by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees. He did this to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace
I. HOW HE HAS MADE PEACE BETWEEN JEW AND GENTILE.
1. He did so by leveling in the dust the middle wall of partition that separated them widely for ages, in a word, by abolishing the narrow particularism of Judaism. The wall in question was the ceremonial law - "the law of commandments contained in ordinances" - given to Israel as a separate people and of positive appointment. The moral law was no part of the partition wail, and contains in itself nothing either to excite enmity or to establish separation between man and man. The death of Christ did not abolish it; it was the law of ceremonies only that was abolished in the cross, for when he died, it disappeared like a shadow when the substance was come. The moral law, as embodied in the Decalogue, was older than the Mosaic institute, and therefore survived its fall. The partition wall that kept Jew and Gentile apart was
(1) an ancient barrier of separation. It lasted sixteen hundred or two thousand years, according as we date its origin from Abraham or Moses. A Puritan Father says, "The foundation of the wall of separation was laid in Abraham's time when circumcision was first given, for that began the quarrel; reared up higher by Moses' rites; further lengthened and stretched out in all times of the prophets, throughout all ages, till Christ, who came to abolish it and break it down."
(2) It was a high barrier. It kept the Jew effectively apart for more than a millennium and a half, that he might be trained for the universalist dispensation that was to be established in the fullness of times.
(3) It engendered a deep hostility on both sides. It was this "enmity that made the barrier so serious an element of separation. The Jew regarded the Gentile with a proud and supercilious superiority, and the Gentile regarded the Jew as an enemy of the human race. Literature is full of the evidences of this continuous hostility. The Gentiles were called in contempt the uncircumcised" and "sinners of the Gentiles." Juvenal, Tacitus, Martial, Horace, repay the debt in the language of bitter and contemptuous sarcasm.
2. Consider the grand instrument of reconciliation between Jew and Get, the. "In his flesh." The language refers expressly to the condition of penal curse-bearing to which the atoning Savior spontaneously subjected himself. As the apostle once represents sin as being condemned in Christ's flesh (Romans 8:3), so here our Lord is regarded as having in his flesh taken upon him the sins of his people, as the great cause of enmity and disunion, and having exhausted at once the sin of man and the wrath of God on the cross, he thus at once abolished the law of ceremonies and annihilated the enmity which found its occasion in it. The cross is still the instrument of reconciling man to man. The world has made many efforts to unite men on a basis of liberty, equality, fraternity - often trying to bring about a union even by the most terrible bloodshed; but no principle has yet been discovered to unite man to man save the gospel of Christ, with its doctrine of atonement through the blood of the cross.
3. Consider the ultimate result of the death of Christ. "To make of twain one new man, so making peace." Those previously sundered were by the cross lifted into a higher unity, and placed upon a platform of equal privilege that obliterated all the old causes of division. The reconciling power of the cross ran through all the relations of men and all the relations of life. The person of Christ crucified became henceforth the great Center of unity.
II. HOW CHRIST IS OUR PEACE IN EFFECTING RECONCILIATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. "That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." Nothing can be more explicit than the declaration that Christ's mission was intended to reconcile God and man, who were previously alienated by sin. It is often contended that, as God is essentially a God of love, it becomes us to think only of reconciliation on man's Side. There are, in fact, two reconciliations, the one based on the other - a reconciliation of God to man, and a reconciliation of man to God. The apostle says elsewhere that "God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:18), and that it pleased "the Father, having made peace through the blood of the cross, to reconcile all things unto himself" (Colossians 1:20). The scheme of salvation, whether we take account of the incarnation or the atonement, emanated from the Divine good pleasure as the supreme source of all blessings. It is always important to emphasize the fact that the atonement is the effect, not the cause, of God's love. The peace here spoken of is peace on a basis of law and justice; for the offering up of Christ so magnified the Law and exhausted all its demands, that, on the ground of that propitiation, God could be at once just and the Justifier of the ungodly. This is according to another passage: "God hath sent forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness" (Romans 3:25). If this be so, it is an error to hold that the only purpose of Christ's death was the manifestation of Divine love. It was, in fact, a manifestation of Divine justice as well as of Divine love; and if it was not a manifestation of Divine justice, that is, if there was no righteousness making that death necessary, it is difficult to see how there could be a manifestation of love in his dying. It follows also that it is an error to depreciate the importance of Christ's death, and to lay the main emphasis of his mission upon the virtues of his life. The Bible knows nothing of a gospel without a cross, or of a gospel which makes the cross a mere affecting incident at the close of a sublime career; it rather exhibits the cross as the grand procuring cause of life and redemption to man. If you take away the cross, you dry up the stream of blessing which has flowed down through all Christian ages, you put an end to the abiding peace of God's people, and you paralyze the right arm of the ministry. Therefore we are justified in regarding the reconciliation between God and. man as resting on Christ's work, and this work as charged with reconciling power, not as it moved the human heart or led to a new conduct in man, but as it introduced a new relation in which men were placed before God. - T.C.
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.
