Ephesians, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 2
1. You used to be dead because of your sins and acts of disobedience.
2. You walked in the ways of the ‘olam hazeh and obeyed the Ruler of the Powers of the Air, who is still at work among the disobedient.
The ruler of the powers of the air is the Adversary, Satan (see 6:11-12). 

3. Indeed, we all once lived this way — we followed the passions of our old nature and obeyed the wishes of our old nature and our own thoughts. In our natural condition we were headed for God’s wrath, just like everyone else.
We all once lived this way. All of us did — "we" Jews too, just like "you" Gentiles, who "used to be dead" (v. 1). Thus Sha'ul introduces the topic of how Jews and Gentiles have been joined together into a single people of God through the Messiah. This discussion dominates Chapters 2-3, having been hinted at already through referring to God's "secret plan" (1:9) and the mention of "we" Jews and "you" Gentiles at 1:11-14&N. Earlier, in his letter to the Romans, which occupies itself with the same topic, Sha'ul in turn singled out for special attention both Jews (Ro 2:17ff.) and Gentiles (Ro 11:13ff.). 

4. But God is so rich in mercy and loves us with such intense love
5. that, even when we were dead because of our acts of disobedience, he brought us to life along with the Messiah — it is by grace that you have been delivered.
6. That is, God raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with him in heaven,
Compare Ro 5:6-8; 6:3-5,11. Through being in union with the Messiah, believers share his position and so are seated... with him in heaven "at the right hand of God" (1:20). 

7. in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is his grace, how great is his kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.
8. For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift.
9. You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.
You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast. "What room is left for boasting? None at all" (Ro 3:27, in response to Ro 3:21-26). "Therefore — as the Tanakh says — 'Let anyone who wants to boast, boast about Adonai"\)C 1:31, quoting Jeremiah 9:23(24) in response to 1С 1:17-30). 

10. For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.
Grace (favor, loving-kindness; see 1:6N), trusting (faith; see Ac 3:16N, Ga 2:16cN) and actions (works, deeds) are related thusly: God's grace is his unearned and unmerited favor and loving-kindness toward human beings. Included in this grace is the gift of having enough faith to believe the Good News of Yeshua the Messiah; yet this gift is not restricted to a few but is available to everyone (Ti 2:11). When a person is trusting in this Good News, that is evidence that God's grace has in fact come to apply individually to him. To the extent that we are trusting, God can mold us, so that we become of God's making, able to carry out the good actions already prepared by God for us to do. If we don't do these good actions, it shows that we are not believers after all. There is no such thing as faith apart from the works to which faith must lead; "faith without works is dead" (Ya 2:14-26); trusting that does not lead to good actions cannot save and is not a channel for God's grace.

On the other hand, works without faith cannot save the one who does them. Non-Messianic Judaism implicitly recognizes that good works alone do not buy salvation, as the British Messianic Jew Eric Lipson points out by writing that in Judaism,

"Great stress is laid on doing good works, privately and corporately; but the prayers pleading for forgiveness (s'lichot) quote Isaiah's admission, 'All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags' [Isaiah 64:5(6)|. So Israel prays, 'Avinu malkenu, our Father, our King, be gracious unto us and answer us, for we have done no good things of any worth. Deal with us in charity and loving-kindness and save us.'"(The Hebrew Christian, Spring 1984, p. 17)

No work is a good work in relation to rewarding its doer (even though others may benefit) if it does not stem from faith in God, which today entails trusting in his Son Yeshua the Messiah (Yn 14:6,1 Yn 2:23). The crowds in the Galil asked Yeshua, "What should we do in order to perform the works of God?" His answer was, "Here's what the work of God is: to trust in the one he sent!" (Yn 6:28-29). 

11. Therefore, remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth — called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised —
Farther on in this passage we will have occasion to remind ourselves that Sha'ul is speaking here to Gentiles, not Jews. On the word "Gentiles," Greek ethne, equivalent to Hebrew goyim, see Mt 5:46N. Some Christians base on 1С 10:32 a false doctrine that once a Gentile comes to faith he is no longer a Gentile but a Christian (see note there). The present verse, like Ro 11:13&N, refutes that contention by calling Gentile Christians "Gentiles"; just as Ga 2:13, by calling Messianic Jews "Jews," contradicts the notion that a Jew who trusts in Yeshua is no longer Jewish (see note there).

