In the book of Acts we see the apostles having to learn to accept Gentiles into the faith. This took a dramatic event in the life of Peter when God lowered a sheet with unclean animals for Peter to kill and eat. God did this three times and the message was not the food, it was “do not call unclean what (God has) made clean”, meaning the Gentiles. Immediately following this Peter goes to a Gentile home and shares the good news of Jesus with them in their home, something that was forbidden for a Jew to do.
We then see Paul becoming the apostle to the Gentiles. He took the good news as far as he could, no matter the personal cost. Immediately on his heals were the Judaizers who claimed that the Gentiles first had to become Jews before becoming a believer in Jesus. Paul flatly rejected this in very graphic terms. In fact, I want to be clear on this point, once one is a believer in Jesus they are no longer a Gentile because a Gentile is a foreigner and alien, but in Christ we are made citizens of His nation, the holy nation of Israel over which He is king. This was the situation in Bible times.
Fast forward 2000 years and what do we see happening in the land of Israel today? We see many who want to separate the Arabs and Israelis living in the land onto different sides. Truth is they are on different sides. On one hand Jews have the right of return to the land of Israel, the land promised to them, and on the other side the Arabs want the Jews completely out of the land and consider the Israelis to be occupiers and colonialists. There are those who wish to divide the land calling a part of it the West Bank. What some like to call the West Bank in indeed a part of the historical land of Israel once known as Judea and Samaria.
This land is proportioned specifically in Scripture among the tribes of Israel. It was to eventually be the Israelis land. So how can this be resolved? How is reconciliation in a land that just about everyone seems to want to divide possible? There is only one answer to this question.
Those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah are the light in a dark situation. For the Arab believers in the land there is a group called Musalaha (www.musalaha.org), which is Arabic for reconciliation. They organize camps for Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ. This effort needs our prayers.
Musalaha also puts events together so that Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians can come together in worship experiencing how both sides worship Messiah. At the same time they also reach out to Muslim Arabs in the land to show them the love and truth of Christ through different outreach opportunities.
On the other side there are Messianic Jews in the land who want a strong bond relationship with Arab Christians as well. These Messianic Jews are trying to reach out to their fellow Jews with the love and truth of the Messiah. One such ministry in Israel is Heart of G-d Ministries (www.heartofg-d.org). While Heart of G-d seeks to encourage Aliyah (Jewish right of return) of all Jews both Messianic and not Messianic, there are some elements of the Israeli government that are trying to keep Messianic Jews from having the right of return, claiming they are not real Jews. They too need our prayers.
Both sides report a good relationship with the other. A relationship that is only possible through Christ. These two sides are coming together. As they do they will begin to look more and more like each other. Why? Because they will look more and more like the Savior.
The Arab does not have to become a Jew and the the Jew does not have to leave behind his roots, on the contrary they are both the spiritual nation of Israel. Both grafted into the one tree that is Israel, God’s nation of princes, His holy nation and priesthood. The root of that tree being the Old Testament (Covenant) fulfilled in Yeshua who spilled His blood, the blood of the New Covenant.
It should be our prayer that as more and more Jews come into the land they will come to know their Messiah as they are surrounded by the truth of who they are and who He is. Also, that the Arab Christians will spur them on to jealousy as they continue to grow in their own faith and grow closer and closer to the Messianic Jews.
Jesus is the answer for the peace of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, ONLY Yeshua. What an awesome time we live in. We have before us a living example of the two becoming one if only we will take the time to see.
Yes, Jesus has put to death their hostility. Now it is up to these believers to live that out in a land and an environment that would rather them not. Yet it is the life that Yeshua calls them to live. A life that the cross of Christ demands. They must pick up their cross daily and follow Him where others do not want to go. How blessed they are as they daily live out the mystery. May God grant them His grace and His power to live this life.
