Summary: When Jesus was crucified in the flesh, we lost our capacity to distinguish ourselves from one another based on what we can see. We belong because we belong to him.
Pastor Jim Luthy
Let me introduce you to Dain. It’s not hard to tell that Dain is a Christian. He accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior when he was a child and grew up in the church. He went to Sunday School every week, winning perfect attendance pins more often than not. He is somewhat of a scholar of the Bible with a PhD in Instructional Systems and two Master’s degrees, one in Science and one in Divinity. He has used that knowledge to develop curriculum, both for Christian Education and for secular college education. He is currently working on a biblical curriculum with a Native American pastor to be presented as a seminar on tribal reservations. He reads his Bible every day and has read through the Bible a number of times. He spends a lot of time reading other books and magazines too. He subscribes to Leadership and Alliance Life Magazine. You have to look hard to see Dain "mess up." His talk is clean. He has, over time, trained himself to be moral and good. If you didn’t know Dain all that well, you might just be intimidated by his knowledge of the Bible and the relationship he has developed with God.
Meet also Curran. Curran is a brand new believer. He just asked Christ to make him a new creation this week. He struggles with that decision though because he realizes just how much he displeases God. If you spend some time with him, he might accidentally swear around you. If you examined his life, there might be a number of things you would disapprove of, perhaps some things Dain has learned not to do. Curran has recently started reading the Bible, but not regularly, partly because he doesn’t understand much of what he reads. He asks questions that seem simple to many of us. Sometimes he might just sit in a small group and nod his head like he understands when he really doesn’t get it at all. When the group prays, he’s not likely to pray out loud. He’s just not comfortable with that yet. You wouldn’t easily be intimidated by Curran’s walk of faith, no more than you would be concerned about a little toddler trampling over you in the street. It’s certain that Curran will walk a bit wobbly. His faith is new and appropriately simple.
Yet both Dain and Curran are God’s workmanship. They are the moral of the story throughout Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:11-22 is the climactic turning point of this letter. Paul has laid a foundation of truth by which all believers can stand. We’ve learned that Dain is blessed in the heavenly realms. So is Curran. The only true prize for either of these men is Christ alone. It’s not more educational degrees or the development of an effective seminar, nor is it to clean up their language or stop living as they once did, according to the sinful nature. God’s glory is to be their goal. Curran is a new creature in Christ—God’s workmanship. So is Dain. Both are created anew in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for them to do.
That’s the foundation Paul has laid when he writes verse 11. He transitions with the word "therefore." Another way to understand him would be to say, "Since you are blessed and Jesus is your only goal and you are new creations, remember…"
Keep in mind that this book was written for an audience more like Curran than Dain. The Ephesians were primarily Gentile believers. To the Jews, they were second-class citizens. When they were called "the uncircumcised" by the Jewish believers, it was meant to be derogatory. Now I’m certain that nobody has been so calloused as to call Curran names, but you can understand how he might have felt second-rate in his spiritual seeking if he heard us refer to him as "the lost", or an "unbeliever," or worse yet, the "heathen." Now even if he never heard these terms, or if he heard them and was able to realize that those were not meant to be derogatory, he still has this battle that comes by the recognizable differences between his life and Dain’s and others who have followed Christ for a long time.
It’s hard to be new to the church and not feel like you don’t measure up.
So Paul draws on a theme to point out that there is no kingdom difference between Dain and Curran. He started the theme in verse 3 of chapter 2, saying that all of us lived to gratify the cravings of our sinful nature—that is, the flesh. What he will demonstrate is that it is not what we see in the flesh that makes us his. Our visible accomplishments are not what set us apart.