The Epistle To The Ephesians
One New Man
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made with hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace. And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:11-18).
We Gentiles were outside the religion signified by the rite of circumcision. This, however in Israel had degenerated into a mere cutting “made with hands,” and devoid of spiritual meaning. Hence, Paul describes its votaries as the “concision,” using an expression of contempt that means “mutilators of the flesh” (See Phil. 3:2). In his day they were in active opposition to the gospel and all who obeyed it. For the gospel showed that the believer was “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of (the sins of) the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). Therefore, Christians can say: “Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin (sin in its totality) might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). Formerly we were (1) “without Christ” for the Messiah was Israel’s (2); “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” outside the pale of privilege (3); “strangers from the covenants of promise,” lacking covenant relations with God (4); therefore without “hope” seeing we were (5) “without God in the world:” worshippers of idols.
The Distance Removed. “Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” They had been brought to God. Moreover, the partition separating them from the Jews had been removed in the death of Christ, who “made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” Thus, “He is our peace” not only as making us nigh to God by His blood, but also in “making both one,” by removing the enmity that formerly existed between two parties. How He did this we shall see.
The Enmity Abolished. We are told that Christ “abolished in His flesh the enmity even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” By His death the cause of enmity between Jew and Gentile, even the ritualistic system under the law, has been ended. This was involved in the fact that both Jew and Gentile according to the flesh had been judicially terminated at the cross, so that as such neither have any status before God. Instead of there being two at enmity with each other, both have been set aside; Christ has made “in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” the one new man being Christ the Head and His body the Church, elsewhere described as the Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). There could have been no peace otherwise.
Reconciliation. “And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” The term “reconciliation” could not have been used of the “one new man,” seeing this includes the Head even Christ, but it is used in reference to “both” (Jew and Gentile) of a former day now formed into “one body” in the way already described. This is new creation, all contrariety having been ended. The “enmity” that existed has been “slain” at the cross by the judicial ending of man according to the flesh. Where there had been contrariety, God finds that in which He has complacence.
Preaching Peace. Furthermore, says the Apostle, “Christ came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh;” to the Gentile afar off in the darkness of idolatry, and to the Jew dispensationally nigh in outward and national relations with God. These latter were “even as others” (the Gentiles), being “children of wrath.” But He who made peace preached it to both concerned. This peace involved nearness to God, as well as to each other, for “Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father,” those formerly at enmity now approach the same Father by “one Spirit.”
We learn, however, from other Scriptures that there had been a practical denial of this “peace.” For the Apostle Peter on a visit to Antioch, having eaten with the Gentile converts there, had separated from them on the arrival of some “from James.” Fearing the Circumcision he, several others, and even Barnabas were carried away with “the dissimulation.” But Paul, true to the “peace” proclaimed by Christ, openly reproved Peter who was blameable for he knew better (Acts 10-11), but had been ensnared by the fear of man. However, Paul saved the situation on that occasion.
The Dwelling Place of God
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).