Theme: Paul has shown us how God has united us to Himself — now he’ll show us how Christ has united us to one another by looking at what we were, what Christ did, and what we are today.
Same outline as last week — What we were, what Christ did, and what we are today.
But the focus is different.
- Last week: our relationship with God.
- This week: our relationship with others.
What We Were (2:11-12)
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Circumcision had become the dividing mark.
- God had given circumcision as a simple sign of ownership (Genesis 17).
- Chronological: After faith and righteousness were ushered in (Genesis 15:6).
- Symbolic: Moses / prophets told them to circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16).
The symbol was male-centric, but the spiritual is for all.
- Romans 2:29 (ESV)—29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
At that time, circumcision was not symbolic or covenant affirming, but divisive and a work. Especially for Jews like Paul, the world was divided into two main groups.
5 disadvantages to remember, to think about.
- (1) Separated from Christ: Without the Messiah figure who would save the world.
- (2) Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and (3) strangers to the covenants of promise: Without the rights of the Messiah’s kingdom.
- (4) Having no hope and (5) without God in the world: Without the hope of God’s salvation and, thus, were desperate.
Did God contribute to this alienation?
- People became divided, but God’s almost seems to have furthered the division by choosing Abraham and his descendants.
- Genesis 12:3 (ESV)—3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
- But Israel was God’s delivery system for unity to come back into the human race, and they were to be a unifying force.
- We used to be completely outside God’s program. We are to remember that old reality.
- Deuteronomy 5:15 (ESV)—15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt…
If the Jew-Gentile alienation can be healed, any alienation between people groups can be healed.
What Christ Did (2:13-18)
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
Jesus’ blood levels the field.
- Psalm 22:27 (ESV)—27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
- John 10:16 (ESV)—16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
He does not bring us near geographically (move to Israel), genealogically (become Jewish), nationally (become Israelite), or ceremonially (take on Old Testament Jewish practices). He brings us near through spiritual union with Himself.
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
But how did Jesus break down that wall of hostility? Three ways…
1 — By abolishing the ceremonial law.
Jesus did not come to abolish the moral or prophetic law of God — Matthew 5:17 (ESV)—17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Jesus did abolish the ceremonial law — Paul qualified “law of commandments” with “expressed in ordinances.”
- Colossians 2:16–17 (ESV)—16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
- Religion: circumcision, dietary restrictions, festal calendar, Sabbath regulations.
2 — By creating a new humanity.
Individually, we are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), but Paul does not speak of that here. Not a new person, but a new people. Not a new man, but a new race.
A new humanity has been created in Jesus Christ.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
3 — By making one way to peaceful relationship with God.
We are all reconciled the same way, given the same, peace, and with the same quality of relationship with God today.
Peace progression in this passage.
- He himself is our peace (14).
- He made peace (15).
- He preached peace (17).
Isaiah 57:19 (ESV)—19 “Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord.
Every human being approaches God via the same means: the blood of Jesus Christ.
What We Are (2:19-22)
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
1 — Part of God’s kingdom.
We are in God’s nation. This is the greatest civilization the world will ever know. This has been won for us by Christ.
Philippians 3:20 (ESV)—20 But our citizenship is in heaven…
2 — Part of God’s family.
A new family with a new Father.
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
3 — Part of God’s temple.
Apostles and prophets: This temple is founded on the New Testament teaching. The New Testament (and its teachings) are our founding documents — no additions, subtractions, or modifications.
Cornerstone: This temple has Jesus Christ and His gospel at its core. He keeps us steady and in line. He is indispensable.
Being joined together: This temple is as strong as the individual stones within it.
1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)—5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
A dwelling place for God by the Spirit: This temple’s purpose is the same as the original temple.
Ezekiel 37:27 (ESV) — 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
So Paul has a glorious vision — it is the ideal, but we are working to become united to this ideal.
The church has harbored racism, tribalism, nationalism, and classism. It has endured doctrinal discord, sectarianism, and methodological differences. But we must still work to break through these ugly barriers for the glory of God and His gospel.