11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh — called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. 12 At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, 15 he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit. — Ephesians 2:11-22
The Peace of Christ Makes Us One
by Aaron Bryant
Avenue South Campus
Jesus commanded His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The Greek word for “all nations” is literally “all ethnicities.” Scripture consistently reveals that God has always wanted to gather a diverse people unto Himself from every tribe, every language and every nation.
This reality has helped shape our mission statement as a church: “Engaging the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ—anywhere, anytime, with anybody.” If we’re intentional about pursuing this mission, then we’ll inevitably engage a diversity of people as we make disciples in the places where we live, work and play. This should bring a diversity of people together within our church, so it will be “on earth as it is in heaven.”
As exciting and God-honoring as this will be, it will certainly be challenging. We live in a beautiful but broken world, and both creation and humanity bear the consequences of sin. Because of this, there are cultural, ethnic and racial barriers that separate different groups of people. And even worse, throughout history people have sinfully leveraged their ethnicity or the pigment of their skin to look down upon or mistreat others.
We not only see this on the news and in social media, but we often hear about it from neighbors and friends who face injustice. So the idea of crossing cultural and ethnic barriers to engage people with the gospel can be enough to overwhelm any Christian, causing us to selfishly retreat into our comfort and convenience. But although they are challenging, these realities shouldn’t drive us to despair. Instead, they should fill us with hope as we consider the beauty of diversity within the church.
That’s why Ephesians 2:11-22 is so important to us today. As the gospel spread throughout the city of Ephesus, people from various backgrounds responded in faith and became part of the church. They each brought their unique cultural and ethnic experiences, preferences, and traditions with them. At times this created tension and or misunderstandings among brothers and sisters of faith—especially for groups that didn’t normally care for one another. This was exemplified in the hatred and animosity that existed between Jews and Gentiles.
That’s why Paul reminded them that they were all once far from God and without hope. But the work of Jesus on the cross, to offer forgiveness of sin, had been extended to all people from every background. Through faith in Jesus, everyone could experience peace and relationship with God.
However, not only was everyone in the church reconciled to God through the work of Jesus, but there was now the possibility that they could be reconciled to one another. As diverse and different as they were from one another, the common bond they shared was that Jesus had made peace for them with the Father. And just as Jesus had removed any barriers between God and the people, He had removed the power of any cultural or ethnic barriers between them. The resurrection guaranteed that Jesus had defeated the power of sin and that any misunderstandings or differences they had could be dealt with redemptively, drawing them closer to God and one another. They could now come together as a hopeful, unified people—under the banner of Jesus.
- What potential cultural or ethnic barriers intimidate you about engaging a diversity of people with the gospel?
- What encouragement do you take from this passage about the hope we have in Christ to overcome those obstacles?
- Whom do you know, perhaps a neighbor or relative, from a different background who needs to experience the peace and hope of Christ?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.