We are brought together into one body before God through the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

According to the Apostle Paul one of the great implications of the death of Christ is that it resulted in the creation of one new humanity. He writes on this subject in Ephesians 2.11-22. In an address to Gentile Christians he reminds them that they were Gentiles “in the flesh” (τὰ ἔθνη ἐν σαρκί) known by their status as being uncircumcised (therefore, not in covenant with God, v. 11). Gentiles were separated from Christ (as he walked on earth before the crucifixion maybe?), alienated from Israel (the people of God), and estranged from the covenants given to Israel. This resulted in a state of hopelessness (v. 12).

In the death (blood) of Christ Paul finds the solution to the Gentiles being outsiders (v. 13). Why would the blood of Christ provide entrance for Gentiles into the people of God? Well, in Christ the “dividing wall of hostility” (this may be language derived from the idea of the various courts of the Temple?) has been torn down. For Paul the death of Christ somehow removed whatever it was that demanded that Jews stand afar from Gentiles. Jesus himself is considered the “peace” that unites the two groups (this may be a jab at the idea of a Pax Romana, v. 14). He indicates that what divided Jews and Gentiles was “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” which seems to mean (in the language of James D.G. Dunn) that particular commandments prevented Jews and Gentiles from intermingling, but in Christ those laws have been fulfilled so that Jews can mix with Gentiles now. In other words, Jews will not violate their covenant with God by being with Gentiles because Gentiles cannot make them unholy.

Why is this so? It may have to do with the language of Deuteronomy 21.23 that one who hangs on a tree adsorbs the curse of God. Since Jesus was raised from the dead as God’s sign of approval this means that Christ’s death somehow serves as the punishment from violating the Law of God that made the Jews distinct from Gentiles. Now that the Law has delivered it’s punishment in the death of Christ there is no punishment to fear. This is a substitutionary atonement of sorts. We know from Galatians 3.10 that Paul saw failing to obey the Law as resulting in a curse on the people. In Christ this curse has been delivered as the punishment of “sin and death” (something he discusses in Romans 1 and 8) found its ultimate victim in Christ (a Christus Victor atonement of sorts), but Christ’s resurrection allowed him to transcend “the Law of Sin and Death” because he had accessed a higher Law, that “of the Spirit of Life” as Romans 8.1-17 argues. So maybe Paul had these ideas in mind?

What is amazing about this is that Paul understands the death of Christ as creating “one new man” or “one new humanity” (εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον). Again, Paul mentions the “peace” that his death created. It seems that while the death of Christ created peace between God and humanity we find here that it creates peace between Jews and Gentiles (v. 15).

The death of Christ resulted in humans being reconciled to God and humans being reconciled to each other, specifically Jews and Gentiles. Through his crucifixion he was killing to enmity and hatred between Jews and Gentiles (διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ ἀποκτείνας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν αὐτῷ, v. 16)!

Jesus’ life and death proclaimed a peace treaty for all (v. 17). Why? As Paul argues in Romans 8 the death of Christ gave us access to the Spirit of God and the Father through the Spirit (v. 18). Anyone who has the Spirit is brought into the household/family of God (vv. 19-21). In Christ we become a Temple for the Spirit (v. 22).

This is an amazing and complex passage. It sounds a lot like Romans 8 where the Spirit of God adopts us giving us resurrection life so that we can overcome death like Christ overcame death, but the emphasis is on how the death of Christ included the “killing” of those things that kept Jews and Gentiles from being in one family.