As seen in this portion of the Ephesian letter (2:11-22), Paul is working with the Gentiles. Most of the Ephesian believers are Gentile converts, yet they understand that much of God’s program in the Old Covenant involves the Jews. The Jews are not kind to the Gentiles. Many of the Jews believe that the Gentiles need to become Jews first before they can be acceptable to God and to them. God made the difference between the Jews and Gentiles from the time of Abraham…not that the Jews might boast in how great they were, but in order to be a blessing and a help to the Gentiles. The Jews might have been different nationally, ritually…but morally, they are the same as the Gentiles.
Before they came to Christ, the Gentile Ephesians worshipped Diana (or Artemis). Some of them believed they could worship Diana and Christ…and that it would all be the same. Paul says – no way! The Jews were a “special nation”…but not so the Gentiles. They did not have a covenant for themselves. They were aliens and strangers and the Jews never let them forget it. The Gentiles’ philosophies, religions were empty and powerless to help men face life and death. They were, as a whole, without God. The nations had many gods (see Paul in Athens, Acts 17), but they didn’t know the One True God. The Gentiles were included in God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)…and this ultimately would culminate in their having hope through Christ Jesus.
Although the Jews, Gentiles might have different purposes, these differences are erased in Christ’s reconciliation or “bringing them together again.” There is not a significant problem for the church until Peter is sent to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Then there is enmity (Acts 11-15). Are the Gentiles supposed to become “Jewish Christians”? No. The enmity was taken away. The law that separated the Jews and Gentiles is taken down…Christ destroys the wall and makes peace. The big picture is what really needs to be considered. Not only did the Gentiles need to be reconciled to the Jews, but both Jews and Gentiles need to be reconciled to God! It is not a question of a Gentile becoming a Jew in order to become a Christian, but the Jew admitting he is a sinner like the Gentile. Jews and Gentiles both have access to the same God through the new covenant brought by Christ Jesus. Israel was God’s chosen nation, but they rejected their redeemer and suffered the consequences. The kingdom was taken from them and given to “a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof…” (Matthew 21:43). The new nation is “spiritual Israel”, the church. Sin divides mankind, but Christ unites people by His Spirit. All believers, regardless of national background, belong to a “holy nation” with citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3). God does not dwell in a house made with hands, in temples or church buildings…but He lives in the lives of His believers (1 Corinthians 6:19), who are His temple (1 Corinthians 3:19). What a glorious plan in order to bring “oneness” and “peace.”
Joel Jongkind shares this -- In the latter part of the gospels, the disciples were in quite a state when they were gathered in the upper room. Their Lord and friend had been crucified, and the authorities were after them. They sat and wondered what to do next. Some of them were ready to go back home. And suddenly, Jesus was with them, and they heard His wonderful words, "Peace be with you."' Sometimes we too doubt and worry; sometimes we have a feeling of anguish in our hearts. We sit and wonder, or we lie in bed and worry, and we pray about it, or we go to church to worship, or we pick up the Bible and read those wonderful words, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NKJV) Or we hear Jesus' words, "Peace be with you." The word "peace" has been used a great deal over the years. Every time we turn on the television, we hear people “talking about peace” in places where there are wars and uprisings: in the Middle East, in Syria in particular lately, and in a number of African countries as well. There are a lot of negotiations, but there does not seem to be a lasting peace. Before one war is over, another one has started. There seems to be no end to it, and we have learned nothing from history; there is no lasting peace. But inner peace is for all of us to have and to hold through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. We know that the triune God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- is our source of lasting peace, and then, it does not matter what might happen in our lives, for we can be at peace through faith, and we will have peace in our hearts.”
It is interesting to note that religious history is not a record of man starting with many gods (idolatry) and gradually discovering the One True God. Rather, it is the sad story of man knowing the truth about God and deliberately turning away from it. God called the Jews beginning with Abraham that through them, He might reveal Himself as the One True God. Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles, but their light burned dimly. Today, we…spiritual Israel, the church…are not all that unlike the Jews and Gentiles as it relates to our ideals, philosophies and the like. We all come from different places, have different backgrounds. The message of grace and reconciliation is just as important today as it has always been…maybe it is even more important as it relates to one another, given the great differences between people…especially those in our fellowship. But, the goal is not any different for us than it was for early believers. In spite of our differences, we find ways to submit our spirits to the Spirit of God and when we do so, we are able to be at peace with God and with one another. And this has value beyond what any of us can really truly appreciate individually…but it is good. Keep working at allowing the “peace of Christ to dwell in your hearts.”