For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
What does it mean to “destroy the barrier”, as it says in verse 14? What is the “dividing wall of hostility”? And what law is being referred to in verse 15?
I did some reading in my People’s Bible Commentary as well as the commentary in my personal Bible and learned some very intriguing things. The barrier and dividing wall of hostility (in this context) was the separation between the Jewish population and the Gentiles of that day.
Part of the reason there was hostility between the two groups is because of the ceremonial laws (also called ordinances) that God instituted during Old Testament times to keep Israel a separate nation. The ceremonial law, which the sacrificial system was part of, foreshadowed the coming Messiah. The ceremonial law applied only to the Jewish people.
Once Jesus came, died and rose again, there was no longer any need for the temporary ceremonial law. Animal sacrifices no longer needed to be made as atonement for sin. Circumcision was no longer necessary. So Paul tells us that Christ “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles by dying on the cross so that the sacrificial law would be fulfilled. He made peace!
It was also interesting to read that the law spoken of in these verses does not refer to the moral law, that is, the Ten Commandments and other exhortations throughout Scripture. There is no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and at the same time, God still desires us to follow His will and commandments (remember back to Ephesians 2:10
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
Sometimes there is the excuse that one is no longer required to follow any of the Bible’s “rules” because Christ “fulfilled the law”. Studying these verses really helped clarify my understanding of the meaning of the law in this context. Morality and holy living as outlined in Scripture are still desired by God. This holy way of living includes a number of truths laid out in Scripture, some that are hard to accept and yet still part of God’s desire for us as Christians.
In the same way, we don’t follow God’s moral laws in a legalistic way to earn His favor, but rather out of a heart response of thankfulness for God’s great grace to us. We can do nothing less! When I consider this, it brings me to the understanding that I cannot, in my own strength, be the woman I want to be, causing me to rely on God’s grace and help all the more!
What truths about holy living in Scripture do you struggle to understand or make you scratch your head? Do you feel as though God is working on you in these areas?
WANT TO SPEAK WITH GRACE TO YOUR KIDS INSTEAD OF YELLING?