One in Christ
“For he himself… has made us one…” (Ephesians 2:14)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:11-16
There is a definite shift in Paul’s focus in the 11th verse of Ephesians 2. Having attempted to broaden his readers’ appreciation of the riches of the gospel (Ephesians 1:15-2:10), he now reminds them of their new status as members together with the Jews of God’s people.
He begins by calling upon his readers – whom he addresses as those who were called “the uncircumcision” (Gentiles) by those who were “circumcised according to the flesh” (Jews)– to “remember” their former condition. As Gentiles, they were “separated from Christ” – they had no part in the hope and blessings of the promised Messiah of Israel – they were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (2:11-12).
This is the dismal state they were in before the gospel came to them. It was not that they were excluded from the promises connected with the coming Jewish Messiah, but as long as they remained in their ignorance and idolatry they were totally cut off from participating in the life of God’s people. They had no place in the “commonwealth of Israel,” had no right to claim the “covenants of promise,” had no hope, and they were without the true God as their God.
But all of this changed with the coming of Christ and the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. Now, as they came through faith to be included “in” Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13), they were in a totally new state. Those who were once “far off” (from God and all the blessings Israel enjoyed) have now been “brought near”. They are now, as we shall see later in these verses, “no longer strangers and aliens,” but are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (v. 19).
Believing Jew and Gentile are now truly one, and it has all come about through the flesh and blood of Christ. On the cross, as he dealt with the penalty of human sin, Jesus made peace both between humans and God and between Jews and Gentiles. Peoples who had once despised each other were now one – God’s new people in Christ.
Jesus did this, Paul continues, by breaking down “the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (vs. 14-15). This refers to the ritual worship of the Jews, viewed so sacred by them as to be forbidden territory to Gentiles. True, there was a “court of the Gentiles” in the Jewish temple, but the dividing wall between the courts marked the radical separation between the two peoples. Here Paul refers to it as a “dividing wall of hostility”.
By fulfilling all the ordinances connected with Israel’s worship, Jesus forever took away (or broke down) that dividing wall. And in doing so, he established the possibility of people of all ethnic groups becoming the one people of God.
This is the blessing we enjoy today, a blessing that never be taken for granted.
- Do you really feel part of God’s people?
- Do you thank Jesus for removing all barriers to being members of his household?
– Andrew Young