“Enemies Reconciled through Christ’s Cross” Part 1: God Ended the Law to Reconcile Human Enemies
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 2.14-18
You can turn to Ephesians chapter 2. Our text is verses 14 to 15. So, if you work with me, you’ll get the blessing in the end, I think.
Our text this morning will be verse 14 down through verse 16. This isn’t exactly a go to passage. If it weren’t for expositional preaching, this poor passage, I’m afraid, would get left behind. But we’ll explain it and apply it this morning.
But before we get into these verses, let’s take a look again at the beginning of chapter 2. Let’s just talk our way down through chapter 2 into our passage.
Verse one of chapter 2, before you truly came to Christ, you were spiritually dead because you were united to your sins. And before you came to Christ, you lived, verse two, according to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air ( … that’s Satan) and in verse three you lived in the lusts of your flesh and the end of verse three, you were, … because of your very nature, a child of wrath. You are deserving of eternal fires in hell to punish you for your sins.
God has given to believers the resurrection power that he gave to Christ when he raised him up bodily from the dead. “He made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved.”
Salvation is by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. God spiritually resurrects his people. Whereas before they were dead in sin and now they are alive in Christ. This is a spiritual resurrection.
But why? Why does God save anybody? You ask yourself, “why me?” Why did God save me?
It is because verse seven so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. In other words, in future ages, God is displaying the church as the masterpiece of his grace. That’s why he saved you so that you can make up a part of this masterpiece in order to demonstrate how gracious and kind he is.
And how did this salvation come about in someone? It is not of yourself verses 8-10. You are saved by God’s grace and the faith and all of that is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God verse eight says. It’s not of works verse nine. But we are to work, verse 10. But we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works. We should be doing good works, but good works do not save.
So, when you trust in Christ in a saving way you were made alive together with Christ.
And so the cosmic ruler of the universe was attentive to you, a wretched sinner! And he brought you to faith in Christ, indeed, if you are trusting in Christ.
And now not only were you dead as a sinner, even more now, as Gentiles you were separated from promises of God in salvation. Not only as sinners verses 1-10, but as Gentiles we can sense our unworthiness of being a recipient of God’s salvation.
In other words, God did not have to shift his program of salvation to include Gentiles. Historically, up to this point in the first century when this was written, God’s program of salvation was primarily Jewish.
And so verse 11 tells us to remember something. Paul commands us, which is the only command, in chapters 1 to 3, Paul commands us as Gentiles to remember verse 12 that before Christ came, we were separated from him. We must remember that as Gentiles we were separated from Christ. We were separated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise. In other words, we were separated from God’s program of salvation because of the fact we are not Jews.
But all that changed when Christ came verse 13. When Christ came and when you trusted in him as a Gentile, you who formerly were far off have been brought near to God’s program of salvation. And you were brought near to God’s program of salvation how? In verse 13, you were brought near to God’s program of salvation by the blood of Christ.
TRANS: But now, there is an issue. If you were living in this time period, you would immediately have a question … like, “how on earth is this going to work?” Because as a first century reader, you know exactly the issues between the Jews and the Gentiles. They are at each other’s throats!
In the ancient world, there are cultural barriers like you have never known.
For example, Colossians 3:11 … there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
Paul has to remind them about that for a reason! And that’s because during that time, there were a lot of racial and cultural barriers. But in Christ, all of those barriers are removed. It was the temptation to allow the cultural distinctions to come into the church. There was a temptation to allow the world’s perceptions of things to come into the assembly of God’s people.
In an ancient world, there was no barrier like the barrier between Jew and Gentile. And when Christ came, he brought both of them into the church. And the problem is, Jews and Gentiles were naturally hateful to one another.
ILL: And you know, bringing these kinds of people together into the church is kind of like bringing two people together who have a wall in between them. That’s like asking them to have fellowship when there is a wall of hatred in between them. It does not work!
Could you imagine two people attempting to have real fellowship and there is a wall in between them?
It’s kind of like imaging back in the 1800s true fellowship existing between blacks and whites in the deep south. That seems impossible!
And the question that Paul answers beginning in verse 14 is this, “how is true fellowship between Jew and Gentile possible when there is such hatred between them?”
And the answer to that is in verse 14. Verse 14 Paul is going to answer the question as to how true fellowship can exist between Jew and Gentile. We’ll explain this and apply it to our situation here.
Look at verse 14-16.
And so let’s read the translation you have before you…
Ephesians 2:14-16 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
When Jesus died on the cross, verse 15 teaches that Christ brought an end to the Law of Moses. So not only did he pay for the sins of the world at the cross, but he also brought in a new administration of God. And this new administration is one in which we are no longer under the authority of the Law of Moses, but we are under the authority of the law of Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:21 [we are not] without the law of God but [we are] under the law of Christ.
