Through the New Testament in a Year

Today's Reading – Ephesians 2:1-22 – One new humanity in Christ

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By God's grace and mercy, and through faith in Jesus Christ, the believer has been so united with Christ – joined with him at the hip – that what was true of Jesus becomes true also of us. He was crucified, was dead and buried, but God raised him back to life, a life that can never again be subject to death. God not only raised him up from the grave, he also raised him up to heaven and seated him at his own right hand, in the place of honour, glory and power. This is true also of us, says Paul. We were once dead through sin and dead to God, but God has given us life and has raised us up to a place of honour. We have died with him; we have been raised with him; we shall reign with him. All of this has been accomplished through, by and in Jesus Christ.

In Christ, God has broken down the barriers that once separated peoples. In particular, in Paul’s day, this was the barrier between Jew and Gentile. The covenant promises of God which seemed once to have been confined to the Israelites, have now been extended to all people, regardless of race or class. They have been extended to all in Christ. Paul writes to Gentile Christians, “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” (2:12-13). God’s purpose is to create one new humanity out of diverse peoples by reconciling them to God through Christ and so reconciling them to one another. He is our peace who has broken down every wall.

As I write, I am very conscious of a world divided by hatred, suspicion and warfare. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians rumbles on despite numerous peace plans over the years; they seem unable to live together. Conflict continues in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria is being destroyed by civil war with many homeless and forced into refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Most of the once significant Christian population have fled or remain in fear for their lives. After a short period of peace and hope for democratic change in Egypt, conflict has flared up as never before with Islamists shot dead in the streets, churches and Christian bookshops attacked and no clear hope for the future.

Yet we cannot afford to give up hope or lose the vision of a world in which warring parties are reconciled and live together as one new humanity in Christ. It may seem an impossible dream, but it is the promise and purpose of God who calls us to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near.

Listen to this remarkable prophecy of Isaiah, a prophecy proclaimed in days when Egypt and Assyria were the warring superpowers that terrorised Israel: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’” (Isaiah 19:23-25). God is able to break down walls of conflict and reconcile warring factions through Christ.

If we have been united with Christ, let us live in union with him day-by-day and moment-by-moment. And let us proclaim the peace that Christ brings by living in unity and at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Living God, look with compassion upon our divided world, torn apart by hatred and conflict. Break down the barriers that divide peoples and create one new humanity in Christ according to your promise. Start with us.

Peter Misselbrook