As we continue our study of the book of Ephesians, I want to discuss this week and next what it means for us individually, and as the Church, to be the Dwelling Place of God. I find it astounding that the Lord would choose to indwell humanity considering how prone to mistakes and failure we are!
As I’ve shared the last two weeks, our new birth in Christ positions us in the righteousness of Christ. The shed blood of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit has achieved this. We are now spiritually united with Christ and have become the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:17).
Through Christ, we are recreated as God’s masterpiece, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and raised with Christ in His heavenly realms.
We died with Him (our old nature died)—we were raised with Him (spiritually made alive)—we spiritually ascended with Him (enthroned with Him in His victory). Many refer to what Jesus has done for us as His finished work.
The finished work of Christ is an important concept. We are resting in what Christ finished, what He has done for us. His grace not only “saves” us, but His grace, due to His finished work, “empowers” us.
For Paul, this was not an abstract, theological position in Christ. It was a redemptive truth that became an internal reality for him. We are saved by God’s grace, and we are empowered by His Spirit to live from a place of new life in Christ. As we abide in Him and obey His Word, all things become possible with God!
We can be His disciple-makers. We can be laborers in His harvest. We can preach the gospel, pray for the sick, and help free the oppressed—because The Greater One is working in and through us!
Our spiritual progress is affected by our understanding of our union with Christ and how effective His finished work is for us. A person who knows they are united to Christ in His ascension lives, acts and functions differently. They pray with confidence from heaven. They understand this resurrection power is available for their daily use.
Autoimmune Disease Healed
Last week, the Lord reminded me of a young woman who had a debilitating autoimmune disease whom my wife and I and others prayed for. After hearing from others that we prayed for the sick at our church, she and her mother came to a church service believing Jesus would heal her. She came in a wheelchair wanting to be free of the disease and the wheelchair.
We earnestly prayed for her, knowing our position and authority in Christ. She was able to get out of the wheelchair after prayer and begin to walk again, although struggling at first. Two weeks later, my wife and I saw this young woman, who was a senior in high school at the time, rollerblading in the park with her boyfriend! God had healed her after believers prayed! Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8)! She has been married for several years now and has five beautiful children. You have resurrection prayer power attached to your life as a born-again believer in Christ; His Spirit lives within you! Live from the reality of the finished work of Christ within you.
His Dwelling Place—Eph. 2:11-22
Gentiles Included Through Christ
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:11-13 NIV)
To illustrate what God has done with Gentiles and Jews, let me share a story about two rivers merging. Several years ago, I was on a ministry trip to a large church in Manaus, Brazil. This church in Manaus was near two enormous rivers, the Amazon and Negro.
By the way, the meetings at this church of thousands in the Amazon of Brazil were powerful. Many people came to Christ and received healing during our time there. One woman was miraculously healed of a cancerous tumor in her abdomen during one of the meetings. One minute, she had a tumor and cancer, and the next minute—after receiving prayer from two ladies—the tumor was on the floor! Her doctor later declared she was cancer free!
We did a river cruise while in Manaus and saw the merging of the Amazon and Negro rivers. The Negro River was dark, and distinct when it merged with the clearer waters of the Amazon River. But after a couple of miles downstream, the two rivers became one current and color. Now, it was again just the Amazon River.
For my illustration related to this passage concerning Jews and Gentiles, the wide Amazon River represents the Gentiles—the non-Jewish nations stretching across the world and back in time, Greece, Rome, etc. The smaller Negro River is the single family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or the “family or community of Israel.” Now, in God’s divine order, the two rivers have become one in the confluence of Jesus the Messiah, yet carrying the covenant promises God made with Israel in the Church. A new covenant, where neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail, only Christ!
Why Was Circumcision Such an Issue?
Paul begins by discussing the distinction between Jews and Gentiles based on circumcision, a hot topic between Paul and the Jews since his conversion. The issue caused a special meeting to take place in Jerusalem at the completion of Paul’s first missionary journey with Barnabas, after experiencing success among the Gentiles in Galatia. The decision of the early Church was that there was nothing wrong with Paul’s spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised in order to be Christians (see Acts 15).
Why would the Lord make circumcision a sign of His covenant with man? The “flesh” is often a metaphor for the carnal nature in Scripture; circumcision, then, was a symbol that said for man to be joined to the Lord in covenant, the carnal nature had to be cut away.
Circumcision for a Jew was a mark of God’s covenant and points to the future removal of our sinful nature in Christ (Rom. 6:6)
Paul argues in his letters that a Christian is one who has the true “circumcision” because we worship by the Spirit, glory in Christ, and put no confidence in any work of the flesh.
John Wesley, in his sermon “The Circumcision of the Heart,” stated,
“The distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ, of one who is in a state of acceptance with God, is not either outward circumcision, or baptism, or any other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit renewed after the image of Him that created it.… It is that habitual disposition of the soul, which, in the sacred writings, is termed holiness; and which directly implies the being cleansed from sin, “from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit;” and, by consequence the being endued with those virtues which were also in Christ Jesus; the being so “renewed in the spirit of our mind,” as to be “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.”
