The Church in the Ways of God

Ephesians 2:11‑22  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 9
PH 2:11-22{In the first part of the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapters 1 and 2:1-10, the Church is presented in relation to Christ in glory, according to the counsels of God. This prepares the way for a very different view of the Church-its formation and testimony on earth according to the ways of God.
There is a vast difference between the counsels of God for glory and the ways of God on earth. Comprehending this distinction, we shall see that not only has the Church a glorious destiny as united to Christ in Heaven, according to the eternal purpose of God, but that it also has an existence on earth, and a great place in the ways of God here below. It is this aspect of the Church that comes before us in Eph. 2:11-2211Wherefore 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; 12That 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: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having 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; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11‑22).
In order that we may understand this very important aspect of the Church, the apostle reminds us of the distinct position held by Israel in the times before the cross. At that time there existed a very sharp distinction between Jew and Gentile. In the ways of God on earth the Jew enjoyed a place of privilege to which the Gentile was an entire stranger. Israel formed an earthly commonwealth with earthly promises and earthly hopes. They were in outward relationship with God. Their religious worship, their political organization, their daily pursuits, their domestic affairs, all, from the highest act of worship to the smallest detail of life, was regulated by the ordinances of God. This was an immense privilege in which the Gentiles, as such, had no part It was not that the Jews were any better than the Gentiles, for, in the sight of God, the great mass of the Jews were as bad as the Gentiles, and some even worse; and on the other hand, there were individual Gentiles who were truly converted men, such, for instance, as Job. But in the ways of God upon earth, He separated Israel from the Gentiles and gave them a place of special outward privilege; for even if unconverted (as indeed was the case with the mass) it was an immense privilege to have all their affairs regulated according to the perfect wisdom of God. The Gentiles had no such position in the world. They enjoyed no public recognition by God. Their affairs were not regulated by the ordinances of God. And the very ordinances that regulated the life of the Jew, sternly kept Jew and Gentile apart.
Thus the Jew had a place on earth of outward nearness to God, while the Gentile was outwardly afar off with no recognized connection with God in the world.
But Israel entirely failed to answer to their privileges. They turned from Jehovah to idols. The commandments and ordinances of God, which gave them their unique position, they wholly disregarded. Finally, they crucified their Messiah and resisted the Holy Spirit. As a result they have, for the time being, lost their special place of privilege on the earth, have been dispossessed of their land and scattered among the nations.
This setting aside of Israel prepares the way for the marvelous change that has taken place in the ways of God on earth. The vivid glimpse into the past given by the Spirit of God in verses 11 and 12 only makes the contrast more striking, for, following upon the rejection of Israel, God, in the pursuit of His ways, has brought to light the Church and thus set up an entirely new circle of blessing, wholly outside the Jewish and Gentile circles.
This new departure becomes the occasion of the grace of God flowing out in a very special way to the Gentile. The call goes out to the Gentile; not, indeed, that the Jew is excluded from the new circle of blessing, for, as we shall see, the Church is com-posed of believers from among both Jews and Gen-tiles.
But if the Gentile is to be brought into the inestimable privileges and blessings of the new circle-if the Gentile is to have part in the Church-it must be on a righteous ground. Hence the cross is at once brought in (v. 13). The cross has already been alluded to in chapter 1 in connection with the fulfillment of the counsels of God. Here in chapter 2 the cross is referred to in connection with the ways of God on earth. By the blood of Christ sinners of the Gentiles are made nigh to God, being brought from the place of distance in which sin had put them, into a place of nearness. Not a mere outward nearness, by means of ordinances and ceremonies, but a vital nearness that is only fully expressed in Christ Himself, risen from the dead and appearing before the face of God for us. Thus it is said, "In Christ Jesus ye... are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Our sins put us afar off, but not only does the precious blood wash away our sins, it does more, infinitely more—it makes us nigh. The blood of Christ declares the enormity of the sin which demanded such a price, proclaims the holiness of God that could be satisfied with no less a price, and reveals the infinite love that could pay the price.
