Sunday’s portion of the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:11-22) conveys St Paul’s stunning insight into the mission and purpose of Christ’s ministry and that of the church. Christ and the church broke down the wall separating Jews and Gentiles, reconciling “both groups to God in one body through the cross” (2:16) and giving both groups “access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18).

Formerly, the Gentiles had “no hope” “without God in the world” (2:12). The Gentiles lacked Israel’s messianic expectation, the several covenants God made with Israel, and hope of salvation and knowledge of God. But through Christ all these divisions have been transcended by the abolition of the Mosaic law for the sake of uniting Jew and Gentile in a single religious community imbued with the same Holy Spirit and worshipping the same Father. The Gentiles are now included in God’s household as it arises from the foundation of the apostles and those endowed with prophetic power. With Christ as the “cornerstone” (2:20), Jews and Gentiles together are being built “into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21). The Ephesians themselves are built spiritually in that temple, itself “a dwelling place for God” (2:22).

The implications of St Paul’s insight are enormous though in truth, however large they are, they themselves are but a part of God’s entire design or plan in Christ, announced to the shepherds, to deliver “on earth peace among those whom he favors” (St Luke 2:14).

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