|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:11-13 Christ and his covenant are the foundation of all the Christian's hopes. A sad and terrible description is here; but who is able to remove himself out of it? Would that this were not a true description of many baptized in the name of Christ. Who can, without trembling, reflect upon the misery of a person, separated for ever from the people of God, cut off from the body of Christ, fallen from the covenant of promise, having no hope, no Saviour, and without any God but a God of vengeance, to all eternity? To have no part in Christ! What true Christian can hear this without horror? Salvation is far from the wicked; but God is a help at hand to his people; and this is by the sufferings and death of Christ.
Verses 11-22. - CONTRAST BETWEEN PAST AND THE PRESENT. Verse 11. - Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh. The practical tenor of the apostle's teaching is indicated by his "wherefores." He is always gathering up his views into some lesson. They are to "remember" the change between the past and the present - what they were by nature, and what they had become by grace. This is most useful to all, even though the contrast between the two be not so vivid as in the case of Paul and the Ephesians. The contrast is indicated in various particulars, both of outward condition and of inward privilege and character. First, the old condition. They were "Gentiles in respect of the flesh" - not bearing on their bodies the mark of the Israel of God, therefore not marked out for blessing, not apparently near it. Who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands. Nicknamed, as it were, Uncircumcision by those who in a fleshly or mechanical, but not always in the true spiritual sense (comp. Romans 2:28, 29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11), were called Circumcision; they had a name which denoted the very opposite of that given to God's people - another illustration of their apparent distance from blessing; they revolved round the sun, as it were, not in the nearer orbits of planets warmed, brightened, and beautified by the solar beams, but in the outermost ring of all - like the cold, dark orbit of Uranus or Neptune, which the sunbeams hardly reach to lighten or to warm.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Wherefore remember, that ye be in time past Gentiles in the flesh,.... This, with what follows in the next verse, the apostle puts the converted Ephesians in mind of, in order to magnify the grace of God in their conversion; and to humble them in a view of their former state and condition; and to teach them that they could never be saved by any works of theirs: particularly he would have them call to mind, that they were in "time past Gentiles"; which does not so much regard the nation and country they were of, for in that sense they were Gentiles still; but their state and condition; they had been very blind and ignorant, were Gentiles that knew not God; they had been very wicked and profligate sinners of the Gentiles; and they had been "Gentiles in the flesh": not according to the flesh, or by birth, for so they were then; but in the time of their unregeneracy they were carnal, and minded the things of the flesh, walked after it, and fulfilled the lusts, and did the works of it; particular respect seems to be had to their uncircumcision in the flesh, to which circumcision in the flesh is opposed in the next clause:
who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that is, they were by way of reproach and contempt called uncircumcised persons; than whom none were more abominable to the Jews, and hated by them, who were called circumcised persons from that circumcision which is outward, in the flesh, in a particular part of the body; and which is done by the hands of a man, who was called "the circumciser"; which any one might be, except a Gentile (u); an Israelite adult and skilful was preferred; yet these were not circumcised persons with that circumcision that is inward, and is of the heart, in the Spirit, and is made without the hands of men, and by the Spirit and power of God.
(u) Maimon. Hilchot Milah, c. 2. sect. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. The Greek order in the oldest manuscripts is, "That in time past (literally, once) ye," &c. Such remembrance sharpens gratitude and strengthens faith (Eph 2:19) [Bengel].
Gentiles in the flesh—that is, Gentiles in respect to circumcision.
called Uncircumcision—The Gentiles were called (in contempt), and were, the Uncircumcision; the Jews were called, but were not truly, the Circumcision [Ellicott].
in the flesh made by hands—as opposed to the true "circumcision of the heart in the Spirit, and not the letter" (Ro 2:29), "made without the hands in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col 2:11).
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