Summary: The reconciliation we see today due to Christ's death has both a horizontal and vertical aspect to it. Vertically God has reconciled all mankind to himself, and horizontally he has reconciled all mankind to each other through the blood of Christ.
“I Am Reconciled”
Here’s the attitude of the first century Jewish religious man: “Thank you God for not making me a Gentile, and thank you God for not making me a female”. The pious Jew was ever aware of the privilege they had inherited, and frankly they found little value in others who were not God’s chosen ones. There is an arrogance that still exists in some very pious Jewish groups. And the primary sign of this acceptance from God was circumcision.
Gentiles and women were not circumcised so they were thought of as lesser beings, and unless a Gentile man became a proselyte and was circumcised, they had very little status in Jewish religious culture. In fact on the wall of the outer courts at the temple there was an inscription warning the Gentiles that they were to blame for their own death if they passed into the inner courts. This was a very racist culture and these were God’s people. And it was based on misinterpretation of the Scriptures.
Many people think that this is God’s mindset because of it, but that is far from the truth. Circumcision was only ever implemented, because God’s people would not obey the real spirit of being God’s people, so God gave them a bunch of laws for them to obey until the Messiah came.
That’s what makes this section of chapter 2 so wonderful, it expresses so beautifully what God’s heart intentions are and always have been, unity and reconciliation with Himself, and between all people.
So the reconciliation we see today has both a horizontal and vertical aspect to it. Vertically God has reconciled all mankind to himself, and horizontally he has reconciled all mankind to each other through the blood of Christ.
Let’s first look at the horizontal. Let’s read verses 14-22… This is also stated so beautifully by Paul in Galatians 3 starting in verse 27:
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.” This is really a summary of what he’s talking about here in Ephesians 2.
Now God has often been accused of being racist, promoting slavery, promoting the suppression of women, and intolerance, but here we see that the opposite is true. It is man that has created all this inequality, sometimes by misunderstanding the words of God, that’s true.
But Christ is our peace as we read in verse 14, he has broken down the wall of hostility between each other and between us and God. This he did by abolishing the law, of which circumcision was a primary ordinance.
The church should be the most accepting, fearless place in the world. Starting with those who are in Christ, who are true believers, it shouldn’t matter what race, gender, socioeconomic status, or denomination they are. God has made us one in Christ and our love for each other should be what characterizes us.
Jesus gives us a new identity in Christ, we are all born again into a new family, and our differences should not define us or divide us. Here’s the picture from Revelation 7, “A great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
That’s what church will be like in eternity and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be like that now. Our Ephesians passage says God has reconciled us in one body through the cross thereby killing hostility. Now in a healthy state how does our physical body operate? Is there tension and competition and fighting against each other between our body parts? Are our ears jealous of our toes; will our liver say to our heart I am going to stop working because you offended me with all your fancy beating, and everyone talks about you but never mentions me?
No, the only time our body works against itself is when there is a cancer in it. And cancer is a foreign invader from within our own body that we try to kill before it kills us. Paul has much to say about this in the church, especially in 1 Corinthians. And Jesus brother Jude addresses this as well in Jude 1:16-19: “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud mouthed boasters, showing favouritism to gain advantage. But you must remember beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions’. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”