The Mystery of the Church(2): He Himself is Our Peace


PeaceDoveScripture: Ephesians 2:11-22

Racial and religious conflicts occurred throughout history. We see see them in past events; we see them today. Yet in the midst of great conflict, Christ became the peace and established a new humanity / entity from two groups of people who once held hostility against each other. If the Jews and the Gentiles could have peace and love one another in Christ, there is a great lesson that we can all learn today.

The Jews in the New Testament times certainly could not escape racial and religious conflicts. They had a belief that prohibited assimilation with other religions, yet they lived under the influence of Greek philosophy and Roman government. Periods of wars had made the situation even worse. Readers should at least check a brief history of the Maccabean revolt, a period when a lot of Jews were killed by foreign rulers because of their religion.1 Craig Blomberg, a New Testament scholar explains that “the Maccabean revolt… intensified Jew-Gentile hatred to a degree not typically found in the Old Testament times. This enmity, with its accompanying Jewish nationalism, is an important phenomenon for understanding New Testament events.”2

Yet in the midst of all kinds of hostility, hatred, wars, killings, and bitterness that came out of them, Christ established peace in making the two one3 and established a new entity where members of the new entity would make every effort to keep unity.

Peace with men

In the temple in Jerusalem in the New Testament time, there was a stone wall separating the Court of Gentile from the inner court, with a sign on a wall giving death warning to any gentile who would enter the inner court.4 The wall still stood in the temple in Jerusalem when Paul preached in Ephesus and when Paul wrote the epistle. We are talking about a hatred that was strong enough to kill someone who entered our sacred place of worship!5

So the description that Christ is our peace, has made the two one and has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility (v. 14) is not to be taken lightly or for granted. It is an amazing peace that Christ has accomplished. It is also a great testimony that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians have lived out, starting with the first generation of Gentile Christians.

While the situation has certainly changed a lot since the New Testament times, conflicts still occur from time to time when people of all different backgrounds come to worship at a same place. A lesson we can learn from the historical setting of the early Church is that we have to live in peace, even if/when handling differences is difficult.

The New Testament Church did have problems that were caused by difference in background (see, for example, Acts 6:1), but they continued to learn to adjust and handle things under the Holy Spirit and with wisdom (Acts 6:3). This topic is picked up by Paul again when he urged the believers to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2-3)

Peace with God

More serious than the animosity between men is that between men and God. The Law, while creating tensions and hostility between the Jews and the Gentiles, was indeed from God. Indirectly it showed that the Gentiles were outside of the promise, without hope, and without God (vv. 11-13).

But God changed our hopeless state and made us “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (v. 19) The context clearly shows that peace with God means God has accepted us (thus our salvation is considered a blessing and a grace of God). Sadly when people say that they have peace with God today, sometimes they mean they were angry with God in the past and now they have forgiven God, extended their grace to God, and allowed God to come back to their lives!This is clearly opposite to what the Bible says about God bestowing his grace in allowing us to go back to Him through Christ’s death (v. 16) and to have access to Him by the Holy Spirit (v. 18).

Each of us came to God differently. While hostility to God and a later change might be a real experience for some of us, eventually we have to learn from the Bible and change our attitude and appreciate his acceptance of us.

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth… 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (2:11-13)

And indeed, “praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ!” (1:3)

 Additional Information

Please do check out the Maccabean Revolt if you are not familiar with it. A side benefit is that you will understand what it means when you wish your Jewish friend a Happy Hanukkah. Even reading the shortest summary of it will help in understanding New Testament events.Understanding historical context will make understanding the Bible much easier and that life lessons/applications will come out of it clearly and naturally.

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)– 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22 TNIV)

  1. Interested readers could check out how Greek leader Antiochus Ephiphanes allegedly massacred forty thousand Jews in one day, renamed the temple in Jerusalem for Zeus and sacrificed pigs on an altar he setup in the temple, and killed many Jews on Sabbath when they would not resist. These offenses eventually led to the Maccabean Revolt. Although the Jews enjoyed some peace and independence after the revolt, Roman control soon came, and that started a whole new dynamics and tensions.
  2. Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997), 17.
  3. Context shows that the two mean the Jews and the Gentiles.
  4. This sign was mentioned by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews and was found by archaeologists in 1871. The sign alone shows how deep the wound and hatred was. We do not know for sure, however, if Paul was referring to this wall of separation in Ephesians 2:14 when he said that Christ had destroyed the “dividing wall of hostility,” as suggested by some authors. On one hand Paul was certainly familiar with the temple and this wall, but most Gentile believers in Ephesus probably did not know about it, so it is questionable whether he would allude to this wall, on the other hand. In any case, his mention of the destruction of the dividing wall was meant to be metaphorical as the wall still stood there in Jerusalem when Paul mentioned it in the book of Ephesians.
  5. I am not trying to blame the Jews or accuse them to be racist. I am just trying to show how much conflict there was during that time so that we can understand the passage better.

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