14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 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, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
In the last post, we explored Paul’s description of our separation from God. Here we will see what Paul taught about the peace of God, obtained through reconciliation.
He Himself is Our Peace
One of the greatest things we can learn about God is that He is the source of everything we need. The Lord does not give us peace, He is our peace. Christ is our love, wisdom, strength, hope, reconciliation, in fact, in every aspect of our lives. When God asks us to love our neighbour as ourselves He will be that love in our hearts towards our neighbours. God never asks to do something without supplying us with what we need to do it.
Jesus Christ came to bring peace, but not in the sense of a world free of war. The peace He brings is peace with God. That is the most vital peace we can have. We cannot have real peace in our hearts if we are separated from God.
Separated from God by our sins.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
We are separated from God by our sins. An illustration of this is portrayed in both the Tabernacle of Moses time and the Temple of Solomon’s time. There was a veil that separated the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. No one but the high priest could go through that veil to the Most Holy Place. He took the blood of the offering with him, into the presence of God (Leviticus 16:15-16). Jesus Christ shed his blood on the cross, was resurrected and ascended to the holiest of places, the throne room of God, presenting His blood as the payment for the sins of the world (Hebrews 9:24).
When Jesus died on the cross Matthew and Mark record that the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38). This symbolised the wall of separation between God and mankind had been removed. If the wall of separation is broken down between us and God then we should have no separation between brothers and sisters in the church. However, in the first-century church, there was a lot of hostility between the Jewish and Gentile believers.
The Dividing Wall of Hostility
Paul taught that reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles was necessary. Paul refers to this when he says “by who has made us both one”. The “us” are the two ethnicities in the church, the Jews and all the rest of humanity: the Gentiles. The “one” refers to believers being unified in Christ.
Using the illustration of the temple again we can see where the example of the dividing wall of hostility comes from. The temple in Jerusalem (at the time of Jesus) was restored by Herod. There was a physical wall of separation between the court of the Gentiles and the courts where the Jews worshipped (see plan). Gentiles were not allowed into the inner court and there was a death sentence for anyone who did. Hence the illustration of the “dividing wall of hostility” would have been understood at that time. When God brought reconciliation between the Jewish and Gentile believers that wall came down.
These temples were an illustration of what is to come in the future, that God would dwell in mankind, His living temple. Those who are in Christ are living stones in His temple (1 Peter 2:5), the temple of God that the Holy Spirit now lives in (1 Corinthians 3:16). We will look at this in more detail in the next post.
Jesus Christ brought reconciliation between God and mankind through the cross, enabling every believer to enter the body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile. By making us one in Christ, God did away with the separation between Jew and Gentile believers in Christ, so making peace between us. We are now one body of believers, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Paul wanted reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles in the church. One of the debates at that time was whether Gentile believers should obey the Jewish laws in the Torah (a huge subject that cannot be covered here and continues to be debated today). Jesus Christ fulfilled the law by offering His blood to God the Father (Romans 8:3-4). Or, as Paul puts it here “abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances”. God did away with the need to fulfil religious obligations. God united all believers in the one new man.
One New Man
In this letter to the Ephesians Paul teaches about the headship of Christ and the body of Christ which is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). All believers in Christ are in the body of Christ. Christ is the one new man. Here Paul says that God created one new man from two, Jews and Gentiles. Jesus Christ “preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near”. He brought reconciliation between the members of the body of Christ so that we can live together in peace and unity.
The idea of a corporate body is extremely hard for our western, individualistic, psychological worldview to grasp. We see ourselves as individuals with individual rights. God has a different view. He sees people either in Christ or in the world (Ephesians 2:12). We find it hard to see ourselves in a body made up of believers. But that is how God sees us. Either we are together with all other believers in Christ or we are isolated and alone in the world. We will look at this more closely when looking at the mystery God reveals in Chapter 3.
In the next post, we will finish chapter 2 as Paul teaches more about believers becoming a holy temple.