In Ephesians 2:14 Paul said, "For he is our peace, who hath
made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition
between us." This is only a part of a lengthy argument for the
purpose of settling a very unpleasant controversy. The apostle
had reference to the rights and privileges which should be granted to
Gentiles who became disciples of Christ. Many Jewish believers
opposed their reception into the church at all, and went so far as to
forbid the apostles "to speak to the Gentiles that they might be
be saved" (1 Thess. 2:16). Paul, being the apostle to the
Gentiles, defends their right to the gospel plan of salvation a devotes
a great portion of this epistle to that subject.
In the first chapter of this letter Paul shows "that in the
dispensation of the fullness of times he would gather together in one
all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth,
even in him." Thus showing that the original purpose of God
was, finally, to unite all believers of all nations in one body.
In the second chapter he shows that the Jews have nothing to bast of
above the Gentiles on the grounds of good works. The Gentiles had
"walked according to the course of this world, according to the
prince of power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children
of disobedience," yet the Jews had their behavior in the very same
way, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and
were by nature" [second nature] "the children of wrath, even
as others" [the Gentiles].
He then announces the great truth, that the whole gospel plan of
salvation was devised and put into operation on the principle of grace.
All who are saved then, whether Jew or Gentile, "are saved by
grace, and not of works, lest any man should boast." This
shows that the Jews had no privileges in the gospel kingdom which did
not belong to the Gentiles on the same principles. Now, while
pursuing these argument, the apostle penned our text.
In our investigation of the subject we propose to show: what
is meant by this partition wall, and its designs; treat on the breaking
down of this wall; the purposes for which it was broken
down; and draw some practical conclusions.
What Is Meant By This Partition Wall?
The apostle explains what the partition was in the words:
"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of command
contained in ordinances" (Eph 2:15). So then, the law of
Moses, with all its rites and ceremonies, is what is here called a
partition wall. Of this law God was the author and
finisher. He counseled with no man or angel as to what should or
should not be law. He gave it from the thick darkness that
crowned the smoking summit of trembling Mount Sinai.
Why Was The Law Given?
For man to be saved he must have confidence in God. He must
not only believe that "God is," but he must believe that
"He is a rewarder of all who diligently seek him" (Heb
11:6). Now, in order that man may have this confidence in the
Lord, it was necessary that He show himself to be a covenant
keeping God--that all that He promised He would perform.
God had made promises to Abraham saying, "In thee shall all
families of the earth be blessed...And IN THY SEED SHALL ALL THE
NATIONS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED" (Gen 12:3; 22:18).
Therefore, in order to keep this promise it was necessary to keep the
lineage of Abraham separate from all other nations until the Messiah
should come. Paul expresses it, "until the seed should come
to whom the promise was made" (gal 3:19). Had not this been done
the descendants of Abraham might have been lost in the ocean of
humanity so that no one could ever have been able to tell whether the
covenant had actually been fulfilled or not.
It might have been fulfilled to the letter, but the lineage being
lost would have given the skeptic and advantage. In order,
therefore, to keep the posterity of Abraham separate from all other
people, and thus to prove to all men that the Lord had kept his promise
completely, He threw around the descendants of Abraham through Isaac
and Jacob, the law of commandments and ordinances, and thereby fenced
them in from all other nation of the earth. This was the first
design of the law.
The Law Held The Nation In Subjection
The Jews were always spoken of as a stiff-necked and rebellious
people. They were constantly inclined to run away from God.
Therefore, the Lord treated them as the farmer treats his unruly
stock--He fenced them in. So the law is called a governor
under which Israel was placed until the time appointed by the
Father. They were to remain in subjection to the law until the
time they were to be made free by the Son.
Peter using another figure calls the law a yoke, which he says,
"neither they nor their fathers were able to bear" (Acts
15:10). Bye the term yoke he simply meant law and
government. In this he shows that it became that partition wall
intended to hold the Israelites in subjection to God. Like unruly
stock the people often broke over this wall and ran away from God, but
their rebellion does not disprove this design of the law.
