Summary: The blood of Christ is reconciling blood.
The Berlin Wall once stood in the city of Berlin, Germany as a symbol of the Cold War—the struggle between Communism and the West. On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood near that wall and made a dramatic plea to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Gesturing to the guarded wall of concrete and barbed wire that had divided Berlin and all of Germany since 1961, Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Two years later, the wall did come down. The barrier that had separated the East from the West was now gone.
When Jesus came into this world two thousand years ago, another wall was standing—not a wall made of wood or stone, but one built with prejudice and misunderstanding. For many centuries it divided two groups of people: Jews and Gentiles. But that wall no longer stands. It has been torn down by Christ. Today Jews and Gentiles may become one in Him.
Ephesians 2:14 declares that Christ "hath broken down the middle wall of partition between [Jews and Gentiles]."
I. THE GENTILES WERE ONCE FAR AWAY FROM GOD.
A. They were uncircumcised.
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands" (v. 11).
Circumcision was instituted by God in Genesis 17 as a symbol of the covenant between Him and Abraham (v. 11). God had promised to Abraham, "I will make of thee a great nation" (Genesis 12:2). That nation, of course, would become known as Israel.
Circumcision was the mark that distinguished Jews from Gentiles. Every Jewish male was circumcised eight days after birth; the Gentiles were not. The Jews came to despise the Gentiles because of this difference. They saw themselves as better than the Gentiles.
People have a way of turning differences into barriers. We do the same thing today: There are barriers between French and English; there are barrier between natives and non-natives; there are barriers between black and white; the list goes on and on.
The more the pride of the Jews swelled, the worse their hatred for the Gentiles grew:
• If a young Jewish man or woman married a Gentile, his or her family would have a funeral service, symbolizing the death of their child as far as religion, race, and family were concerned.
• Some Jewish women refused to help a Gentile woman give birth, because to do so would make them responsible for bringing another despised Gentile into the world.
• When a Jew entered Palestine he would often shake the dust off his sandals and clothing in order not to contaminate the Holy Land with Gentile dust.
• Some Jews believed that God created the Gentiles to use as fuel for hell. Many believed that God loved Israel and hated every other nation.
The prophet Jonah typified the common Jewish attitude toward Gentiles. Through Jonah’s preaching God produced history’s greatest revival, but Jonah was not happy. He was angry that the city of Ninevah had repented and been spared from God’s judgment. Why? Because these people were his nation’s enemies—they were Gentiles. In Jonah 4:2 we read that the unhappy prophet "prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. . . ." The real reason why Jonah didn’t want to preach in Ninevah was that he didn’t want them to repent. He wanted them judged, not forgiven.
The Jews failed to realize that circumcision did not make them superior. It was only a physical mark. We see in Ephesians that circumcision is "in the flesh"; it is "made by hands." It is really not much different than a haircut. (Of course a haircut is less painful!) If God told me that I was to have a special haircut, would that make me better than everyone else? No!
"You are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit" (Romans 2:28-29, NLT).
Circumcision was to be an outward symbol of an inward reality. It’s similar to baptism in that way.
It was God’s plan that there should be Jews and Gentiles. There was a real difference between them. The Jews were circumcised and the Gentiles were not. But that was not to be a barrier.
B. They were without the blessings of the Jews.