Let’s cut straight to the chase and read Paul’s (and God’s) blueprint for the model of a Church that integrates the people who are near (the Jews) and the people who are far away (the Gentiles).
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-18)
Before we feed from the truth within these words, it’s worth considering context, particularly as it begins with “Therefore …”, implying a set-up and followed by “Consequently …”, implying … consequences. So, first the set-up:
He reminds us of God’s perspective, as the whole initiative is His, through His grace. So we read the preceding verses from His perspective, not ours:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
We are the products of God’s grace, not the instigators. We are saved as a free gift from God but, despite what some in the Church teach, it is not totally one-sided, for we have responsibilities too. We have been created to do good works. And, as has already been discussed in the Shalom of Unity, these functions have been individually assigned to us from God Himself. We’re not just to hang around in smug expectation of a glorious future.
Paul then reminds Gentiles how far they have come, as the far away people, now brought near by the blood of Christ. Such grace has been bestowed on them, perhaps far more than the Jews, the people who were already near, who already had the covenants and the promises. There is one thing they must now take very seriously. It comes in verses 14 to 18:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
There is one main objective expressed, that of peace, shalom, the shalom of oneness, where the near people and the far away people become one people, One New Humanity, or One New Man, as it is more universally expressed. This is no ordinary shalom, it has been instigated by Jesus himself, who, through his sacrifice on the cross has totally done away with the sacrificial system, the barrier that differentiated the two people. By doing so, they are now one people, the near people and the far people now together becoming the people of the one Spirit.
Hostility between the groups has been put to death and peace now reigns. Does it really? More next week.
This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp