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.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV)
One of the results of Jesus’ death was He made it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to live in harmony by breaking down that which divides them. There was an actual wall in the Temple in Jerusalem that separated Jews from Gentiles, but Paul is most likely referring to a spiritual “dividing wall” between these two groups of people. In fact, Paul was in prison in Rome at the time he wrote this letter for allegedly bringing a Gentile past this barrier in the Temple [Acts 21:27-36].
In the Old Testament God gave Israel many laws that made them unique – and therefore separate – from everyone else (the Gentiles). God did this in order to draw attention to Israel and, hence, to Himself so that people would know that He was the one and only true God. Up until Jesus went to the cross, Israel was the only conduit to God.
But Israel’s uniqueness lead to problems. Overtime Israel came to look down upon the Gentiles and would have nothing to do with them lest they become defiled. The Gentiles thought the Jews were weird due to the ceremonial rituals they practiced at God’s command.
But, as we all know, when people are different from us, there is animosity and there certainly was animosity between Jews and Gentiles at this time. But Jesus removed those divisions. When Jesus died the ceremonial law died with Him. The entire “law of commandments expressed in ordinances” – the Old Testament ceremonial laws – expired. These laws were only meant to be temporary anyway [Galatians 3:19]. Their purpose was to point out people’s sin and need for a savior [Romans 3:20].
The major theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is what it means to be “in Christ”. This phrase (or similar ones like “in His flesh” and “in Himself”) is used over 30 times. One of the results of being in Christ is that there is now peace available to God’s children as there is nothing to divide us, unless it is of our own making.
Sadly, people are very good at dividing themselves, even within the church. The only way we can have unity with each other is to remember that we are no longer our old selves [Romans 6:6]. We are now “in Christ” and that is the only place where there is peace and harmony.
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