1. The word rendered "to abolish" is the word often used by St. Paul for "to supersede by something better than itself" — translated "to make void," in Romans 3:31; to "bring to nought," in 1 Corinthians 1:28, and (in the passive) "to fail, to vanish away," to be done away," in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. Now, of the relation of Christ to the Law, St. Paul says, in Romans 3:31, "Do we make void the Law? God forbid! Yea, we establish the Law." The Law, therefore, is abolished as a law "in ordinances" — that is, "in the letter" — and is established in the spirit.
2. "The law of commandments in ordinances." The word here rendered "ordinance" (dogma) properly means "a decree." It is used only in this sense in the New Testament (see Luke 2:1; Acts 16:4; Acts 17:7; Hebrews 11:23); and it signifies expressly a law imposed and accepted, not for its intrinsic righteousness, but on authority; or, as Butler expresses it (Anal., Part 2, chap. 1), not a "moral," but "a positive law." In Colossians 2:14 (the parallel passage) the word is connected with a "handwriting," that is, a legal "bond"; and the Colossians are reproved for subjecting themselves to "ordinances, which are but a shadow of things to come"; while "the body," the true substance, "is Christ" (see verses 16, 17, 20, 21).
3. Hence the whole expression describes explicitly what St. Paul always implies in his proper and distinctive use of the word "law." It signifies the will of God, as expressed in formal commandments, and enforced by penalties on disobedience. The general idea, therefore, of the passage is simply that which is so often brought out in the earlier Epistles (see Romans 3:21-31; Romans 7:1-4; Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 2:15-21, et al.), but which (as the Colossian Epistle more plainly shows) now needed to be enforced under a somewhat different form — viz., that Christ, "the end of the law," had superseded it by the free covenant of the Spirit; and that He has done this for us "in His flesh," especially by His death and resurrection.
4. But in what sense is thin Law called "the enmity," which (see ver. 16) was "slain" on the cross? Probably in the double sense, which runs through the passage: first, as "an enmity," a cause of separation and hostility, between the Gentiles and those Jews whom they called "the enemies of the human race"; next, as "an enmity," a cause of alienation and condemnation, between man and God — "the commandment which was ordained to life, being found to be unto death" through the rebellion and sin of man. The former sense seems to be the leading sense here, where the idea is of "making both one"; the latter in the next verse, which speaks of "reconciling both to God," all the partitions are broken down, that all alike may have "access to the Father." Compare Colossians 1:21, "You, who were enemies in your mind, He hath reconciled"; and Hebrews 10:19, "Having confidence to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated to us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh."
(A. Barry, D. D.)1. As God's people, in covenant with Him, ought to be highly incensed against and averse from any voluntary entire fellowship with those who neglect and contemn the ordinances of worship prescribed by God in His Word; so those who are without the Church, yea, and all unregenerate men, do look upon the ordinances of God's worship as base, ridiculous, and contemptible, and carry a kind of hatred and disdain to all such as make conscience of them: for so the ancient worship, prescribed in the ceremonial law, was the occasion of hatred and enmity betwixt the Gentile, who contemned it, and the Jew, who made conscience of it. And, therefore, is here called the "enmity"; "having abolished the enmity."
2. As the moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments, was no part of that mid-wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, seeing some of the drafts and lineaments of that law are upon the hearts of all by nature (Romans 2:15); so there was no necessity to abrogate this law at Christ's death, in order to the uniting of Jew and Gentile, neither was it at all abolished; for the law abolished was the law, not simply, but "the law of commandments," and these not all, but such commandments as were "contained in ordinances," to wit, the ceremonial law; "even the law of commandments contained in ordinances," saith he.
3. As God only hath power and liberty to prescribe what manner of worship He will be served by, so He did once give a most observable evidence of this His power and liberty, by changing that external way of worship which was prescribed by Himself, under the Old Testament, unto another under the New; although the internals of His worship, to wit, the graces of faith, love, hope, joy in God, do remain the same in both (Matthew 22:37, 39); for He "did abolish the law of commandments contained in ordinances," even all the ancient worship consisting in rites and ceremonies, sensibly and fleshly observations, which God did then prescribe, not as simply delighted in them, but as accommodating Himself to the childish condition of the Church in those times; and hath now appointed a more spiritual way of worship, as more suitable to the grown age of the Church (John 4:21, 23).
4. It was Christ's sufferings and death which put an end to the law of ceremonies, and made the binding power thereof to cease; for seeing His sufferings were the body and substance of all those shadows, they neither did nor could evanish until Christ had suffered, but then they did; it being impossible that a shadow, and the body, whereof it is a shadow, can consist in one and the same place; "Having abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances."
(James Fergusson.)Colossians 3:12). This phrase, "the new man" (on which see Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 2:10), is peculiar to these Epistles; corresponding, however, to the "new creature" of 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; and the "newness of life" and "spirit" of Romans 6:4; Romans 7:6. Christ Himself is the "second man, the Lord from Heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:47). "As we have borne the image of the first man, of the earth, earthy," and so "in Adam die," we now "bear the image of the heavenly," and not only "shall be made alive," but already "have our life hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). He is at once "the seed of the woman" and the "seed of Abraham"; in Him, therefore, Jew and Gentile meet in a common humanity. Just in proportion to spirituality or newness of life is the sense of unity, which makes all brethren. Hence the new creation "makes peace" — here probably peace between Jew and Gentile, rather than peace with God, which belongs to the next verse.
