Ephesians chapter two is one passage commonly used to
incorreclty demonstrate that the Law of God is abolished,
but a careful study will show that this is not true.
God's Law is for our benefit and it is tragic that verses
such as this are taken off point and out of context to show
that we no longer need to practice the Law of God. It
is the purpose of this article to discuss Ephesians chapter
two and how this chapter defends the practice of God's law.
The verse in question is Eph. 2:15. This article will
focus mostly on this verse, but will lightly touch on the
prior and latter verses to gain proper context. We
need to remember that the Apostle Paul is "the Apostle to
the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13) and he is speaking to the
Ephesians who are also Gentiles. Before continuing,
please read Ephesians chapter two.
The chapter starts with a reminder to the Gentiles of where
they came from. They were, "dead in trespasses and
sins" (Eph. 2:1), they, "walked according to the course of
this world" (Eph. 2:2), and they, "were by nature the
children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). "But God, who is rich
in mercy," (Eph. 2:4) changed this while they were,
sins", He, "quickened [them] together with Christ" (Eph.
2:5). God did this to show, "the exceeding riches of
his grace" (Eph. 2:7). The Ephesians are reminded of
where they came from and the great gift God has given them.
This all leads to one of the most popular verses in all of
scripture. "For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not
of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). We
are saved by grace through faith apart from any work we can
do ourselves. This is our
justification where God forgives us of all our sins, but
the next verse explains our
sanctification where we work with God to become the
person He wants us to be. "For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
It is important to point out the contrast between verse two
and verse ten. In verse two Paul describes how they,
"walked according to the course of this world" and
in verse ten Paul explains how God had "ordained that we
should walk." The question might be asked, where did God
ordain how we should walk? Afterall, this is past
tense. We are God's, "workmanship," "created in Christ
Jesus unto good works," that, "God hath before ordained."
When did God before ordain our good works? The answer
is in Exodus 16:4 where God clearly states that we should,
"walk in [His] law." This is echoed over and over
throughout the Old Testament as well (see 1 Kings 6:12, Neh.
10:29, Psalm 119:1). The point here is that God told
us how to walk, but we didn't. In the Old Testament,
the prophets continually told the people of God to repent
and turn back to following His law, and in the New Testament
the Messiah and the Apostles are doing the same (Dan. 9:10,
Neh. 10:29). Fortunately for us, God has offered us
forgiveness that He might work with us to bring us back to
walking according to His Law. The good works that we
were created for in Christ Jesus is the Law of God.
In verse eleven Paul moves on to another aspect of this
work, the Jew and Gentile division. In the past they
were called, "Gentiles in the flesh" and,
the, "Circumcision in the flesh made by hands,"
or, the Jews
(Eph. 2:11). The Jews segregated from the Gentiles
which caused the Gentiles to be, "aliens from the commonwealth of
Israel" and, "strangers from the covenants of promise" (Eph.
2:12). But now they, "are made nigh by the blood of
Christ" (Eph. 2:13) who has, "broken down the middle wall of
partition between [them]" (Eph. 2:14). This, "middle
wall" was a division in the temple where the court of the
Gentiles was separated from the Jews. The Jewish
extra-biblical laws, most of which we have contained in a
writing today called the Talmud, had many laws that require
segregation from the Gentiles. These laws are not
found in the scripture. For example, in the Talmud a
Jew does not have to pay a Gentile his wages (Sanhedrin
57a), a Jew has superior legal rights (Baba Kamma 37b), and
a Jew may lie to a Gentile to gain financial advantage (Baba
Kamma 113a). These principles are found nowhere in
scripture. The scriptures do have laws concerning, "strangers," but these laws are different. If a
stranger lives in the land they are to keep God's laws and
be treated as brethren (Ex. 12:49, Ex. 22:21, Ex. 23:9).
God does show a distinction between those who practice His
laws and those who don't, but this is not based upon race,
it is based upon the practice of His Laws.
It is important to identify what the,
"commonwealth of Israel" is. The Greek
word for "commonwealth" is politeia,
which means, "citizenship; concretely a
community" (Strong's Concordance - G4174).
