In order to understand this passage we must know a little of the historical context in which Paul is writing. He is writing to a church that is comprised largely of Gentiles with a few Jewish believers in it as well. At the time of his writing, Jews despised Gentiles and refused to associate with them. Even Gentiles who converted to Judaism were not completely welcomed. The Jews erected a wall in the temple that separated Jewish worshippers from Gentile worshippers. The Gentiles were not very fond of the Jewish people either. Anti-Semitism was rampant in the Roman culture of that day.
Circumcision vs. Uncircumcision
Paul reminds the majority of his audience that they were not born Jews and were called “uncircumcised” by the Jews. This was a term of derision that demonstrated the scorn Jews had for Gentiles. The name calling was more than just words; it was an overt demonstration of the hatred that existed between the two groups.
As a Gentile, they had no hope of salvation. Even if they converted to Judaism, they could never worship God in the temple or be allowed into His presence. They were not part of the chosen people of God and were outside of the covenant. They were far from God even if they tried to seek Him.
The blood of Christ fixes the problem
Jesus’ death tore the veil in two making it possible for anyone to come into God’s presence if they came through Him. It is easy to see how Jesus’ death would affect a Jew, but what about a Gentile who could not pass the wall much less the veil? What good is a torn veil if the wall still stands? Paul here tells us that Jesus’ blood draws both Jew and Gentile near to God, but how?
Jesus tore down the wall
The answer is simple, Jesus tore down the wall. In Jesus it does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free (Galatians 3:28.) Jesus is the way for Jew and Gentile alike. He has made them into one people. The people of God is no longer segregated. We all have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer black or white. We are Christians. There is no such thing as a Jewish church or a Gentile church, a black church or a white church. All there is is THE church; the people of God unified by the blood of Jesus.
He is our peace
How does Jesus reconcile us to each other? He does so by doing away with our understanding of what is clean and unclean. In the Law, there were many things that made some one clean and accepted by God. These things included diet, ceremonies, washings, clothing, circumcision, etc. All of these were used by the Jews to justify their hatred of the Gentiles. However, these things were merely pictures of the reality, Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who makes us clean and accepted before God, not ceremonies, washings, diet, etc. Jesus has done away with all those distinctions. The only thing that separates mankind now is Jesus. We are no longer separated by skin color, race, ethnicity, religious ceremonies, etc. We are either in Christ or outside of Christ.
We live in a time where racial reconciliation is greatly needed. Unfortunately, churches are hotbeds for this division. We need to completely accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and His actions on the cross. He has torn down the wall of division, we cannot rebuild it. We must change our ideas of what makes someone acceptable. It is not skin color or any other measure. It is Jesus alone.
Racial Reconciliation – Part 1 (Ephesians 2:11-15)