The Build

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesus was a modern bustling city of momentous proportions. It featured a library, a gymnasium, a huge auditorium seating 24,500 and an enormous temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis (Diana). Ephesus laid claim to Artemis as their own god, it was their cult and culture. It permeated all of society, causing the city to be known for its hedonistic celebrations and festivals and temple prostitutes.

Here Paul writes to a church that understands the grandeur of architecture. He uses this understanding to describe how Christ’ finished work causes the reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles and how this builds the church. His focus is set firmly on the nuts and bolts of this building: Christ, Jews and Gentiles. He addresses the Gentiles to show how they have been reconciled to Christ even though the Law was not given to them (v11-13, 19). He teaches how Christ creates the peace between the Jews and Gentiles (v14-18). Then goes on to say how this results in building God’s temple (v19-22).

  • Pre-Christ Gentiles
    • were Gentiles by birth
    • called “uncircumcised” – not given / accepted the Law
    • was separate from Christ
    • excluded from citizenship in Israel (God’s chosen)
    • foreigners to the covenant of the promise
    • without hope
    • without God in the world
    • once far away (from God)
  • Christ’s work
    • brings Gentiles near by His blood
    • is our peace
    • reconciled the Jews and Gentiles
    • destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility
    • set aside the law with its commands and regulations in His flesh
    • create one new humanity out of the two in Himself
    • making peace
    • reconcile both to God through the cross in one (His) body
    • put to death their hostility
    • came and preached peace to those who were far away (Gentiles)
    • preached peace to those who were near (Jews)
    • is the access to the Father through Christ by one Spirit
    • the chief cornerstone
  • Post-Christ Gentiles
    • brought near (to God)
    • no longer foreigners and strangers
    • fellow citizens with God’s people
    • members of God’s household
  • Result
    • whole building joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord
    • all of us being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit

Paul outlines in detail how Christ reconciles us as one and to Him:

  • He does away with the Law that was the separation between the Jews and Gentiles. He does this by setting aside the Law and putting to death it’s hostility and divisiveness in His flesh (that was crucified). 
  • He creates a new humanity out of the Jews and Gentiles in Himself – its not evolutionary, its revolutionary. The two has been reconciled as one new humanity.
  • His one body reconciles us to God through the cross
  • His life on earth was one that preached peace and reconciliation (to God) to both Jews and Gentiles
  • He is the singular access point to the Father in the same Spirit for all of us

The purpose of the cross wasn’t just salvation for the Jews, it was also the unity of the Jews and Gentiles and salvation for the world! His death accomplished that, His life reflected that, even now, the Spirit testifies of this unity. We are united in His gospel. We are all fellow citizens, members of the same household. Our foundation is the same – build on the apostles and prophets. Our chief cornerstone is the same – Christ Jesus. The bolts that join us together is the same – Christ Jesus. In this unity, we rise to be His temple in which He dwells.

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:4-6

Notice that Ephesians 2:11 begins with therefore, meaning in the light of our resurrection and life with Christ (v5-6), we do not regard ourselves anymore as Gentiles. He says that we were formerly Gentiles by birth, but now we are a new person by His resurrection (and His handiwork, v10). As new building blocks in Christ, we play a role in the building. But the building is not done yet; we play a continuous role as ones who are being built together. What a picture Christ gives us! He breaks down the dividing wall between the 2 structures and builds a whole new building on top with all new handcrafted materials from the old structures. He is still building us together with them to be His building.

He describes this new building as a holy temple and a dwelling for God’s Spirit. A holy temple and a dwelling. We are a building set apart /reserved for divine purpose and activities in which God Himself lives in. That is the church. That is the product of the peace that Christ has attained for us. That we can be a part of that building, a brick in that church, is beyond what we deserve (v3). Christ has intentions for this church, work prepared for us to accomplish (v10).

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:10-11

This unity and peace we have is a marvellous thing, but lets not forget that it has a divine purpose – to spread the gospel (John 17:20-23).

The Insult

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Mark 7:24-30 (Read also Matthew 15:21-28)

Jesus went out into Gentile territory for some peace and quiet, He went into the old port city of Tyre in Phoenicia. He wanted to be anonymous, He didn’t want hordes of disciples following Him as before. Jesus was on a holiday trip. Then came this Greek woman from the region, chasing after Jesus. She knows the miraculous power that Jesus carries and she is desperate for Him to heal her daughter. We are told that her daughter is “possessed by an impure spirit” and is “suffering terribly”.

Jesus’ usual demeanor towards the sick or suffering is one of compassion (Mark 5:1-18) but here He gives her a sharp and insulting reply. He says that His mission is toward the children (of God), the Jews, and likens Gentiles (like her) to dogs. Dogs, in those days were considered unclean animals, their status was below a slave. Even though they were accepted as pets or work animals in households, calling someone a dog was still highly derogatory.

Jesus, being a Jewish rabbi, sees Jews apart from and above the other nations (Deuteronomy 14:2; Exodus 4:22, 19:5). They are the exclusively chosen nation and the children of God. Here He eludes to Himself as the bread (Exodus 16; John 6:32-40) – the sustenance of life. He is their bread, He belongs to the children of Israel. His mission of reconciliation and redemption is first towards the Jews. Although He didn’t agree with what the Jews have made the Law out to be, He was still a fervent believer that they were God’s priority.

In the face of Jesus’ offensive words, the woman’s reply was powerful. She acknowledged that Jesus was for the Jews but did not exclude herself from making Jesus her own. She humbled herself to be identified with a dog and says that even the dogs eat the crumbs of the bread that fall off. For the faith in her heart and humility in her words, she was rewarded with the healing she wanted.

Her humility caused her to lay her own ethnicity before Christ. She did not assert her own status, her own ethnicity, her own home town or the fact that He was standing on her side of the fence! She bowed to agree with Jesus that she is secondary. Giving up her rights to be respected, she considers herself wholly at His mercy. In His kingdom, she has no rights. In His economy, she is but lowly, poor and desolate. She is humble but bold. In her humility, she is assertive. She asserts that the kingdom has crumbs; it has extras from the plenty. She asserts that even the extras are more than enough for her. In His kingdom, abundance is poured out. In His economy, there is no small change because even the small is immeasurable to us.

This woman helps us to understand how we as Gentile Christians relate to the Jews and our Jewish Jesus. We as Gentiles receive the side benefits of God’s redemption of Israel as ingrafted branches (Romans 11:11-24) / sheep in the other pen (John 10:16). Through the blood of Christ, we are inducted into God’s household (Ephesians 2:11-22). 

So even the side benefits of God’s redemption is more than enough. You see, the crumbs aren’t left overs, they are side benefits from the plenty that are for the children. His kingdom is one of abundance (Matthew 14:13-21) and overflow. There is more than enough in His kingdom for both the Jews and Gentiles. Every bit of grace from God is more than enough grace for us. Even bit of provision is more than enough for us. His finished work on the cross is more than enough redemption, healing, deliverance, freedom and provision for the world.

This woman exemplifies the combination of humility, boldness and faith. May we approach Christ as she did.