Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22
The Apostle Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. He makes that clear in many passages in the New Testament. One of the issues that had to be often addressed in his ministry was the relationship between Jewish believers and Gentiles. The Ephesian church had this problem of a division among the believers over the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
The previous section of Scripture ended with the marvelous truth that we are the workmanship of the Father, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which the Father prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Now Paul, as Peter did on occasion, makes a strong statement to remember something. What we are to remember is that we Gentiles were separated from Christ, alienated from Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise and consequently having no hope and without God in the world. Without Israel, we would be in big trouble for it is through Israel that God brought us the covenants of promise through which we are saved. We would not have the Abrahamic covenant that is the promise of righteousness by faith alone. We would not have the Mosaic covenant by which we learn of God’s righteous standards for living life successfully. We would not have the Davidic covenant through which we learn of our forever righteous King who reigns forever and forever.
The church today is primarily a Gentile church. Today there are approximately 2.26 billion Christians in the world of 7.3 billion human beings. It is the largest religion in the world. The physical descendants of Abraham in the church has to be very small compared to the whole. I don’t suppose there is a way to know just how many there are. But Paul tells us to remember our pre-Jesus history and the contrasting heritage that God granted to us by grace in Christ.
The Old Covenant promises were that Israel would be God’s people and he would be their God. In their midst was the dwelling place of God. During their wanderings, it was the tent of meeting. Eventually, in the land, Solomon built a temple for God to dwell in (even though he doesn’t dwell in buildings made by men). Paul winds up this section of the letter to the Ephesians to make clear to this church that has made the two, Jews and Gentiles, one, that in Christ we Jews and Gentiles are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The takeaway? We Gentiles who have a heritage of separation from God have been brought near by the blood of Christ and along with our fellow Jewish people of faith in Christ are being built into what will be the eternal dwelling place of God. We are both individually indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and when we gather in holy gatherings in his name, Jesus is with us in our midst. I believe this means there is a special presence of the omnipresent God when Jesus’ followers gather in his name. No wonder we are exhorted not to forsake the assembling together of the church. Jesus is there in a special way whether it is a small gathering of four or five in someone’s living room or thousands in a mega-church worship service. He is there with his special presence. We are his dwelling place by the Spirit.