Sha'ul here teaches two facts about Gentiles. First, being a Gentile is a matter of birth — you Gentiles by birth, literally, "you the Gentiles in flesh" — and is therefore not changed when a Gentile comes to believe the Gospel, although it does change if he becomes a Jewish proselyte (see Mt 23:15&N, Ga 5:2^t&N, Ac 16:1-3&NN).

Second, even though there is a real spiritual difference between Jews and Gentiles based on God's having dealt with them differently (as summarized in v. 12), the distinction popularly made was not based on this. Nor was it based on innate differences — there are none, "since all have sinned and come short of earning God's praise" (Ro 3:23). Rather, the Judaizers and their Gentile clients made external, artificial, "fleshly" distinctions. They used the fact that Gentiles were called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised as an excuse for holding uncircumcised Gentiles in contempt, even though a godly believer is to refrain from boasting (v. 9&N; Mt 3:9&N; Ro 2M7-23&N. 3:27-31&NN; 1С I:31&N). The Messiah has ended any imaginable ground for such invidious comparisons, as explained in vv. 13-16. 

12. at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Isra’el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise. You were in this world without hope and without God.
You Gentiles were at that time — "in your former state" (v. 11), when you were "dead because of your sins" (vv. 1-10) — lacking in five respects:

(1) You were without any relationship to the Messiah, since "Messiah" is entirely a Jewish concept. The word "Chrisl" has such a Gentile ring to Jews that they sometimes forget that the very idea of "Christ" is not Gentile but Jewish. The relationship to the Messiah is mentioned first because it is the direct means through which the other four deficiencies are remedied.

(2) You were estranged, excluded, alienated, from the national life of Israel. The Greek word translated "national life" is "politeia" which gives us English words like "polity" and "politics." Arndt and Gingrich's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament offers as possible meanings "citizenship; commonwealth, state; way of life, conduct." But Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament points out that in the Septuagint, "politeia"

"does not mean civil rights, constitution, or state, [but) rather the pious order of life which, ordained by the Law of Moses, is inherited from the fathers. [With one exception it) is a religious and moral concept rather than a political concept; it denotes the 'walk' determined by the Mosaic Law." (Volume 6, p. 526)

The same article states that in the present verse "politea" means "civil rights" and is

"used in the figurative sense of the privileged religious position of Israel as the recipient of the promise,"

corresponding to deficiency (3) below. But this conclusion strikes me as capricious, tendentious and antisemitic. Why should "politea" be deprived of its normal meaning, with its implication that Gentile Christians are joined to and obligated with the Jewish people.

My own understanding is very different. Gentiles should not think of their union with Israel as only a matter of rights and privileges. Rather, it implies an obligation to observe a godly way of life that has its origin in God's relationship with the Jewish people. More than that, it implies an obligation to relate as family to the Jewish community to whom their faith has joined them (Ro 11:17-24&NN, Ro 15:27&N).

When Ruth joined Israel, she said, "Your people shall be my people," even before she said, "Your God shall be my God" (Ruth 1:16). Gentile Christians should remember that being "no longer foreigners and strangers" but "fellow-citizens with God's people" (v. 19) means being fellows as well as citizens, i.e., being involved with the Jewish people, both Messianic and non-Messianic. Gentile Christians who regard Jewish Christians as the strangers and themselves as the rightful possessors, and those who accept Jewish believers but reject nonbelieving Jews, are not submitting to the message of these verses. Sha'ul does not say that Israel was estranged from the communal life of Gentiles, but the opposite, implying that Israel constitutes the norm and the center of gravity, not the Gentiles. In Ro 11:16-26, he portrays Gentiles as wild olive branches grafted into the cultivated olive tree which is Israel, the Jewish people, and cautions Gentile Christians against pride.

See also Ro 11:26a on "all Israel" and Ga 6:16&N on "the Israel of God," because these discuss the key word "Israel," which appears only here in the book of Ephesians.

