United Life: God's Plan Accomplished

God's Plan Series
  • We live in a culture that constantly tells us that our identity is found in what we have or have not done; what job we have or what career we are hoping for; how we have succeeded or how we have failed. This however is not God's plan for our lives. The Gospel says that the identity we all need is one that cannot be taken away by our failure or circumstances. The identity that we need is found only in Christ.
4. United Life: God's Plan Accomplished (Ephesians 2:11-22)
  • God is bringing the Church together as one in Christ.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • God is the great reconciler and unifier, bringing people to Himself who were previously far off from Him, and united them in Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
  • In uniting disparate and separated people to Himself, God has created a new thing, the Church. (Ephesians 2:15, 20)
  • God continues to build the new Temple of the Church, a dwelling place where He lives. (Ephesians 2:21 & 22)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Why has God acted as reconciler and unifier?
  • How does the Church reflect God as reconciler and unifier?
  • What does it mean to say that the Church is a dwelling place where God lives?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Describe the state and status of the Gentiles vis-a-vis God before the impact and effect of the gospel?
  • What did it mean to the Gentile to be excluded from the kingdom of God?
  • What did Christ do to bring the Gentiles into the kingdom of God? Why did He do that?
  • What were the hostilities between man and God, between Gentile and Jew?
  • How did Jesus break down the hostilities between Gentile and Jew? Between Gentile/Jew and God?
  • What does it mean to say that Jesus is our peace?
  • What is the work of the Holy Spirit in the making and holding together of the Church?
  • On what is the Church built?
  • What is the foundation of the apostles and prophets?
  • What does it mean to say that the whole structure, joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What does it mean that before Jesus you were excluded from the kingdom of God? Do you remember being excluded?
  • How have you been brought near to God?
  • What did Jesus do to bring you near to God and into His kingdom?
  • What was the burden of the law of commandments (Ephesians 2:15) to you?
  • What does it mean to you to have access to God? How do you have access?
  • What does it mean to you to be a “fellow citizen” with others who have followed Jesus?
  • Why is it crucial that not only is Jesus the cornerstone, but that you believe Him to be the cornerstone of the Church? What does that mean to you?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Verses 1-10 of chapter 2 show God implementing His great plan regarding the Church by applying His grace out of His mercy which, in turns, derives from His love, to us as sinners, making us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5), then raising us up with Him and seating us with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). God’s eternal rescue plan, the redemption out of sin of a people for Himself, was thus put into action … implemented to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). This is grace in full display.

God’s plan was not only implemented through His grace, His plan was accomplished in Christ by whom He has brought the Church together into one united whole (cf. Ephesians 1:23). Verses 11-22 of chapter 2 provide us with a picture of this uniting accomplishment of God, and the picture involves the Gentiles and the Jews. Paul has already referenced this picture in chapter 1 where he noted that the Jews were chosen and adopted by God (Ephesians 1:4 & 5), but that the Gentiles were also brought into the family of God and sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14) to be a part of God’s possession (Ephesians 1:14). Paul now calls attention to the “before and after” with respect to the Gentiles, and how God accomplished this part of His plan of creating the Church to manifest His kingdom and reflect His glory.

The “before” is seen particularly in verses 11 and 12. The Gentiles by birth were “the uncircumcision,” as distinguished from the Jews who were “the circumcision,” and as such, the Gentiles were separated from God, excluded from God’s kingdom, not party to God’s covenants, and without hope and any relationship with God. In short, they were in a bad way and seemingly outside of God’s plan. However, as we are seeing in this letter, God’s plan has included them all along, and thus the “after” came through Christ who brought them near by His blood, that is, by His death on the cross (Ephesians 2:13). Paul then proceeds to describe what happened as a result of the “bringing near” of the Gentiles. Note that in the following verses, Paul alludes to the Jewish Temple which in his day by design effectively limited access to God by a series of courts and then the holy place and holy of holies. There was the court of the Gentiles where anyone, including Gentiles, was allowed, but from which Gentiles could go no further into the Temple (under penalty of death!). There was the court of the women, where women were allowed but could go no further into the Temple. Next there was the court of the men into which only Jewish males could enter but could go no further into the Temple. Then came the court of the priests where only the priests could entered to make offerings and sacrifices, after which came the Temple proper into which only the priest on duty was allowed, and which was separated from everyone else by a curtain. Finally, there was the holy of holies which none but the high priest was allowed to enter, and at that, only once a year on the Day of Atonement. But now in Christ, the dividing wall has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14), and both groups, Gentile and Jew, are fully welcome into God’s presence. More than that, however, the two disparate groups have been made into “one new man in place of the two” (Ephesians 2:15), and Jesus is the means by which God accomplished this uniting and in fact, is Himself the peace (Ephesians 2:14) that makes two into one, breaking down the barrier of the law and commandments (Ephesians 2:15), putting to death the hostility between the two, and reconciling them into one body, the Church (Ephesians 2:16), with full access in the Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Thus, the uniting of Gentile and Jew is totally in and through Jesus, and is held together by the Spirit. These two groups are fully included in God’s kingdom for His glory, and as a totally new creation, the Church, is a living picture of the reconciling work of God in Christ.

Verses 19-22 bring a conclusion to the prior verses, which is that God is building a new Temple in the Church, one in which any and all may enter in Christ. Specifically, the Gentiles may enter; they are no longer “strangers” (transient foreigners) and “aliens” (foreign settlers with no rights) in the kingdom of God but instead are “fellow citizens” with all who call on the name of Jesus for salvation, and with them are part of God’s own household (Ephesians 2:19). This new Temple is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (meaning those after Jesus’ ascension not the prophets of the old covenant) through their witness to and preaching of the gospel message, with Jesus being the “cornerstone” (literally the capstone, or binding stone, which holds the structure together at the tip of the walls where they meet at right angles) (Ephesians 2:20). This new Temple is not only founded and built, it is continually being built and growing into a “dwelling place” for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:21 & 22).

What a beautiful picture of God and His plan. He has accomplished His plan by taking those men and women He has saved from spiritual death, those heretofore at odds and enemies not only with God but with each other, and uniting them together in Christ into a new thing called the Church. Moreover, God continues to fashion and build this new Temple, the Church, into His very own dwelling place, with Christ at the center. No longer is access to God limited to only a certain select few; instead, the gates of this new Temple are thrown wide open to include even those previously excluded. God is indeed rich in mercy to thus shower His grace to bring about peace, reconciliation, and a family joined together in and around Jesus Christ with freedom to come to the Father God by the Spirit. So, as Paul wrote to his readers in this letter, remember who you were formerly, and remember what God in Christ has done for you to bring you to Himself together with all those who name the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord. Remember, and let such remembrance bring praise to your lips as you live in Him and for Him.