Lesson 10: Part 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)
by John Lowe
“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 enmityrefers 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…”