Christ Reconciles All Types of People to God
How exactly does the gospel of Jesus Christ affect both my relationship with God and other people, particularly those of a different race or ethnic background? That is a great question for us to think long and deep about. For often when we think of the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially here in America, we think of it in a very individualistic way. We think of people having a personal relationship with God and attending a church as a way of living that out. Honestly, many of us rarely give any thought to the fact that Jesus came to reconcile us to God and to each other. Yet the Bible speaks to both of these realities. Let’s take few moments to see some of what God has to say about this in His word.
In much of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we see a distinct separation between people into two primary categories – Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were God’s chosen people who were given the law, the covenants, the temple and the promises of God (Romans 9:4). The Gentiles were excluded from citizenship in Israel and therefore foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). This caused the Jews to see themselves as near to God (Psalm 148:14) and superior to the Gentiles and the divide between the two was huge. John Piper states, in his book Bloodlines, this divide ‘was as intractable as any ethnic hostilities we experience today’ for it was religious, cultural and racial.[i]
Yet Christ, through the gospel, has made it possible for all people – Jew and Gentile – to be reconciled to God the exact same way. In the book of Romans, we see that those who were without the law (Gentiles), sinned and were deserving of God’s judgment. Even though the Jews had the law, it was impossible for them to keep it and because of this they failed to attain a right standing with the Holy One of Israel. The Bible makes it clear, ‘for all (Jew and Gentile) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ and all (Jew and Gentile) are justified (declared righteous) freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24). Thus we see that there is one way that God has made for all people, Jew and Gentile, to be reconciled to Himself and that is through Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18)
Christ Reconciles Different People Groups to Each Other
Ephesians 2:11-22 may be one of the clearest passages in the Bible that speaks of God reconciling people to each other.
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated 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 once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)
The great gulf between Gentile and Jew, outside of Christ, is highlighted in verses 11 & 12. Verse 13 tells Gentiles, who are now Christians that they are now near to God and Jewish Christians through Christ’s blood. Verses 14-18 highlights that Christ is the peace of Jew and Gentile and has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile to make in Himself one new man out of the two. Christ Himself would be their identity, not their ethnic group. They (Jew and Gentile) have been reconciled to God through Christ’s body through His death on the cross and the hostility between God and Jew and Gentile has been put to death. Christ came proclaiming peace to Jew and Gentile and now God is Father to both by the same exact way. Verses 19-22 are highlighting the truth that Gentiles are no longer second class citizens but are just as much members of God’s household as Jews who are in Christ.
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 ESV)
Though a person has been born Jew or Gentile there is only one way for them to become a child of God and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. For this person their new and true identity is Christ and this trumps everything else (ethnic background, class, socio-economic status and gender). There are no longer distinctions, divisions or classes in the body of Christ for we are all one in Christ. It does not mean that these things no longer matter but it does allude to the truth that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. As the children’s song so clearly reminds us ‘Red and yellow, black and white we’re all precious in His sight...’ And our prayer should be ‘God help us to see one another as You see us.’ If this is what God has done why is it rarely seen? I'll write about that next week.
[i] Bloodlines: Race, Cross, And The Christian (p. 126) – John Piper