But this, however necessary for the formation of the Church, does not in itself constitute the Church. The Church is not simply a number of individuals "made nigh," for this will be true of every blood-bought saint of every age. There is more needed; not only must individuals be "made nigh," but Jewish and Gentile believers must be "made both one" (v. 14). This, too, the cross of Christ has accomplished. There Christ broke down the barrier between Jew and Gentile. The enmity between Jew and Gentile was caused by the ordinances which excluded the Gentile from having part in them. By these ordinances the Jew could ap-proach God in an outward way while the Gentile could not. But in the cross Christ has entirely abolished the law of ordinances as a means of ap-proach to God and made a new way of approach by His blood. The Jew who approaches God on the ground of the blood has finished with the Jewish ordinances. The Gentile comes out of his distance from God; the Jew, out of his dispensational nearness, and both are made one in the enjoyment of a common blessing before God, never before possessed by either. The Gentile believers are not raised to the level of Jewish privileges. The Jews are not degraded to the Gentile level. Both are brought onto an entirely new ground on an immeasurably higher plane.
But even this does not express the full truth of the Church. Had the apostle stopped here, we should indeed have seen that believers are made nigh by the blood and made one as having all enmity removed, but we might have been left with the thought that we are made one company in happy unity. And that indeed is blessedly true, but, even so, far short of the full truth as to the Church. So the apostle proceeds further and tells us that we are not only "made nigh," and not only "made both one," but that we are made "one new man" (v. 15), "one Body" (v. 16), indwelt by "one Spirit," by whom we have access to the Father (v. 18). This, indeed, presents the full truth of the Church-the Body of Christ-that, in the ways of God, is being formed on earth.
God is not only saving souls from Jews and Gentiles on the basis of the blood, not only is He gathering such together in unity, but He is forming them into one New Man of which Christ is the glorious Head, believers are the members of the Body, and the Holy Spirit the uniting power. This is far more than unity; it is union. The Church is not simply a company of believers in happy unity, but a company of people who are members of Christ and of one another in intimate union. And the New Man is not merely new in point of time, but is of an entirely new order. Before the cross, as we have seen, there were two men, Jew and Gentile, hating one another and at enmity with God. Now in the marvelous ways of God "One New Man" has come into being. A New Man which embraces every saint on earth united by one Spirit to Christ, the risen and exalted Head.
Connected with the formation of the Church of God on earth are three great truths the apostle refers to: reconciliation to God, the preaching of peace to sinners, and access to the Father on the part of saints.
First, both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God in one Body (v. 16). God was not content that the Gentile should remain at a distance from Him or that the Jew should be in a place of mere outward nearness, but in actual distance as great as the Gentile. Nor was God content that Jew and Gentile should remain at a distance from one another. Therefore in the cross He has so wondrously worked that both have been brought nigh to Him, and both have been brought nigh to one another, formed into one Body upon which God can look with complacency. The cross has slain the enmity between Jew and Gentile believers, as also that which once stood between both and God. Nothing could more perfectly express the entire removal of the enmity than the fact of the Jewish and Gentile believers being formed into "one Body." It is not said in this verse "One New Man," because that includes Christ the Head, and no thought of reconciliation can be connected with Christ. It is those who compose the Body who need reconciliation, not the One who is the Head.
The second great truth is that the gospel of peace is preached to the Gentiles who were far off and to the Jews who were dispensationally near. We can well understand the introduction of the preaching into a passage that shows how the Church is formed on earth. Without the cross there could be no preaching, and without the preaching there would be no Church. Christ is looked at as the Preacher, though the gospel He preaches is proclaimed instrumentally through others. We read of the disciples that "they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them" (Mark 16:2020And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:20)).
