For 28 years a wall separated the city of West Berlin from East Berlin. This wall divided the people of Berlin into two camps, separated by walls, soldiers, weapons and hostility. But in 1989 the wall was removed, along with the restrictions on travel from one side of the city to the other. The two Berlins became one city with the removal of this dividing wall of hostility.
Wall of Hostility
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:11-13 NIV
This passage describes a similar kind of situation. But instead of two physical cities separated by a physical wall, we have two groups of people separated by the Old Testament Law. One group of people were the Jews, the chosen people, who had God’s Law. They also had a common ancestry, from Abraham; as well as the promises made to him. And they had the revelation of God’s prophets, his message to them as a people. Because God had chosen them, the Jews looked down on everyone else, calling them Gentiles; people outside of the promise, without the Law and uncircumcised.
On the other side of the wall were the Gentiles. The Gentiles might be Roman, Greek, Egyptian, or any of a myriad of other nationalities. They had a wide variety of social, economic or educational levels. They included over 99% of the world’s population. But what they had in common was being outside of the covenant relationship with God, not living under the Law, and without knowledge of God.
The Law As A Wall
Separating the two groups is the Law; a set of commands given through Moses to the Hebrew people at Mt Sinai. This law formed the basis for their life together as a nation. It make them unique, establishing a covenant relationship with the God of creation. And built into the law is the expectation that they would separate themselves from all of the peoples around them, holding themselves apart and holy to God.
Now it was possible for a Gentile to cross over that wall and enter into the covenant relationship with God. But it was not easy. And as a consequence not many did it. Many more would climb to the top of the wall and get close, but would not be willing to go all the way. And the Jews, for their part, seemed not very interested in helping Gentiles to cross their barrier.
One New Humanity
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. – Ephesians 2:14-18 NIV
But then, about 2000 years ago, Jesus was born. He lived for about 33 years and then was crucified on a Roman cross. He was an apparent victim to his own people’s opposition to changing the status quo. But Paul tells us here that this event was really much more than it appeared. According to Paul, the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, brought reconciliation between the two camps. It destroyed the wall of hostility that separated the two. And in doing so, it producing a single humanity where once there had been two.
The wall that separated us, the Law, was set aside, it was removed, along with its commands and regulations. But how does this jive with Matthew 5:17 where Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? I think this question is best answered by Paul in Galatians 3:23-25 where he claims that the purpose of the law is to bring us to Christ, and once that has been accomplished, or fulfilled, then we are through with the law. Once I have come to Christ I am no longer under the law, but am under grace (Romans 6:14).
No Longer Foreigners and Strangers
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV
In Christ it makes no difference whether we are Jew or Gentile. We are all one body in him because of grace. It is by faith in what Jesus did that we come into relationship with God now; not by adherence to the commands and regulations of the law. Observance of the law as a means to righteousness has been replaced by God’s grace. As a result, we are all equally able to stand before God. Not because of anything we have done. But because of what he did.
And now we all can be built up into one house, or body, that God is able to inhabit and be glorified in. Let there be nothing in our lives or attitudes that would divide us as believers. Or that would cause us to think more highly of ourselves than of any other believer; or any other person. And rather than erecting more walls to make it difficult for people to come to God, let’s reach out to the world around us and introduce them to the Savior.
All Posts In This Series
- A Brief Introduction to Ephesians: Who and Why - This brief introduction to Ephesians will share some of the ideas of authorship, audience and purpose that many scholars see, as well as my views.
- Spiritual Blessings – Ephesians 1:3-14 - God has given his spiritual blessings to us in the heavenly realm. And we have these blessing because we are in Christ. Praise God for all he has done.
- Prayer – Ephesians 1:15-23 - In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul's prayer for the recipients of this letter is for a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they could know God better.
- From Death Into Life: An Act of Grace – Ephesians 2:1-7 - In my natural state I was spiritually dead, separated from the life of God. But by his grace, I have been made alive, with a life that will never end.
- Amazing Grace – Ephesians 2:8-10 - Grace. More specifically God's grace. As believers we talk about it a lot, frequently defining it as God's unmerited favor towards us. And indeed it is. It is by God's grace that we are saved, and not by anything we can do (Ephesians 2:8). God's grace has dealt with our sin and we now have a future with him. It is unfortunate however that we often leave it there.
- Tearing Down Walls – Ephesians 2:11-22 - In Christ it makes no difference whether we are Jew or Gentile. We are all one body in him because of grace. It is by faith in what Jesus did that we come into relationship with God now; not by adherence to the commands and regulations of the law. Because observance of the law as a means to righteousness has been replaced by God's grace, we are all equally able to stand before God, not because of what I have done, but because of what he did.
- The Mystery of Christ – Ephesians 3:1-13 - And the mystery is not only that the barrier that separated Jews from Gentiles has been eliminated. But also that the need for a priestly intermediary has been removed. All believers now also serve as priests and each have direct access to the throne of God.
- Rooted and Established In Love – Ephesians 3:14-21 - Paul prays that the Ephesians would be rooted and established in love, a suitable dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
- Walking Worthy – Ephesians 4:1-6 - What does walking worthy of our calling mean? In the context of Ephesians 4:1-6, it refers to our role in the body of Christ. Be the best member you can be.
- Growing a Mature Church – Ephesians 4:11-16 - Christ provides his church with the necessary equippers to that we can be a mature church, fully equipped to do the work he has called us to.
- Out With the Old, In With the New – Ephesians 4:17-32 - How do I live as an effective member of the body of Christ? It involves personal transformation, putting off the old self, and taking on the new self.
- Imitators of God – Ephesians 5:1-20 - Don't be like the world around you. Instead, be imitators of God by living a life of love, living as a child of the light, and living with wisdom.
- Married to Jesus – Ephesians 5:22-33 - One of the images for the church in the New Testament is the Bride of Christ. This image pictures the intimate relationship between Christ and his church.
- All In the Family – Ephesians 5:21-6:9 - Paul's instructions to first century families contains useful information for families today. It also contains advice for workplace relationships.
- Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6:10-20 - A spiritual battle is raging all around us. So take up the armor God provides so you can stand your ground and be engaged in that spiritual warfare.
- March 19 2012: Original post
- August 10, 2018: Updated for content and SEO