Ephesians 2:11-16

Biblical Text
" Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility." (Ephesians 2:11-16, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
The New Spiritual Person. Marius Victorinus: Their souls have thus been reconciled to the eternal and the spiritual, to all things above. The Savior, through the Spirit, indeed the Holy Spirit, descended into souls. He thereby joined what had been separated, spiritual things and souls, so as to make the souls themselves spiritual. He has established them in himself, as he says, “in a new person.” What is this new person? The spiritual person, as distinguished from the old person, who was soul struggling against flesh. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.14–15.

The Enmity Is Slain in Himself. Gregory of Nyssa: Taking up the enmity that had come between us and God on account of sins, “slaying it in himself,” as the apostle says (and sin is enmity), and becoming what we are, he joined the human to God again through himself. Against Eunomius 3.10.12.

My Comments
In reading these verses of Ephesians, vs. 15-16 really stuck out to me. Specifically this line, “For he himself is our peace… by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.” The second line that stuck out to me was “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity…”

I sometimes worry that much of our church-talk ends up spiritualizing everything to the point that we can turn this life into a mere holding tank for eternal life – that’s when life will really begin. Yet here in the second chapter of Ephesians Paul reveals part of the gospel message that I think is essential. The work of Christ was done in true human flesh, as Marius points out, as the Holy Spirit was joined to human flesh. So to say that this human body is useless just doesn’t hold up. The second is the end result of Jesus’ incarnation and life was to create a new humanity. Jesus did not become incarnate to provide an escape path from the human body (as Gnosticism holds) but rather to restore humanity to what it was supposed to have: full and complete fellowship with God. Part of this was to “make new” the human body into the “true humanity” that was intended by God from the beginning”.

Finally, Paul points out that the atonement wasn’t just simply about going to heaven after you die, but that part of Jesus’ atoning work was to kill those barriers that separated groups of people from one another. This, like every other aspect of the atonement, is only part of what Jesus did, but it is an important part. Thus, the church has the commission to be a part of God’s ongoing reconciliation within the world. Wherever there are people divide from one another, God is at work seeking to reconcile divided peoples because at the end there will be no division amongst people based on any human attribute.

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–394). Bishop of Nyssa and brother of Basil the Great. A Cappadocian father and author of catechetical orations, he was a philosophical theologian of great originality.

Marius Victorinus (b. c. 280/285; fl. c. 355–363). Grammarian of African origin who taught rhetoric at Rome and translated works of Platonists. After his conversion (c. 355), he wrote against the Arians and commentaries on Paul’s letters.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 139-140.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).
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