“Peace for our time” was the declaration British Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain made on September 30, 1938, after signing the Munich Agreement with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler—a peace pact meant to stave off war between the two European nations.
Chamberlain told the gathered and enthusiastic crowd outside No. 10 Downing Street, “Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” They would need all the rest they could get because a year later, no one in England was sleeping quietly. The peace Chamberlain brokered with Hitler was now shattered. England was at war. And by May 1940, Chamberlain was no longer Prime Minster.
Chamberlain’s peace mission had failed, just as every peace mission is destined to fail whenever reasonable people negotiate with madmen. Warren Wiersbe notes that someone has done a study of all peace treaties between countries from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 850–there were 7500 in all, and of all those “eternal covenants” between nations, none lasted more than two years. One wag said, “Have you noticed how many peace memorials there are in Washington, D.C.? We build one after every war. “
And if we talk about peace in the Middle East, well, what American administration hasn’t tried to navigate those rocky and dangerous sholes, only to come up shipwrecked? Let’s just take the issue of Israel and the Palestinians—the so-called “Two State Solution.” There has been the Madrid Conference of 1991, the Oslo Accords of 1993, the Hebron Agreement of 1997, the Wye River Memorandum of 1998, the Camp David Summit of 2000, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, the Roadmap for Peace of 2003, plus the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks of 2007 and 2008, in which then-President George W. Bush said, “An independent, viable, democratic, and peaceful Palestinian state is more than the aspiration of Palestinians. It is also the best guarantee of peace for all its neighbors—and the Israelis understand this.”
And there have been continued efforts from every administration since to broker a binding peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. All to no avail, as we witnessed on October 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists crossed the border from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip into Israel and began a systematic and widespread massacre of innocent men, women, and children that many are claiming was the single deadliest day of Jewish people since the Holocaust.
It would seem trying to negotiate a lasting peace in the Middle East is a fool’s game. Every peace agreement has failed and is destined to fail. Why?
One obvious reason is because of the natural hatred Palestinians have for the Jewish people. How can you peacefully co-exist with people who are dedicated to your destruction?
But there is an even simpler explanation for the strife that exists in the Middle East. It is the same reason there is hostility in this country between African Americans and Caucasians, between husbands and wives, between mothers and their teenage daughters, and between Christians in a local church.
Our alienation from one another is the result of our alienation from God. And our only hope for reconciliation with one another is through our reconciliation with God. We will never experience peace with one another, peace with ourselves until we first experience peace with God.
1. Our Alienation (Ephesians 2:11-12)
- From the Jews (Ephesians 2:11)
Most of the Christians in the church at Ephesus were non-Jews like you and I. We were what the Jews called “The uncircumcision,” as contrasted to the Jews who were known as the “circumcision.”
This, by the way, was not a term of endearment—“the uncircumcision.” It was comparable to a slur we would use today toward someone of a different race. The Jews treated Gentiles with contempt because they were not the chosen nation like Israel. They prided themselves on their circumcision, believing that that physical act was what made them right with God.
But Paul, a Jew Himself, notes in verse 11 that circumcision was just a physical act. Paul said in Romans 2:28-29 that physical circumcision—cutting away part of the flesh, is not what makes a person right with God—it is spiritual circumcision, the cutting away of the hardness of our heart, is what is important.
But the Jews did not understand this. They concentrated on this external ritual rather than the internal reality, just like many people today think the external ritual of baptism is what saves them, not realizing that baptism is meaningless unless a person has first trusted in Christ.
And so, this hatred between Jews and Gentiles was not just the fault of Gentiles; it was also the result of Jewish pride.
- From God (Ephesians 2:12)
In verse 12, Paul explains five ways in which we Gentiles were in worse shape than the Jews. We had . . .
- No Savior
- No Nation
- No Promises
- No Hope
- No God
2. Our Reconciliation (Ephesians 2:13-18)
- With Others (Ephesians 2:13-15)
“But Now”—contrasted to remember, which looked at our past condition, now looks at our present condition.