(A. Barry, D. D.)1. Union in the Church of Christ is a thing which ought to be prized by us highly, and sought after earnestly; and so much, as there is nothing in our power which we ought not to bestow upon it, and dispense with for the acquiring and maintaining of it; for so much was it prized by Christ, that He gave His own life to procure it, and did beat down all His own ordinances which stood in the way of it; "He even abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make of twain one new man."
2. There are no divisions more hardly curable, than those which are about the religion and worship of God, in so far as they engage not only the credit, but also the consciences of the divided parties; hence one party, so engaged, doth pursue what they maintain, as that wherein God's honour and their own salvation are most nearly concerned, and doth look upon the other party as an adversary, in so far at least, to both of those; for the apostle, speaking of Christ's uniting the Jew and Gentile in one Church and religion, maketh use of a word which showeth this was a task of no small difficulty, even such, that no less than creating power was required to it, while He saith, "for to make in Himself (the word signifieth 'to create in Himself') of twain one new man."
3. So strict and near is that conjunction and union which is especially among true believers in the Church, that all of them, how far soever dispersed through the world, do yet make up but one man and one body; as being all, whatever be their other differences, most strictly united, as members under one head, Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and animated, as to the inward man, by the same Spirit of God residing and acting in them (Romans 8:9); for the apostle showeth that all of them, whether Jew or Gentile, were made, not only one people, one nation, one family, but one new man; "For to make of twain one new man."
4. As the essential unity of the invisible Church, without which the Church could not be a Church, doth of necessity depend upon and flow from that union which every particular member hath with Christ, as head, seeing the grace of love (whereby they are knit one to another (Colossians 3:14) doth flow from faith (Galatians 5:6), whereby they are united to Him (Ephesians 3:17), so the more our union with Christ is improved unto the keeping of constant communion and fellowship with Him, the more will be attained unto of harmonious walking among ourselves, suitable unto that essential union which is in the Church of Christ; for the apostle maketh the conjunction of Jews and Gentiles in one Church to depend upon Christ's uniting of them to Himself; "For to make in Himself of twain one new man," saith He.
5. The peace which ought to be, and which Christ calleth for in His Church, is not a simple cessation from open strife, which may take place even when there remaineth a root of bitterness in people's spirit (Psalm 55:21); but it is such an harmonious walking together in all things as floweth from the nearest conjunction of hearts, and the total removal of all former bitterness of spirits; for the peace which Christ did make betwixt Jew and Gentile did follow upon His abolishing the enmity, and making them one man; "so making peace," saith he.
TopicsAbolished, Abolishing, Annulled, Aside, Commandments, Commands, Contained, Create, Decrees, Definite, Design, Division, Enmity, Establishing, Expressed, Flesh, Form, Hostility, Humanity, Law, Making, Orders, Ordinances, Peace, Purpose, Regulations, Rules, Sections, Setting, Thus, Twain, Unite
Outline1. By comparing what we were by nature, with what we are by grace,
10. he declares that we are made for good works: and being brought near by Christ,
19. should not live as Gentiles and foreigners, but as citizens with the saints, and the family of God.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEphesians 2:15
1115 God, purpose of
6717 reconciliation, world to God
2525 Christ, cross of
5005 human race, and redemption
6661 freedom, and law
5030 knowledge, of Christ
6718 reconciliation, believers
LibraryMarch 14. "We are his Workmanship" (Eph. Ii. 10).
"We are His workmanship" (Eph. ii. 10). Christ sends us to serve Him, not in our own strength, but in His resources and might. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them." We do not have to prepare them; but to wear them as garments, made to order for every occasion of our life. We must receive them by faith and go forth in His work, believing that He is with us, and in us, as our all sufficiency for wisdom, faith, love, prayer, …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
July 2. "And Hath Raised us up Together" (Eph. Ii. 6).
October 1. "That in the Ages to Come He Might Show the Exceeding Riches of his Grace" (Eph. Ii. 7).
God's Workmanship and Our Works
'The Chief Corner-Stone'
'The Riches of Grace'
Salvation: Grace: Faith
The Resurrection of Dead Souls
The Scripture Way of Salvation
The Agreement of Salvation by Grace with Walking in Good Works
Life from the Dead
The Tabernacle of the Most High
A Solemn Deprival
All of Grace
Our Glorious Transforming
"There is Therefore Now no Condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
"Who Walk not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit. "
"For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus Hath Made Me Free from the Law of Sin and Death. "
The Scriptures Reveal Eternal Life through Jesus Christ
"For what the Law could not Do, in that it was Weak through the Flesh, God Sending his Own Son in the Likeness of Sinful Flesh,
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners Or, a Brief Relation of the Exceeding Mercy of God in Christ, to his Poor Servant, John Bunyan
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