And because the Law of Moses has ended in Christ, the source of the hostility between Jew and Gentile has also ended. Naturally, then, Christ’s death on the cross demolished the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. And now, because that wall of racial hostility has been broken down, there can be a unity in the church, which consists of both Jew and Gentile. Formally hostile groups of people are now able to be united.
So, this morning, I’d like to preach that “Enemies Unite through Christ’s Cross.”
TRANS: How is it possible, verse 13, that Gentiles could be brought near to God’s promises when there is such hatred between Jews and Gentiles?
How can God put 2 groups of people who hate each other into the church? It’s possible if God were to break down the hatred. And Christ did just that through His cross.
First, in verse 14, hostile people can be in the one body of Christ because Christ broke down racial hatred. First, Christ’s cross broke down racial hatred, verse 14.
Christ’s cross broke down racial hatred (Eph. 2:14)
So those who were formally far off, that is the Gentiles, we Gentiles have been brought near to God’s promises by the blood of Christ. The reason why Jew and Gentiles can be in the one body of Christ is because of Christ’s death on the cross. Verse 14 …
Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
So you can see a picture forming. “Christ broke down, end of verse 14, the “barrier of the dividing wall.” Simply put, Christ broke down the wall. Now, what is the wall?
The wall is this: the hostility between Jew and Gentile. To see that in the text,… in verse 15 simply slip the word enmity and put it next to the word “wall” in verse 14. By doing that, you will get the sense of the text as it is more literally. In Paul’s illustration, enmity or hatred is represented by the wall in verse 14.
ILL: So the illustration is this: You have a wall in the middle and you have Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other. And there is graffiti on the wall. On this wall is written “hostility” or “enmity” or simply “hatred.” So the clear idea is that Jews and Gentiles are naturally hateful towards one another.
And Christ broke down or demolished this wall. His cross broke down the hatred between believing Jews and Gentiles. I want to show you that in the passage this morning. Christ Himself broke down the hatred.
As it says at the end of verse 13 … The Gentiles have been brought near “by the blood of Christ.” Verse 14 “Christ himself is our peace.” As well verse 15 he broke down the Jew/Gentile hatred “in his flesh.”
Another way of putting this is middle of verse 15 “so that in himself he might make the two into one new man.”
He reconciles Jews and Gentiles verse 16 how? … “through the cross.” This was all done in verse 18 that “through him.”
All of those phrases … by the blood of Christ, he himself, in his flesh, in himself, through the cross, through him … All of these phrases in verses 13-18 tell us that Christ’s cross broke down the hatred between Jew and Gentile and united them into one new body in the church.
So Christ broke down the wall of hatred between Jew and Gentile by dying on the cross.
TRANS: So the question becomes then, how did the Christ do this through His cross? Answer: by ending the Mosaic Law. And I know that that answer is controversial. Christ’s cross-work was able to bring down the wall of hatred between people who naturally hate each other, between Jews and Gentile. How did that happen? Because when Christ died on the cross, he made the Law of Moses no longer to operate.
Let’s see that in the passage.
Christ’s cross ended the Law (Eph. 2:15a)
Ephesians 2:15 [Christ broke down the wall of hatred between Jew and Gentile. He did this verse 15 … ] by abolishing in His flesh …. the Law of commandments”
Now remember, in the original text, the enmity or “hatred” is really a part of verse 14. In verse 14 he broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, which is the enmity or the hatred. And now he did that verse 15 by abolishing in his flesh the Law of commandments.
So the original language is clear that Christ abolished the law of commandments. Christ abolished the Old Covenant law.
So again, to ask the question … how did Christ break down the hostility between Jew and Gentile, how did Christ break down that wall? By abolishing the Law. By abolishing the old covenant, Mosaic Law.
The word “abolish” is a difficult word to translate. It’s best to understand this word as to “invalidate.” Christ’s death invalidated the Law of Moses. This word has the idea of making something no longer to operate. If we are speaking in legal terms, you’re no longer under the jurisdiction or power of Moses’ Law. So this word means to invalidate something or to make it not to operate any longer. It has ended.
So this passage is saying that the Law of Moses has been invalidated. It no longer operates.
Now, what exactly has been invalidated? The Mosaic Law is called the Old Covenant. It is that portion of our Bibles, roughly, from Exodus 19 to the end of Deuteronomy. The Mosaic Law contains the laws for animal sacrifices as well as various moral and civil law. This Law … The Mosaic Law has “ended”; it no longer operates.
And by the fact that it has ended, I don’t mean that the Mosaic Law is destroyed or no longer inspired. Please don’t misunderstand. This merely means that the Law of Moses no longer has legal power over God’s people.
