April 23, 2017 – Ephesians 2:11-17

Lesson Date: April 23, 2017

Focal Scripture Passage: Ephesians 2:11-17

AIM: To lead students to describe the new relationship Gentiles and Jews can enjoy if they know Jesus Christ, and to commit themselves to exercising the ministry of reconciliation God has given them.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Ephesians 2:11-17 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Look for news articles about violence and terrorist attacks in Israel. Specifically, look for incidents in which Israelis (Jews) have been attacked by Palestinian terrorists (Gentiles). Write the words “Peace in the Middle East” on the marker board or chalkboard.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the class’ attention to the words “Peace in the Middle East” written on the board. Tell the students every U.S. president for the last seventy years has had to devote some of his time and energy to trying to bring peace to the Middle East. In spite of these efforts, however, there is still violence and strife. The United Nations, which was created with the intent of bringing world peace, has not been able to solve the problem of war and unrest in the Middle East. Muslim terrorists and many Arab nations are committed to destroying Israel.

Ask: “Do you think peace is possible in the Middle East?” Allow time for some responses.

Write the word “Reconciliation” on the board. Ask the students what that word means (to bring disputing parties together to a point where they can have friendly, peaceful relations). Ask: “What would be necessary for true reconciliation to take place between the Muslims and Jews in the Middle East?” Tell the class today’s lesson will answer that question.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that we are in a six-month study of the New Testament book of Ephesians, but last week we had a special Easter lesson from the Gospel of Luke.
    • Remind them that Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesian believers while he was a prisoner in Rome (locate Rome and Ephesus on the map).
    • Read Ephesians 2:1-10.
    • Ask: “What was our last lesson from Ephesians [two weeks ago] about?” (God’s plan and purpose for salvation).
    • Ask if any volunteer would be willing to quote that week’s memory verses (Eph. 2:8-10).
  2. Circumcision vs. Uncircumcision.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 2:11.
    • Remind the class that Paul wrote this letter to the Christians at Ephesus, most of whom were Gentiles.
    • Ask: “What does the word Gentile mean?” (someone who is not genetically Jewish).
    • Ask: “How many of you are Gentiles?” (probably all or most).
    • Explain that circumcision was the fleshly sign of participation in the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:10-14).
    • The Jews viewed their circumcision as a mark of honor that made them right with God, much like many people today think baptism makes them right with God.
    • Ask: “Did the fleshly act of circumcision alone actually make individual Jews right with God?” (no).
    • Ask: “Does the fleshly act of baptism alone actually make a person right with God?” (no – we are not saved by works – see 2:9).
    • When people think a fleshly act makes them right with God they tend to be proud and look down upon those who haven’t take part in the same fleshly ritual.
    • Stress the fact that no outward fleshly act makes anyone right with God. The ONLY way to be right with God is through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
  3. Man’s Condition Before Christ.
    • Re-read the first part of Ephesians 2:11.
    • Ask: “What past time do you think Paul referred to?” (before His readers came to faith in Christ).
    • Read the first part of Ephesians 2:12.
    • Tell the class Paul reminded his readers what their lives were like before they were saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
    • Ask the class to listen for five specific descriptions of lost Gentiles as you read Ephesians 2:12.
    • Ask them to name the five things they heard in that verse. They should name the following:
      • Without Christ” = not having redemption (Heb. 9:12),
      • Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” = separated from the only nation through which and to which God spoke (Deut. 4:33),
      • Strangers from the covenants of promise” = denied the blessings God promised Israel,
      • Having no hope” = their life was pointless and they had absolutely nothing to look forward to (Col. 1:5, 27; 1 Thess. 4:13; Titus 1:2; 2:13), and
      • Without God in the world” = alienated from God and headed to hell.
    • These five things also describe our lives before we came to Jesus Christ. We were in the same spiritual condition as the ancient Ephesians – dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).
  4. Reconciliation Between Jew and Gentile.
    • Explain that in Paul’s day Jews and Gentiles were hopelessly alienated from one another, much like Israelis and Palestinians are today.
    • Stress the fact that things that are hopeless to man are easy for God (Luke 1:37).
    • Tell the class the next verses describe what Jesus Christ did about the alienation and hatred between Jews and Gentiles.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 2:13.
    • State that the words “But now” in this verse remind us of the words “But God” in verse 4. They form a pivot from the hopeless condition of lost-ness to our new condition in Christ. When God enters the picture, everything changes!
    • Ask: “What did the blood of Jesus Christ do for the Gentiles?” (it ended their alienation described in verses 11-12 and brought them near).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 2:14.
    • Ask: “How is Jesus described?” (our peace).
    • Ask: “What does the word ‘both’ refer to?” (Gentiles and Jews).
    • Ask: “What has Jesus Christ done for Gentiles and Jews?” (made them one and broke down the wall that separated them).
    • Tell the class the ancient Jewish Temple included an outer courtyard known as the “Court of the Gentiles.” It was the only place Gentiles who wanted to worship God could go.
    • There was literally a wall separating the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple. Gentiles were not allowed within that wall, upon penalty of death.
    • Through faith in Jesus Christ, the middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles has been removed.
    • In Jesus Christ there is no difference or separation between Jews and Gentiles. We are all one in Jesus Christ.
  5. One New Body – The Church.
    • Read Ephesians 2:15-17.
    • Ask: “According to verse 15, what did Jesus abolish?” (the enmity or hatred between saved Jews and saved Gentiles).
    • Ask: “How did he do that?” (“in His flesh” – through His death on the cross).
    • Ask: “What did He make out of them (Jews and Gentiles)?” (“one new man” – the church).
    • Ask: “According to verse 16, how does He reconcile both the Jews and the Gentiles unto God?” (through His death on the cross).
    • Ask: “According to verse 17, what did Jesus preach (proclaim) to both the Jews and the Gentiles?” (peace).
    • Prior to Jesus Christ, Jews and Gentiles were alienated from each other. Through His saving death on the cross, Jesus brings Jews and Gentiles together in one new body – the Christian church.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Ask: “If Jesus Christ is able to reconcile Jews and Gentiles through His death on the cross and bring them together into the church, why is there still hatred and violence between Jews and Muslims (Gentiles) today? Why isn’t there peace in the Middle East and throughout the world?” (because Jesus Christ only reconciles those who sincerely come to Him for a genuine saving relationship).

