Second Corinthians

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe                                                Date: 4/14/17

 

Lesson 10: The Peace which Christ Accomplished in His Death (2:14-18)

 

Ephesians 2:14-18 (KJV)

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

 

Commentary

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

 

“For he is our peace,”

He (God) is the person responsible for peace between Jew and Gentile: there was a great resentment by the Jews against the Gentiles, and by the Gentiles against the Jews; and it was chiefly on account of circumcision, the one being without it, and the other insisting on it, and they branded one another with insulting nicknames on account of it. But Christ has made peace between them by nullifying the ceremonial law, which was the justification for their differences, and by sending the Gospel of peace to them both, by converting some of each, and by granting the same privileges to all of them, which may be observed in the following verses.

 

Christ is the author of peace between God and His people. There is occurring naturally in man hostility toward God which ranges between bad feeling and outright hate. Sin has separated friends and it separates men from God; nor can any man, on his own, make his peace with God; what he does, or can do, will not do it; and what will, he cannot do. Christ is the only suitable person for this work, for He stands between God and man, and is the only One able to bring it about, seeing that he is God as well as man. He gets close to God, picks up the tab for our sins, speaks with Him about terms for peace, agrees to them, and performs them. He can do it all because He brings it about by his blood, his sufferings and death; and He does it on honorable terms, by fully satisfying the law and justice of God. His peace is a lasting one, and is accompanied with a train of blessings; moreover, Christ is the donor of peace, of external peace in His churches, and of internal peace of conscience in His people, and of eternal peace in heaven.

 

“who hath made both one;”

Jews and Gentiles, one people, one body, one church; He united them, and caused them to agree as one, and made them to be of one mind and one judgment by the above methods; and He gathered them together in one body, with one head, Himself, who represented them all.

 

“and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;”

Paul addresses Christians of both the Jewish and Gentile background. Between these Christians there had been a dividing wall, not literally but socially, thus segregating them. The division was seen in the church in many places (see Acts 15:5).

 

Every time the term “partition” is used in the New Testament it is in the sense of a fence or enclosure. Jesus used the term to describe a wall around a vineyard (Matt 21:33; Mark 12:1). Within the enclosure of God’s people, Jews and Gentiles, Paul spoke of a middle wall that divided God’s people. In Christ this middle wall was broken down; i.e., there was now no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile in Christ’s kingdom.

 

In the Temple area, there was literally a wall called chel, which separated the court of Israel from the court of the Gentiles. No Gentile was allowed to cross that dividing line. However illustrative of the point Paul was making, this was not the wall (literally) about which Paul spoke, for this wall was not broken down till the temple itself was destroyed; hence, the apostle cannot be supposed to allude to this transaction, since it did not take place until long after the writing of this epistle. Moreover, the dividing wall of which he spoke was far more formidable, being a wall of blind prejudice.

 

When, at the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom, it was an emblem that the way to the holiest was laid open, and that the people at large, both Jews and Gentiles, were to have access to the holiest by the blood of Jesus.

 

15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

 

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity

“Having abolished,”as used here, means “having brought to nothing” or “having put an end to it.” The thought here is similar to that in Hebrews 10:20, where the new and living way is said to have been opened up through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, thus lending probability to the view held by some that Paul was referring to the veil of the temple ("middle wall" in Ephesians 2:14) which was torn when Christ died. He said regarding the "middle wall of partition ..." This probably is a symbolical reference to the partition in the temple which set apart the court of the Gentiles. Its destruction was characterized in the rending of the veil of the temple at the time of the crucifixion (see Matthew 27:51).

 

In his flesh” points to Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of His body on the cross. The apostle is stating something that he believes is important for Christians to know: “It was not merely by instruction; it was not by communicating the knowledge of God; it was not as a teacher; it was not by the mere exertion of power; it was by His flesh―his human nature―and this can only mean that He did it by His sacrifice of himself.” Language such as this is appropriate when speaking of the doctrine of the atonement; though it does not teach it directly; but still, one who believed that doctrine would likely use it, and no one else.

 

It appears from what follows that “Enmity is used here for the ceremonial law."No iron curtain, color bar, class distinction or national frontier of today is more absolute than the cleavage between Jew and Gentile, going all the way back in antiquity." Christ revoked, annulled and replaced the entire Jewish system with another institution, that of the New Covenant, in which all former distinctions were canceled. “The enmity” (hatred)between the Jew and the Gentile was “caused by the Jew’s law of commandments contained in the written law.” The idea is that the ceremonial law of the Jews, on which they so much prided themselves, was the cause of the hostility existing between them. That made them different people, and laid the foundation for the alienation which existed between them. They had different laws; different institutions; a different religion. The Jews looked upon themselves as the favorites of heaven, and as in possession of the knowledge of the only way of salvation; the Gentiles regarded their laws with contempt, and disrespected their unique institutions. When Christ came and abolished by His death their special ceremonial laws, of course the cause of this alienation ceased.

