11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
Today’s passage reminds us of the importance of the Old Testament. If you haven’t read the first few books of the Old Testament before, I don’t think it will be very easy to grasp the fullness of what Paul is saying here. When Israel was named “God’s Chosen People,” God held that Israel would be separated from the rest of the world (referred to as Gentiles). The physical attribute that signified this was circumcision. Circumcision was instituted with Abraham as a covenant between man and God that God would care for Israel and Israel would only serve Him. We see the whole story in Genesis Chapter 17 (http://tiny.cc/circumcised). This not only set apart Israel as God’s people, but also excluded everyone else. Paul’s point here is that Christ’s sacrifice on earth was to bridge the gap so that all may experience a relationship with God.
Verse 14, to me, has double meaning. Firstly, we can see on the surface that he is talking about the divide between Jew and Gentile, that there is no separation of people from God, that all are welcome to enjoy a relationship with Him. The second message I get out of it is in reference to the veil that represented separation from God that was in the temple. You see, in the tabernacle was an “inner room” that contained the Ark of the Covenant (also known as the box that contained the original 10 Commandments). Certainly, the Ark couldn’t have been in every tabernacle built in Israel, but there was still an inner room that signified the place where the presence of the Lord would appear to speak to whomever was in this place and worthy of God speaking to them (http://tiny.cc/holyplace). You see, even though Israel was God’s people, they were still separated from Him. The last person (that I remember anyway) that met face to face with God was Moses and after that (in the Old Testament, that is) the veil was kept in place because nobody was worthy enough to be in the presence of God.
Christ changed all that. In Mathew 27:50-51, we see the veil torn in relation to Christ’s death, “ 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.” This is representative of the divide between God and man being demolished by Christ’s death so that we may have an intimate relationship with Him. In the “old days” (before Christ), this was the job of the Levites (read in the book of Leviticus). They were the intermediaries for the people to God and vice versa. They ran the temple, performed the sacrifices on behalf of the people, etc. This is why Christ is sometimes referred to as the High Priest, because He became the ultimate intermediary. This is what Paul explains in verses 15 and 16.
So, what does that mean for us? It means there is no excuse. There is no longer a divide between God and man, as long as man accepts it. It intimidates us, so we tend to stay away. We don’t know what it means, really, until we experience it for ourselves. Our humanistic thought process of rules, etc. is still left over from The Law that Christ fulfilled, so we think that we not only have to keep with the Law, but also do this whole “give my life to Christ” thing. The process is actually quite contrary to all this. We don’t have to do anything. God is in control of the whole process, we just need to ask Him what the process is and He will tell us.
What veil have you put in your life to keep you separated from God?