“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.”
In my last blog post, we covered Ephesians 2: 11-12, where Paul reminds us of what we were when we were without Christ. Now, in these next verses, we get another of the wonderful phrases that saves us. Verse 13 starts with “But now in Christ Jesus…” Just as back in verse 4, where we get the wonderful, “But God…” we see it again. I am so thankful that despite our sinfulness, God has saved us!
This passage starts with, “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Those who were far away are the Gentiles. It is all of us who are not Jews. Because of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, we all have the same access to God the Father.
The second verse starts with “For he is our peace.” What is peace? Miriam Webster says “1) a state of tranquility or quiet such as: a) freedom from civil disturbance b) a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom 2) freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions 3) harmony in personal relations 4) a state or period of mutual concord between governments. “ None of these definitions truly describe peace. They are all a temporary peace. The only true peace is defined in Ephesians. It is in Christ. Ray Stedman, in his commentary on this passage, writes, ”And when Christ Jesus makes peace… between individuals or between nations…that peace will be a satisfying, permanent, and genuine peace.”
The next two verses go on to explain this in more detail. He made both groups one by tearing down the dividing wall of hostility. In the last post, I described the temple walls that separated the Gentiles from the Jews and also from God. When Paul wrote this letter, those walls were still standing and still excluding the Gentiles from worshipping at the temple. The temple wasn’t destroyed until 70 AD when the Roman soldiers invaded. But spiritually, the wall was destroyed when Jesus died on the cross 40 years earlier. Armitage Robinson, the English theologian of the early 20th century wrote about the wall in his book on Ephesians. “It still stood: but it was already antiquated, obsolete, out of date, so far as its spiritual meaning went. The sign still stood: but the thing the thing signified was broken down.”
We need to remember our former alienation so that we can remember how wonderful the grace is that has brought us together. Now all of us, whether Jew or Gentile, can access God in the same way. It is through faith in Christ crucified alone. But we must take that step of faith. Stott says, “It is not a universal reconciliation that Christ achieved or that Paul proclaimed: it is rather a nearness to God and to each other gratefully experienced by those who are near Christ, indeed ‘in’ him in a vital, personal union.” I think that a mistake that many make both in the church and out is that we will all be saved. That is not what the Bible teaches nor is it what Jesus taught. I covered some of those verses in previous blogs, so I will not go over them again here.
Stott also writes in his book, “Divisiveness is a constant characteristic of every community without Christ.” We are especially seeing this today. There has been a concerted effort in the last few years to divide us- by race, by class, by gender, whatever! We are even seeing this creep into the church. This is nothing new. Paul was writing about this 2000 years ago! Colossians 3: 11 says, “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free so but Christ is all and in all.” Galatians 3:28 states “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So while divisiveness is a characteristic of those outside the church, unity should be the characteristic of those in the church. Paul writes in verse 15 that Christ might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. Paul is not referring to a literal new man but a new human race united by Christ Jesus in himself. Stott says, “for although potentially the single new humanity was created when Jesus abolished the divisive law on the cross, it actually comes into existence and grows only by personal union with himself.” Early Christians recognized that they were one new man embracing all who were in Jesus. Paul uses the analogy of a body many times in his letters (see Romans 12, 1, Corinthians 12 Ephesians 4, Colossians 1) to describe the church.
The way Christ did this uniting of the Jew and the Gentile was to make no effect of the law which consisted of commands and was expressed in regulations. When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled the law. David Guzek, in his commentary on these verses writes, “The work of Jesus on the cross is the common ground of salvation for both the Jew and the Gentile.” Some might ask, but what about Matthew 5:17? Jesus says,” Don’t think I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I did not come to abolish but fulfill.” Jesus is referring here to moral law. The Pharisees had made following the law a matter of rules and Jesus was telling his followers it was a matter of the heart. Paul’s reference here seems to be about the ceremonial law; circumcision, dietary laws, rules about ritual ‘cleanness’ and ‘uncleanness’- rules that created a barrier between Jews and Gentiles. When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled all the types and shadows of the Old Testament ceremonial system. Hebrews 9 is a good chapter to read for further explanation. We may think that this does not pertain to us today because we don’t have the same barriers as the Jews and Gentiles did back then. I think that Guzek goes on to express it perfectly for today. “The wall of separation is gone because the common Lordship is greater than any previous division. If the Lordship of Jesus Christ is not greater than any difference you have with others- be it political, racial, economic, language, geography, or whatever, then you have not fully understood what it means to be under the Lordship of Jesus.”
That was a lot of information for three verses! My takeaway from these is that the church should look different than the world. Because of the work Christ did on the cross, he has made us one body. He is our peace! We should be reflecting that to the world.
Grace be with you!