the Ephesian Gentiles that they are now fellow citizens with God’s people (the Jews) and members of God’s household (the church). And Paul is saying the same thing to us today. We too were once foreigners and aliens. We too did not know Christ. But now, through faith in Him, we have become members of God’s family and citizens in His kingdom (Luke 12:32).
20 In this verse, Paul says some important things about God’s household, the church. It is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets—that is, the New Testament apostles and the Old Testament PROPHETS. In other words, the church is built upon the foundation of the Old and New Testaments—the Bible. In simplest terms, the foundation of the church is God’s word. And this word (foundation) has been written down for us by the apostles and prophets.
Then Paul says that the chief corner-stone13 of the church is Jesus Christ Himself. Without such a cornerstone, a building will fall down.
21 The Jewish temple in Jerusalem no longer exists; the church is now God’s holy temple. And this temple is joined together in Christ; it is held together by Him. Christ is not only the church’s “cornerstone”; He is its head.
22 We believers are like stones, from which God has built His temple. We have been built together into one building, one church. We are united with each other. And God’s Holy Spirit lives in this temple, of which we are the stones (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5 and comments). God has built His temple so that He can dwell in it! Today what is our church like? Are its members joined together in unity? Is there peace in our church? Are we living together in love as in one family? When other people look at our church, what do they see? What does God see?