 

“even the law of commandments contained in ordinances

Which consisted of many rules, and carnal ordinances; and is so called because it was an indication of God's hatred of sin, for He required sacrifice from anyone breaking it; and because it stirred up the enmity of the natural man. It was a burden, and a very heavy one for the flesh bear, because of its many and troublesome rites; and because it was the cause of enmity between Jew and Gentile. The Jews say that Sinai, the mount on which the law was given, signifies "hatred"; and that it is called that because from it descended "hatred" or "enmity" to the nations of the world. Now Christ abolished, "in His flesh", or by it; not by His incarnation, but by the sacrifice of His flesh, or human nature, which was in union with His divine nature; but not until he had fulfilled it in himself, which was one reason for His coming into the world. BUT WHY DID HE ABOLISH IT? He did it, so it would no longer exist, and would be of no use and service; and because it was imperfect and inadequate, weak and unprofitable, as well as intolerable; and because there was a change in the priesthood; and because it was contrary to a spirit of liberty, the great blessing of the Gospel; and so that there might be a reconciliation and a coalition between Jew and Gentile.

 

This “law” was “the partition” or “fence,” which embodied the expression of the “enmity” (the “wrath” of God against our sin, and our enmity to Him (Ephesians 2:3) (see also Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:10, Romans 7:11; Romans 8:7). Christ has in, or by, His crucified flesh, abolished it, so far as its condemning and enmity-creating power is concerned―“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). He did not just do away with it, but substituted for it the law of love, which is the everlasting spirit of the law, and which flows from the realization in the soul of His love in His death for us.

 

“for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace

This explains what was meant before when we read, “who hath made both one” (2:14); and expresses the closeness of the union between Jew and Gentile; they became as one man. It is not that He merely reconciles the two to each other, but that He incorporates the two, reconciled in Him to God, into one new man; the old man to which both belonged, the enemy of God, having been slain in His flesh on the cross. Observe, too, in God‘s sight, we are all one in Christ. Notice, also, that the apostles words clarifies the manner in which they became so closely united; and that is by being made new men, or new creatures, by having a work of grace upon their souls, and being baptized into one body, and made to drink of one and the same Spirit. The foundation of this union is in Himself; for Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, is all one in Christ Jesus; He is the cornerstone in which they all meet, and the head to which the whole body is joined.

 

The idea put forward by Paul is new and radical; that two persons, who had been at enmity, might become reconciled and be one in purpose and pursuit, so it was in the effect of the work of Christ on the Jews and Gentiles. When they were converted they would be united and harmonious. The spiritual creation "in Christ" is of equal rank in the holy Scriptures with the creation of the universe itself, as recorded in Genesis.

 

16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

 

“And that he might reconcile both unto God

This is another outcome of the abolishment of the ceremonial law. The Jews had run up a long score against the ceremonial law, as well as against the moral law; and Christ by fulfilling both for them, and thereby terminating it, reconciled them to God; but the Gentiles could not be reconciled along with them, without the abolishment of it; and this reconciliation of them is made to God, who was the person offended; and yet He was the one who initiated reconciliation, in which his glory is greatly concerned; and reconciliation with others depends upon reconciliation with Him: and this was accomplished by Christ through the atonement which he made on the cross―“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20). After that, the Jews and Gentiles, believing on the Lord Jesus, might lay aside all their causes of contention, and become one spiritual body, or society of men, influenced by the Spirit, and acting according to the precepts of the Gospel. In some sense peace between men (Jews and Gentiles, in this case), grew out of these former enemies being at peace with God. They will feel that they are of the same family, and are all brethren.

 

Notice: Seeing that God created mankind in the first place, it is only logical that man’s most pressing need is reconciliation to His Creator. “It is of interest that in Scripture God is not reconciled to man, but man to God (Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Colossians 1:20-22)”

 

“in one body by the cross

The “one body” is “the church” (Colossians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 10:17; Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 3:15; Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 5:23-30). “He (Jesus Christ) was able to reconcile them in the one body “the church” because of the “cross.” Without the death of Christ, nobody could be reconciled. It is the cross which makes it possible for God to accept sinful men as righteous; it is the cross which makes it possible for sinful men to approach God with confidence and trust. The benefits of the cross are only realized by those who are members of the "one body,"the church (1:22-23). The church is the body of the saved (5:23). The church is purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). All of the hostility and hatred of previous class distinctions are dissolved and disappear through the creation of a new man, the Christian, who is then no longer a Jew nor a Gentile but a participant in the newness of life in Christ Jesus. The reconciliation between ourselves which was previously described is not the only advantage which we derive from Christ. We have been brought back into favor with God. The Jews are now led to consider that they have no less need of a Mediator than the Gentiles. Without this, neither the Law, nor ceremonies, nor their descent from Abraham, nor all their dazzling privileges, would be of any avail. We are all sinners; and forgiveness of sins cannot be obtained except through the grace of Christ. He adds, in one body,” to inform the Jews, that to cultivate union with the Gentiles will be well-pleasing in the sight of God.

