So then, remember that at one time you were gentiles in the flesh—called the “uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.
He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22 CSB
During my childhood, I spent a lot of time as an outsider. Being shy and awkward resulted in me not having many friends. Lacking athletic talent resulted in me often being picked last for games at school. I had a hard time feeling like I belonged. Another vague memory from my childhood: One day I was watching TV and the cut in with a news break—the Berlin Wall was coming down. This about two years after President Reagan proclaimed, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Both these childhood realities of mine relate to our text at hand. Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote to a gathering of believers who, primarily, were former idol-worshiping gentiles. That is until the gospel of the Jewish Messiah fell upon their ears with the power of the Holy Spirit and they believed.
When we read through Acts and the spread of the gospel beyond the boarders of Judea, we find countless non-Jews coming to faith in Jesus along with some of the Jews. Because of this the early church, including its Jewish leaders, faced the dilemma: What do we do with all of these gentiles who are trusting in Jesus, receiving the Spirit, and wanting to have a part with us when they know nothing of our laws and customs?
Perhaps no one in the early church addressed this problem more frequently and deeply than Paul, the one called specifically to take the good news of Jesus to the gentiles (while also not neglecting his fellow Jews; Galatians 2:8, Acts 9:15).
And what was his Spirit-inspired solution?
Paul said to the gentiles who had once been excluded because of their spiritual condition and still sometimes felt excluded because of their ethnic background, “I know you’re uncircumcised. I know some of my kin like to use that as a pejorative. I know you feel like outsiders. But Jesus changed everything. And you’re not even the last-picked for the team. You’re a part of Israel, you’re fully a part of the family, and those marks of the skin don’t matter anymore.” Paul pointed back at the crumbled ruins of the dividing wall and said, “Jesus Christ tore down that wall!”
The only thing that mattered was whether or not they had Jesus. If they were “in him” by faith, then all the ways they used to be excluded were now reversed. With Christ, they were citizens, children of the covenants of promise, with hope, and with God in the world. They became the holy ones—a part of God’s household, standing on the bedrock of Jesus through the prophets and apostles, and a part of the holy temple, the house of God’s Spirit.
Paul called this peace. What was once divided had been brought together and what was once two had been made one. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote to all Jesus-followers individually that we are new creations. Here, Paul wrote to us corporately that this new Jew-Gentile family is a new creation. Even with our differences of backgrounds and ethnicities we are one.
And this was no mere implication of the gospel either. Paul called the gospel or good news the “good news of peace.” Paul said that this union of two formerly divided people was brought about “by the blood of Christ.” The gospel unites because Jesus unites. Yes, there is a division between those without Christ and those with Christ. You’re either a part of the family by faith or you’re not. But if we live in Christ, then by default we are to be reconcilers and peace-makers, seeking to tear down walls of hostility that divide.