(3) Because you Gentiles were estranged from the communal life of Israel, you were foreigners to the covenants embodying God's promise; these include the covenant with Avraham (see Galatians 3-4&NN, Romans 4&NN), the covenant with Moshe, and the New Covenant with Yeshua (see Messianic Jews 8&NN). The New Covenant was given not to Gentiles but to Israel; Gentiles are foreigners to it except through faith, which, as Sha'ul points out, makes them full participants. (4-5) You were in this world, fourth, without hope and, fifth, without God; for apart from God there is only the false hope offered by false religions and non-religions, which sooner or later reveal themselves as disappointing illusions. Otto Rank, the Jewish psychoanalyst who broke with his teacher Sigmund Freud, wrote that everyone needs and produces illusions to sustain himself in a world without purpose. He could write such a peculiar thing because he did not believe in the God of Israel. Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, as atheists who were also existentialists, bravely faced up to the hypocrisy and self-deception of depending on illusions but gave no satisfactory remedy for the resulting hopelessness, other than suggesting that it is more "hopeful" to face the reality of hopelessness than to retreat into fantasy. But hopelessness cannot be palmed off as hope, nor is it reality, except for people without God. Through the centuries many people whose intellectual capacity and integrity match those of Rank, Sartre and Camus have found that the Bible not only fits the real world but provides a spiritual reality that does offer hope in an otherwise hopeless world.

In conclusion, the difference between Gentiles and Jews prior to the Messiah's coming was not merely the external fact that the latter were circumcised, but the spiritual and ontological fact that God dealt with them differently. God chose the Jewish people to receive certain promises and called them to exemplify God's involvement in human life and history. Through making the Bible known to the world, through presenting an example of dedication to God even when apart from Yeshua, but most of all through Yeshua the Messiah himself and his Jewish followers, the Jews have in a measure fulfilled that calling. By being joined to Israel, as explained in the following verses, believing Gentiles have a share in both the promises and the calling. 

13. But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.
Far off... brought near. The language anticipates vv. 14 and 17.

Through the shedding of the Messiah's blood, literally, "by the blood of the Messiah." The things detailed in vv. 14-22 came about not through magical properties of Yeshua's blood but through his "bloody sacrificial death" atoning for all. Gentiles along with Jews (Ro 3:25&N, 29-30; Yn 3:16) 

14. For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us
Although shalom means more than peace (Mt 10:12N), certainly peace is the main emphasis here. He is our shalom. Not only does Yeshua make peace between Jews and Gentiles, but he himself is that peace. He, living in believing Jews and Gentiles, is what has made us both one, for our oneness is the one Messiah living in both.

The m'chitzah which divided us, literally, "the middle wall of the boundary fence." Hebrew m'chitzah means, literally, "that which divides something in half." In every Orthodox synagogue, a m'chitzah, a dividing wall, separates the men in the congregation from the women. Conservative and Reform Jewish practice happens to reflect New Testament truth about men and women, since these denominations have done away with the m'chitzah in the synagogue. Galatians 3:28&N makes the same point by saying that in the Messiah 'Чпеге is neither Jew nor Gentile,... neither male nor female."

Actually, Sha'ul's imagery is probably not that of the synagogue but of the Temple. Surrounding the Temple was a wall with a sign "which forbade any foreigner to go in, on pain of death" (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15:11:5; compare Wars of the Jews 5:5:2, 6:2:4). This was the "boundary fence" between Jews and Gentiles (there was also a court for women only). Just as the veil of the Temple was torn in two when the Messiah died (Mt 27:52), allowing everyone united with the Messiah to enter God's presence as into the Holy of Holies (a privilege previously reserved for the cohen kagadol, MJ 9:6-14,10:19-22), so too the Messiah has removed the barrier preventing Gentiles from mixing with and being counted with God"s people (except by converting to Judaism). Oddly, it was the false accusation that Sha'ul had brought the Gentile, Trophimus, beyond this barrier dividing the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of the Jews which inflamed the crowds in the Temple and led to Sha'ul's arrest there (Ac 21:27-32).

The King James Version, keeping fairly close to the Greek text, renders this, "the middle wall of partition." One of the most frequent and bothersome accusations made by uninformed Christians against Messianic Judaism is that Messianic Jews "are trying to build up again between Jews and Gentiles 'the middle wall of partition' which the Messiah has broken down." Without exception the charge is made by those who do not understand what Sha'ul is saying or what Messianic Judaism is really trying to accomplish.

