Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11)

Wherefore remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

The relationship between Jews and Gentiles has always been a complicated one. Even in Biblical times, it was unfortunately characterized by hostility and mistrust. The early church began as Jewish, but soon many Gentiles joined its ranks. As you can imagine, this caused its share of problems. Paul evidently felt the need to address this issue. He now opens a section dedicated to the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church.

The word “wherefore” points to the previous paragraph. Paul is basically saying, “in light of all the things that God has done, never forget from where you came and from what God has saved you.”

The term “Gentile” is the Greek word “ethnos.” Its basic meaning is “a multitude of people of the same nature.” It’s often translated as “nation” or “nations.” In our context here, it refers to anyone who isn’t a Jew. The believers in Ephesus were mostly Gentiles.

Circumcision was commanded by God to the Israelite nation to be a physical sign of belonging to the Jewish people. Still today, all Jewish baby boys are circumcised on their eighth day of life. Unfortunately, the Jews began viewing it as a sign of superior spirituality. They made the same mistake that many people make: they thought that a religious symbol was enough to make a person accepted by God. 

The Ephesian believers, being Gentiles, were called “the uncircumcision” by the Jews. This nickname was a term of derision. But Paul has no sympathy for his fellow-countrymen. The words “that which is called” could be translated “the so-called.” We see what he truly thinks about them. They may call themselves “the circumcised,” but as far as Paul is concerned, they aren’t. The reason? Their circumcision was purely physical; it only affected their bodies but had no impact on their hearts.

As we continue reading through this section, we will more clearly see God’s plan for Jew and Gentile alike.

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