The Great Mystery: Jews and Gentiles as One (Ephesians 1-3)
The writers of the Old Testament never told us about Jews and Gentiles becoming one family sometime in the future. We were told about the Jewish nation and a Messiah who would ultimately reign as the nation’s last and greatest King. We knew that gentile slaves taken in battle could become a part of the Jewish community. We also understood that the Gentile nations would ultimately submit to Israel if she would be faithful to the Lord. There is also the promise that God would bless the Gentiles at some point. However, the idea of a Jewish/Gentile community fusing as one entity (one body) was unprecedented, unexpected, unthinkable.
11 Therefore remember that previously you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the people of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world (bolding added; Eph. 2:11-12).
From this passage, it is clear that the Gentiles, in general, had no personal or divine hope of salvation. They were outside God’s grace and mercy in every way imaginable. Israel was the chosen nation up and until their rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who previously were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ (bolding added; Eph. 2:13).
The Mysterious Union Begins
This union of Jew and Gentile became known after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once the Jews rejected their King and Messiah, the Lord God removed the nation from the Promised Land and dispersed them throughout the world to become subjects of the nations in which they found themselves. This condition remained until after WWII when God began bringing the Jews back to their land (this is a topic for another day). From the time of the resurrection, Jews and Gentiles alike find salvation through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Messiah (The Book of Acts and Paul’s Letters). The burden of the sin of each human being is placed on the back of Christ and buried with Him. Righteousness is then found in His resurrection from death to a new living experience that is marked by one special addition. From this point to the rapture of the Church[i], salvation is a novel and everlasting certainty. The surprise or the mystery of the once unknown Church of Almighty God is born.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:3-6).
The Uniqueness of the Union of Jew and Gentile (Church)
Note the purpose of the Church: “to be holy and blameless before Him” and “to bring glory” to an outpouring of His grace, which He showered upon His undeserving sons and daughters. Before the earth was formed, God chose, predetermined, decided upon those individuals who were to become members of His Church. God redeemed (purchased or bought) the members of His Church through the death of His Son and forgave us for our numerous transgressions (sins) because of His desire to reveal the abundance of His grace (Eph. 1:5-8). Parents may choose to have a child, but they cannot fully direct that child’s path or destiny; however, God can. In Christ, God is building a family of faith, soul by soul, that will serve to illustrate His purposes in this age via Church, in the millennial age with the restoration of Israel, and into eternity (Eph.1:9-12). What is the element, the tool, and/or the Person that will ensure that God’s glory and grace will be a clear and present evidence of His presence among the peoples of the earth? What is unique within the believer (Christian Jew or Gentile) that was most often absent in the life of an Israeli?
13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise, 14 who is the first installment of our inheritance, in regard to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (bolding added; Eph. 1:12-13).
Unlike believers in the nation of Israel, members of the Church are uniquely sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is a promise, i.e., a pledge of God’s faithfulness. He has redeemed each believer as a possession of His own and armed him/her with the ability to pursue “the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17-20). This is a unique and marvelous gift from God. What was extremely limited among Israeli believers is a permanent gift to each person and every person whom God chooses to represent Him as members of His Christian Church, the body of Christ. If we choose to be faithful to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will bless us with knowledge and understanding that is impossible for unbelievers to fully comprehend.
An Old Testament Example of Un-indwelt Israelis
After the annihilation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, the Babylonian monarch placed Gedaliah, a puppet-governor, in charge of the remaining Israelites in Judah (Jer. 40). Many Jews, from outside Judah, felt safe to return to Judah. Others returned from the nation of Ammon who were not loyal to Babylon or its governor. Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, decided to murder Gedaliah and take the remaining Jews in Mezpeh, just north of Jerusalem, back to Ammon on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. On the journey, he was pursued and then confronted by a loyal Israeli by the name of Johanan, the son of Kareah. When the people saw Johanan and his troops approaching Ishmael’s caravan, they immediately began to flee back to the safety of Johanan’s force. Ishmael and his small group of militants fled. Happy ending, right? Hardly!
When the people returned to Judah, they sought out Jeremiah to determine what the will of the Lord might be; after all, God permitted the Babylonians to utterly destroy Jerusalem and had taken a great number of Jews back to Babylon and into captivity. Should they remain in Judah or return to go to “safety” in Egypt. Johanan and his commanders promised that they would do as the Lord desired, “whether the Lord’s response was pleasant or unpleasant" (Jer. 42:5-6). Just below is the shocking response of the people.
8 Then he (Jeremiah) called for Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces that were with him, and for all the people from the small to the great, 9 and said to them, “This is what the Lord says, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea before Him: 10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent of the disaster that I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am with you to save you and rescue you from his hand. 12 I will also show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your own soil. 13 But if you are going to say, “We will not stay in this land,” so as not to listen to the voice of the Lord your God, 14 saying, “No, but we will go to the land of Egypt, where we will not see war, or hear the sound of a trumpet, or hunger for bread, and we will stay there”; 15 then, in that case, listen to the word of the Lord, you remnant of Judah. This is what the Lord of armies, the God of Israel says: “If you really set your minds to enter Egypt and go in to reside there, 16 then the sword, of which you are afraid, will overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, about which you are anxious, will follow closely after you there in Egypt, and you will die there. 17 So all the people who set their minds to go to Egypt to reside there will die by the sword, by famine, or by plague; and they will have no refugees or survivors from the disaster that I am going to bring on them.”’”
