The One New Man
“Abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph. 2:15-16).- Ephesians 2:15-16
Paul emphasizes the gospel’s greatness in reconciling God and man as well as Jew and Gentile in Ephesians 2:11–22. Furthermore, he accentuates the importance of God’s setting aside the Mosaic law so that it would no longer be a tool used in the covenant community to divide the world (v. 14). Note, however, that Christ by no means nullified God’s moral standards in tearing down the wall separating Jew and Gentile. The Mosaic covenant was meant to be a temporary guardian to direct God’s people to His Messiah (Gal. 3:23–29). This covenant contained many elements of the eternal moral law of God, but the religious system it established was but one step on the way to the new heavens and earth, a step to be left behind once it served its purpose. God’s eternal moral law would not go away but only the ceremonial law given for the old covenant period of redemptive history.
Thus, Paul is able to call Christians to obey many of the commandments found in the Mosaic law while also telling us in today’s passage that Christ has abolished “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (Rom. 13:8–10; Eph. 2:15). What has been set aside is the old covenant — that administration of the one covenant of grace made with the nation of Israel — and everything that was tied only to the temporary national bond between the Israelites and Yahweh. We are able to learn much about the person and work of Jesus from the ceremonies that have been abrogated, but these temporary things are no longer obligatory for those who are in the Savior. The one Lord of all has come and fulfilled the law, bringing it to its fullest expression in the law of Christ, revoking every regulation designed only for the old covenant. As one Prince, He establishes one new people, the fulfillment of all that human beings were created to be as persons forever at peace with one another (Eph. 2:16). John Calvin writes, “If two contending nations were brought under the dominion of one prince, he would not only desire that they should live in harmony, but would remove the badges and marks of their former enmity.”
Under the new covenant, Jews do not become Gentiles and Gentiles do not become Jews. Rather, one new man is created in Christ, one in whom old ethnic distinctions are relativized and in whom alone we find peace with others.
John Chrysostom, the ancient bishop of Constantinople, writes, “The Greek does not have to become a Jew. Rather both enter into a new condition. His aim is not to bring Greek believers into being as different kinds of Jews but rather to create both anew” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT vol. 8, p. 132). Racism and other forms of ethnic strife have no place in the church, for we are all one man in Christ Jesus.
Passages for Further Study
Ruth 1:22; 4:13–22