What Does Ephesians 2:11 Mean?

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands--

Ephesians 2:11(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

When we are positioned in Christ and united with Him by faith, we received all we needed for life and godliness. We are given God's sufficient grace and His supernatural strength through the indwelling Spirit of Christ, Who causes us to be victorious in our journey through life, and enables us to be triumphant in every situation we meet.

When we were saved by grace through faith in Christ, we were transferred from Satan's kingdom into the family of God and accepted into the bosom of the Father. At redemption, we were made part of God's new creation-in-Christ, and the list of benefits we are given reach into the eternity of eternities. His gifts and graces are far beyond our imagination. But we should never forget where we came from and what we were before salvation. We should never forget to be grateful for all that God has done for us, and live for Him, with a grateful heart and in humility of spirit.

We were born in sin and at enmity with God. We were dead in our sins and without hope in the world. We were condemned sinners who were bound for the fires of hell, and Paul urges us to remember that formerly we were Gentiles in the flesh. Not only were we separated from the camp of Israel, but had an uncircumcised heart. We had not been brought into fellowship with the Father, through faith in His word and trust in His Son. 

Before salvation, we were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, to whom were entrusted the oracles of God and through whom the Saviour of the world was to be born. "You, who were dead in your trespasses and sins have been made alive by God," Paul reminds us. 'Remember that formerly you were Gentiles.. in the flesh. Originally you were unsaved - estranged from God and walking according to the course of this world'.

There is a time in the life of every man when we have an uncircumcised heart, and Paul is reminding these believers, in Ephesus, that formerly... as Gentiles in the flesh - i.e. unsaved people, they were labelled as 'The Uncircumcised', by people who proudly called themselves 'The Circumcision'. However, Paul identified these Jews as "the so-called-circumcised", because their circumcised flesh was not reflected in a circumcised heart, that trusted God.

Israel had been given the sign of circumcision as a reminder of the covenant God made with their forefather. Abraham. As God's chosen people they were to walk in His way and obey His word. Gentiles should always remember that it was through the nation of Israel that the Messiah was born, and it was through Israel that the Scriptures were given. However, the so-called-circumcised - the Jews, incorrectly considered themselves to be spiritually superior to the rest of humanity, because of the sign in their flesh. They thought they were automatically saved from the slave-market of sin, because of their unique, covenant relationship with God - their circumcision. But this was not the case.

Throughout their history, Gentiles were despised by Jews and considered as dogs and outcasts. Because Gentiles did not have the outward sign of circumcision in their flesh, they were disparagingly referred to as 'The Uncircumcised". Israel were proud of their covenant sign, and many Old Testament passages demonstrate a deep contempt of Gentiles. One such example was, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine," was David's scornful comment concerning Goliath!

However, Paul wanted these believers to understand that it is not the circumcision of the flesh that honours the Lord, but a circumcision of the HEART...  And when Israel rebelled against the Lord, the prophets accused them of being uncircumcised in their heart... because they were following after other gods. A true Jew is not only circumcised in the flesh but one whose heart is also circumcised - through faith.

Paul was not promoting circumcision. He was pointing out that before salvation, both Jews and Gentiles have an uncircumcised heart, irrespective of whether the flesh of the foreskin has been cut. We are justified by faith and not by circumcision. It is not the cutting of the flesh that designates one's spiritual standing before God, but the condition of the heart. An uncircumcised Gentile can have a circumcised heart that honours the Lord, while a circumcised Jew can be uncircumcised in the heart because of proud, unbelief.

By referring to Jews as "the so-called circumcision", Paul was making it clear that the cutting of their flesh did not designate spirituality or salvation, and urged Gentile believers not to fall into the same prideful trap. NOTHING we can do in the flesh can elevate us in the eyes of God. Circumcision is nothing, and neither is non-circumcision. Jews have nothing to boast in their circumcision, while Gentiles have nothing to boast in their uncircumcision! The ONLY thing that affords salvation and pleases God is a heart belief in Him. The ONLY thing in which we can boast is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Paul urged the Gentile Christians in Ephesus to "remember that formerly they were called "The Uncircumcision" by the 'so-called' Circumcision - which is performed in the flesh by human hands". It appears that the Jewish 'pot' was calling the Gentile 'kettle' black! Neither the Jew nor the Gentile can boast in their former condition, for salvation is not a matter of circumcision OR uncircumcision. It is a matter of faith - a circumcised HEART.

During Christ's ministry, He told his disciples not to rejoice that they could heal the sick or cast our demons. They were to rejoice that their names were written in heaven. In like manner, neither Jews and Gentiles should boast in their heritage, circumcision or non-circumcision. Rather, we are to rejoice that our names are recorded in the Lamb's book of Life.

It was necessary for the Ephesians to recall their unregenerate condition prior to salvation... for it brings into sharper focus ALL that Christ has done for us. Without HIM we would all remain dead in our sin. Without His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, we would be totally alienated from God - condemned sinner bound for the Lake of Fire.

In consideration of all that Christ has done for us, we are called to remember our unregenerate condition before we were redeemed. We are to reflect on our status as sinners, with a fallen nature We are to remind ourselves of the miserable state we were in, prior to our conversion. We are being called to recall the sorry state that existed before we were redeemed, when we were totally alienated from the Lord.

May we NEVER hold Christ's sacrifice for us lightly nor try to identify things in our life that we consider make us worthy of our salvation! May we never place importance on the ministry to which we are called, the study we have done, our past heritage, current achievements or spiritual gifts - for ALL that we are and all that we have is given to us from above. WE ALL need to remember that formerly we were dead in our sin and estranged from the Father... but by God's grace, through faith in Christ, have been made children of God and imputed with Christ's righteousness... through time and into eternity. PRAISE His Holy Name.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times when I have elevated myself above others, who may not have the same heritage, background or understanding that I have been granted. Thank You for making me who I am, and thank You that every member in the body of Christ is equally important to You and each has his own specific role to play. As I remember... that formerly I was dead in my sins, at enmity with God... with an uncircumcised heart and without hope in the world - I praise and thank You for the work You have done in MY life. Keep me humble before You and low at the cross - in Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.

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