Those of you who were outside the wall—have been brought near by the blood of Christ. The idea is that we, who were outside the wall, now have access to God, to the Holy of Holies, not through the Jewish system of sacrifices, but through the blood of the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
He Himself is our peace—not a president, congress, army, or even a peace agreement. Christ is our peace. He alone is the basis for reconciliation and restoring relationships. He alone is the One who made both groups into one by breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall.
This dividing wall is the barrier that separated the Jews from the Gentiles in the Temple–it symbolized the spiritual wall between the two groups that existed because of the Jewish Law in the Old Testament—laws that prohibited Jews from eating together, worshipping together, marrying one another. But when Christ came, he abolished—that is, rendered inoperative (kataresas), not God’s moral law like the Ten Commandments, but the ceremonial laws–the ordinances that separated the Jews and Gentiles.
And thus, there is no longer any barrier between Jews and Gentiles who trust in Christ. They become a part of a new creation, a new man, called the Church of Jesus Christ.
- With God (Ephesians 2:16-18)
This word “reconciled” in Greek pictures two parties who are alienated from one another—think of Israel and Hamas—but are then brought together in mutual fellowship and friendship. In our relationships with one another and with God, alienation is usually a result of one person moving away from the other. Reconciliation is usually a result of one person moving toward the other in order to restore that broken relationship.
I think of the story of the couple who were driving to dinner to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. On the way to the restaurant, while the husband was driving, the wife began to complain, “You know, honey, when we were first married, we used to sit so close to one another in the car and now look at the distance between us. You’re way over there, and I’m way over here.” The husband replied, “I’m not the one who moved.”
It is the same in our relationship with God. The reason we are alienated from God is not that God moved away from us, but we moved away from God. And yet, he made the first move to reconcile us to himself. In the Bible, it is never man reconciling himself to God, but God reconciling Himself to man.
How did He reestablish that relationship? How did he tear down the wall between Himself and mankind? By sending Christ to die for us. You see, the death of Christ for our sins not only broke down the partition that separated Jews from Gentiles, it also broke down the partition that separated both Jews and Gentiles from God.
3. Our Unification (Ephesians 2:19-22)
- With God
These two terms, “strangers” and “aliens,” are interesting and give us a clue of just how estranged we were from God before our faith in Christ. The Greek word for “strangers” (xenos) refers to a foreigner or outcast. It’s the word we would use to describe illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande if we spoke ancient Greek.
The Greek word for “alien” (paroikos) refers to a foreigner who lives in a place without the rights of citizenship. Again, if we spoke ancient Greek, it’s the word we’d use to describe a squatter in someone’s vacant home or undocumented residents within the United States.
Before the cross of Christ, these two words describe our relationship with God and His people. But no longer. Outsiders became insiders; aliens became heirs; second class became first class.
Before, we were “without Christ” (v. 12), but now we are “in Christ” (v. 13). Before, we were “aliens” (v. 12), but now we are “a holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9). Before we were “strangers” (Eph. 2:12), but now we are “no longer strangers” (v. 19). Before we were “without God” (v. 12), but now “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is our Father (1:3). We are part of God’s family. Jewish believers are now our brothers and sisters. And we now have the right to call God our Father. How could we who are sinful ever be reconciled to a God who is perfect?
- With Others
But because this great dividing wall between God and man has been demolished, Paul says the lesser walls that separate us from one another should be demolished as well.
Unfortunately, within the church, we love to set up artificial barriers. We love to categorize people and separate ourselves from one another. Premillennialists and Amillennialists, Calvinists and Arminianists, those who believe in total abstinence, those who drink wine with their meal, those who like contemporary music, and those who like traditional hymns.
Why do we do that? One word: pride. We divide ourselves from one another because we want to believe that we have the truth and, therefore, are superior to others within the church. But Paul says no. If we have trusted in Christ as our Savior, we are all part of the same spiritual temple that God is creating.
We need to tear down the barriers that exist between believers within the church, but we also need to tear down the barriers that keep unbelievers from coming into the church.
Our goal, our mission, is to bring those who are outside the walls of this family of believers to become a part of this family of believers. That is why we exist. God wants to enlarge his family, not diminish it.
Full Passage: Ephesians 2:11-22