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Lesson 6: The Church Without Walls *

Introduction: Have you ever felt like an "outsider?" How about in high school? I took my driver's training at a local public high school. I recall walking up to the classroom and seeing a knot of guys standing outside the door. I knew I was an outsider, but I thought I knew one of them. Gathering my courage, I walked up to the group and introduced myself. I did not like the feeling of being an outsider, and wanted to move "in" as quickly as possible. Our lesson today is about moving from an outsider to an insider. Let's jump in and find out how that is possible!

  1. Outsiders


    1. Read Ephesians 2:11-12. What is the significance of circumcision? (Read Genesis 17:7 and Genesis 17:11. Circumcision was a sign of agreement between God and an individual. (Specifically Abraham and his descendants.) They agreed on personal loyalty between God and man.)


      1. What, then, did it mean ( Ephesians 10:11)to be called "uncircumcised." (You had no relationship with God.)


      2. Why would a group call themselves "the circumcision?" (They considered that act so important to their spiritual life, that they were known by that name.)


        1. Is that a problem?


        2. What about being called a "Baptist?"


        3. What about being called a "Methodist?"


        4. What about being called a "Seventh-day Adventist?"


        5. What problem can arise from over-emphasizing one portion of your beliefs?


      3. Notice Paul's aside in Ephesians 2:11: "that done in the body by the hands of men." What would motivate Paul to add this note? What point is he making?(In contrast to those who identify themselves by this single act, Paul downgrades the importance of the act by pointing out it is done by men.)


      4. Paul has tossed some insults in the direction of the "the circumcision," but who really is (was) in trouble? (The Gentiles.)


        1. What were the problems of the Gentiles? (They were without hope and without God.)


          1. Consider this for just a moment. In prior times, was salvation only open to the Jews? Make a mental note of your answer.


  2. Insiders


    1. Read Ephesians 2:13. What changed everything for the Gentiles? (Jesus.)


    2. Read Ephesians 2:14-15. Paul tells us the two are now made one. Since he has been talking about the condition of the Jews and the Gentiles, are Jews and Gentiles now one? (Yes - amazingly.)


    3. How did Jesus convert the "two" into "one?" (Paul tells us: "By abolishing the law with its commandments and regulations.")


      1. Wait one minute. What has the law got to do with being a Jew or a Gentile?


      2. Aren't we talking about people, not rules?


    4. Read Acts 10:9-16. What is this vision about?


    5. Read Acts 10:19 and Acts 10:28. What was at the base of the problem between Jews and Gentiles? (The Gentiles were "unclean" in the eyes of the Jews.)


      1. How did the rules (regulations) separate Jew from Gentile? (The whole Mosaic system separated the Jew from the rest of the world. The point of all of these regulations was to be a "clean" and separate people. See, e.g. Leviticus 20:25-26. Being separate from the Gentiles had everything to do with the regulations. Gentiles were "unclean.")


    6. What subject started our discussion today? (Circumcision.)


      1. Was that a "dividing wall" ( Ephesians 2:14) between Jews and Gentiles? (Yes.)


    7. The NIV translates Ephesians 2:15 a little differently than many other translations. It appears to me that the Greek text says Jesus "abolished in His flesh the hostility, the law of commandments in ordinances." How did Jesus' death on the cross abolish the "ordinances?" (The Jews thought they were superior because of their various ordinances, such as circumcision. Paul is saying that Jesus fulfilled these ordinances and thus they no longer serve as a point of distinction between Jews and Gentiles.)


      1. Can an ordinance be commanded by God? Or, are ordinances just some things the Jews thought up to make sure they did not violate God's law? (Since the specific point of discussion is circumcision, let's go back to Genesis 17. Read Genesis 17:9-10. This was a command direct from the mouth of God. This was not something cooked up by Jews as a "good idea.")


      2. If an "ordinance" comes straight from the mouth of God, is it any different in importance than one of the Ten Commandments?


  3. Now One


    1. Let's review for just a minute so we can dig deeper. Re-read Ephesians 2:15-16. Who is the "one man?" (The combined Jew and Gentile. There is no more conflict between Jew and Gentile. We are now to be at peace.)


    1. You remember that mental note I asked you to make before? Tell me what salvation looked like for the Jews before Jesus came? (They had no hope of salvation either since they had all sinned. Romans 3:23.)


      1. If that is true - Jews also had no hope - why was Paul saying ( Ephesians 2:12)that they had all these advantages when it came to salvation? Why would he imply that the Jews had hope and had God? (The Jews had the hope of a coming Messiah (Jesus) and they literally "had" God in the sense that Jesus was one of them. However, in many respects they were just like Gentiles. Without the Messiah they had no hope.)


    2. What does Paul tell us in Ephesians 2:16 was done for the "one new man" ( Ephesians 2:15). (That "one new man" not only has internal peace (between Jew and Gentile) he also has been reconciled to God. Jesus not only fulfilled the ceremonial law - thus eliminating the wall between Jew and Gentile, but Jesus fulfilled the obligations of the Ten Commandments - thus eliminating the wall of hostility between God and us. Romans 8:1-4.)


    3. Is this "one new man" a clean or unclean man? (Do you follow Paul's line of argument? The Jews said the Gentiles were unclean because they did not follow the Mosaic law (given by God.) Paul tells us that Christ cured that problem. But Jew and Gentile both still had this problem that they were "unclean" in the eyes of God. They were all sinners. Paul tells us that God cured that problem, too. This new man has, to use a computer term, a "virtual clean." He is likely not "clean" (obedient) under the Mosaic law, and he certainly is not "clean" (obedient)under the Ten Commandments (especially as explained (expanded) by Jesus - see Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus did the impossible, He made us all clean in the eyes of God.)


    4. Read Ephesians 2:17-18. Were Jews nearer to God? (It seems that is what Paul is saying.)


      1. Did it matter? (No!)


      2. Friend, notice this. No matter how far (or how near) you are to God, with Jesus it does not matter. Not only do those who are far away from God now have access to Him through Jesus, but those who are near need Jesus for their access. You cannot be too bad or too good to be eligible to come. All must repent of sin and claim the salvation made available through Jesus.)


  1. A New Church


    1. Read Ephesians 2:19-22. What is the real church of God?


      1. How many walls does this church (household) have? (See Ephesians 2:14 - it has none!)


    2. What does this text teach us about arrogant "remnant" claims made along denominational lines? (When you start thinking that your little group is "clean" and the rest of Christianity "apostate," then you need to re-read this chapter. God has a remnant all right, a remnant of "God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." That is the remnant church!


    3. Friend, God's church is completely open to you. Will you repent of your sins, and become part of the household of God?


  2. Next week: God's Mystery: The Universal Fellowship.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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