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Ephesians VIII: One New Man - Ephesians 2:11-22

In Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, there was a wall about nine feet high separating the inner courts of the temple from the outer court. An uncircumcised Gentile could come up to that wall and observe what was happening as the Jews gathered to worship God, but if he tried to cross the wall, he would be killed.

About thirty years after Jesus died and rose again, an infamous Pharisee was accused of defiling the holy place, and very nearly beaten to death, for the crime of bringing a Gentile past this wall and into the temple. That Pharisee was the Apostle Paul, who wrote this letter to the Ephesians, and the Gentile that he supposedly brought into the temple was Trophimus the Ephesian (See Acts 21:27ff). There is no better illustration of what Paul is describing here in Ephesians 2:11-12. At that time, there was not only a literal wall, but also a deathly hatred between Jew and Gentile that kept the Gentiles in the terrible state of being Christless, homeless, friendless, hopeless, and godless.

Then we get to vs. 13: that was then, but now… “Once, you were far off; now, you have been brought near.” If you’ve been united to Christ by faith, then you’ve been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. Because of the cross, and by your conversion, you’ve been reconciled to God.

And in vv. 14-18, Paul explains just how Christ’s blood accomplished this, how the cross gives us access to God and unites Jews and Gentiles into one new man. How? First, He broke down the wall, so that He could create one new man out of two, and reconcile that one body to God. Second, he came and preached peace to those both far and near. He accomplished peace on the cross, and announced that peace through the preaching of the gospel.

The law of commandments expressed in ordinances divided the world into two groups: Jews/lawkeepers/“the circumcision”, and Gentiles/lawless/”the uncircumcision”, and formed a wall of hostility between them. The purpose of the law was to make sure that sinners didn’t get too close to God. Those who kept the law could get close for brief moments; those who didn’t keep the law were far away from God.

Because Jesus bore the sins of the world on the cross, the law exhausted itself on Jesus. He absorbed in His own body the penalty for breaking God’s commandments, but then God reversed the verdict of death and lifted Jesus up into His very presence. As v. 4-10 teach, because of God’s grace, when you put your faith in Jesus, you are united to Him so that His death is your death, His resurrection is your resurrection, and His access to God is your access to God. We’re with Jesus, which means that we have access to God, not by lawkeeping, but by faith!

Jesus accomplished peace by getting rid of the wall, and He announces peace through His messengers, so that everyone who hears can draw near to God by faith. In this way, Jesus unites Jewish man and Gentile man into one new man, Christian man! This one new man is reconciled to God through the cross, so that through Christ we both have access in one Spirit (notice how the whole Trinity is here) to the Father.

So in vv. 19-22, Paul explains the ramifications of Jesus’ work in making one new man. Since this is true, then what used to be the case for the Gentiles no longer applies. You are no longer strangers and aliens, kept away from God by circumcision and the law of God. Now you are fellow-citizens with the saints, members of God’s household.

Paul leans in on that final metaphor, using some version of the house/household word six times in these few verses as he explains how God’s dwelling place is put together. You are being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Paul says, those who have passed on God’s inspired revelation to you, and anchoring that foundation is Christ the cornerstone. As Jews and Gentiles are joined in Jesus, we are being built together into one house by the Spirit. In this temple, because of what Christ has done, there are no walls to divide us from each other, God Himself dwells in our midst, and there is peace between us all.

And as these verses show, the way to see unity, reconciliation, and peace is by preaching gospel peace and knocking down any dividing walls other than faith in Jesus. So, building on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as our cornerstone, let us ask the Spirit to join us together with all the saints as we grow into a holy temple in the Lord.

Posted on Wednesday, July 03, 2019 by CJ Bowen