11 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)— 12 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:11-13 NIV)
The Apostle Paul moves on, starting in verse 11, to discuss reconciliation between Jew and Gentile in Christ. As a quick review, in chapter 1, Paul reveals God’s plan through the ages, to love mankind and make a way for us to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. In the first part of chapter 2, Paul reminds us that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and that Christ freed us from the penalty of sin, and raised us to life spiritually, has prepared a place for us in heaven, and gives us meaning and purpose for our lives.
Up to this point, Paul has not made any distinctions to his audience – people are people, period.
Now Paul turns the corner and addresses the distinction between Jew and Gentile. Notice Paul’s first word in verse 11 – “therefore”. Any time we see this word, we must ask ourselves, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” In other words, what does the “therefore” look back to, or build upon, for the author to make their point?
In this case, Paul is referring back to the focus in chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2, which is the person of Christ. In chapter 1, Paul either calls out or refers to Christ more than 20 times. In chapter 2, verses 1-10, Paul mentions or refers to Christ 5 times.
So the “therefore” refers back to Christ, and all that God has done through Christ on our behalf. So Paul is saying, “keeping in mind all that Christ has done for mankind, let’s talk about this whole Jew-Gentile issue.”
Paul addresses the Gentile believers in verses 11 and 12. He reminds them that before Christ, Gentiles were excluded from fellowship with God. If they wanted to follow God, they had to become Jews, following the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). This included circumcision for the men, and following God’s Laws for all.
In verse 13, Paul says that separation of the Gentiles has been removed. Paul says that because of the blood of Christ, which paid for the sins of all mankind, Gentiles now have direct access to salvation and a relationship with God. No longer do Gentiles who want to follow the Lord have to become Jewish first.
Going back to verses 8 through 10 of chapter 2, Paul’s point is that it is all God’s work to bring us to salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn favor with God, including good works, not even circumcision. Salvation is by faith alone, period.
Isn’t that wonderful news? God invites us to fellowship with Himself, through Christ’s payment for our sins on the cross. Everyone has direct access to God through Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord!