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The Shocking Truth in Ephesians 2 (part 2 of 2)

Post Title: The Dividing Wall of Hostility

Ephesians 2:11-22 has three sections.

  • 11-12 Paul talks about the fact that there is a divided humanity before Calvary—the Jews and everybody else.

  • 13-18 According to Paul, as a result of the sacrifice of Christ, we have been reconciled (Jew and Gentile) one to another and have been forged into a new community that has peace, fellowship, and common access to God.

  • 19-22 This new community is described as a people, a family, and a temple.

Paul was not making this up out of thin air. He was drawing on and informed by ancient texts that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3). What are the Scriptures being referred to here? We call it the Old Testament, but Paul called it the Tanakh, a Jewish acronym for how they arranged Scripture: the first five books of Moses (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi'im), and the Writings (Ketuvim).

By the way, the word Christ is not Jesus' last name. It is a title. Jesus is the Messiah, the servant whom God (according to Isaiah) was going to anoint with his Spirit. What will happen as a result of that anointing? Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations (Is 42:1).

Notice that the anointed ministry of the Christ is not just to Israel but to the nations.

The word justice is in parallel with righteousness, which speaks to right relationships—with God and with others. In a word, salvation will be the result of God's advocacy for all the nations through his servant whom he anointed. That is the shocking truth Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, is wrestling with. If we wrestle with it also, we will grasp important implications for our lives.

And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you (Zech 2:11). The prophet Zechariah saw the vision that God had a plan for the whole earth and that the Messiah was going to be instrumental in accomplishing his purpose. What is God's aim, his intent? The LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one (Zech 14:9).

Paul understood the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had chosen the least among the nations to be his witnesses. And through them, he would fulfill his promise to bless all the nations (Gen 12:3). His intent was never to rule only over Israel, but through his people, his salvation was to flow to the ends of the earth—even to the earth itself.

That is why Jesus could say, You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews (Jn 4:22). The salvation God intends for all comes through these specific people, the Jews. And this happens through the archetypal representation of the Jewish people—Jesus of Nazareth—whom God has made both Messiah and Lord.

Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit into the Temple, takes the child Jesus in his arms and blesses God saying, my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples. A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:30-32).

Paul wants us to understand that what happened at Calvary included but was far more than the salvation of your soul.

At Calvary, God began to bring about what he had intended from the beginning. He is reconciling all the nations to himself and bringing them under the peaceable reign of the Prince of Shalom. Our alienation and separation from God had to be breached for that to happen. A bridge had to be built where we come back into intimacy and fellowship with the Father. That is what the cross did; it brought about reconciliation.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one [...] 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. [...] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph 2:13-18).

For Paul, in his Jewish milieu, it is an overwhelming and extraordinary reality that God has made a way for all nations to come into salvation, intimacy, and fellowship with him. But here is the point that the church has so often misunderstood. The peace that comes through the cross is to be socially manifested. Said another way, his body on earth is where his shalom is to be on display. The cross of Christ forged a new humanity created in his image (which is a restoration to the image of God).

Salvation means to be a people of his presence, characterized by communities of peace, right relationships, and joy.

We are the people foretold by the prophets. We are the people the King has come to rule and reign over. The proof of his presence is his peace. If there is no longer hostility and division between Jews and Gentiles, how much more are we to live in unity, in harmony with one another? Paul is drawing our attention to this critical point because it is revolutionary stuff; it shook the early church and amazed the world.

The salvation and shalom that comes from Messiah's sacrifice at Calvary are to be manifested by the body of Messiah.

Our reconciliation with the Father is evidenced by reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Why is it then that we talk much about having a right relationship with God but little about maintaining right relationships with others? Do we not see they are but two sides of the same coin?

Is this consistent with the teaching of Jesus? Here is just one example of many. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt 5:23-24).

Are you gathering with God's people to worship and have something between you and a brother or sister? Between your spouse? Between leaders in the congregation? "It's alright," says Jesus, "just get to the altar and worship me." Not a chance, you are fooling yourself. First be reconciled, then come and offer.

The truth is, when you come into Jesus by way of his cross, you are reconciled to the Father. And as you practice reconciliation with one another you have authentic worship, full fellowship, and the completeness of shalom in Messiah Jesus.

By all means, let us thank God our souls are saved; that heaven is our destiny and reward. But let us all the more praise him for his ongoing work of forging us into a new humanity, his family. And let us honor him by being built up as living stones, fitly joined one to the other as a sanctuary that he can descend and dwell in.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

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