While Paul’s comments in Ephesians 2 have no direct connection to America’s race wars, a careful study of this chapter presents the death of racial strife and indignation with the most unlikely of killers—Jesus. Although He was killed on a cross by men of Israel through the hands of godless men (Acts 2:22–23), He used the very same weapon to slay racial indignation.
The book of Ephesians is written by Saul, a.k.a. “Paul,” a man trafficking in racial hatred. He persecuted Jesus (Acts 9:4) and terrorized men and women whose trust in God ran afoul with his Phariseeism (Acts 22:4; Acts 26:9–12).
Paul admitted his loathing of the church. Writing years later he stated, “I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Galatians 1:13–14).
Ephesians 2:14–18 provides three ways to know tangible, meaningful peace to end racial strife:
- Jesus is our peace (2:14–15a)
- Jesus is the maker of peace (2:15b–16)
- Jesus is the proclaimer of peace (2:17–18)
Jesus is the personification of peace in Ephesians 2:14. The words “He Himself” reaches back into verse 13 to point out that believers once estranged from God have been brought near by the blood of Christ. We have been brought near because “Jesus is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
Jesus Himself is the personification of peace, and Paul tells us Jesus is our peace because of one simple action–Christ made believing Jews and believing Gentiles one race.
Here is how Jesus is the personification of peace:
He destroys and nullifies (Ephesians 2:14–15).
You say, “Well, that does not sound like a peacemaker.” Paul explains how Jesus is the embodiment of peace.
Jesus destroys the first obstacle. “He broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:14). This wall divides nations and prevents Gentiles from having access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
This wall provokes strife, hostility, and hatred between the Jews and Gentiles. The barrier could reference a wall at the temple which kept Gentiles out. A Greek inscription dating back to the first century discovered in Jerusalem in 1871 reads:
NO FOREIGNER MAY ENTER WITHIN THE BARRICADE WHICH SURROUNDS THE TEMPLE AND ENCLOSURE. ANYONE WHO IS CAUGHT DOING SO WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO THANK FOR HIS ENSUING DEATH.
Case in point, some Jews erroneously indicted Paul for taking Gentiles past the dividing wall. They would have killed him but Roman soldiers stopped the mayhem (Acts 21).
God provided a court for the Gentiles near the temple so that the Jews could evangelize the nations of the world, but according to Mark 16:17 they made it a robber’s den. The venom and animosity ran so deep that even unsaved Jews derisively referred to Gentiles as the “Uncircumcision” (Ephesians 2:11).
Americans know about racial barriers, hatred, strife, and hostility. Having lived for eight years in a large, diverse American city, I have observed how the animosity between the races is a pestilence with equal opportunity for all to despise one another.
Though the barrier was a physical place, Paul also renders this wall which separated Jews and Gentiles as “the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” or literally, “dogmas” (Ephesians 2:15).
Jesus “abolished it.” Jesus rendered the fence of laws and ordinances inoperative, null and void. This word is also used in Romans 3:3 where Paul says, “What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” Just because God is rejected, this does not render Him inoperative, powerless or unproductive. Conversely, the word “abolished” is used to indicate that Jesus renders powerless and inoperative the devil who had the power of death (Hebrews 2:14).
We see in Romans 10:4 that Christ is the end of the law for believers. Those who have trusted Christ are dead to the law and are no longer under the law (Romans 7; Galatians 3:25). Christians are only under the Law insofar as it is repeated in the New Testament. Jesus sums up a Christian’s responsibility to the law in two simple statements: If you love God you will not place your belongings, wants or needs above Him. If you love people, you will not desire or pilfer their stuff (Matthew 22:36–40).
Jesus is the maker of peace (Ephesians 2:15b–16)
In the middle of Ephesians 2:15 are the words “so that.” Those dear words point to two reasons for which Jesus renders the law inoperative: to create a new man and to reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God. Jesus took two warring parties and He created one new people out of them known as “CHRISTIANS”! Thus, “establishing peace” (Ephesians 2:15). Not all Christians are Jews and not all Christians are Gentiles. There are only believing Jews and believing Gentiles. They are a new race known as “the Church.” They are not recognized by the color of their skin, but by having been made one skin in Christ who is our peace. This is why Paul says “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman” (Colossians 3:11). There is no place for racism in the church because we are one race created by Jesus Himself.
Secondly, Jesus nullifies the law, “To reconcile Jews and Gentiles both in one body to God” (Ephesians 2:16). Jesus wielded a weapon to reconcile the church to God. The cross is an instrument for assassination–Jesus was killed with the cross (Acts 2:36). In this text, the cross is the instrument Jesus employed to reconcile man to God (Ephesians 2:16). Jesus took the cross—the instrument used to murder Him—and He used it as a weapon to kill strife, enmity, hostility, hatred and racism. Jesus Himself is our peace. He makes peace by destroying strife and hostility by creating a new race known as the church.
Jesus is the proclaimer of peace (2:17–18)
Jesus Himself is peace, He Himself is the reconciler, He Himself is the creator of peace, and He Himself is the one who killed strife and racism with the cross (Ephesians 2: 14–16).
There is something different in Ephesians 2:17 about how Jesus comes preaching peace to Gentiles. Gentiles are characterized as being far removed from the blessing of Israel; He preaches peace to those who were “near,” meaning the Jews.
We cannot find New Testament accounts of Jesus specifically preaching to Gentiles. This peace was enacted after the cross because He killed the hatred between these two groups with the cross.
You see, Jesus by the Holy Spirit preaches through the ministry of His apostles; thus, He reaches the Gentiles with the message of peace and reconciliation (c.f. Ephesians 3:5–6; 4:11–14). The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who faithfully served Christ informed and continue informing the races that Jesus Himself is peace, “so that through Him” we have access in One Spirit to the Father.
The term “access” was used in the first century to designate the right to approach a high ranking official. When Jesus broke down the barrier of the dividing wall and killed racial hatred with the cross, the Church can approach, not just a royal official, not just a king, but the Father Himself (Ephesians 2:18).
Paul declares to Jewish and Gentile believers that Jesus is peace. Jesus made peace by destroying the wall that separated the nations. He did this by rendering the law powerless. He did this in order to make one new man.
Jesus destroyed the wall to reconcile this new race to God; He did this by slaying hostility with the cross that killed Him. Then, He preached peace so that this new race could have access to the Father.
As believers in Christ, Jesus made us one new people; therefore, racism has no place in the church because we are His one created race.
When you pray to the Father there are no barriers. You don’t need a special racial pedigree—you only need to have repented of your sins and embraced Christ to have access to God.
Have you done this?
If you do not embrace Jesus as the Savior you will never know real peace!
If you would like to listen to Eric Weathers’ sermon on this topic, please Click Here.