PEACE THROUGH THE CROSS
For he Himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this 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 (Eph. 2: 14-18).
The great barrier in the ancient world was the conflict between Jew and Gentile. There were many reasons for hostility between these two groups. The Jews thought they were better than the Gentiles because they no longer worshipped idols. Their great suffering throughout their history as a nation cured them of idolatry and turned them against the pagan nations around them. They considered themselves superior to all other people because they were God’s chosen people, and they worshipped the one true God.
They believed that God was their God alone. They tolerated the Gentiles who had turned from idols to become “God-fearers” but they vehemently hated and persecuted the apostles for taking their God to the Gentiles, even if they were propagating the hated message that God was their Father and Jesus was their Messiah.
The pagan world was polytheistic. Greeks and Romans worshipped many gods and even revered the Caesars as god. They despised the Jews for their monotheism, their exclusivism and their superior attitude. Although the Roman government barely tolerated the Jewish religion, the Jews were not welcome in their society.
It would take a mighty act of God to reconcile the two groups and recreate a new race of people who were identified by a higher loyalty than loyalty to their ethnic origins and religion. Sin was the root cause of their racial hatred. Remove sin and there would be no more cause for the deep-rooted antagonism that drove them apart.
The blood that Jesus shed on the cross dealt with sin in every human heart and removed the reason for hostility between people and people groups. Paradoxically, the death of Jesus and faith in Him, not only drives people apart; it also brings them together and redefines them according to their new citizenship in the kingdom of God.
The reason for this transformed attitude and relationship between people of differing colours, cultures and languages is what Paul calls “peace”. This new state of peace begins between God and man. Since Jesus paid the debt of sin for the whole human race, there is no need for hostility between God and man. Jesus appeased God’s wrath against sin. God has forgiven our sin and cleansed our hearts from its guilt. We have all, whether Jew of Gentile, been brought near to Him. We have been reconciled and restored to fellowship with Him as His sons and daughters.
In spite of the intrusion of sin, we can still see this “echad” in the amazing interconnectedness of the many systems in the world. The heavenly bodies function in oneness and God keeps them in place and functioning together by His powerful word. What we call “ecosystems” are microcosms of harmonious interaction between creatures and their environment. Every element of creation is adapted to function within it environment. Man alone has the power to interfere and disrupt the systems which God has put in place, by exploiting and plundering resources for our own selfish ends.
Just as God planned the natural world to function in perfect oneness, so He also created human beings to live together in unity and harmony. Sin interrupted this plan but God put it back on track by dealing with sin. Only through the forgiveness that Jesus bought for us through the cross can He reconcile us to one another and restore the peace between us that is the foundation of oneness. And He did it!
How amazing it is to see ancient enemies come together when Jesus is the centre of their lives – black and white, Jew and Arab, rich and poor, male and female, high-born and low-born – it’s as though we have been born again, and we have. We have made a new start and left behind all our old prejudices and hostilities because of a love that transcends our selfish love.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ (Gal. 3: 28).
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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