 

“in one body by the cross

There is still another way to look at this phrase “one body.” Some say that what is meant by "body" is the human body of Christ, which the Father prepared for Him, and He assumed it in order to make reconciliation for His people. It is called "one" body, because He was in this same body when he reconciled both Jews and Gentiles unto God. It was by one sacrifice of that body that reconciliation was so effectively made that there is no need to repeat it: or the sense is, he reconciled them into "one body"; into one mystical body, the church, of which He is head; and this He did "by the cross", that is, by His blood shed on the cross, or by His suffering the death of the cross; which shows that reconciliation is made in a way that satisfies the law and justice of God, by Christ's bearing the penalty of the law, and suffering the strokes of justice on the cross; and expresses the value of His blood and sacrifice, and the greatness of His grace, mercy and love:

 

“having slain the enmity thereby

This clause may refer to the ceremonial law, as before; and slaying it is the same as abolishing it; unless the enmity between God and man is meant, which was slain by removing the cause of it, sin. Regeneration is the foundation for the slaying of sin in the hearts of His people, for sin becomes odious to them when they are reconciled to God's way of salvation. Being slain in both senses brings peace with God which can never be broken.

 

He has by His death upon the cross, made reconciliation between God and man, and by His Spirit in their hearts removed the enmity of their fallen, sinful nature. Dr. Macknight thinks that abolishing the enmity means the removal of the hatred which the Jews and Gentiles mutually bore for each other, because of the difference of their respective religious worship; and that slaying the enmity refers to the removal of evil lusts and affections from the heart of man, by the power of Divine grace. This is nearly the sense given above.

 

17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

 

“And came and preached peace to you which were afar off”

This clause does not refer to Christ's coming in the flesh; for when he came in the flesh, he came only to the Jews that were nigh, and personally preached the Gospel to them, and not to the Gentiles, who are the persons “afar off”“remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). The person cited here is indeed Christ; but this clause concerns his coming by his Spirit in the ministry of his apostles, to whom He gave a commission after He had made peace and reconciliation by the blood He shed while He hung upon a cross. The commission was for them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the Gentiles in the furthest parts of the earth. They did not have to go alone, because he gave them His power and grace and special abilities (gifts), which enabled them to be successful ministers of the Word and to evangelize the Gentiles. The subject of their ministry was peace; Christ who is our peace, and peace made by His blood, and the Gospel of peace, which declares both of these; and it is the means by which persons with unruly dispositions are made peaceful; its doctrines and promises, when powerfully applied, give peace to distressed minds, and quiet to doubting saints; and it shows the way to eternal peace.

 

“and to them that were nigh”

That is, to the Jews, to whom the Gospel of peace was preached in the first place, not only by Christ and His apostles, before His death; but by His apostles after His resurrection, and after the commission was given to preach it to the Gentiles. The Jews are mentioned last, because the apostle was speaking to Gentiles; and this also verifies what Christ says, ‘the first shall be last, and the last first.’ Some versions have inserted “peace,” into this clause, as in the previous. The apostle seems to have Isaiah 57:19 in mind: “…Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD…”

 

18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

 

“For through him…” The truth of Ephesians 2:17 is proven by the facts of Christ’s coming and Him preaching peace. “Through Him” means more than ‘through His blood,’ for it is the emphatic phrase. Only through the mediation of this Person, Jesus Christ, do…

 

“…We both have access…” 

Jews and Gentiles “have access” (lit., ‘the access’). The primary sense of the word is ‘introduction (preface, foreword, prologue)”; and some render it as such, both here and in Romans 5:2: “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The present tense (‘we have’) points either to a continued freedom of ‘access,’ or to the process going on as each one obtains this ‘introduction.’ The former seems more appropriate.

 

“…By one Spirit unto the Father.”  

Neither the human frame of mind nor the human spirit can be meant. As a result of the Cross, both Jewish and Gentile believers have access to God. Formerly access to God was through Judaism, but now it is through Christ by the Holy Spirit. As a result of Christ’s death, all believers now have direct access to “the Father” (Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2). The Holy Spirit gives Jewish and Gentile Christians equal access to God. Note that all three members of the Godhead appear in this verse.

 

 

Conclusion

Controversy over whether Gentile believers had to come to God through Judaism or whether they could come directly to God as Gentiles raged in the early church (Acts 15:1-5; Galatians 1-2). Paul gave the solution to this problem again here (cf. Acts 15:6-21; Galatians 3-4). God has made Jewish and Gentile believers one in the church (Ephesians 2:14). He created a new entity, the church, out of two others, namely, Jewish believers and Gentile believers (Ephesians 2:15). Both kinds of believers experience reconciliation with each other in that body (Ephesians 2:16), and both have access to God by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18).

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