You understand this. You know that you are not legally required to sacrifice animals to atone for sin, right? You know that you can wear clothes that have mixed fibers. You don’t have any problem eating pork, right? Under the power of the Old Testament, God’s people had to sacrifice animals and they could not wear clothes that were made out of more than one kind of fiber and they had various food laws to abide by.
The cross of Christ calls for the Mosaic Law no longer to operate. Otherwise, if it did, you would be required to sacrifice animals and obey the other laws as well.
However, some interpreters like to divide up the Mosaic Law and say that Christ caused, not the entire Mosaic Law end, but only those sacrificial laws and various food laws, and other civil laws, like stoning, etc.
But the Bible nowhere divides up the Mosaic Law like that. It is best to take it in its entirety.
So what this is teaching in verse 15 is that we are required no longer to come underneath the authority of the Law of Moses. It has been brought to its legal end. In fact, we are called by God to come out from underneath it.
Just like Paul says …
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Matthew 5:17 Christ says that he came to fulfill the law and the prophets. The Law and the Prophets are therefore fulfilled.
Galatians 3:24-25 teaches that we are no longer under “the Law” meaning the Law of Moses.
Also, in Romans 7:1-6 Paul teaches that we were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ.
Romans 6:14, Paul teaches that you are not under the law, but under grace.
And lest somebody think that we do not have any commandments of God any longer, Paul reminds us in …
1 Corinthians 9:21 [that we are not] without the law of God but [we are] under the law of Christ.
“End of the Mosaic Law” “Christ fulfilled the Law” “we are no longer under the Law” “we have died to the Law” “we are under the Law of Christ.” It’s clear! We are called not to come underneath the Mosaic Law, but under the Law of Christ.
And we discussed this on a Thursday evening and we discovered that night that 9 of the 10 Commandments are mentioned in the New Testament. And that demands an explanation. Why is one of the 10 commandments missing in the New Testament? And the one that is missing in the New Testament is “remember the Sabbath day.”
And the reason why we no longer have to remember the seventh day of the week, Saturday, is because when Christ came, he invalidated the Mosaic Law. We no longer have to observe the Sabbath day. The 10 commandments therefore do not embody the moral law of God, as many interpreters say.
Just like Paul says in Colossians 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
No one is to act as your judge regarding those Old Testament laws. And the reason for that is because they are not in effect today.
When Christ died on the cross, He invalidated the law of commandments contained in ordinances. Simply, verse 15, he invalidated the Mosaic Law.
When Christ died on the cross, verse 14 says, he broke down the wall of hatred between Jews and Gentiles. How did he break down the hatred? Verse 15 says he broke down the hatred by invalidating or ending the Law of Moses.
TRANS: and when he ended the Law of Moses, he established peace between Jew and Gentile.
Christ’s cross unites enemies (Eph. 2:15b-16)
Let’s read the end of verse 15 and verse 16 Ephesians 2:15-16 15 [Christ broke down racial hatred by invalidating the Law of Moses … end of verse 15 … why? ] so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
So when Christ died, he ended the Law of Moses, and when he did that, he established peace between Jews and Gentiles and made it so that the two hateful groups could be put into one new man, in the church. He reconciled them …how? through the cross. It was by the cross that he put to death the hatred. He demolished the hatred between Jew and Gentile.
ARG: keep in mind, this is speaking of believers. Yes the nation of Israel has its problems today with some Gentiles, but this is speaking of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ.
And you might be asking, how exactly does this work? How does it work that the death of Christ effectively demolishes the hatred between believing Jews and believing Gentiles so that they can become a part of the church?
The answer to that is when Christ died, he invalidated the Law of Moses. “But what does that have to do with anything?” Why is it that the ending of the Law of Moses effectively takes away the hostility between Jew and Gentile?
Answer: Because the Jews thought they were better than the rest of the Gentile world. And if you think you’re better than everyone else, everyone else is going to hate you!
The Law of Moses produced a hostility between Jews and Gentiles. And the ending of the Law of Moses broke down the hatred between them.
Let me explain how this works. As you know, the Law of Moses has a detailed holiness code. By design, this separated Jews from the Gentiles. It was good for the Jews to be separated from the Gentiles religiously, as you know. The Jews were not to participate in Gentile religions.
So, these laws in the Old Covenant were excellent! In fact, Moses underneath divine inspiration, says Deuteronomy 4:6 “So keep and do [these laws], for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples [the Gentiles] who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
Moses’ point here is not that the nation of Israel should be proud and have an attitude of superiority … “Yipper … ‘Surely we are a wise and understanding people …”
As we discussed the last time we were in this passage, the nation of Israel was not to be snooty. But that’s exactly what happened. The Jews misused the Law of Moses to the point that they took pride in themselves because they possessed God’s Law.
