It has been a pleasure to watch athletes from across the globe competing in a whole range of events in the friendly games, but there is a greater commonwealth mentioned in Scripture which brings real hope and unity through Messiah. The Commonwealth Games encourages sportsmanship, fair play and equality but the Peacemaker has brought peace with God which is essential before we can have genuine and lasting peace with others.
Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus which was mainly comprised of Gentiles although there was a small representation of Jewish people resident.[i] In the Ancient World there were various distinctions such as Jew and Gentile, Greek or Barbarian and the status of being a Roman citizen. Paul was both Jewish, circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews and instructed by Gamaliel (Philippians 3:5-6; Acts 22:3) and also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-28).
A People Without Hope
Gentiles were sometimes referred to as the uncircumcision since they were not in a covenant relationship with God and did not bear the mark of that covenant that was established with Abraham. Paul explains the predicament of the Gentiles. Firstly, they were without Messiah. Secondly, they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Thirdly, they were strangers from the covenants of promise. Fourthly they subsequently had no hope and fifthly they were without God in the world.
Let us consider the best that the Greek world had to offer concerning an eternal hope. Epicurus and Aristotle did not believe in it, the Platonists thought the soul passed through perpetual changes, either happy or miserable and the Stoics considered the world to last no longer than the general burning up of matter.[ii]In contrast, the Jewish folk had distinct ideas of God and immortality.[iii]Hence there was no secure future and no assurance beyond this life and the Greeks looked back on a golden age in their history rather than to future glory.[iv]This lack of hope was most evident in their view of death.[v]
David Stern asserts, “The New Covenant was given not to Gentiles but to Israel; Gentiles are foreigners to it except through faith, which, as Sha’ul points out, makes them full participants.[vi] Stern is correct since the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31 is with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Furthermore “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).”
Messiah is our Peace
Those who were far off (Gentiles) and who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah have been brought near through the blood of Messiah. Jesus is more than a Peacemaker since for the believer He is their peace. In Ephesians 2:14-18, the word peace (shalom) is mentioned three times. Jesus the Messiah has broken down the middle wall of separation. Walvoord and Zuck note that since Messiah has destroyed the spiritual enmity between Jewish people and Gentiles this means that Jewish and Gentile believers should have no hostility.[vii]
Of course the Bible speaks today. I have been blessed to visit Israel and attend a large meeting including Messianic Jews and Christian Arabs united through Messiah. Recently and sadly there have been problems between Russian and Ukrainian Jewish believers though we should all be one in Messiah. In some of the Messianic Congregations in Israel there are many people groups represented in the “commonwealth of Israel.” Jesus the Messiah has created “one new man” from the Jewish and Gentile peoples thus making peace. Just to clarify this does not mean that Jewish and Gentile believers are no longer ethnically Jewish and Gentile, but it does mean that they are united through Messiah who has brought that peace through His blood. Also the church does not inherit the blessings promised specifically to Israel.[viii]
Even greater than the reconciliation between Jew and Gentile is the reconciliation between humans and God. Yeshua has made atonement as the sinless Son of God who takes away the sin of the world through His act of righteousness through His shed blood. That is also the basis for genuine and lasting reconciliation between Jewish and Gentile people.
Through Jesus the Messiah believers have access by the Holy Spirit to the Father. Justification by faith is available to all who would trust in Him. Maybe you are casting your minds back to the days of the Jerusalem Temple and the holy of holies and the division within the temple courts. On a shelf in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem there is an inscription from Herod’s Temple in Greek marking Jerusalem’s most sacred site where Gentiles should not venture.[ix]That division is no longer there neither physically nor spiritually. Nonetheless, we must always remember that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is holy and that His presence is a tremendous privilege and should never be taken lightly.
The Household of God
Paul continues in his letter to the Ephesians explaining that because of who Messiah is and what He has done, the believers are no longer strangers or foreigners but are now fellow citizens. Jesus the Messiah is the promised cornerstone of this household of God (Psalm 118:22). The foundation of that household were the apostles and prophets of whom most were Jewish, yet that whole building grows into a holy temple into the Lord.
Those who trust in the Lord are also built together for a dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit. So through Jesus the Messiah there is a greater commonwealth, a greater genuine and lasting unity, a greater shalom and a greater household in the Lord. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Psalm 134:1)!” And finally, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord His God (Psalm 146:5).”
[i] J. Vernon McGee Ephesians Thru The Bible Commentary Series (Thomas Nelson, 1991; Nashville), p81
[ii] Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Zondervan, 1961; Grand Rapids), p1285
[iii] Ibid, p1285
[iv] Francis Foulkes Ephesians Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP, 1989; Leicester), p88
[v] Ibid, 88
[vi] David Stern Jewish New Testament Commentary (Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992; Clarksville), p583
[vii] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary The New Testament (Victor, 1983; USA), 626
[viii] Ibid, p627
[ix] Ilan Ben Zion Ancient Temple Mount ‘Warning’ stone is ‘closest thing we have to the Temple’ 22 October 2015 The Times of Israel https://www.timesofisrael.com/ancient-temple-mount-warning-stone-is-closest-thing-we-have-to-the-temple/