The Jewish temple had a “no trespassing” sign
that prevented all non-Jewish persons from going beyond a certain area. It was
enforced on the punishment of death. The non-Jews could go only so far as the
Court of the Gentiles, and the Jewish women could go only so far as the Court of
The temple was surrounded by courts that formed layers of
separation from the inner shrine of the Holy of Holies. The innermost court was
the Court of the Priests who constantly attended the daily sacrifices and led in
the worship of Yahweh or the LORD God. Next was the Court of Israel into which
only Jewish men could enter and worship. After this was the Court of the Women,
which indicated, that Jewish women could go no further into the temple. The
outer perimeter was the Court of the Gentiles with a five-foot barricade that
went around the entire temple enclosure. At intervals on the wall separating the
Jewish from the non-Jewish people were inscriptions warning that no non-Jewish
persons were ever permitted to enter the Jewish enclosure upon the punishment of
Archaeologists found such a stone inscription in 1871
dating back to the Jewish temple. It read, “No foreigner is to enter within the
banister and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have
himself to blame for his own death which follows.”
The bottom line was, “Trespassers will be killed.” In fact,
the apostle Paul almost got himself killed in the temple because of false rumors
that he took a Gentile into the sacred area (Acts 21:27-31).
Jesus tore down the wall. No, He did not do it with His hands. He did it with
His cross. “But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been
brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 NET). Powerful is the
message of the cross. Paul goes on to describe the effects of the blood of Jesus
on the wall of separation. “For he is our peace, the one who made both groups
into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility . . . He
did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to
reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility
has been killed . . .” (vv. 14-16 NET).
The sin barrier between man and God was removed by the
death of Christ and as a result man is reconnected to God. Jesus provided the
only way that man can approach God. He effectively removed the dividing walls.
It is through Christ Jesus we both [Jewish and non-Jewish] have our access in
one Spirit to the Father (v. 18). The result is “you are no longer foreigners
and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of
God’s household” (v. 19).
The cause of the perpetual hostility has been removed. Sin
was dealt with at the cross. The enmity has been so completely laid aside that
complete friendship follows. Where there was hostility Christ has accomplished
reconciliation. We are at peace with God.
God was the offended party and he took the action to remove
the enmity. It is a divine action that removes the barrier. It is not that the
two sides come together as if it were voluntarily or as equals; it is the
superior one bringing the other into this position of complete harmony and
God made reconciliation. God the Father sent God the Son to
pay our sin debt in full by dying on the cross. He bore the punishment due to us
for our sins and as a result restored our fellowship with God. The cross of
Jesus made a way for us to come to God by faith.
Moreover, because the way to God was restored by the death
of Christ our fellowship with Jews and non-Jews has been restored if they are
also in Christ. Note carefully, peace will come only as individuals are
reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Sin brought about hostility. Jesus
removed that hostility.
Since the greater wall has been completely removed there is
no need for the lesser walls of separation. They came down with the wall that
separated us from God. But the veil came down only in Christ. If God has torn
away the wall of separation between him and us there can never be a wall that
separates others in Christ from us. In fact, the great truth of the passage is
we are all members of the one body of Christ (vv. 13-18).
If we are one in Christ, then in his eyes we are one with
every other believer. There are no Jews and non-Jews, slaves or free, in Christ.
We are all “in him.” The wall was torn down with the thick veil in the temple
that kept everyone out of his holy presence including the Jewish men. The only
exception was the high priest on the Day of Atonement, and then only on that one
day of the year. The veil was torn from top to bottom and we can all enter into
God’s holy presence through the blood of his Son.
We have all been reconciled in “one body to God through the cross.” “So then
you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with
the saints and members of God’s household” (NET).
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
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