There is a third truth of great blessedness. By one Spirit we both (Jew and Gentile) have access to the Father. The distance is not only removed on God's side, but it is also removed on our side. By the work of Christ on the cross God can draw nigh to us, preaching peace, and by the work of the Spirit in us we can draw nigh to the Father. The cross gives us our title to draw nigh; the Spirit enables us to use our title and practically draw nigh to the Father. But if access is by the Spirit, then clearly there is no room for the flesh. The Spirit excludes the flesh in every form. It is not by buildings, or ritual, or organs, or choirs, or a special class of men that we gain access to the Father. No, all these fleshly means that so impress the natural man will most effectually bar all access to the Father. It is by the Spirit, but more, it is by "one Spirit," and therefore in the Father's presence all is of one accord. As we rightly sing,
"No jarring note shall there discordant sound."
Do not flat and low assembly meetings arise from the solemn fact that we have dared to bring into the presence of the Lord unjudged flesh? Or again, meetings otherwise happy are suddenly jarred by an unsuitable hymn or unseasonable ministry, because we are not all led by one Spirit. Do we speak thus to fill any with a morbid dread of introducing that which would quench the Spirit and thus silence them? On the contrary, let such remember that their silence may be as much an intrusion of the flesh as the forwardness of others. Let all judge themselves and so come into the presence of the Lord. Then, indeed, the Spirit will be free to give access to the Father.
Thus far we have viewed the Church as the Body of Christ; but in the ways of God on earth the Church is viewed in other aspects, two of which are brought before us in the closing verses of the chapter (vs. 19-22). First, the Church is viewed as growing unto "an holy Temple in the Lord"; secondly, as "an Habitation of God."
In the first aspect the Church is likened to a progressive building growing unto a holy Temple in the Lord. The apostles and prophets form the foundation, Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. Throughout the Christian dispensation believers are being added stone by stone until the last believer is built in and the completed Building displayed in glory. This is the Building of which the Lord says in Matt. 16, "I will build My Church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." Christ is the builder, not man. Therefore all is perfect, and none but living stones form part of this holy Structure. Peter gives us the spiritual significance of this Building when he tells us that the living stones are built up a spiritual House "to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God," on the one hand, and to "show forth the excellencies" of God, on the other (1 Peter 2:5,95Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)
). In Rev. 21, John sees a vision of the completed Building descending out of Heaven from God and radiant with the glory of God. Then, indeed, from that glorious Building unceasing sacrifices of praise will rise up to God, and a perfect testimony to the excellencies of God will flow forth to man.
Then the apostle, still using the figure of a building, presents another aspect of the Church (v. 22). He views the saints as no longer being built into a growing Temple, but as forming a House al-ready complete for an Habitation of God through the Spirit. All believers on earth at any given moment are looked at as forming the Habitation of God. But the apostle does not merely say "ye are an Habitation," but "ye are builded together for an Habitation." That is, the Habitation is formed of Jewish and Gentile believers "builded together." The dwelling place of God is marked by light and love; therefore, when the apostle comes to the practical part of the Epistle, he exhorts us as dear children to "walk in love," and to "walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:2,82And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor. (Ephesians 5:2)
8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (Ephesians 5:8)
). The House of God is thus a place of blessing and testimony: a place where the saints are blessed with the favor and love of God; and, thus blessed, they become a testimony to the world around. In Ephesians the Habitation of God is presented according to the mind of God, and therefore only what is real is contemplated. Other Scriptures will show how, unfortunately, in our hands the Habitation has become corrupted until at last we read that judgment must begin at the House of God.
Thus in this chapter we have a threefold presentation of the Church. The Church is viewed as the Body of Christ, composed of Jewish and Gentile believers united to Christ in glory, thus forming one New Man for the display of all that Christ is as the risen Man, Head over all things. For let us remember that the Church is not only "one Body," but it is "His Body," as we read, "the Church which is His Body." And as His Body it is "the fullness of Him." It is filled with all that He is in order to express all that He is. The Church-His Body-is to be the expression of His mind, just as our bodies give expression to what is in our minds.
Then the Church is a growing Temple com-posed of all the saints of the whole Christian period, wherein sacrifices of praise ascend to God and the excellencies of God are displayed to men.
Lastly, the Church is viewed as a complete Building on earth, composed of all the saints at any given moment, forming the Habitation of God for blessing to His people and testimony to the world.