In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul discusses peace, but do we today really understand what this peace Paul is speaking about is. Typically when we hear the word peace we think of quietness, stillness and rest. To be sure that is part of what Paul is talking about, but there is also something much more profound in the word “peace”. It is rest that can only be found when we draw near to God. When we find our rest in Him. Even more it means oneness with each other and God. Being made whole. This idea is carried out repeatedly in this passage. Read this passage with that in mind. You might even want to substitute the word “oneness” for “peace” and see how that opens up the passage for you.
EPH 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This whole passage is about God making the two – those who were far and those who were near – one. One with each other, putting to death their hostility and hatred for each other by the death of Jesus on the cross. In Isaiah 57 the Lord says, “Peace, peace to those far and near.” This passage in Ephesians is stating that this has been fulfilled in Yeshua, who came to proclaim the glad tidings of oneness (peace) to those who were far and those who were near.
Let’s back up. As God’s light of grace shone on those who were aliens to His people, Israel, they were brought near to His people and to Him through the cross and blood of the Messiah. Also, those who were already “near” through the covenants and promises were brought truly near by the cross and blood of Christ. For even they, though they had been given the covenants and promises, could not come near enough to God by following the commands and regulations of Scripture – no one can. As Scripture says, “No one is righteous, not even one”(Psalm 14:3, 53:3 and Romans 3:23). Humanity, whether Jew or Gentile, is not capable of coming near, truly near, to God on his own. Sin always separates us, that is why Jesus died. Only the God-Man could live a sinless life and therefore fulfill the commands and regulations of Scripture becoming the perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant.
It is with the New Covenant, promised back in the book of Jeremiah that God says, “I will be their God and they will be my people”. He promised a heart and mind that had the law of God written on them ready and willing to follow Him. It is the blood of the Messiah that is the blood of the New Covenant – the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats could never be enough, only the blood of The Lamb of God was sufficient.
With the New Covenant Gentiles of the flesh were made citizens of Israel, citizens together with the Jews – all having faith in the Messiah. It is the Messiah that is our peace, our rest, our stillness, our oneness. I heard a really wonderful illustration of this recently. It is actually one that is in Scripture though we have lost the mental picture of it. In Israel when a wild olive shoot comes up next to a cultivated olive tree that shoot literally raps itself around the tree and after a time you can no longer distinguish the wild shoot from the original tree. That is an awesome picture to me. In this way Christ made the two, the Gentile and the Jew, one tree. Both indistinguishable from the other.
Taking this new tree (made from the two), this new man, Jesus then reconciled both to God through the cross. Again, Paul states that through the cross their hostility was put to death. The Jew and the Gentile were hostile to each other then in Paul’s day and they still are today. Yet in the cross of Christ, the Messiah, this hostility has been put to death and this is also seen today. Next week I want to highlight some of the ways God is doing this in our generation.
Paul ends by saying the through the Messiah both Jew and Gentile (now both part of the spiritual nation of Israel, God’s people) have access to the Father by the one Holy Spirit. It is the first time in this passage that Paul uses the plural pronoun “we” purposely bring the two together. This new man is being built into a holy dwelling built on the foundations of both the prophets and the apostles.
The Old Covenant points directly to the New, even prophesies it – the prophets. It was the apostles who first proclaimed its fulfillment in Christ. Therefore, together the prophets and the apostles make up the foundation of God’s household. This foundation, however, would be worthless without the chief cornerstone, Yeshua the Messiah. It is on Jesus that the whole house is joined together as one and rises as one holy temple.
The final verse (22) reads in the English as if Paul goes back to just talking about the Gentiles. However, I do not believe that is the case. Instead, the “you” is plural, meaning both the Jew and the Gentile in the household of God, the church or assembly of Israel (in this case in Ephesus). The household of God, both Jew and Gentile, are being built together into one to become the dwelling of God where He lives by His Spirit. Paul is summarizing what he had already said in detail.
We are one, both with each other and with God through the cross of Christ and by His Spirit and our hostility has been replaced by love for each other and our God.