Galatians 3:28 informs us that, because of the coming of Christ, there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Greek in the area of justification. And, likewise, Colossians 3:11 tells us that in Christ there is no longer a distinction between Greek and Jews in the area of sanctification. In Paul's day the division between Jew and Gentile was very deep. Our text for today tells us that Christ has done away with that wall of division.
Verses 11-22 are addressed to Gentile Christians. Verses 11-12 tell us that formerly the Gentiles were very far removed from the Covenant of God and were therefore, without God in the world. Verse 13 informs us of the change that has taken place in Christ. Verses 14-18 explain what is said in verse 13, and verses 19-22 draw a summary conclusion from what precedes. AAT, TEV, NIV, and NKJV all use the same paragraphing.
This verse speaks of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Look at Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9,11.
Stoeckhardt: They are to realize in a most vivid manner what they were and what they have become.
"In" means "because of Christ Jesus" or "by faith in Christ Jesus."
"Brought near" in this context means "near to the Covenant people" rather than near to God, though the latter is true too.
The final "through" denotes the agent by which they were brought near. The blood of Jesus paid the price. This phrase touches on the same matter as "by His flesh" (verse 14) and "through His cross" (verse 16).
Rienecker: The terms 'far' and 'near' were used in rabbinical writings and indicated among other things non-Jews and Jews, or those who were righteous and near God or those who were godless and far away.
Lenski: The entire section deals with the union of Gentiles and Jews in the Una Sancta.
"The" peace. There is no other. It's like Jesus says: "I am THE Good Shepherd, THE Light of the world, etc."
The enmity between Jew and Gentile was mutual.
This verse talks about Jesus' active and passive obedience.
Bengel: The very structure of the temple of Jerusalem corresponded. The 'wall' and the 'fence' exclude; the Gentiles were excluded, since they were not permitted to approach so near as even the most common Israelites.
Kretzmann: Jesus Christ is our Peace, He established peace between the two parties that seemed irreconcilable, between Jews and Gentiles . . . . The Mosaic Law, with all its precepts, institutions, and ceremonies, was a fence, or wall, which shut off the people of Israel from the Gentiles . . . Christ abolished the Ceremonial Law and fulfilled the Moral Law.
Rienecker: The context identifies the 'wall' in four ways: it is the fact of separation between Israel and the nations; it has to do with the law and its statutes and interpretations; it is experienced in the enmity between Jews and Gentiles; it also consists of the enmity of both Jews and Gentiles against God.
Lenski: This 'wall' was the fence that fenced in, not the Gentiles, but the Jews. The whole Mosaic law and system of legal regulations kept the Jews away from the Gentiles.
"The law with its commandments and regulations" is the Mosaic Law, both ceremonial and moral. Christ abrogated the ceremonial and fulfilled the moral law. Verse 15a explains verse 14.
Now follows a purpose clause with two verbs, one in verse 15 and one in verse 16. Paul personifies the Jews and the Gentiles. Christ created the two in Himself into one new man. He did this by making peace, which is a reference back to 14a. In other words, through the work of Christ all distinctions between the two ethnic groups disappear. When Jew and Gentile meet in Christ, former distinctions evaporate.
Of course, until they are converted the old hatreds persist. We witness this constantly in the world. Hatreds between Jews and Gentiles are fierce. Christ alone brings about peace between them. All synergism is completely eliminated here.
Lenski: Christ's great peace-making goes forward constantly as he brings more and more Gentiles and Jews into the Una Sancta.
Stoeckhardt: The Law neither attracts the natural man nor wins his love, it rather repels him. No man is gained for the Church by the preaching of the Law alone . . . The gathering of the entire Christian Church from many Jews and Gentiles extends over the entire time of the New Testament. The Christian Church is de facto the one new man formed from Jews and Gentiles in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek.
This is the second verb in the purpose clause. Here "reconcile" does not denote objective reconciliation of all men, but rather the subjective conversion. Christ's purpose was to reconciled both Jews and Gentile in one body to God through the cross.
God did not convert Jew and Gentile to Himself in different ways. He converted both "in one body." This is the same as Galatians 3:13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse in our stead. He reconciled both by killing the enmity between them in Himself.
According to Stoeckhardt's arrangement of words Christ took upon Himself the hatred of all Jews and all Gentiles when He was on the cross. No mere man could possibly do this. The vicarious work of Christ is absolutely incomprehensible to us.
Lenski: The Jews utterly despised the Gentiles; they considered them dogs, vile, unclear, Matthew 15:27, Revelation 22:15 . . . This attitude toward Gentiles is reflected in many New Testament passages . . . The Gentiles reciprocated in kind . . . There was a gulf between them, so deep and wide that it seemed impossible ever to close it . . . The old hatred persists even to this day.
But when Jesus converts them to God, these old hatreds disappear.
Verses 14-16 constitute one sentence. The main clause is: "For He Himself is our peace." This is followed by two appositional participles and then a third which explains both. Then a purpose clause with two verbs, and finally, a participle denoting means which explain the verb "reconcile."
