RACIAL UNITY AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST Ephesians 2:11-15

Dr. Jerry A. Collins

 

THE ONLY SOURCE OF RESOLUTION FOR RACIAL ENMITY IS CHRISTíS DEATH

Jesus Christ is the primary agent for this ethnic and racial transformation. Christís death radically changed the alienation of Gentiles by Jews and from God, to reconciliation with Jews and to God.

 

Gentiles Alienation from God Necessitated Christís Death  

Therefore, remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world v 11-12. Paul wanted them to constantly remember their former plight what you were at that time v 11. Specifically, they had been the Gentiles in the flesh. So, this is not just the time when they were unsaved, but the time before the death of Christ on the cross, and before the beginning of the Church Age. In the context, the contrast is between the Jew, who has the physical mark on his flesh, and the Gentile who has his foreskin, and is thus disdained by the Jew who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands. Racial relations between Jew and Gentile were never good.

 

This alienation was due to the Gentiles being underprivileged in at least five ways:

      They were separate from Christ v 12. Gentiles did not have a national hope of a Messiah.

      They were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. Gentiles were not part of Godís promises to Israel as a nation because God had never established any other commonwealth [citizenship] and

      They were strangers to the covenants of promise. Gentiles did not have Old Testament Abrahamic Covt (land, people, blessing). They had no conditional or unconditional promises from God.

      They had no hope. Gentiles had no future, or expectation that God would work in their lives and

      They were without God in the world. Gentiles did not believe in the one true God. They were in this world without any hope in God, the creator and redeemer. God choose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel from Jacobís sons. But the rest of the world was still without God.

Application: Remember, as an unsaved person, you wereóand all unsaved people areóseparated from: (a) Christ, (b) the nation Israel, (c) the promises to Israel, (d) any eternal hope, and (e) God.

 

Christís Decisive Reconciliation of Alienated Gentiles Transformed their Racial Prospects

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ v 13. Gentiles new position is a radical one but now in Christ Jesus rather than without God in the world. Amen. Hallelujah. Thatís you and me, and all believers no matter their ethnicity and race in the West and world. The Gentiles past when they formerly were far off alienated from God, is contrasted with their now being in Christ Jesus, have been brought near to God. They were not turned into Jews, but included with the Jews in Christ Jesus. The Jews were near to God because they had the revelation of God. But by the work of Christ, Gentiles had now been brought near to God.

 

The means by which Gentiles were brought near to God was by the blood of Christ. They were brought near, in other words they were made savable, by the blood of Christ. Gentiles, once alienated from God, could find God through Jesus Christ. They are no longer without God in the world. God took the initiative in Christ. The significance of Christís blood speaks of His sacrificial death necessary to propitiate Gods demand of holiness. By Christís sacrificial death reconciliation was accomplished. It was the only means of redemption, as well as the only means of reconciliation. The outcome was ethnic and racial harmony.

Application: Jesus Christís death paid for the alienation of all sinners from God no matter ethnic or race and made possible the gift of eternal life for anyone who believes Christ for that gift.

 

CHRISTíS DEATH BROUGHT PEACE WITH RESPECT TO RACE RELATIONS

The point is that the hostility between the Jew and the Gentile could not be reconciled by human ingenuity, but was accomplished by Jesus Christ himself.

 

 

 

Christ himself Brought Racial Peace

For He Himself is our peace v 14. This is about peace between Jews and Gentiles. In this context peace indicates a lack of hostility and a mutual acceptance between those who were hostile. Christ makes both a lack of hostility and a mutual acceptance possible. Jesus is our peace. This is true of all believers, Jew and Gentile, of any ethnic and racial distinctions. And what goal does Christ our peace accomplish? Who made both groups into one. Christsí death on the cross made peace between the Jews and Gentiles who are now one in Christ. Since they are one in unity and harmony acceptance replaces hostility. Both groups refer to two parties, systems or classes under which they were grouped which God made one.

PT: The difference between the age of the Mosaic Law and the church age is there is only one group today, believers in Christ, not Jewish believers and gentile believers. By way of application, this eliminates all racial hostility in Christianity. It also says the Mosaic Law is not a directive for the church. The Law must be applied to the church, but it is not a directive for the church. My directive to my children when they were small, ďDonít cross the street without your motherĒ is not a directive for them today, but it can be applied to them today as a mentality of the dangers of crossing the street in traffic.

 

Establishing this Peace Required Dismantling Racial Hostility

Christ broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. Some think the barrier referred to the curtain in the Jerusalem temple between the holy place and the holy of holies. But that was a curtain, not a wall. Paul may have in mind the dividing wall in the Jerusalem temple precincts that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of the Jews. This wall was still standing when Paul wrote this epistle. It may have been a metaphorical wall that divided Jews and Gentiles. An attitude of superiority often caused hostility. Destroying this wall was a symbol of Christ breaking down the God established division between the two groups. God established the barrier that provoked hostility and God broke it down.

 

Christ was also abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which] is the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances v 15. The misuse of the law created hostility between the Jew and Gentile. This enmity was what Christ was abolishing in His flesh. The dividing wall that God established between the Jews and the rest of the world was the commandments and ordinances [(dogma), decrees or doctrines] of the Mosaic Law. The Jews misused the law by making it a tool that enabled them to look down upon Gentiles as scoundrels. At the same time, it was impossible for gentiles to keep the Mosaic Law. The Law required: being in the land of Israel, having a Levitical priesthood, and offering sacrifices at the Temple. This resulted in hostility on both sides. To solve the problem, the Mosaic law was rendered inoperative [which] is the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances. Now there is no law as the modus operandi, destroying the hostility which existed between the groups. Our only law today is the New Testament.

 

Dismantling this Hostility was to Create One New Race of Humanity

Christ did this so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace. Here is the reason why this destruction was accomplished. The law was rendered inoperative by Christís death so that two persons could become one new person make the two into one new man. It is Jew and Gentile becoming one new humanity if any person [no matter ethnicity or race] be in Christ, he is a new creature (Galatians 6:15). This new corporate entity refers to the church in v 16. So, here is a whole new race formed. A new race that is raceless. It is the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). All who believe belong to this new entity, thus establishing peace.

Application: Our gospel message should include the teaching that Christís death on the cross, ended (for this church age) the significance of being Jewish. Our gospel message should include the teaching that believers today do not become part of Israel. Both Jews and gentiles become part of the household of God, built upon the New Testament apostles and prophets, not the laws of Moses with Christ Jesus, not the Old Testament laws, being the cornerstone.

 

So What?

      Only within God household, due to Christís death, is racial harmony possible

      Godís racial harmony does not remove racial distinctions, but does remove the hostility

      The Church as a new race, cherishes her diversity while championing her harmony