Lesson 9: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

The Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 3/31/17

Lesson 9: The Gentiles’ Former State: Isolation (2:11-13)

Ephesians 2:11-13 (KJV)
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

The purpose of this passage evidently, is to excite a sense of gratitude in their hearts for that mercy which had called them from the errors and sins of their former lives, to the privileges of Christians. It is a good thing for Christians to “remember” what they were. No ability of the mind can be better employed to produce humility, penitence, gratitude, and love, than the memory. It is good for us to recall our former sins; to dwell upon our hardness of heart, our alienation, and our unbelief; and to remember our shame and our guilt, until the heart is affected, and we are made to see what, except for the grace of God, we could have become. The converted Ephesians had much guilt to recollect and to mourn over in their former life; and so have all who are converted to the Christian faith.

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh”
With this and what follows in the next verse, the apostle puts the converted Ephesians in mind of their conversion, in order to magnify the grace of God, and to humble them by taking into account their former state and condition, and to teach them that they could never be saved by any works of their own. Above all, he would have them call to mind, that they were in “time past Gentiles”; which does not so much have to do with the nation and country they were from, for in that sense they were still Gentiles; but their state and condition. They had been very blind and ignorant, were Gentiles that did not know God; they had been very wicked and shameless sinners; and they had been “2Gentiles in the flesh”: not according to the flesh, or by birth. Before their conversion, they were carnal, and cared mostly for the things of the flesh, walked after it, and fulfilled the lusts of it, and did the works of it―they are to “remember” the change between the past and the present; what they were by nature, and what they had become by grace. Special attention seems to be given to their uncircumcision in the flesh, to which circumcision in the flesh is opposed in the next clause.

“3who are 1called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands”
That is, they were called uncircumcised persons (unbelieving Jews) out of a sense of reproach and contempt. He means the carnal Jews, who had the circumcision of the flesh which was made with hands, but not that of the heart (Romans 2:29). None were more abominable to the Jews, and hated by them than those who were called circumcised persons (as a rebuke) from that circumcision which is outward, in the flesh, in a particular part of the body; and which is done by the hands of a man, who was called “the circumciser.” Anyone might be a circumciser, except a Gentile; an experienced Israelite adult was preferred; yet these were not circumcised persons with that circumcision that is inward, and is of the heart, in the Spirit, and is made without the hands of men, and by the Spirit and power of God―the true “circumcision of the heart in the Spirit, and not the letter” (Romans 2:29).
Romans 2:29: “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
1 The use of the phrase “called”—with a touch of the contempt implied in our phrase “the so-called”—simply implies that now Circumcision and Uncircumcision were mere names, virtually “nothing.”
2 You were Gentiles “in the flesh,” i. e., under the dominion of the flesh, subject to the control of carnal appetites and pleasures; Gentiles in respect to circumcision; sealing the Jewish covenant
3 “Who are called Uncircumcision” - That is, who are called "the uncircumcised." This was a term similar to that which we use when we speak of "the unbaptized." It meant that they were without the light of the people of God; that they enjoyed none of the ordinances and privileges of the true religion; and was commonly a term of reproach

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