christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

ephesians 2:13-15, the dividing wall

Reposted with clarification from 2011:

Read Ephesians 2 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: Ephesians 2:12, strangers to the covenants

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, Eph 2:13-14

Who are the two groups? The Jews and the Gentiles. Ephraim/ Israel was scattered among the Gentile nations like seed, so that “a little leaven would leaven the whole lump.” The leaven of Ephraim, the one nation of Israel, would leaven the whole lump of dough (all the nations) to transform the whole lump into His people (Amo 9:9).

The blood of Messiah is our shalom, our peace, our well-being, our completeness, our wholeness, our perfection. It does not just mean “absence of conflict,” but it also means unity (being made complete or whole). Paul used a literary device common in Hebrew literature. He said, in essence, He Himself is our shalom (peace) who brought both groups into shalom (unity).

From verse 14, we know that Messiah broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, then Paul goes on to say:

… 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, Eph 2:15

The words in brackets above were not in the Greek, but were added to the text. I do not think Paul meant to identify the enmity with the Torah. He did not put the “which is” in his letter, making the Torah the enmity. Think about this. God gave Israel the Torah to observe throughout their generations. Jesus reiterated the endurance of the commandments when He said that till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle (the smallest stroke of the pen) will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled (Mat 5:18). For our understanding of a single passage to be correct, it has to harmonize with the entire body of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. If it does not, then we have not yet arrived at the correct understanding. The understanding of the Torah as the enmity does not harmonize with the rest of Scripture, so we have not yet arrived at the correct understanding.

The barrier of the dividing wall is the enmity, not the Torah. He abolished in His flesh, the enmity, and when He abolished the enmity, He broke down the dividing wall. Let us notice first of all, that enmity is the opposite of unity and shalom. Enmity, in Greek, is an enemy, or a hostility. Paul further explains that which was hostile to us in Col 2:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Col 2:13-14

The “certificate of debt” contained in “decrees against us” is what is hostile to us. That is the enmity. A “certificate of debt” is in Greek, a cheirographon: a list of the crimes which a criminal had committed, written out, which was posted at his execution, or posted outside his jail cell. It was for these transgressions of the law that the criminal was in chains. Pilate posted a cheirographon over the head of Jesus when He was crucified. Jesus’ cheirographon read, “The King of the Jews.”

It is not the Torah, which is holy and just and good, which Paul upheld, which was hostile to us, but the list of our transgressions of the Torah which was hostile to us – since it was because of that list, that we were condemned to die.

The enmity of Eph 2 is the same as that which was hostile to us in Col 2. A clearer understanding of Eph 2:15 can be had if we read it like this:

[Messiah broke down the barrier of the dividing wall] by abolishing in His flesh the enmity [which was hostile to us], the Law of commandments [written down as the] ordinances [which we have transgressed, which condemned us to death], so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,

Now why did Paul do this sometimes, and just use a partial phrase to refer to something instead of spelling everything out so that there would be no misunderstanding? Listen, he never realized, I don’t think, that he was writing the next part of the Bible. To him, he was just answering questions raised to him by the churches. The letter he received from Ephesus, which prompted this reply, might have gone into great detail – we don’t know, we don’t have the letter he was sent, just his reply. It makes no sense, if you are replying to someone, to repeat in detail everything they said to you. They know what they said. Thus referring to it by the key words is enough to bring the whole concept to mind.

Also, he taught in detail on all these subjects when he was in Ephesus, in meeting after meeting. Referring to the subject by key word is enough to bring the whole teaching to mind – if you are talking to someone you are in relationship with, who has sat under your teaching. Actually, the fact that he was a bit careless about spelling everything out in places is proof that Paul was the author of these letters and that they were written very early on in the life of the church, not hundreds of years later by a panel of “church fathers” trying to distort Jesus’ message, as some like to claim. A church father, writing hundreds of years later, would spell everything out. But Paul, thinking that he was just addressing an issue brought up to him by his church, which he had just been at last year and had taught extensively on this subject, wouldn’t.

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