During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 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, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:14–18).
Beautifully, Christ has killed the hostility, breaking down the wall of division by His blood. Gentiles can now be brought near by His blood. There is no level of divide Christ cannot heal. We rejoice. The wall has been dealt with. But how did Jesus break down that wall? Paul mentions three ways.
First, Christ abolished the ceremonial law.
On the surface, Paul’s statement seems to be at odds with the words of Christ, for Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). So how do we reconcile Jesus with Paul’s statement here, that Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances? It is the word “ordinances” which helps us. Jesus did not come to abolish the moral or prophetic law of God. The ten commandments, for example, are reiterated in the New Testament. The prophetic plan of God is still unfolding. The moral and prophetic law has not been cast aside.
But Jesus did come to abolish the ceremonial law of God. We no longer go a physical temple in Jerusalem for the worship of God. Those are the “ordinances” Paul is referring to. In Colossians, a companion letter to Ephesians, Paul writes, “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. These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). Circumcision, dietary restrictions, and festal calendars were done away with by the cross of Christ. The ceremonial law had, in human hands, aided the division of the nations, becoming an impediment to the gospel. Christ came and abolished it, removing it as an obstacle to faith.
Second, Christ created a new humanity.
The statement Paul makes is striking — “one new man in place of the two.” Now, at our conversion, we become born again, new creatures before Christ. Saving faith is personal, for we become a new person. But Paul is not talking of individual newness here. He is not speaking of a new person, but new people. He is not talking about a new individual, but a new race, for a new humanity has been created in Jesus Christ.
This new humanity is reconciled with a primal unity for one another. In other words, our depth of unity with this new humanity, the church, actually runs deeper than the unity we feel towards our biological families and ancestry. Blood is not the only connection in the new humanity, because we are connected via the Spirit of God. All inequality is abolished. We are a new people in Christ Jesus.
Third, Christ made one simple path towards a peaceful relationship with God.
He Himself is our peace (14). He made peace (15). And He preached peace after His resurrection, through His apostles, and through His church (17). The way to peace is uniform, by His blood. There is not a Jewish path and a separate Gentile path. We come to Him the same way. We are granted the same access in one Spirit to the Father. Since we are reconciled the same way, given the same peace, and with the same quality of relationship with God, the hostility is over.
Only Christ could make such extensive and thorough peace. Only He could provide a way for unity. The divisions humanity hurts over can only be healed and remedied in Him.