18 For this is what the Lord of armies, the God of Israel says: “As My anger and wrath have gushed out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so My wrath will gush out on you when you enter Egypt. And you will become a curse, an object of horror, an imprecation, and a disgrace; and you will not see this place again.” 19 The Lord has spoken to you, you remnant of Judah, “Do not go to Egypt!” You know for certain that I have admonished you today. 20 For you have only deceived yourselves; for it is you who sent me to the Lord your God, saying, “Pray for us to the Lord our God; and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us so, and we will do it.” 21 So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the Lord your God in whatever He has sent me to tell you. 22 And now you shall know for certain that you will die by the sword, by famine, or by plague in the place where you desire to go to reside.
43 But as soon as Jeremiah, whom the Lord their God had sent to them, had finished telling all the people all the words of the Lord their God—that is, all these words— 2 Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You are not to enter Egypt to reside there’; 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah is inciting you against us in order to hand us over to the Chaldeans, so they will put us to death or exile us to Babylon!” 4 So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces, and all the people, did not obey the voice of the Lord to stay in the land of Judah. 5 Instead, Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took the entire remnant of Judah who had returned from all the nations to which they had been scattered, in order to reside in the land of Judah— 6 the men, the women, the children, the king’s daughters, and every person whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, together with Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah— 7 and they entered the land of Egypt (for they did not obey the voice of the Lord) and went in as far as Tahpanhes (bolding added; Jer. 42:10-43:7).
How do people treat the Word of God when they are not subject to the work of the Holy Spirit? They will deny it to the point of calling it an outright lie. When God is ignored, people do what they think is best. If you want to see this going on in modern times, simply look at the disastrous agenda of the left, the Democrat Party, Hollywood, Facebook, Twitter, China, Russia, Black Lives Matter, and ANTIFA. In fact, these people are more resistant than Johanan—at least Johanan asked for God’s take on the issue. Modern-day leftists deny God’s very existence. The absence of the Holy Spirit is the presence of evil.
How does a Christian avoid becoming a Johanan? The indwelling of the Spirit of God (the special gift that each member possesses as a member of the Church) makes such an act impossible for a true believer in Christ. We will waver as we grow in the knowledge of Christ and His Word; however, the Spirit is always with us. His developing effect on us is dependent upon each believer’s willingness to read and study the words of God. i.e., Scripture. The degree to which a believer obeys the Scriptures (i.e., God) is directly dependent upon the believer’s commitment to read or study the Scriptures (Old and New Testament). The Holy Spirit will guide and teach those who are faithful to the Word. By grace, we have been saved by faith (to know the truth) so that we can accomplish the good things that God planned for us before we were born (Eph. 3:8-10). His genuine children are going to accomplish His will in this world (John 14:22-26). Through the Spirit, we have been given the Scriptures through the apostles (John 16:13-15) for our good and His glory!
The Purpose of The Great Mystery
This once hidden mystery (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which brings Jews and Gentiles together as one people in Christ) now reveals the full extent of God’s wisdom to the powers and authorities in heaven (Eph. 2:9-13). Can you see the angels rejoicing in God’s newly revealed plan for the salvation of humankind in Christ? The presence of the indwelling Spirit 1) strengthens, matures, and eternally protects the inner man (the revived spirit), 2) teaches each believer about the limitless and sacrificial love of God in Christ, and 3) works to change human beings from mere earthly dwellers into divinely inspired reflections of Christ in all His glory (Eph. 3:16-19; cf. Gal. 5:13-26). The Spirit of God results in everlasting victory.
On the other hand, the Spiritless soul 1) possesses a perpetual animus toward the things of God, 2) reduces divine selfless love to a human feeling that is emotionally and sexually based and, therefore, without depth (doesn’t last), and 3) reduces or replaces the true nature of God in an attempt to take His glory as its own. The spirit of man results in an everlasting loss.
14 For this reason, I bend my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.
[i] Yes, I unwaveringly believe that the Lord will remove His Church from the punishment that will be exacted upon the unbelieving world during the 7-year Tribulation. Punishment of believers was placed on the body of our dear Savior. There is no need to put His children through a punishment that is directed toward a sin-ridden Gentile world. Upon the absence/removal of the Church, the Lord will once again turn His attention to restoring Israel to its prominent place in the world, as He unconditionally promised Abraham (Gen. 12-17). This prominence will continue for 1000 years, at which time the Lord will punish the world for its natural instinct to dismiss Him. The great Judgments will be completed and the world will be destroyed and a New Heaven and Earth will be created to house and bless His children who came to Him by faith from the first Adam to the Second Adam and to the last day of the Millennial Kingdom. “Come Lord Jesus.”