by Richard Mansel, managing editor
Christ has the answer to unity in Ephesians 2:11-22. We need to absorb the lessons contained in this passage. Jesus brought the Jews and Gentiles together in the Church and in the unity of the Spirit. He can do the same for us, if we will submit to him.
The Gentiles were separated from God, as a unit (Romans 1:18-32). The Jews, however, were God’s people by covenant (Exodus 19:1-5; Romans 3:2). Set apart by this wall, they were often at odds with one another. Jews felt superior to Gentiles and treated them like vermin. The Jews could not accept the entry of the Gentiles into the kingdom (Acts 11:1-3).
“A study of the history of the ancient world, tells us that none of today’s social distinctions — none of our racial barriers, our narrow nationalisms, our iron curtains — are more exclusive or unrelenting than the separation between Jews and Gentiles in Biblical times. The Jews believed that the Gentiles were created to fuel the fires of Hell.”/1
Creative Jews decided that the only palatable way to accept the inclusion of Gentiles into the church was to force them to accept Judaism. “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved'” (Acts 15:1-5).
The church had a conference in Jerusalem to discuss the matter and Peter stood up and taught the truth that God had accepted the Gentiles (Acts 15:6-11). Paul and Barnabas then provided evidence of the miracles and blessings of God (Acts 15:12). Finally, James stood and announced that they would indeed accept that Gentiles have a place in the kingdom (Acts 15:13-21).
Yet hard feelings and prejudices remained (Galatians 2:11-21). Paul dealt with these prejudices and their fruits throughout his ministry (Galatians 3:1-3).
As long as the Jewish and Gentile Christians fought among themselves, the gospel fell mute. Their animosity and division reinforced all of Satan’s attacks on the kingdom of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). It had to end.
Unity flowed from Paul’s lips. His epistles brim with admonitions to come together.
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
1/ R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 89.