…having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two …
Christ’s peacemaking atoning work on the cross establishes: first, a peace with God, and then, as a result, peace between men. This peace is demonstrated and displayed in the unity of the body of Christ – first in the abolition of the ancient barrier which separated Jew from Gentile, and ultimately in the removal of all human barriers by which men separate themselves. Verses 14-17 of Ephesians 2 is the theologically packed centerpiece which explains how the readers’ coming near was made possible through Christ’s death.
Christ, in particular His life in the flesh and death on the cross, is the subject who, made peace, destroyed the dividing wall, abolished the enmity, created one new man, and reconciled both to God. We begin to see, from the use of these participles in italics, how many things the cross accomplished. Paul’s emphasis in the verses of our text is the restoration of the ‘horizontal’ component of peace between men and men. He describes how Christ created a new unity which transcends the old Torah-inspired spatial separation between Israel and the nations.
The text identifies the real barrier as being the Mosaic law itself – having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances … The three nouns, law, commandments, and ordinances convey a sense of the oppression and burden of the law. It is not the law, as a revelation of the character and will of God – that law which David and Paul and all godly men love – which is made powerless; nor does this suggest that God’s moral law ceases to exist or has no more relevance for the Christian; but it is the written code, threatening death instead of imparting life, which Christ has nullified and rendered powerless. Because of Christ, there is now therefore no condemnation – as the basis for condemnation is removed. The Mosaic law which is the written code linked to the Sinai covenant is no longer the direct and immediate guide to the new covenant believer. The immediate guide of the people of God today is no longer a written commandment, but the Holy Spirit who has written the law of Christ on our hearts. Wherever law and man-made codes and ordinances set the standard today, you be sure there will be an associated fracturing and division.
Nothing less than an entirely new creation was needed to bridge the deep gap that existed between Jew and Gentile. So Christ’s death created one new man – not an amalgamation the best elements of the two. The new man is not made by transforming Gentiles into Jews or visa versa; but the new man transcends them both. The formation of the one new man is a significant step toward the consummation of God’s eternal plan (Eph 1:9-10); and later Paul will contend that this one new man provides magnificent evidence of God’s glory, power, and manifold wisdom, to ‘rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 3:10). So again, the centrality of Christ’s cross is reaffirmed in the unity it establishes in His church to the glory of God.
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