But instead, the Jews looked down their noses at the Gentiles. And they began to have a “holier than thou” mindset against them.
You can hear this snootiness in Ro. 2:17-21. Paul writes and he condemns their snooty attitude when he says …
Romans 2:17-21 17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the [Mosaic] Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?
You can sense Paul condemning them for their holier than thou mindset.
And so you can imagine how the Gentiles would feel. Because the Jews were so snooty, the Gentiles hated the Jews. And the Jews were taking pride in their misuse of the law of God. The Jews thought that they were better than the world; So, the Gentiles hate the Jews.
But originally, the Law was designed to be a protection from the evil practices of those nations. Plus, the people of Israel were to be a kingdom of priests … witnesses for God in the world. The Law was designed to enable them to be a witness to the Gentile world … To those who were “far off.” But if you have a snooty attitude, it will diminish your witness.
So what’s the solution? When Christ dies, the Law of Moses has ended. What they boasted in comes to its legal end. No more boasting in something that doesn’t operate. Genius!
Now, the Jews have no boast; they have no reason for bragging. In fact, they haven’t been able to practice the Law in its fullness for almost 2,000 years. If there is no Temple, there is no ability to sacrifice animals according to the Law!
And therefore now, Jew and Gentile, former enemies, can now be united and reconciled since the Law of Moses has been brought to an end.
Now, does this matter today? The principle here is that God has brought formerly hateful people and brought them together. Racial-hatred filled people God brings together.
APP: And so in the history of North America, this passage solves the racial hatred problem. Jew and Gentile hatred was racial, but it was based on a faulty view of the Scripture.
Just think, in the history of the world, if God’s people really got a hold of the glories of Christ’s death and how enemies can be united and how Christ came to end racial hatred…. This would have changed our entire continent! If I preached this same thing 200 years ago in the deep South, I would have been tarred and feathered! I’m sure preachers avoided this passage!
There is no room for racial hatred in the church of Christ. Christ came to die to end racial hatred between Jew and Gentile. So be careful with your dislike for certain races.
ARG: There is no cause for looking down on anyone b/c of their race or nationality. Yes, there is call for discernment of what certain people need. Paul used discernment when he said that in Titus 1 that “Cretans are always liars.”
There are specific exhortations that certain people groups need to hear, but there is no cause for dismissal of them “out of hand” simply b/c of their origin, race, or nationality.
So, when Christ died, He took away that hostility because He took away what the Jews boasted about! The Law is no longer operating; therefore, how can you boast at how great you are? The Law isn’t even operating! If the Law is not operating, the Jew cannot boast about how good they are. If they are not boasting, then Gentiles won’t be hateful toward them.
Like it says in a few verses earlier in Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
APP: But now, hitting a little more close to home, most of us have come out of other churches. And a real temptation is to look down on those who do not hold the same spiritual convictions that we do. You have grown in your understanding of Scripture and you may have friends or family in other churches and your temptation is to cast blame against them.
“Oh, wow, look at how spiritual I am!”
In other words, you could, by the way you speak, come across as having an elitist mindset…That you are somehow better than other people.
APP: Now, you may not believe that you are acting this way, and you may or may not be being snooty. But you could be coming across this way. You may not in your heart of hearts believe that you are better than somebody else, but by the way you talk, somebody can begin to believe that you think you are spiritually superior to them. Be careful with your speech.
Communication is a two-way street. It’s kind of like saying with great …, shall we say, passion “I AM NOT ANGRY” … But even your children think that you are. So make sure that your words are communicating what you really feel. Be extra careful in this area that you don’t come across as a snooty member of Northlight Baptist Church.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 2.14-18
Christ had to die for us to deliver us from the power and the penalty of our sin. And in his death, he unites the world for all who would believe in him. We are all one in Christ Jesus. There are no social distinctions … there are no racial distinctions … we don’t prefer one another based on status and material wealth. In fact, we ought to give greater honor to the weaker members of Christ’s body.
We have all been reconciled to God and we are one body in Christ Jesus.
So when Christ came he saw hatred written on the wall that divided the Jews and the rest of the Gentile world and he tore it down through His death on the cross! He died to provide unity among the members of His body.
Be unified! Don’t let silly things cause division in this body of Christ. “Seek peace and pursue it!”
And rather than boasting in ourselves, may this attitude be found among us Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Christ died to achieve this unity in our assembly. Let’s Ephesians 4:3 be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
137 when I survey…read first line …ends with pride. The cross eliminates this pride. Look long and hard at the cross of Christ. His cross delivers us from all sin. Will you trust in Him? Let’s stand …