Monday, May 14, 2012

One Family

Part 15 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



"For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 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, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father" (2:14-18).


A New Peace 

“[Christ] himself is our peace” (v. 14a). He is the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6; cf. Micah 5:5). (The word “peace” is found four times in verse 14-18.) “Peace” is more than the absence of “hostility” (vv. 14, 16). “Peace” could be defined as “harmonious friendship.” Christ has created two kinds of peace.

1. Christ has made vertical peace. 

This is peace with God. The need for reconciliation with God began when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). Paul describes the message of salvation as “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

2. Christ has made horizontal peace. 

This is peace within the church. “[Christ] has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (vv. 14b-15a). However, we won’t enjoy complete peace with one another in this life. Now we must be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

What was the “dividing wall of hostility” that Christ broke down? There was a wall around the temple in Jerusalem that prevented the Gentiles from going beyond the Court of the Gentiles. There were inscriptions on the wall basically saying to the Gentiles, “No trespassing!” One of these inscriptions was unearthed in 1871. It reads: “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows” (James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary, p. 83). A riot once broke out when the Jews thought Paul had taken a Gentile Christian named Trophimus into the temple enclosure with him (Acts 21:27-36).

However, the “dividing wall of hostility” probably refers to the Mosaic Law. It “included many commandments that served to separate Israel from the other nations. Thus the law was a ‘dividing wall’ which Christ has abolished or rendered powerless both by fulfilling it and by removing believers from the law’s condemnation” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2265).


A New Race 

“That he might created in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (vv. 15b-16). A “new man” is “a new human race under the second Adam (Christ), in whose image the Christian is re-created (1 Cor. 15:45, 49; cf. Eph. 4:24)” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2265). The church is a new race of people (a union of Jews and Gentiles).

We are one with every other believer regardless of any distinctions. 


A New Access 

“Through [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (v. 18). “This does not mean ‘we both alike have access’ but rather ‘we both together have access’” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 388). This new access to the Father was pictured by the tearing of the temple veil, which was a barrier between God and man. “Behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The veil was six inches thick. And notice that the veil was torn “from top to bottom.” It was torn by God. He is the one responsible for reconciliation (both vertically and horizontally).

We are have one Father, and we are brothers and sisters in one great family.