These Gentiles were once excommunicated from having
citizenship in the Kingdom of Israel (God's
Kingdom). Remember, a stranger, or alien, was
always allowed to become part of the Kingdom of
Israel, but they had to practice God's law (Ex.
12:49, Ex. 22:21, Ex. 23:9). Unfortunately,
the Jews were keeping Gentiles away contrary to
God's law. This is what the "middle wall
of partitian" was. The Scribes and
Pharisees were adding to and taking away from God's
law. This was done prejudiciously to keep the
Gentiles away from the promices of God. Paul
is not stating anything new, but putting things back
to the way they should be. When we put our
faith in the Messiah, we are changing our
citizenship to the Kingdom of Heaven/Israel.
This is important. If someone were to change
citizenship from the United States to Australia,
wouldn't they stop practicing the law of the United
States and start practicing the law of Australia?
The same is true for us in salvation. When we
put our faith in the Messiah, we are to stop
practicing whatever law we were practicing and start
practicing the law of God. This is why we are
called, "ambassadors" (2 Cor. 5:20, Eph.
6:20). This is a legal term. An
ambassador lives in a foreign land, but practices
the law of their homeland. The ambassador for
the U.S. might live in Australia, but he practices
the law of the U.S. We do the same. We
live on this earth, but we practice the law of our
homeland (law of God). This is what makes us a
"peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9).
This is the background that leads up to the verse in
question. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity,
even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to
make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph.
2:15). The Messiah abolished the, "enmity" (echthra
- hostility), which is the, "law of commandments contained in
ordinances." The greek word for ordinances is
dogma which means, "a law (civil, ceremonial or
ecclesiastical): - decree, ordinance" (Strong's Concordance
G1378). This word appears in the New Testament five
times, three times it is translated as, "decree" and two
times as, "ordinance." In every instance it refers to a
law of man (Luke 2:1, Acts 16:4, Acts 17:7, Eph. 2:15, Col.
2:14). Paul is speaking of the religious dogma of the
Scribes and Pharisees as recorded in the Talmud, which is
contrary to God's law. This passage of scripture in no
way endorses the abolishment of God's law, rather it holds
up God's law by supporting the statute to not add to or take
away from God's law (Deut. 4:2, Deut. 12:32). The Jews
added statute upon statute to God's law which oppressed the
Jewish people, as well as the Gentiles. It is this law
that was abolished. The end result is that both Jew
and Gentile are, "reconcile[d] ... unto God in one body by
the cross" (Eph. 2:16).
These ordinances that Paul is speaking of are mentioned in
the gospels over and over again. The Messiah Himself
constantly had to deal with these extra-biblical laws.
Remember, the Messiah was constantly being accused of
breaking God's law, but this could not have been true or He
could not be the Messiah. The reality was that the Jews
were accusing Jesus not of breaking God's law, but of
breaking the, "tradition of the elders" (Matt. 15:2-3).
The law of God is, "holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 7:12),
but the, "tradition of the elders" adds to and takes away
from God's law. This law is oppressive and divisive
and not according to God's will.
This passage is concluded by demonstrating the result of the
Messiah's work. The Messiah, "preached peace to [them] which
were afar off" (Eph. 2:17). And now both Jew and
Gentile, "have access by one Spirit unto the Father"
2:18). They are, "no more strangers and foreigners, but
fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief
corner stone" (Eph. 2:19-20). This concludes
the previous thought. The Gentiles were once
alienated from citizenship, but now they are
"fellowcitizens." This alienation came
from man (Scribes and Pharisees) and not God. The Messiah is building a
new temple which contains both Jew and Gentile, as a
"habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21-22).
This is echoed by Paul in 1 Cor. 6:19 where he said, "know ye
not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is
in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
We are God's temple, and Christ is building this temple now
through our justification and sanctification.
The Messiah has accomplished a tremendous amount by His work
on the cross, but He did not abolish God's law. The
Messiah abolished man's laws of division and racism and
brought all who have faith in the Messiah of Israel
together. God's law is good for us. His health
laws keep us healthy, His financial laws keep us financially
stable, and his government laws keep us holy. Why
would we not want to follow His laws? To read more
about the, "ordinances" that were abolished please read the
article on Colossians