"And then." The text is speaking about Christ after His death and resurrection. Christ came. Man did not come to Him. He came to man. After His resurrection He came to His disciples and many other witnesses. Beginning with Pentecost He came to man and is still doing so.
Lenski: Christ came to these people . . . They could never have come to Christ, he had to come to them. "GO" is still his command to us for our mission work. This going is his coming.
Bengel: He announced peace with his own mouth to the apostles, Luke 24:36; John 20:19,21,26; and by them to others.
The text says: "He evangelized peace." That is beautiful. But here peace denotes that peace which reconciles God and man. That is clear from verse 18. In verses 14-15 it denoted the peace between Jew and Gentile.
"To you who were far away" is, of course, the Gentiles. "To those near" is the Jews. Because of the Old Covenant the Jews were near God. But both Jew and Gentile needed to hear the peace by which God and man are reconciled.
AAT makes "for" causal: "since by one Spirit He enables both to come to the Father." NIV makes it explanatory: "For though him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." All versions consider "spirit" here to mean the Holy Spirit.
We have three prepositional phrases, each with one member of the Trinity. Lenski thinks that "spirit" here denotes an attitude, not the third member of the Trinity. He says it cannot mean "Holy Spirit" here because it is modified by the number "one." But very likely "one" means something like our "one and the same" stressing the unity of the coming.
Both Jew and Gentile must approach God in the same way. Both Jew and Gentile approach the Father only through Christ by one and the same Holy Spirit, look at John 14:6 and Hebrews 7:25.
Kretzmann: This unity of the Spirit is the bond which unites Jews and Gentiles.
As mentioned above, verses 19-22 draw a summary conclusion from verses 11-18.
Rienecker: The double particles in combination are intended to imply logical connection, the one simply reinforcing the other and both are used to sum up the argument of the whole section.
There four nouns involve us in two metaphors; that of the State and that of members of a household. Formerly they were non-citizens and non-members of God's household. Now they are fellow-citizens and members of God's household.
The same with "God's." Formerly they were distant from saints and God. Now they are closely associated with both. He is addressing Gentiles.
Here a new metaphor is introduced, that of a building. "Having been built" or "Because you've been built." The Apostles and Prophets are the foundation.
Stoeckhardt: The Word of the Apostles as we have it in the New Testament is the foundation structure of the Church . . . 'Prophets' points to the Prophets of the Old Testament and their writings, which are accounted on an equality with the writings of the Apostles and with them constitute one genus, since both of these genitives are governed by one and the same article. . . The Prophets of the Old Testament and their writings are essential and fundamental for the existence of the Church through the ages . . . By reference to and quotations from the Scriptures of the Old Testament Paul testified to the Gentiles that his teaching agreed with that of the Prophets, Romans 16:26; Acts 26:22. It was natural for Paul here to mention the Apostles first, because the Gentiles had heard the Gospel first from the mouth of the Apostles . . . The teaching of the Apostles and Prophets is a unit, it is that one and only Word of God . . . The Word of the Apostles and Prophets is the immovable foundation of the Church of Christ . . . In this place the ground layer of stone and the cornerstone are not considered as situated side by side, but as intimately joined into one unit. Christ Jesus is the very essence, the kernel of the Scriptures of the Apostles and Prophets. Christ is in the present with His Word and may be found nowhere but in this Word. . . Christ Jesus is the foundation of faith and of the communion of saint.
In keeping with 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 Stoeckhardt identifies foundation and cornerstone. Lenski has a different view. His opinion is that as a cornerstone, set in a corner, gives the entire building all of its lines, both perpendicularly and horizontally, so Christ give the entire Una Sancta its precise dimensions. It is absolutely essential.
We prefer Stoeckhardt's interpretation.
Kretzmann: In the building of the Church foundation and cornerstone are not two separate things, but the one includes the other. Christ Jesus is the content of the prophetic and apostolic writings; Christ is found in and with His Word, and nowhere else.
"Him" refers to Christ. The metaphor of the cornerstone is abandoned here. All the building is harmoniously being built by Christ. It constantly grows into a sanctuary which is holy in the Lord, holy because of the Lord.
Lenski evidently continues to maintain the metaphor of the cornerstone here and therefore he says that Paul is speaking of the entire building except the foundation. Stoeckhardt says that the metaphor of the foundation has been dropped and therefore "the whole building" simply means ever believer including Christ.
Again "in Him" refers to Christ. "You too" refers to you Gentiles. For the second time we have a form of "built." Here it is implied that Gentiles are being built into the sanctuary together with the Jewish Christians.
Everyone agrees that this time "spirit" means the third person of the Trinity.
Very likely "temple" in verse 21 is a reference to the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was a type and symbol of Christ, see John 2:18-22. And very likely "dwelling" in verse 22 is to be associated with Revelation 21:3, God's tabernacle with redeemed men.
Kretzmann: This wonderful glory and dignity of the Church is at present still hidden from the eyes of men. But on the last day the Church will appear before the eyes of an astonished world as a temple of beauty and magnificence, and the splendor and glory of the Lord will shine forth from this singular structure, Revelation 21:3.