The Law Was Intended To Teach
Speaking to Jewish Christians Paul wrote, "the law was our
school-master to bring us to Christ" (Gal 3:24). The nation
of Israel was placed under the law as a tutor to train and prepare that
people in heart and character for the coming dispensation. In
reasoning on this subject, the apostle said, "Now I say, That the
heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant,
though he be Lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the
time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children,
were in bondage under the elements of the world" (Gal
4:1-3). The "tutor" was the law.
We see the law as a competent teacher. No teacher was ever
better qualified to accomplish the ends contemplated. The law
with all its rites and ceremonies pointed to the gospel age; hence, it
is said that the law had a "shadow of good things to
come." The bread of the Divine presence very fitly
prefigured the Lord's supper in the church of Christ. The golden
alter and burning incense were fit types of the spiritual devotion
arising from the hearts of men purified by the grace of God. The
sacrificial animals bleeding for the sin of the people under the law
suitably depicted the great offering of Christ on Calvary to put away
sin. This at the close of the Jewish age, and the ushering in the
final dispensation--the Christian age. Indeed, their very temple
itself was a type of the church of Christ and every rite performed
within its consecrated walls was intended to develop the spiritual
mind, enlarge the views, direct the affections and prepare the nation
for the coming Messiah.
Why Was Israel So Poorly Taught?
We know that every student that is put under a good, efficient
teacher does not come out an accomplished scholar. To gain this
end the student must be reconciled to the rules of the school; he must
have some regard for his teacher; he must submit to the laws of the
institution; and, above all, he must apply his mind to his
studies. All these things the nation of Israel failed to
do. They fell out with their teacher; they refused to
submit to His authority; they wo8uld not apply their hearts to
His instructions; they added their own views of propriety to His
commandments, insomuch that the Lord said, when He came, that they had
made void the law by their traditions (Matt. 15:16).
To this general charge, there were a few honorable exceptions; these
were fully prepared to receive the Christ. Good old Simeon was of
this happy number. It is said of him that he "was just, and
devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel." When Jesus
was circumcised he "took him up in his arms and said, now Lord
lettest thou they servant depart in peace; for mine eyes hath sen thy
salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a
light to lighten the gentile and the glory of thy people Israel"
(Luke 2:28,29). Simeon saw salvation in this child for all
nations; he saw, in the Infant Savior, light for the Gentiles, who had
long been in darkness, and glory for the Israel of God.
Now, the only principle upon which we can account for the striking
difference bet3ween this good man and the great mass of the Jewish
nation is that he studied his lessons--he obeyed his Teacher; he
satisfied himself with the requirements of the law, and was therefore
prepared to enter the higher school, when the great Teacher, sent from
God, appeared. We fully believe that if the whole nation had thus
submitted to that school-master and governor, they would all have been
as well prepared for the reign of Christ as was this good man.
The fault was not in the teacher, but in the students.
The Breaking Down Of The Wall
This law stood in full force during the teaching of John the
Baptist, and of Christ and his disciples, until the Lord's death.
John lived under the law. Christ himself lived under that law,
and hence, when he healed a man of leprosy, he told him to "show
himself to the Priest, and offer for his cleansing those things that
Moses commanded" (Mark 1:44).
But when the great antitype, the atoning sacrifice expired, the law
expired with Him; when Christ bowed His head and died, the partition
wall fell. It was then that he who is our peace offering, broke
down the middle wall of partition, according to our text.
Speaking in reference to this same matter, the apostle says, He hath
"blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us,
which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his
cross" (Col. 2:14).
God signified that this partition wall had now fallen by rending the
vail of the temple at the death of Christ. That vail separated
the holy place from the most holy. It concealed from public view
the holiest place of the temple, and might therefore be considered as
an emblem of the partition wall between Jew and Gentile. But now
the promised Seed had come; the substance of all the shadows under the
law is now manifested; the Lamb of God which had been slain in plan
from the foundation of the world was now slain in fact. Upon
Calvary's brow He bowed His head and died and the partition wall was
then and there leveled to the ground. Christ opened up a new and
living way, through the vail of His flesh, into the holiest made
without hands (Heb. 10:20).