Packed ongoing.001

 

I am currently preaching a sermon series on Sunday mornings at Wildwood Community Church called “Packed” – based out of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.  During this series, I am using my blog to post study prompts, devotionals, sermon audio/video, and discussion questions to help facilitate personal or group study of this book.  NOTE: At the bottom of this post, I have a set of links to previous resources in this series.

 

Ephesians 2:11-22 – Study Prompts #2

  1.  As you prepare your heart for study, know that God desires to reveal Himself to you, and He has given you His Holy Spirit to guide you into truth.  Before you open in prayer, consider Jeremiah 9:23-24.  “This is what the Lord declares: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Pray for this understanding and knowledge of God with the Holy Spirit as your guide.
  2. Read Ephesians 2:11-22
  3. STUDY NOTE:  As we saw yesterday in Ephesians 2:11-12, there was a great divide between Jews and Gentiles.  This divide left the Gentiles without hope in this world . . . separated from both God, and the Old Testament people of God – the nation of Israel.  However, there is now great hope for the Gentiles!  Ephesians 2:13 (like Ephesians 2:4) introduces a major transition with the words “But now in Christ Jesus.”  By nature Jews and Gentiles were enemies (and all humanity was an enemy of God), but in Jesus we have hope for reconciliation and peace.
  4. In what way has the “blood of Christ (2:13)” brought Gentiles “near”?
  5. Jesus has secured peace between Jews and Gentiles (according to 2:14) by making “both” “one.”  In an Old Testament understanding, if a Gentile were to be saved, they would have had to become a Jew, taking on the customs of Jewish tradition and law.  However, by stating that Jesus has made “both” Jews and Gentiles “one” Jesus has not made Gentiles Jews or Jews Gentiles.  Instead, He has created a new entity, the church, and has placed both Jews and Gentiles on equal footing inside it.  This means that all who are “in Christ” are equal in value and blessing.  Based on what you have seen in the church during your lifetime, how well do you think the church displays this aspect of what Jesus has done?
  6. STUDY NOTE:  Jesus is said to have broken down the “dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. (2:14-15)”  There is some reasonable debate among biblical scholars as to what is being referred to here.    In the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem that existed in Paul’s day there was a literal wall that separated two parts of the temple:  an outer court that Gentiles could enter, and an inner court where only Jews could go.  Some have seen this wall as the “dividing wall” that Jesus destroyed.  However, this outer wall still physically existed when Paul wrote this letter, thus making that meaning unlikely.  A second possibility is that the “dividing wall” refers to the Temple curtain that tore in two when Jesus died on the cross.  This is not likely what Paul meant here though because that was a curtain, not a wall, and the big meaning of 2:14-15 is the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles, where the curtain separated all people from God.  Given these consideration, the most likely understanding of the “dividing wall” was the Mosaic Law and its applications – the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances.”  The Mosaic Law created hostility and distinction between Jews and Gentiles.  Jews ate only certain things, celebrated only certain festivals, circumcised their males on the 8th day, etc.  These symbolic ordinances of the Jewish law succeeded in setting God’s people apart in the Old Testament, but Jesus has done away with them in New Testament times to make it possible for Jews and Gentiles to approach God together.  The word translated “abolished” in 2:15 literally means to “put out of business.”  In other words, Jesus closed down the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law to unite Jew and Gentile to God together.
  7. While we do not have the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law governing our lives today, some Christians have added to the Gospel of Jesus other “laws” and “ordinances” that go beyond Scripture to help set themselves apart from their non-Christian neighbors.  What are some extra-biblical ordinances you have seen Christians use to divide them from their neighbors?  Have you ever seen these extra-biblical standards elevated by Christians to essentials if someone is to begin following Christ?  How would understanding this passage help keep Christians from adding to the Gospel our own “ordinances” as requirements for others to embrace when trusting Christ?
  8. Jesus is said to have brought peace between Jew and Gentile, killing the hostility.  This hostility was real.  William Barclay has noted this about Jew/Gentile relations in the first century, “If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl was carried out.  Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death.”  On the cross Jesus has eliminated this hostility and brought peace.  However, though Jesus bought this peace in one act on the cross, it took many years, even generations, for the effects of this declaration to be minimized in the behavior of the church.  What are some of the divisions today that exist in the church that still have not been removed, 2,000 years after Jesus death on the cross?
  9. According to 2:18, what has Jesus given to the church to enable the church to relate to God?  Based on what you know about the Old Testament times, in what way is this access to God different and better than the access people had to God before Christ?

For more resources related to this study of Ephesians click on the following links:

Packed Schedule.001

51 thoughts on “Ephesians 2:11-22 Study Prompts #2

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