Paul would write to the Gentile believers in Galatia, who were being told by Jewish believers from Jerusalem that they needed to be circumcised after accepting Christ. Paul’s response was his letter to the Galatians refuting this. He states:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 NIV)
As Gentiles, you once were a stranger to the covenant promises given to Israel. You had no hope and were without God—not any longer. Through Jesus, you have been brought into covenant promise through the blood of Christ. The Good News of the Gospel is that everyone is welcome and has hope through Jesus!
Scholar and author, Tom Wright, discusses how Gentiles were considered nonbelievers and atheists before Christ:
“Paul, quite remarkably, describes them in their former state as having no God: the word he uses in verse 12 is the word from which we get our word ‘atheists’. This is ironic because that’s what Gentiles used to call Jews, and then came to call Christians, as well, since neither Jews nor Christians had statues of their gods. Neither, so far as the Gentile eye could see, offered animal sacrifice, consulted oracles, nor did any of the other things that pagans associated with the worship of their gods. Paul, boldly standing on the same ground as Jewish writers of the same period, declares that the pagan gods are actually non-gods. Those who think they worship them are worshipping something that doesn’t really exist.” 
Apart from Christ, we have no hope. In Christ, we are filled with hope! Our hope in Christ influences the world around us. Jesus is the light of the world, and He is shining through His Church into the darkness! Those who infuse hope have the greatest influence—we have great influence!
Christ is our Peace
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Eph. 2:14-18 NIV)
Jesus is our peace, our unifier! Two reasons: 1.) God made the two one, and 2.) He removed the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile.
First, God made the two one. During the Middle Ages, a practice known as alchemy was developed by people who believed they could mix various elements together and create gold. Chrysostom, an early Church father, saw a type of alchemy in this union—not as Gentiles becoming Jews, but as both Jews and Gentiles becoming something better than they were before. It was as if God had mixed lead and silver and created gold. Paul believed God’s purpose was to create… one new man out of the two (Eph. 2:15). This alchemy of God is the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor. 12:13 CEB; see also Gal. 3:26–29).
This oneness is the fulfillment of the “mystery” Paul claims was entrusted to him (Eph. 1:9) as he explains in Ephesians 3:6 NIV, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” 
God, by the Spirit, draws all people: every race, language, and culture. He is making one new man from the two, ultimately making peace. Covenant promises given to Abraham and Jewish people are now available to all people through Jesus.
Paul states this clearly, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29 NKJV).
Second, God destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. The Temple in Jerusalem was constructed with a number of courtyards. The outermost court was known as the Court of the Gentiles, which was the only area Gentiles were allowed to enter. Further into the Temple was the Inner Temple area, raised slightly higher than the Court of the Gentiles and surrounded by a Balustrade (barrier railing). Signs on this wall were written in both Greek and Latin, warning all Gentiles that no one could guarantee their safety against death if they entered the Inner Temple. The Gentiles were allowed to come into proximity with God, but they were never allowed to get close like the Jews. Gentiles normally entering this outer court were known as “God Fearers” (sebomai). These were men who expressed an interest in serving Israel’s God, but who were unwilling to be circumcised or observe other regulations of the faith.
Paul, as a Jew, knew that what was decided in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council was the fulfillment of prophecy. In Acts 15:16-17, James refers to Amos 9:11-12 and the restoration of David’s tabernacle—worship yes, but the ingathering of all people.
Isaiah declares this ingathering of Gentiles,
“I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isa. 56:7 NLT)
God gathers all people as one in Christ through the work of the Spirit. All races, cultures, and socioeconomic positions—a beautiful tapestry! Churches should not be divided along these lines, but united.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 when He drove the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem, “My house shall be a house of prayer (worship) for all nations.” All are welcome!
Jesus was inclusive, but not affirmational. He welcomed people, but He did not affirm their sin. He practiced transformational inclusiveness.
The woman caught in adultery in John 8 was loved, forgiven, and included, but her sin was not affirmed by Jesus, He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
John Wesley once said, “All approved, few profit.” All are welcome, and all are accepted and loved by Christ, but not all profit from His gift of forgiveness and grace. Continual surrender to His Lordship and leading is required to grow in Christ.
The Lord showed me last Sunday a beautiful, banqueting table. Many different types of food and people were at this table. He reminded me, “All are welcome; no one is excluded.” That said, we are to come as we are to Christ, but recognize that the Spirit will do a deeper work, beginning with the conviction of sin, to draw us close to God and begin the process of transformation in our lives.
God is creating in the Church a dwelling place for His glory. We are being fitted together as living stones so that a dwelling of His Spirit could be attained. His Church, His Bride, will be without spot or wrinkle!
Jesus is transforming us and His Church into a dwelling place of His glory. We are becoming a dwelling place consecrated to Him and committed to each other in love and by the power of the Spirit.
I’ll continue this discussion next week with His Dwelling Place, Part 2.
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “His Dwelling Place”:
 Mark A. Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997), 82.
 Rick Joyner, A Message to the Glorious Church, Vol. 1 (Wilkesboro, NC: MorningStar Publications, 2004), 63.
 Mark A. Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997), 82. Wesley, vol. 5, pp. 202–3.
 Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 26.
 Mark A. Holmes, Ephesians: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997), 84.