|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 19
Meditation Title: Made One
Eph 2:14,15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
In our previous meditation we noted how Paul was emphasising yet another wonder of our salvation that we, who are not Jews by birth, have nevertheless been ‘brought near' so that we too enter into the wonder of being God's children. When we come to verse 14 we note yet another link word making this just part of the ongoing flow of Paul's thinking. “For he himself is our peace.” linking up with “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (2:13). In that previous verse note that it is all because we are “in Christ” (our position) and because of what Christ has done: “through the blood of Christ.” Now, says Paul in our present verse, this is all because Christ is our means of peace with God. By dealing with our Sin, Jesus has taken away the cause of God's anger (2:3c) and therefore we have peace with God.
Now Paul goes back an emphasizes the Jew and Gentile significance: “who has made the two one.” Previously there had been two sorts of people – Jew and Gentile, and the Jews were the ones with a relationship with the Lord. But now that is not the distinction as far as heaven is concerned. As far as God is concerned both people groups have been made one because salvation through Jesus comes to both and is the same for both. A Jew is not saved any differently. They still have the same problem (of Sin) and the means of dealing with it is just the same (Christ's death). Put another way though, what is true for the Jew is now also true for the Gentile.
But see how Paul expands on this: “who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Previously there had been a barrier between Jew and Gentile, but now that has been removed. There had been a dividing wall made up of the hostility of the two peoples. The Jews looked down on the rest of the world because they alone were the people of God, and the Gentiles were hostile against the Jews because of their claim to uniqueness. But now that claim to uniqueness has been removed because, as we've already said, what was true for Jew was now also true for Gentile.
Paul continues to explain why this is so: “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.” When he speaks of Jesus' ‘flesh' he means his body on the Cross. Prior to the Cross the Jews had relied upon keeping all of God's commandments and regulations (the Law) for their righteousness. This was why the Pharisees of Jesus' day were so intent at categorizing the Law and making sure everyone adhered to it. By doing their best at keeping this Law, they saw themselves as righteous, but yet they could still be godless and self-centred, even while they kept the rules, for the rules simply became a way to achieve self-righteousness but that is not real righteousness and so they were will guilty of Sin. No, keeping the rules did not make you righteous and so all men, Gentile and Jew were in fact still guilty before God. Thus the Cross came to deal with all Sin, whether in Gentile or Jew. Salvation was now through faith, through belief in Jesus atoning work on the Cross.
Paul continues this in the back part of verse 15: “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” (v.15b) God is concerned to make all men and women His children, to open the way for anyone from wherever they come, to enter into relationship with Him so. Although it seemed like there had been two ‘men' or people – Jew and Gentile, those with a relationship and those without a relationship with God – now God had made just one ‘man' or one people, all who come into relationship with Him from whatever background, so that, “in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (v.16). Yes, it doesn't matter whether you come from a Jewish or Gentile background, salvation (reconciliation) comes to all peoples through the Cross, which means God has killed off any grounds for hostility between the two people groups, even though people today, Jew AND Gentile, still perpetuate this division, but this is because they, from either side, remain ungodly and refuse God's means of salvation, His Son, Jesus.
Paul continues, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (v.17) God's message of salvation came to declare peace to the Gentiles who seemed far away from any possibility of a relationship with God, AND to the Jews who appeared to have a form of relationship with Him already, although it was not a heart relationship but one of rule-following. Thus Paul concludes, “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (v.18) This is the end result: whether we are Jew or Gentile in background. Because of what Jesus has done on the Cross, we all have the same access to God as His children and we are all indwelt and live and are led by the same Holy Spirit.
So, we may see a distinct people living on the earth today called the Jews, many living in Israel, many living elsewhere, but as far as God is concerned, although He may yet use them to reveal Himself to the world, the reality is that they too have to come to God through Jesus Christ, just like Gentiles have to. The outward appearance is now irrelevant, even though many would try to perpetuate the difference. Every human being is to be saved the same way, God's way, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Being religious, trying to keep the rules, always falls short and so all still have the same need of salvation. They and we may pretend otherwise but the Scriptural record is quite clear. We are one when it comes to our need and we are one when it comes to how we receive salvation.