Ephesians 2:13-16 “But now in Christ, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 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. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
Being a member of a Christian church isn’t like shopping for something you want at Walmart or going to the theater to watch a movie. We may do these things our whole lives without personally knowing the people at the cash register.
Being part of the church involves us in its own set of human relationships. Paul points us to that relationship here. It is based on our shared peace with God, a peace only Christ can establish for us.
At one time there was no peace, no real peace, for the people to whom Paul wrote the book of Ephesians. The non-Jews, or Gentiles, had been “far away.” They were far away from God and from his people. They had a nasty attitude toward Jews, feelings which the Jews returned. This arose from what Paul calls “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
Its source was the Law which God had given to the Jews on Mount Sinai. The Lord had intended it to keep the Jews a separate nation. He wanted to spare them the idolatry of the nations around them. But it was never intended as an excuse for hatred between Jews and non-Jews.
The Jews may have been God’s chosen people, but sometimes they became a little smug about the special covenant God had given them. The Gentiles mocked the moral principles God’s law represented and ridiculed the Israelites for keeping it. It seemed silly to deny themselves all the pleasures pious Israelites lived without. There was little peace in the relationship between Jews and Gentiles.
People still take sides on the issues raised by God’s law, though the divide falls less along ethnic lines. Knowing the Bible inside and out is a praiseworthy goal for Christians. God commands us to practice godly morals. Let those outside the church criticize faithful Christians for their faith and values. That does not excuse us for spiritual snobbery. Our same Biblical principles call for a life of humility and love.
The source of the problem does not lie so much in the relationship with each other. It is the relationship with the Lord. That was the problem for the people to whom Paul wrote. Self-righteous Israelites had a hypocritical, “just-for-show” relationship with God. Self-absorbed, self-serving Gentiles despised the true God and flaunted it. They were far away from him. They had no real peace.
Only Christ provides this peace, peace which makes us all the people of God. “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Jesus makes peace by creating one new man out of the two. He takes us with our sins, our hostilities, and our factions, and makes us into one new people of God. That is where his cross fits into the equation.
Jews and Gentiles, you and I, could not be God’s people on our own. But Jesus has reconciled us to God through the cross. At the cross Jesus stripped off the ugly sins that covered us and put them on himself. His blood washed away the filth and pollution of hateful, self-centered lives. He dressed us in his own righteous robes. At the cross the Father turns against Jesus with our sins, and he turns to us in love. Jesus reconciles us to God and provides the peace which makes us his people.
As one new people of God, Jesus has brought us peace with each other. That’s not a theological theory to ponder. It is a relationship, a living truth to put into practice.