Tuesday June 25, 2019
EPH 2:14-18 - The Double Reconciliation.
Our study of the early church returns to Antioch, the rich, beautiful, and populous city which was the Roman seat of the province of Syria. The Christian persecutions in Jerusalem drove many Jewish Christians north to settle there, and through them, a large, and mostly Gentile, church was established there.
EPH 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
EPH 2:15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
We find the Jews still employing an “us and them” strategy. When Paul and Barnabas return from their first missionary journey with the report of many Gentile salvations, the more conservative Jews are anxious about making the Gentiles more Jewish.
ACT 15:1 And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
Rather than quickly and rashly judging them for their error, which it is in error, we must try to understand why they would possess this desire. When we look at their past, we can understand why many Christian Jews still clung to the old way, the covenant that was broken by us all.
JER 31:31 "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
JER 31:32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord.
We read this word for word in Heb 8.
Does God say that Gentiles will be excluded? Just because a particular party is left out of a particular revelation, doesn’t mean that they are excluded - unless God says so. We have seen several passages, and we will see more, which reveal that God was going to bless the Gentile along with the Jew, a truth that has borne witness to the world for 2,000 years now.
So, the New Covenant embraces both Jew and Gentile, a covenant that cannot be broken. It is unconditional. The old Mosaic Covenant, was broken by every Jew as well as any Gentiles who entered the assembly of Israel. The old covenant commanded circumcision. Circumcision was a token of the Abrahamic Covenant.
The great importance of circumcision can be seen in Exo 4 when God almost killed Moses when he failed to circumcise his second son. God said that He would deliver Israel from Egypt on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant. How could God send a man as His deliverer who would not honor the token of that covenant?
So, why not circumcise the Gentile if he is now under the Abrahamic Covenant, which is fulfilled in part in the church? That question answers itself; Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant, and partially fulfilled the unconditional covenants. Having the reality, the Person of Christ, we no longer need the tokens or types.
We don’t need animal sacrifices, a Tabernacle, the Passover, or circumcision. Jewish Christians would continue to circumcise their sons, but not in the hope of Messiah. They could still celebrate Passover, or eat the Passover meal, but again, not in the hope of Messiah’s coming, which would be blasphemy.
It was extremely important for Jewish Christians to understand that they were no longer under the Mosaic Covenant.
To continue to place faith in the symbols of the Messiah given in the Law would be like having a picture of Christ for a long time, having never met Him, and when you finally do meet Him, you continue to only look at the picture and won’t look upon His actual face.
The old covenant was broken by everyone. God’s response was to give us a New Covenant that no one could break.
The only way to enter into this covenant is through faith in Christ.
HEB 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
HEB 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
HEB 8:8 For finding fault with them, He says, [then he writes out the New Covenant verbatim from Jer 31]
HEB 8:8 "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will effect a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
HEB 8:9 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day when I took them by the hand
To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
HEB 8:10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them upon their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
HEB 8:11 "And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
And everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
For all shall know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them.
HEB 8:12 "For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more."
“All shall know Me,” all shall have the reality of the Person of Christ whereas the saints under the old covenant only had a shadow of the Lord.
And then concludes:
HEB 8:13 When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
Upon writing of the Book of Hebrews, the Temple still existed, and naturally, even Christian Jews were still drawn to it, even if they did not attend it or its rituals.
The New Covenant is in place in the church, but that does not mean that it will not be in place for a Millennial reign of Christ over the nation of Israel (“house of Israel” HEB 8:10) in the future, which it will. We must conclude as Peter when he witnessed Cornelius baptized by the Holy Spirit, “Who was I to stand in God’s way?”
The sharp contrast is also drawn distinctly by Paul in the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus … and … the law of sin and death. Can the law of God, which is by definition holy, be described as “the law of sin and death”? Yes, in so far as it stimulates sin and passes sentence of death on the sinner.
ROM 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
ROM 8:3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
ROM 8:4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
The Spirit of life within vs. the law of sin and death - Paul wrote earlier of the same antithesis.
2CO 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
2CO 3:6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Why does the letter kill if that letter is the word of God? It is the Law, which stimulates sin, sin kills us, God judges us. However, under grace, gifted by God with redemption in Christ Jesus, we are no longer under Law but possess the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit empowering us to follow Christ. We follow a Man by the power of the indwelling Spirit, not a Law.
This was a difficult transition for a Jewish Christian in the beginning church. Peter illustrated this plainly when he was residing in the Antioch church.
The Jewish Christians, we may conclude that it was the more conservative ones, still clung to the old covenant, which we can understand, as they lived their entire lives under it, and not as some flippant cultural norm, but as the very worship of the God of the universe. We are not condoning their lack of understanding, but trying to understand it, as it will help us to overcome our own biases.
ROM 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The first Jewish Christians had to swallow this as even Paul did directly after his conversion. All of us come into the Christian way of life with bad habits that have no place in the life of Christ. We can readily believe that a man of Paul’s overbearing zeal found it no easy matter to win the victory over a hasty tongue, a premature judgment, a resentment at the encroachment of others upon his time, etc. These things are not specifically forbidden in the Law, but by the standard of Christ, when I look into His very eyes, beholding Him, the sinfulness of all things is revealed.
We can see how things change in the life of a believer in the old dispensation when he tries to live specific to 613 commands and a believer in the present dispensation who tries to live after the example of the Person of the Son of God.
Being specific to a number of commands can lead one in an ungodly way while claiming righteousness. This is pointed out by Christ during the Sermon on the Mount in the segment, “You have heard it said…”
MAT 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”
MAT 5:21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'
MAT 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;”
For instance, the command to love your neighbor was clear and understood. But what about your enemy? Since none of the 613 commands specifically addressed it, many concluded that it was lawful to hate your enemy. Do not commit murder was clear enough, but what about anger? I could be angry at my brother and claim that I wasn’t a law breaker - after all, though I sort of wanted to, I didn’t kill him. Do not commit adultery was clear, but what about wanting to? I could lust for my neighbor’s wife and claim innocence. The law was exacting on retribution (eye for an eye), but what command was there to be exceedingly gracious? (specifically, I mean) Though I love my neighbor, if he takes from me, I lawfully want retribution, but how from the law’s commands alone could one discern: