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 Inductive Bible Study – Verse by Verse Small Group Study Lesson
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)
- 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?
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.
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) Separate from Christ – The 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 a second-rate resident of Israel.
c) Strangers to the covenant of promise – God made a covenant with Abraham and renewed it with Isaac and Jacob. In it He 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) 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) 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:
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 much reason 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)
- 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? (He, a Jew, showing His love by dying for all the people, including the Gentiles.)
- How are Christian Jews and Gentiles alike?
- Poor and rich?
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[a] 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.)
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 been changed. We are no longer in the desperate, hopeless situation depicted in verses 11-12.
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 far away from God, but He brought us near. He made peace between the two sides. He broke down the barriers including: circumcision, the law, the curtain in the temple dividing Gentiles and Jews (symbolically). He brought two groups who hated each other, and in Himself made them into one. To receive the benefits that the Jews have, it is no longer necessary for Gentiles to be converted to Judaism. We don’t need to be circumcised and we don’t need to follow the Old Testament law. Christ brought peace.
4. Then why then is there not peace in the world between these groups even today? All of the above is true in the church, not in the world. In the church, we are really all one in Jesus. This applies to Jew and Gentile, slave and free, woman and man, old and young, poor and rich. The only way these two groups can have peace is through Christ.
5. What is this peace? It is not simply a passive acceptance. It is not a grudging tolerance. It is not a burning bitterness inside, but placid faced on the outside. It is not a lit fuse just waiting to explode. It is not a temporary cease fire. It is taking two and making them one. It is like marriage. It is like grafting a tree. It is one new man. One heart, one soul, one mind. This speaks of unity. It speaks of an unbreakable bond. It is a new entity entirely where the previous background is no longer important.
6. In the church, people don’t go by their nationality or age or social status. We are all citizens of heaven first and most importantly. Being a Christian is more important than being a Japanese or an American or a Korean. Being a Christian is more important than being married or single, a successful business man or a street worker. The world is full of divisions and bitterness, but Christians are radically different all because of Christ.
Application: It is easy to go to a church with people who look like us, think like us, and acts like us. One never needs to stretch his thinking or challenge long held beliefs. One can hang out with people of the same culture and background. Being one in Christ means we are one with brothers and sisters all over the world, no matter their race or culture. The church is becoming more global and diversified as the gospel reaches all corners of the earth. Do not show partiality to others who are different from you. Show the love of Christ. Welcome people of all backgrounds to your church and fellowship. Reach out and make friends with people who are different from you. You may find that you will be challenged and grow in your faith.
7. It means we must love with the love of Christ. The next time you are tempted to show anger or impatience to a fellow believer, remember what Christ has done for you. Remember that you are one in Him.
9. It means we must fellowship with one another. Since believers are one, it only makes sense that we will spend more time hanging out, fellowshiping, and strengthening each other than we will with those in the world. We tend to hang out more with those who are more like us. If you spend most of your time with worldly people it would at least appear that you identify more with them than you do with believers. Hebrews 10:19-25
III. Gentiles now can be part of the same building, which is built on Christ and the apostles (19-22)
- What does it mean to be a citizen? What were Gentiles living with the Jews called previously?
- What is the building doing? (Growing.)
- What about the individuals? (Being built. Growing.)
Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1. The benefits of the Gentiles new-found relationship to God – Gentiles were no longer outcasts, aliens, foreigners. They were accepted into (and actually formed the majority of) the church. They became full class citizens with full perks. They could actually be members of God’s very household, His own family.
As Gentiles, we are citizens of heaven and have direct access to God through His Spirit. We are His children. We can pray to Him at any time. We should rejoice in our close relationship to God, made possible only through Christ’s death on the cross.
2. Jesus is the cornerstone –
Without Him, the entire building would crumble. Tradition tells us that when Solomon’s Temple was built there was a large stone that was originally rejected by the builders. It was tossed aside and they didn’t want to use it. Eventually, however, their minds changed. The stone which was rejected was finally chosen as the cornerstone for the whole temple. It became the most important section in the building.
When Jesus is referred to as the cornerstone, Jews living at the time of the New Testament would understand the reference. Jesus was rejected, but in fact was more important than anyone else and the entire spiritual kingdom of God stands on Him.
3. The apostles are built on top of Christ – They repeated the lessons they learned from Christ and taught more as they were given divine inspiration from God by the Spirit. They laid down the foundation of the church, both in teaching, preaching and actually building the church through their missionary efforts. The foundation of teaching laid down by the disciples is unchanging.
4. What is the actual structure? What is the “building” made of? It is composed of the very lives of believers. Each believer is part of the church and contributes in their own special way with their own unique gifts. Jesus is the cornerstone. The apostles built on top of Jesus. And we too are part of the building, strengthening it, and building it larger and larger.
Application: What is one way you can help God’s kingdom to grow this week?
5. Growing – The church as a whole and we as individuals must be growing. It is still not a finished work. The foundation remains unchanged. But the structure keeps growing. God does not want us to become complacent or stagnant in our walk with Him. It is especially easy to do for believers who have been Christians for a long time.
Spiritual disciplines like going to church or reading the Bible can become rote ritual. The passion and fervor can disappear and boredom set in. Some believers continue for years in this state of complacency, floating along rather than driving forward.
Application: How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? List a specific area that you need to grow and mention one SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) application for how you will grow in that area this week.
E-book: If these notes are helpful you can download the entire Ephesians E-book study guide to use on any device or print the entire series.
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