Sha'ul's point is that Gentiles are no longer separated but can now join the Jewish people and be one with them as God's people through faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. The partition is down, the Gentiles can join us! The critics understand it the other way round: the partition is down, so that once Jews believe in their own Messiah they no longer have the right to maintain their Jewish identity but must conform to Gentile patterns. Amazing! And certainly not what Sha'ul himself did (Ac 13:9&N).

The object of Messianic Judaism is not to destroy fellowship between Jews and Gentiles in the Messiah's Body but to preserve it; a review of the notes at 1С 7:18b; Ga 1:13,2:14b, 3:28 will suffice to show that. At the same time Messianic Judaism seeks to provide a framework in which Jewish believers can express their faith in Yeshua through and along with their Jewishness. The Scriptural warrant for this is not only Sha'ul's own practice but also his principle of presenting the Gospel in a way that minimizes the obstacles to its acceptance by its hearers (Ga 1:17,1С 9:19-22&NN). Messianic Judaism ought to have been preserved continuously since the time of Yeshua, for there have always been believing Jews; there should have been no need to create it afresh. The movement is assertive today only because anti-Jewish pressure within the Church did away with and continued to oppose Jewish expressions of New Testament truth. That the New Covenant itself was made with Israel (v. 12, Jeremiah 31:30-33) adds irony to insult.

On the other hand, frequently those Gentiles who raise the bugaboo of the "middle wall of partition" are themselves the ones who are building it! For they would have Jews enter the Body of the Jewish Messiah only if they will conform to Gentile customs and ways and give up their Jewishness. Members of no other culture are put upon in this way, only Jews. Their idea of Sha'ul's remark that the Messiah has made us both one is that the "one" is Gentile! 

15. by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom,
The Messiah "has broken down the m'chitzah which divided us" (v. 14b) by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. Following is a literal translation of vv. 14b-15a; the commas in brackets appear in some of the manuscripts which have punctuation but not in all:

For he is our peace, the [person] having made the both [things] one, and the middle wall of the fence having broken, the enmity!,] in the flesh of him|,J the Torah of the commandments in decreesf,] having abolished, in orderthat the two [persons] he might create in himself into one new person.... Two questions call for attention here. First, some, considering the last two bracketed commas spurious, take "the enmity" as an explanation of what "the middle wall of the fence" is, so that Sha'ul is understood to be saying that Yeshua
(1) broke the middle wall which is the enmity between Jews and Gentiles, and
(2) abolished the Torah.
However, many agree with me that "the enmity" goes not with "the middle wall" but with "the Torah."

Second, what is the grammatical significance of Sha'ul's placing "the Torah" in apposition with "the enmity"? If he means that the enmity is identical with the Torah, then when Yeshua abolished the enmity, he necessarily abolished the Torah too, in contradiction with his own statement at Ml 5:17. This makes little sense; and in fact, no one seriously considers the Torah to be enmity. My rendering offers another view, that since "the enmity" and "the Torah" are separated by the phrase, "in the flesh of him," the conceptual relationship is looser and requires more explicit specification — which I have provided in the words "occasioned by." The enmity is not the Torah. Nor did the Torah "cause" the enmity directly — see Ro 7:5-14 for Sha'ul's own refutation of the idea that the Torah causes sin of any kind, and enmity between Jews and Gentiles is certainly sin. Rather, that passage shows that although the Torah is itself "holy" (Ro 7:12), it occasions sin (in this case enmity between Jews and Gentiles) by stimulating people's sinful propensities (see Ro 5:12-21&N).

This enmity between Jews and Gentiles had four components:
(1) Gentile envy of the special status accorded by God to Israel in the Torah.
(2) Jewish pride at being chosen.
(3) Gentile resentment of that pride.
(4) Mutual dislike of each other's customs. This is a common cause of friction between cultures, but in this instance, Jewish customs are different for a unique reason. They did not merely evolve; rather, they were the Jewish people's response to the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances.