Explain that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross did not reconcile all Jews and Gentiles to one another or to God, but every genuinely born-again person (whether they are of Jewish or Gentile heritage) is reconciled and made right with Almighty God and with every other genuinely born-again person. This reconciliation is on a person-by-person basis, not by nations or religious groups.

Jesus Christ took two and made “one new man” (Eph. 2:15) and “one body” (Eph. 2:16), which is the church. Anyone who is genuinely born-again is welcome in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of whether they were born Jew or Gentile. What is the answer to the violence in the Middle East? It is for Jews and Gentiles (Muslims, Palestinians) to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. If they did they could be reconciled to God and to each other. There can be no real peace without a saving relationship to Jesus Christ.

Tell the class that the same is true for people here and now. There is not much peace in our land and there never will be until people come to know Jesus Christ.

Ask: “What is our role in all this? We’ve learned why there is a problem, but can we be part of the solution?” Tell the class that those of us who are saved have been given the “ministry of reconciliation.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Say: “If you are a Christian, you have been given the ministry of reconciliation: you are responsible to carry the gospel to the lost, in hopes that they will be reconciled to God.” Ask: “Are you willing to commit to exercising the ministry of reconciliation God has given you?” Lead a closing prayer of commitment.

 

CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to try to share the gospel with a lost person this week. A good time to do that is on regular weekly visitation, so urge them to come with you on visitation this afternoon.

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