Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…
Wherefore remember, that ye being in lime past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our Peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Reconciliation is the grand idea of this passage, and it sets before us the condition of its subjects, the nature of its agency, and the blessedness of its achievement.
I. THE CONDITION OF ITS SUBJECTS. They are here presented in two aspects - aspects in which all men in their unregenerated state are found. 1. As socially disharmonized. Between the Jews and the Gentiles there was no accord; on the contrary, there was a deep, mutual variance in sympathy and soul. There was a "middle wall of partition between them." That wall was built by political prejudices and religious differences, and was cemented by a mutual "enmity." So that they were "aliens," and "strangers," and morally "far off" from each other. There are these social differences between unregenerate men now, the world over. Instead of union, there is division - harmony, there is discord - love, there is enmity. Hence the eternal feuds, domestic, social, ecclesiastical, political. Some "middle wall of partition" divides family from family, class from class, nation from nation, man from man.
2. Is religiously disharmonized. There was not only a mutual variance between Jew and Gentile, but there was a variance between both and God. Religiously the Jew is represented here as being "without Christ," ignorant of him, and uninterested in him; "without hope," without any well-founded hope of future good; "without God" practical atheists. Living every day as if no God existed, Does not this describe the religious condition of all unregenerate men in every part of the world? What a picture of the moral world! Hideous, yet life-like!
II. THE NATURE OF ITS AGENCY. Who is the great Reconciler? Who is he that reconciles men to men, and all to God? There is One, and only One. "Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh." The passage gives three ideas about this reconciling.
1. It is the work of self-sacrifice. Christ does it by his "blood," by his "cross." What is the blood of Christ? Not, of course, the vital fluid which flowed through his corporeal veins - not his mere existence, but the governing moral spirit of his life. The real life of a man is his governing disposition. This is the moral blood that circulates through all his activities. What is the governing spirit of Christ? Self-sacrificing love. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," etc. It is by that self-sacrificing spirit of his in teaching, working, praying, and dying, that he does the work of the world's reconciliation. Love alone can kill enmity. Christ's moral blood is the atoning power.
2. It is the work of abolishment. Christ's mission is destructive as well as constructive. He pulls down as well as builds up. He came to destroy the works of the devil.
(1) He abolishes dividing forms. He breaks down the "middle wall of partition." When he died upon the cross, not only was the veil in the great temple of life, which divided men from God, rent asunder, but the wall that divided man from man was broken down. "The whole law of commandments contained in ordinances" was abolished. "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). He gave man one system of worship. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
(2) He abolishes the dividing spirit. "The enmity." The abolishment of the mere separating forms would still leave souls asunder if enmity existed. He slays the enmity.
3. It is the work of preaching. "Preaching peace." "And came and preached peace to you." Christ preached peace himself both before and after his death. His personal ministry was emphatically a ministry of peace in spirit and in doctrine - in example and in aim. He preached by his servants. This was the grand subject of the apostolic ministry. This is the grand subject of all ministers. The gospel is a gospel of peace; Christ was the Prince of peace.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF ITS ACHIEVEMENT. What is the grand result of his reconciling agency?
1. Union of man to man. "To make in himself of twain one new man." Giving all men, however diverse in temperament, circumstances, and education, one moral soul. This is the true union, the union of heart, making men one - one in sympathy, one in purpose, one in Christ.
2. Union of man to God. "And that he might reconcile both unto God." In truth, man can only become truly united to his brother man, by first becoming united to God. He must love the-great Father supremely before he will love his race with the affection of a genuine brotherhood. True philanthropy grows out of piety. Men thus united to God, the passage suggests, are united together:
(1) As citizens of the same spiritual state. They are "fellow-citizens with the saints." The common "citizenship" of all is in heaven. All are alike loyal to the same authority, obedient to the same laws, inheritors of the same rights.
(2) As members of the same spiritual family. They are of the "household of God." They are united not by mutual interests or covenant arrangements, but by the clinging instincts of family affection. They are of the family of God.
(3) As parts of the same spiritual temple. "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets," etc. In some respects the parts of a building are more united even than the members of a family. In a well-constructed edifice one part is so dependent on another, that to disturb a portion would be to injure the whole. All whom Christ reconciles are parts of a grand temple.
(a) Beautifully united, "framed together."
(b) Gradually advancing: "groweth," the growth of a living organism, not the mere growth of a building.
(c) Religiously consecrated: "a holy temple." What a glorious temple is this! The temple of Diana these Ephesians originally considered as the glory of the world, but it would appear to them contemptible by the grand spiritual temple that Paul here pictures to their imagination. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;