This is why it is appropriate to say (hat the enmity between Jews and Gentiles was occasioned by the Torah.
The enmity was destroyed in the Messiah's body when he died for all sinners, Jews and Gentiles alike. Whoever catches a vision of himself as the undeserving object of God's grace, saved from eternally ongoing destruction by the Messiah's atoning death in his place, realizes that in comparison with this salvation the distinction between Jew and Gentile is insignificant. Isaiah, faced with a comparable display of God's holiness, said, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" (Isaiah 6:5). Jew and Gentile are equally undone before the Messiah; the Messiah destroys the enmity by showing Jew and Gentile equally needy at the foot of his execution-stake. This is what Sha'ul means by saying that in the Messiah "there is neither Jew nor Gentile" (Ga 3:28, Co 3:11).

Moreover, the cancelling of enmity between Jew and Gentile is not merely theoretical when both have been born again through trusting in Yeshua the Messiah. Inspiring examples can be found among Messianic Jews and truly believing Arab Christians in the Land of Israel today. Where the world expects hate or at best wary tolerance can be found a degree of trust and love from the Messiah that goes beyond politics; nothing testifies more eloquently to the truth of the Gospel. Arab and Jewish believers can express disagreement in dialogue over political issues while remaining united in the bond of the Messiah's love. The Jerusalem Bible, prepared by Roman Catholics, is the one prominent English version that agrees with the Jewish New Testament on this passage. It translates 2:14b-15a, "destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law." Unfortunately, its note on v. 15 says that Jesus annulled the Law! And more unfortunately, the revised edition, the New Jerusalem Bible, reverts to a more traditional antisemitic rendering, "destroying in his own person the hostility, that is, the Law of commandments with its decrees."

Two other versions, Phillips and Moffatt, say that the Messiah destroyed the "hostility" or the "feud" of the Law, not the Law itself. Although these renderings express an unfriendly view toward the Law, at least they avoid asserting that the Law has been abolished.

But usually this verse is rendered so as to say that the Messiah did away with the Torah. Those who think so can give only lip service to Yeshua's own statement that he came not to destroy the Torah but to fill it up with its full meaning (Mt 5:17&N); only lip service to Yeshua's interpretations of specific commandments making them more stringent, not less so (Mt 5:21—48); only lip service to Sha'ul's assertion that "the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good" (Ro 7:12); only lip service to his conclusion that the Gospel does not abolish Torah but confirms it (Ro 3:31). In order to arrive at such an opinion, other Pauline passages must be misconstrued as meaning that the Torah has been brought to an end (Ga 2:15-21&NN, 3:21-26&NN; Ro 9:30-10:10&NN).

The scholars who think this verse teaches that the Messiah abolished the Torah often offer arguments that either fail to convince or actually support the opposing view. By way of illustration, consider Francis Foulkes, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, in the Tyndale Commentary series, pp. 82-83; my own responses are indented.

"The law of commandments contained in ordinances [had to be] abolished.... Peter was sent to Cornelius and bidden to regard no longer the distinction between ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness (Acts 10)."

Not true: kashrut was not abolished (see Ga 2:11-16&NN), although the custom of regarding Gentile homes as unclean was indeed abolished; but the latter was not Torah anyhow (see Ac 10:28N).

"The Church in its council at Jerusalem had agreed that there was no longer to be a barrier because the Jews had circumcision and all the other ordinances of the law, and the Gentiles did not (Acts 15)."

This does not mean that the Torah was abolished at the Jerusalem council, only that Gentiles did not need to become Jews in order to become Yeshuu's disciples.

"The Lord came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil (Mt 5:17)."

The last word means "fill up" (see Mt 5:17&N), but even rendering it "fulfil" gives no ground for thinking of the Torah as having been abolished when three words earlier in that verse Yeshua said he did not come to destroy the Law!

"Much of it (e.g. the sacrificial ritual) was preparation for, and foreshadowing of, the Christ, and so was fulfilled by what He did when He came." This kind of "fulfilling" does not abolish; one may say it transforms the older practice (Mt 7:11-12&NN) or gives new significance to it. For more on the sacrificial system see Messianic Jews 6-10&NN.

'The moral demands and principles of the law were not lightened by Jesus, but made fuller and more far-reaching (Mt 5:21-48)."

Also this is not abolishing! In fact, Foulkes' remark here supports my earlier point about Mt 5:17.

"In the discipline of obedience that its detailed regulations demanded, and as the revealer of right and wrong, it was intended to lead to Christ (Gal 3:24)." My rendering of that verse is: "The Torah functioned as a harsh disciplinarian until the Messiah came," not "The Law was a schoolmaster leading us to Christ" (see note there). Even so, being led to Christ does not mean the Law is abolished.

"In an absolute sense it cannot be said to be made of no effect in Christ (Rom 3:31)."

This is yet another argument against the Torah's abolition by the Messiah, as noted in connection with Mt 5:21-48. Or, to make my point differently, if the Law is "in an absolute sense" not "of no effect," then (with the double negative removed) it is "in an absolute sense" of effect, effective, in force.

"But as a code 'specific, rigid, and outward, fulfilled in external ordinances' (Westcott), and so serving to separate Jews and Gentiles, it was abolished (cf. Col 2:20-22)."

First, this description of the Torah is wrong; Cranfield and Burton do a better job — see Ga 2:16bN, where these scholars are quoted. What Westcott characterizes is not Torah but legalism; and if anything is "abolished" in this verse, it is not Torah but legalism. Second. Co 2:20-22 does not apply to Torah but to legalism; and the context is not Judaism but paganism, as implied by Sha'ul's use of the term, "elemental spirits," found in a similar context at Ga 4:1-11; see notes in both places and at Ro 14:1.

Elsewhere 1 have explained that while the Torah is not abolished, priorities within it are changed (Ga 6:2N). Surely that is what is done here; we know already from Ga 2:11-14&NN that fellowship between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Community is a more important mitzvah than any of the commands intended to separate Jews from Gentiles, such as kashrut. In this sense, fellowship is what rabbinic Judaism calls a "weighty" command, while the kinds of commandments set forth in the form of ordinances referred to here are, by comparison, "light" ones. Re-prioritization is not abolition. Where Jewish believers can carry out the "lighter" mitzvot without compromising their own relationship to believing Gentiles or otherwise transgressing "the Torah's true meaning, which the Messiah upholds" (Ga 6:2), there is no reason not to do so — as Yeshua himself urged (Mt 23:23).

In this framework of thought one could understand the passage to be saying that for his Body, the Messianic Community, Yeshua abolished not the Torah in its entirety, but the takkanot (rabbinic ordinances) relating to the separation of Jews and Gentiles spiritually. The middle wall of (he spiritual temple is done away with forever. 

16. and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity.
17. Also, when he came, he announced as Good News shalom to, you far off and shalom to those nearby (Isaiah 57:19)
Compare vv. 12-13. 

18. news that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19. So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family.
20. You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself.
21. In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord.
22. Yes, in union with him, you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for God!
These verses, often misused by Christians against Messianic Jews, are actually part of the charter for Messianic Judaism. They are fundamental to understanding both the nature of the Torah, which still exists and is binding on believers, and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Community (1:22).

The ideas of vv. 14-15a are restated, with focus on the oneness. The basic oneness is union with himself; this produces from the two groups, Jews and Gentiles, a single new humanity which is a single body. That body is both the physical body of the Messiah, executed on a stake as a criminal (see Mt 10:38N), and the Messianic Community (1:20-23a&N). Through the Messiah (Ro 8:9-11; Yn 14:26, 15:26) comes one Spirit (v. 18), and the word "union" appears three times in vv. 21-22. The theme of oneness returns for its fullest expression at 4:4-6; compare Yn 17:20-26, 1С 12:4-6. In this entire passage Sha'ul is writing to Gentiles, and his object is to reassure them that they are fully God's people, that because of their faith in the Messiah and his work no barrier exists between them and Jews — Gentiles are not second-class citizens of the Kingdom. His purpose is not to downplay Jewish distinctives, but to "up-play" what God has now done for Gentiles. To find in these verses ground for opposing Messianic Judaism is simply to misappropriate them for a purpose Sha'ul never dreamed of.

The metaphor of the Messianic Community as a building is found also at 1 Ke 2:4-8. Yeshua as the cornerstone alludes to Psalm 118:22-23, which he himself quoted (Mt 21:42-43); see also Isaiah 28:16 (compare Ro 9:33). Corporately. the Messiah's Body is growing into a holy temple (as at 1С 3:16-17, 2C 6:16); while individually, each believer's body is already a temple for the Holy Spirit (1С 6:19). 

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