Ephesians– overview of 2:14-18; Double Reconciliation, part 5 ~ The Law vs. the New Covenant

Wednesday June 26, 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,


The fulfillment of the Mosaic Law by Christ is a wonderful and significant truth concerning the unity of the body of Christ.


The Law, the old covenant, was broken by all in Israel. Without the Law, Gentiles were dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). All are born in Adam, and therefor in spiritual death, Rom 5:12.


God abolished the wall between us and Him and also abolished the walls between all of mankind through the blood of Christ. However, He did not abolish the Law, rather He fulfilled it, and so now it is fulfilled by us, all believers, who are under the New Covenant in His blood. The New Covenant is unconditional. It depends only on God’s integrity and so it cannot be broken.


The struggle with the question of old covenant new covenant was not only faced in the first century.


The traditional Lutheran doctrine has a threefold use of the law: 1) a means of preservation, 2) a summons to repentance, 3) a guidance to the church. This only muddies the water.


The problem with this doctrine is that it limits itself to the ethics of the law rather than enforcing conduct that is unlimited and heavenly. Some think the law goes too far morally and ethically when it doesn’t go far enough. “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”


This was certainly new to the church; whose population was mostly Jewish at the beginning. The difference between Jew and Gentile, which immediately caused division, could only be overcome by understanding the fulfillment of the old covenant and the blessing of the New Covenant.


Gentile conversion to proselyte of Judaism: 1) circumcision, 2) ritual cleansing (baptism), 3) pledge to keep the Law.


Many of the conservative Jewish Christians concluded that Gentiles who entered the fold of the church should do so in the same way that they entered Judaism in the past: circumcision, baptism (ceremonial washing), and a pledge to keep the Mosaic Law.


Circumcision was a token of the Abrahamic Covenant. The church possesses Christ. Our flesh was removed spiritually when we believed upon Him.


Circumcision was a symbol of the reality that we now possess.


Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.


Col 2:9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form,


Col 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;


Col 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;


Col 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.


To continue the ritual in the manner of the old way would be like preferring a picture of Christ or a shadow of Him above Him. It can still be done, but not in the manner of the old hope.


Baptism remained as a symbol of cleansing, and also as a public testimony and therefore a means of evangelism.


Keeping the Mosaic Law would be like preferring the commands given to children above the entire obedience demanded of a responsible adult. Though a weak analogy, it serves the purpose of illustration. The 613 commands of the Law were akin to the training of a child, including the ritual. We possess the reality of heaven, and that is the height to which Jesus took the ethics of the Law.


Gal 4:1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,


Gal 4:2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.


Gal 4:3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.


Gal 4:4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,


Gal 4:5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.


Gal 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"


Gal 4:7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.


Gal 4:8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.


The Galatians are Gentiles who knew nothing of the Mosaic Law. And so, when Judiazers infiltrated their ranks they convinced many of them that the Law of Moses needed to be followed and had not been superseded by the New Covenant. It was likely easier to convince them because it was all new to them.


Being Gentiles, as unbelievers they worshipped, or at least identified with, the false religions of their lands, polytheistic, pagan religions. As Christ set the Jew free from the law of sin and death so He set the Gentile free from pagan religion.


Paul equates paganism and the Law together as slavery when viewed as a vehicle for justification.


The Galatians were heathens when Paul came to them. They served their gods through sacrifice and ritual and were slaves to the customs of their religion. When the Jews came to them, they offered them a different set of rituals and sacrifices and customs, which now that Christ had come and died and resurrected, was only another form of bondage. Paul delivered them from a legal system through faith and liberty, and they adopted another legal system, trading in their faith and liberty. 


Gal 4:9 But now that you have come to know God [New Covenant], or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?


Gal 4:10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.


Gal 4:11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.


In the OT, looking forward to your coming Messiah, observing the rituals of the Law as reminders and pictures of the deliverance to come, was a spiritual exercise. Now that Christ had come, they could no longer be celebrated in that way. If salvation has come, we should not act in a manner that hopes it is coming.


“Yet,” one might ask, “what about the ethics of the law?” In the Lutheran tradition, the law was to be used as guidance for the church. While that sounds fit and will likely help a bad Christian, it is not a principle found in the NT. Paul wrote that the law of commandments and ordinances had been removed and that the church was to be guided by the law of love.


Rom 14:15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.


Jesus took the commands prohibiting harm to others transformed them into brotherly love that lays down its life.


He took the commands restraining marriage and transformed them to complete devotion, sacrifice, and fidelity, not just in practice, but in every thought with fealty, fidelity, care; and in every look with loyalty, allegiance, and single-heartedness. 


He took the commands restraining vows and transformed them to continual truth, openness, and perpetual honesty.


Jesus took the commands restraining judicial retribution and transformed them removing all claims of rights or justice except that which God performs.


He took the command to love your neighbor and transformed it into love for all men, including your enemy, in doing good to them, giving graciously to them, and praying for them.


Jesus took the law of Moses and made it extraordinary. He took men and made them extraordinary and then bid them to follow Him.


© Grace and Truth Ministries / Pastor Joseph Sugrue • cgtruth.org • All rights reserved.