Ephesians 2:14-17. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
What is the church in relationship to Christ? Ephesians 2-4 wrestles with this question in glorious fashion. Christ is ___ therefore the church is ___.
Christ is peace therefore the church is at peace.
For he himself is our peace. Paul wrote these words in the middle of the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace). The Roman Empire prided itself on its ability to keep the peace. No conflicts, wars, uprisings allowed. This is of course what ultimately led to the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus failed to keep the peace. Or so they said.
For us the irony is that the One who was killed for being less than peaceful is our peace. Paul’s statement here is huge. Jesus promised that when he left earth the Spirit would come and bring the peace of God with him. But what is the peace of God? It is the life of Christ. It is our union with Christ by the Spirit. He himself IS our peace.
How specifically is Jesus our peace? The answer is through his death. Not his teachings on how to reduce stress. Not his seminar on how to get along with difficult people. Not his mantras or his parables. Not his example even. His bodily death – who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. It is his work in his flesh on the cross that has brought about our peace.
In his flesh.
First, it is Christ’s union with humanity through the incarnation that allows us to experience peace with God and each other. The Son taking on flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14) was step one in reconciling humanity to God. The mission that was planned before the foundation of the world, the mission which is the plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Christ, this mission of humanity’s full reconciliation to God is only possible because of God’s union to mankind, by the incarnation of Christ, which would, by the death of Christ, allow us to finally experience union with God by the indwelling life of Christ.
By abolishing the law of commandments.
Next, Jesus, God in the flesh, had to completely obey all of the law of commandments, God’s commandments, so that he could then abolish them as the means by which we relate to God. These laws were part of God’s covenant with Israel. They were also a wall between God and humanity. As humanity’s representatives, Israel had to learn to obey God and live as God intended for his image bearers. But inevitably they failed over and over again. So rather than the law being a bridge to God it became a fence keeping mankind away from God and his holiness.
Joy comes when walls are torn down. Christ has torn down the wall that divides all of humanity – self-righteousness.
In Paul’s day walls literally separated people (not unlike today). Walls at the temple literally separated Jews and Gentiles. Walls in Greek homes literally separated children and slaves. By both keeping the law in righteousness and then dying in unrighteousness for all those who did not keep the law, Jesus was able to abolish the law. In so doing he tore down the spiritual wall of condemnation between us and God and the walls of self-righteousness between all mankind. He placed all humanity back on the equal footing of grace once and for all.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
Through the incarnation God joined himself to humanity so that he could bodily (in his flesh) die for us on the cross thus abolishing the law breaking down the wall of hostility between all mankind and securing reconciliation between God and man. But finally, there is one more thing that had to happen. Peace had to be preached.
It is fascinating that Paul would say this to the Ephesians, a body of Christians in Turkey. Because Jesus never went to Turkey. Jesus never preached in Ephesus. Or did he? By our union with Christ when we preach Christ is preaching. When the early church took the gospel to Ephesus Jesus was preaching in Ephesus.
The reconciliation that Jesus literally secured on the cross had to be made known through the preaching of peace. Christ’s death made reconciliation possible, but reconciliation is a two-way street. It must be proclaimed and received. Peace must be preached to those who are near and to those who are far. Not just geographically. Paul’s not talking about where the Jews and Gentiles literally lived, they lived together all over the Empire. He’s talking about their relationship and knowledge of God. Jews were “near” because they knew God and the law and the covenant. But they still needed peace with God through Christ. Gentiles were “far” because they knew nothing of God or his law and covenant. And they needed the same peace through Christ. It doesn’t matter how much you know ABOUT God. Do you have peace with God through faith in the blood of Christ Jesus?
Everyone needs peace WITH God. Everyone needs the peace OF God. And everyone can have it. Everyone. Jesus’ union to humanity and his death on the cross have made peace possible for all of mankind.
“To live is Christ” is to have this peace. To be brought close. And then by the indwelling life of Christ to preach this peace to the world. To those near and far. The peace of knowing that there is no longer any law that can keep you from God. No sacrifice needed for sins. No penance. No striving. No walls. No fences. No obstacle whatsoever between you and your heavenly Father. And no obstacle between you and your fellow man. That’s the church. That’s glorious grace.