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2. Made Alive in Christ
1And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; 3among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:-- 4but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not of works, that no man should glory. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. 11Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; 12that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, 15having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; 16and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: 18for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. 19So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; 21in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
11. Wherefore remember. The apostle never once loses sight of his subject, marks it out clearly, and pursues it with increasing earnestness. He again exhorts the Ephesians to remember what their character had been before they were called. This consideration was fitted to convince them that they had no reason to be proud. He afterwards points out the method of reconciliation, that they might rest with perfect satisfaction on Christ alone, and not imagine that other aids were necessary. The first clause may be thus summed up: “Remember that, when ye were uncircumcised, ye were aliens from Christ, from the hope of salvation, and from the Church and kingdom of God; so that ye had no friendly intercourse with God.” The second may run thus: “But now ingrafted into Christ, ye are at the same time reconciled to God.” What is implied in both parts of the description, and what effect the remembrance of it was fitted to produce on their minds, has been already considered.
Gentiles in the flesh. He first mentions that they had wanted the marks of God’s people. Circumcision was a token by which the people of God were marked out and distinguished from other men: Uncircumcision was the mark of a profane person. Since, therefore, God usually connects his grace with the sacraments, their want of the sacraments is taken as an evidence that neither were they partakers of his grace. The argument, indeed, does not hold universally, though it does hold as to God’s ordinary dispensations. Hence we find the following language:
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man.”
Though he had devoured the whole tree, he would not, by merely eating it, have recovered the possession of life; but, by taking away the sign, the Lord took from him also life itself. Uncircumcision is thus held out to the Ephesians as a mark of pollution. By taking from the Ephesians the token of sanctification, he deprives them also of the thing signified.
Some are of opinion, that all these observations are intended to throw contempt on outward circumcision; but this is a mistake. At the same time, I acknowledge, that the qualifying clause, the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, points out a twofold circumcision. The Jews were thus taught that they should no longer indulge in foolish boasting about the literal circumcision. The Ephesians, on the other hand, were instructed to abstain from all scruples on their own account, since the most important privilege—nay, the whole truth expressed by the outward sign—was in their possession. He calls it, Uncircumcision in the flesh, because they bore the mark of their pollution; but, at the same time, he suggests that their uncircumcision was no hinderance to their being spiritually circumcised by Christ.
The words may likewise be read in one clause, Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, or in two clauses: Circumcision in the flesh, meaning that it was carnal; made by hands, meaning that it was done by the hand of man. This kind of circumcision is contrasted with that of the Spirit, or of the heart, (Romans 2:29,) which is also called the circumcision of Christ. (Colossians 2:11)
By that which is called. Circumcision may be viewed here either as a collective noun for the Jews themselves, or literally for the thing itself; and then the meaning would be, that the Gentiles were called Uncircumcision, because they wanted the sacred symbol, that is, by way of distinction. This latter sense is countenanced by the qualifying phrase; but the substance of the argument is little affected.