The Ephesians Plan for Unity (4)

by Richard Mansel, managing editor
Assimilation (2:13-22)
multichristmas-lights2.jpgJews and Gentiles were no longer the same entities they were before the cross. The slate was clean and they needed to put their innate hostilities behind them. Christ created an atmosphere where they could assimilate into the same body.
The phrase “have been made near” (2:13) is “passive which indicates that the Gentiles were recipients of God’s action rather than as a result of self-effort.”/1 The blood of Christ is the empowering agent of change that all of humanity needs (1 John 1:7).
Christ created peace and unity. Man simply had to submit and assimilate into the new body. We are all souls in need of salvation and a Savior.
Christ removed the barriers between Jews and Gentiles. The “middle wall of division” has been a source of protracted debate through the years.
Many people think that it refers to the wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles between the Temple and the Court of the Gentiles in Jerusalem.
Hughes notes that they had “Thanatos [death] inscriptions” on the wall to the temple that said, “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and the enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” (cf. Acts 21:26-31)./2
Hoehner finds this theory inadequate. He says that it made “good sense to consider that the ‘wall of partition’ was not a literal wall but a metaphorical wall that divided Jews and Gentiles. Often an attitude of superiority crept in that in turn engendered hostility. This metaphorical wall of hostility was destroyed.”/3
The division between the Jews and Gentiles was profound, consisting of their morality, government, allegiances and religion. They were not looking to integrate without help. Absent divine assistance, the wall would persist.
In fact, not all assimilated into Christ and the divisions were still existent. “The text does not suggest that Christ’s death brought about a universal redemption so that all Jews and Gentiles are reconciled.”/4
Today, the divisions between men, whether race, nationality, intelligence or heritage, still exist, despite the unity of the cross. Christ created something that man found anathema and he asks us to enter the same body (2:16) and the same household (2:19).
Christ’s death brought vertical peace between God and man (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 5:6-11). However, it also brought horizontal unity between the Jews and Gentiles and all men ever since.
Christ came and built a church (Matthew 16:18). He asked that the gospel call be sent through the land (Mark 16:15-16). His church was his body, the “fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). We become a part of this body and household and are united together for a common cause (Ephesians 4:4; 6:10-18).
We are a new temple (2:21), built by divine hands, and we are committed to glorifying Christ and walking in him daily (Ephesians 3:20-4:1). Through his efforts, vertically and horizontally, Christ is the ultimate peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).
“The death of Christ has created a new humanity – ‘a third race’ as it has been called from the early centuries. For the Gentiles, the effects were immediate and stupendous. Upon believing, these outcasts moved to the very center of God’s purpose.”/5
Today, we face the same kinds of challenges, since human nature never changes (Ecclesiastes 1:9). We still divide what God has united. Our stubborn spirits still wage war against God’s created unity because Satan is relentless (1 Peter 5:8).
Paul’s stunning passage is a clarion call for every age because prejudice perpetually divides and destroys. Christ is the only way to heal the damage. We must stop pointing fingers at each other and focus solely on the mission of God.
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1/ Harold H. Hoehner (2002), Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 363
2/ Hughes, R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 90.
3/ Hoehner, 371
4/ Hoehner, 376
5/ Hughes, 97

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