These small group studies of Ephesians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Ephesians 2:11-22 Verse by Verse Bible Study – With In-Depth Discussion Questions

Outline

I. Gentiles were alienated from God and the Jews (11-12)
II. Christ reconciled the two groups and united them (13-18)
III. Gentiles now can be part of the same building, which is built on Christ and the apostles (19-22)

I. Gentiles were alienated from God and the Jews (11-12)

Discussion Questions

• Who are the “uncircumcision”?
• Who are the “circumcision”?
• What was the purpose of circumcision as God originally commanded it for the
• Jews?
• When is “that time” that is referred to in verse 12?
• What do each of the following phrases mean? Separate from Christ? Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel? Strangers to the covenants of promise? Having no hope? Without God in the world?
• Why were Gentiles in this desperate and hopeless situation?
• Why does Paul remind the Ephesians of the Gentiles’ previous desperate condition?

Cross-References

Romans 2:29 – No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

Colossians 2:13 – When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

Jeremiah 9:25-26 – “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.”

Genesis 17:7-9 – I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 – Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:5 – Not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Circumcision was a physical symbol of God’s covenant with the Jews – It showed the fact that they were a separate people dedicated to God and His laws. As a physical symbol, it is somewhat similar to the physical symbol of baptism for the believer, which signifies our relationship with Christ and separation from the world.

Circumcision never could save anyone. Salvation has never been possible through good deeds or through obedience to God’s law. Rather, it is a physical reminder of God’s covenant with His people, Israel.

2. The Jews were specially chosen by God but had become prideful in this – They looked down on everyone who wasn’t circumcised and called them the “uncircumcision.” To them, others were unclean, low, worthless. They had forgotten that true circumcision was circumcision of the heart. It was an attitude of holiness and separation from the ways of the world, an attitude of dedication to God.

3. There are five areas where Gentiles were worse off than Jews in the Old Testament:

a) They were separate from Christ. Christ was promised as the deliverer of the Jews. He was their King, their Savior. In fact, He was a Jew Himself.

b) They could not be citizens of Israel. They were always referred to as aliens or foreigners. The best they could do was be second-rate residents of Israel.

c) They were strangers to the covenant of promise. God made a covenant with Abraham and renewed it with Isaac and Jacob. In this covenant, The Lord promised specific things, such as land, a priesthood, many people, and a nation. Since Gentiles are not descended from Abraham, this covenant is not for them.

d) They were having no hope – All people without God are without hope. Gentiles in Old Testament times were almost universally without God. We learn from Romans 1 that this lost state is because of their willful disbelief in the one true God. They had many false gods but rejected worship in the one true God.

e) They were without God – They didn’t know God. They didn’t follow God. That’s why they didn’t have any hope.

4. The obvious question then is, could a Gentile in the Old Testament be saved? Did they have any chance? The answer is yes. Salvation has always been by faith and has never been handed out to anyone just because of their race. One received salvation in Old Testament times through the same method as today, by trusting in God. Non-Jews could actually become circumcised and become proselytes even in the Old Testament. Some Gentiles were saved, while some Jews were not. Nationality and ethnicity never guaranteed salvation.

To remind the Jews that their race did not save them, John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:9,

Matthew 3:9 Bible Verse

However, the vast majority of Gentiles still continued to willfully reject God and even the few who did believe in God (Ruth, Nebuchadnezzar, etc.) wouldn’t receive the benefits of full citizenship.

5. Why do we need to know all of this? Knowing where we come from helps us to be more joyful and grateful for where we are. Gentiles have many reasons to be thankful that God has brought us from far away and reconciled us to Himself.

II. Christ reconciled the two groups and made them one new man (13-18)

Discussion Questions

• What changed starting in verse 13?
• Who brought about the change?
• Was this a new idea of God’s to save the Gentiles?
• How do you know this was always part of God’s plan and not a new idea?
• What does it mean to be far off? Far off from what?
• Why is Christ our peace?
• How are both groups one?
• What does this tell us about the relationship we should have with others in the church? How about others of different races?
• Different social levels?
• Different backgrounds?
• What does the barrier of the dividing wall refer to?
• What is the Law of commandments?
• How did Christ put to death the enmity?
• How are Christian Jews and Gentiles alike?
• Poor and rich?

Cross-References

Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:20-22 – And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

John 10:16 – I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Galatians 6:15 – Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 10:19-25 – We can enter the Most Holy Place through Christ. He opened the way for us. Because of that we should draw near to God and each other (spur one another on in love and good deeds.)

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Christ takes the central role in this dramatic reversal of events – The words “But now in Christ” are infinitely important. In short, our entire situation has changed. We are no longer in the desperate, hopeless situation depicted in verses 11-12.

Ephesians 2:14 Bible Verse

2. This was not a new idea for God. It was hinted at way back in the Old Testament – (Genesis 12:3, Galatians 3:8, John 10:16.) Saving the Gentiles was always part of God’s eternal plan, the same as His choice of the Jews and His choice of you. He chose to bring salvation to all of the world through the Jews. God chose the Israelites so that they could be a light to the world. As they failed in this mission as a nation, Jesus came to ultimately fulfill this divine national purpose.

3. Gentiles were formerly