13 But now in Christ Jesus you who previously were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace; 16 and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the hostility. [Eph2:13-16]At a first glance this passage might appear to be describing how Christ’s shedding of blood at Calvary has broken down the dividing wall that existed between man and God since the Fall. That is a wonderful truth but is not what Paul is referring to here. This barrier is vertical, not horizontal. It refers to a division between one nation and others because of the Law (Torah), not between God and humanity because of their sin. The peace being established here is between disparate peoples so that they might become “one new person”. Both groups are to be united such that as one body they can be reconciled to God. That is by abolishing what had previously separated Jew from Gentile – Torah, being “the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances” (v15). Paul refers to this same issue in Colossians where he writes “(God) blotted out the handwriting of the ordinances that were against us, that were hostile to us; taking it out of the way and nailing it to the cross” (Col2:14).
This is more good news in the context of the broader benign providence I have been outlining. God’s laws and decrees set out in Torah, which as fallen human beings we invariably fail to keep, have themselves been nailed to the cross – the benefit of which cannot meaningfully be applied to a specific grouping (i.e. a “limited atonement”). The requirement to keep this Law has been annulled; period. But the same applies to sin. This is how Scripture presents Christ’s Passion with regard to sin: Christ became sin for us (2Cor5:21); He suffered once for sins (1Pet3:18); the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him (Is53:6). Jesus had come in the likeness of sinful flesh so that all sin in the flesh should be condemned (Rom8:3). Not your sin, not my sin, not His chosen people’s sin – simply SIN! That is why John could write: “Christ Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world” (1Jn2:2).
Having read the above, if you have been following these posts or have read my book, you will not immediately go on to challenge along the lines, “Then why be a Christian at all?” or “Wherefore the gospel?” Even the previous post should have made the reasons abundantly clear. Those outside “the covenant of promise” are, according to Paul, dead to God and without hope whilst in this world. For it is only God’s chosen people who can be set free from the domination and bondage of sin by sharing in Christ’s life (Rom5:10), overcoming the encumbrances of Paul’s body of this death (Rom7:24-25). Only such can be “alive to God” in the present or be fitted for their glorious inheritance as the corporate bride of Christ. And with the nearer future in mind, only such shall be resurrected or, if still alive, raptured, at the point that Christ comes with His saints to judge the earth (Jn6:54; 1Thes3:13; Jud1:14-15). At such a time, a certain category of people that Jude (quoting from the Book of Enoch) referred to shall be ignominiously removed from the earth. But these are not all who have failed to keep Torah or indeed failed to follow (or even know about) Jesus Christ. It shall be those who like their archetype Cain have entirely failed to keep the spirit of Torah and indeed every law God has provided for man: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word within the statement, ‘You shall LOVE your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal5:14). For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is ANY OTHER COMMANDMENT, IT IS SUMMED UP IN THIS SAYING, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Rom13:9
It is no wonder that Paul had been so exasperated with the Judaizing infiltrators of the Roman and Galatian churches. They were seeking to rebuild the dividing wall that Christ’s work at Calvary had broken down. And they had failed to grasp that “it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified (Rom2:13). Yet at the same time “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom3:20). Those seemingly contradictory statements of Paul make perfect sense once a distinction is made between outwardly observing “commandments expressed in ordinances” vis-à-vis fulfilling the spirit of the Law. The former has been abolished for everybody; the latter is required for all if they are to avoid the fate of the Mt25 “goats”. As Paul has just indicated in Gal5:14, such fulfilment in spirit pertains to love. That is a quality that all who are truly human possess and demonstrate to a degree (1Jn3:12: Mt25:40), whilst God’s elect who act as the Body of Christ in the world are to be perfected in love (1Jn4:17-18).
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