In this post, discover the little-known truth about Ephesians 2:14-16, how it relates to the New Covenant, and how it doesn’t abolish God’s law.
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Ephesians 2:14-16 is among the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. Because of this misunderstanding, the majority of Christians believe that we don’t need to keep God’s laws anymore. We are simply commanded to love God and others, believe in Christ, and pray the sinner’s prayer.
However, is this what Ephesians 2:14-16 really teaches? Does it promote the idea that God’s laws have been done away with and that we are free from following the commandments of God anymore?
Let us take a look at what the Bible really says!
What does Ephesians 2:14-16 say?
14 “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
Paul, in this section of his letter, talks about an “enmity,” which he later identified as the law of commandments contained in ordinances.
What does Paul exactly mean by his written letter? Let’s dig deeper.
The purpose of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians
There was one pressing issue that Paul needed to address not just in Ephesus, but also in other parts of Asia Minor. That’s why you will also find in the letters to the Colossians similar issues that Paul addressed as we will later see.
The main purpose of Paul’s letter was human traditions. These traditions created a divide between the Jewish and non-Jewish converts. Some Jews believe that the gentile converts need to perform some ritualistic and physical ceremonies to be included in the Body of Christ. On the other hand, some non-Jewish converts didn’t want to practice rituals and traditions related to Judaism.
As you can imagine, there’s a great divide among Christians based on their religious background.
Paul’s main objective was to remove the prejudices and biases of Christians at that time. Sadly, these problems were never completely removed. As a result, we see some anti-Jewish sentiments among Christians and other Jews recent Christians as well.
The middle wall of separation
In addressing human tradition that divides the Body of Christ, Paul used an analogy to explain his main point. He used the “middle wall of separation” to get his point straight.
Let’s read Ephesians 2:14 again:
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Ephesians 2:14).
Paul here wanted to promote PEACE among brethren. He mentioned that Christ has made BOTH – the Jews and non-Jewish Christians – ONE!
So, with Christ’s sacrifice, the “middle wall of separation” has been broken down.
However, what is this middle wall of separation?
According to historians like Flavius Josephus, the middle wall of separation refers to the wall located in the Jewish temple complex. The Jews built this wall to separate and isolate the outer court from the inner court of the temple. The gentiles were kept in the outer part of the temple and were banned from getting in the inner area of the temple itself.
This middle wall of separation is the perfect epitome that symbolized the great divide between Jews and non-Jews. It serves as a symbol of the existing religious, cultural, and ethnic barriers not just between Jews and non-Jews, but among all human beings in the world as well.
That’s why Paul used this middle wall of separation to better explain his point.
The middle wall referred to here has already been destroyed together with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70. Thus, it might be difficult for us, modern-day readers, to quickly understand what Paul meant here.
In order for unity and peace to come in the church, Christ has to die and remove this wall of separation among brethren.
What Ephesians 2:14-16 abolished
Now that we already have a background of Ephesians 2:14-16, it’s time to see what Paul really meant with his letter. Christ’s death didn’t simply allow us to be part of God’s Family, but it also helps us become in unity with our brethren.
Let’s read again:
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
Do these verses tell us that the law of God has been abolished? Let’s discuss.
First of all, we must know what the law of commandments contained in ordinances was.
In the Bible, when it says, Law and commandments, it generally refers to the commands of God. However, this is NOT always the case. We know that it is not only God who gives laws or commandments.
For example, a commandment can be given by a human ruler, military commander, and those people who claim to have the authority or simply, those people who just want to give a command.
Notice Titus 1:14, which was also written by Paul:
13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.
The Greek word for commandments here is entole — the same Greek word used in Ephesians 2:15.
In Colossians 2:22, we also read:
21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
So, we see, the word commandment and law are not limited to God’s commandments and law.
Here’s what we need to understand:
Ephesians 2:14-16 doesn’t talk about God’s law, but it talks about the law and commandments of MEN!
How do we know? Paul calls this “law of commandments contained in ordinances” as “enmity.”
Enmity here came from the Greek word, “echtra” which means hostility and in opposition.
Did Paul really consider the true laws of God as “enmity,” something that is hostile and opposed to the way of God?
Nothing can be farther than the truth!
On the contrary, Paul wrote in Romans 7:12:
“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
[Be sure to read, “8 Things the Bible says about the Law of God.”]
As you can see, God’s laws are not enmity.
It is clear when you read the context of the Ephesians 2:14-16 and its historical background that Paul wasn’t saying that God’s laws have been abolished through Christ’s death.
Paul was writing to the Ephesians that as Christians and followers of God, we must put aside our differences and live in peace and unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Since we are now under the New Covenant, Paul was admonishing, both Jews and gentiles, that we must not let our cultural and ethnic background hinder us from uniting as believers in the Body of Christ.
Thus, we now have a better understanding when Paul continued to write:
19 “Now, therefore, you are NO longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being BUILT TOGETHER for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Ephesians 2:14-16 is NOT proof that God’s laws have been abolished. Paul wasn’t saying that the commandments are enmity and that it has been done away with through Christ’s death.
Here’s the truth: Ephesians 2:14-16 was addressing a big issue that divided the first-century church. Paul was trying to admonish Christian converts to stop making an issue over their cultural, ethnic, and religious difference.
In another letter, Paul wrote how Christ’s sacrifice has destroyed the wall of separation, and thus, we are all united in the Church of God.
26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
Sadly, the beautiful message of Paul’s letters has been obscured because of the wrong interpretation of most Christians.
Instead of focusing on the wonderful truth that Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for us Christians to experience unity and peace among brethren, most people are more focused on the wrong belief that Paul abolished the law of God through his writing.
Let’s stop believing that God’s laws are evil, but we must know that it defines how we can better love God and love others.
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