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. – Ephesians 2:14-16 (ESV).
An aspect of Christ’s mission and work was to abolish the HOSTILITY that smoldered between Jew and Gentile and also between man and God. Paul identifies the law as the innocent cause of the enmity or hostility, that is, “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” The Law of Moses was a single legislative code; yet it was made up of separate, formal commandments; these in turn consisted of dogmas or decrees covering many, if not most, areas of life. The law itself was holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12), but man’s sinful nature used the law as an occasion for hatred. Because the law actually did set up Israel as God’s chosen earthly people, many Jews became arrogant and treated the Gentiles with contempt. The Gentiles struck back with deep hostility, which we have come to know all too well as anti-Semitism. But how did Christ remove the law as the cause of hostility?
First, He died to pay the penalty of the law that had been broken. He thus completely satisfied the righteous claims of God that mankind owed to God Almighty. Now the law has nothing more to say to those who are “in Christ;” the penalty has been paid for them in full. Believers are not under law but under grace. However, this does not mean they can live as they please; it means they are now enslaved to Christ Jesus, and should live as HE pleases.
As a result of abolishing the hostility stirred up by the law, the Lord has been able to usher in a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). He has made in Himself from the two, that is, from believing Jew and believing Gentile, one new man—that is, the CHURCH. Through union with Him, the former combatants in the natural, are united with one another in this new fellowship brought about by the Spirit of Christ. The church is NEW in the sense that it is a kind of organism that never existed before. It is extremely important to see this. The New Testament church is NOT a continuation of the Israel of the Old Testament. It is something entirely distinct from anything that has preceded it or that will ever follow it. This should be apparent from the following:
- It is NEW that a Gentile should have equal rights and privileges with a Jew.
- It is NEW that both Jews and Gentiles should lose their national identities by becoming Christians.
- It is NEW that Jews and Gentiles should be fellow members of the Body of Christ.
- It is NEW that a Jew should have the hope of reigning with Christ instead of being a subject in His kingdom.
- It is NEW that a Jew should no longer be under the law.
The church is clearly a NEW creation, with a distinct calling and a distinct destiny, occupying a unique place in the purposes of God. But the scope of Christ’s work does not stop there. He has also made PEACE between Jew and Gentile. He did this by removing the cause of hostility, by imparting a new nature, and by creating a new union. The cross is God’s answer to discrimination of all kinds, racial, segregation, anti-Semitism, bigotry, ethnic and even gender and every other form of strife between humankind.