Paul, and all the first Christians, were Jews. In other words, they belonged to Israel, Godís special nation, which came from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God made wonderful promises to those men about the future of their family (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:13-21; 22:15-18 and 28:10-14). Christ also belonged to Israel (Romans 9:5).
Most of the Christians in Ephesus, like most Christians today, were Gentiles. A Gentile is any person who does not belong to Israel. The Gentiles have no rights to the promises that God gave to Israel. At the time of Paul, their nations all served false gods.
The mark of the difference between Jews and Gentiles is circumcision. God told Abraham that every male in his family must accept circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14). Circumcision is a minor operation that removes a small piece of skin from the male sex part. That operation is evidence of the special relationship that the Jews have with God.
People from other nations might worry about whether they too can have a relationship with God, without physical circumcision. The answer to that question is in Deuteronomy 30:6, as Paul explains in Romans 2:28-29. The physical operation shows that a person belongs to Israel - but it cannot give anyone a personal relationship with God. We need God to change our hearts, our inner attitudes (Hebrews 8:10). Then we will desire the things that God wants; we will gladly choose to obey God. True circumcision, therefore, means that God has placed his mark, his Holy Spirit, in our hearts (1:13). That can happen to a person from any nation (Matthew 28:19-20). It happens when we turn from our evil deeds to invite Christ into our lives.
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© 2018, Keith Simons.