“For he is our peace, the one who has made both one and breaching the dividing wall which divided — the hatred in his flesh, the law in commandments nullified — in order that the two might be created in him into one new man making peace and reconciling both in one body to God through the cross, killing the hatred in him.”
Jesus is the one who has “made both one” as well as breaching the dividing wall so that the two might be created into one new man. But who are the two being made one? In context, it is Jew and Gentile. Two groups of people who have had very separate paths — the Jews though, with the benefit of the Law (Romans 3:1-2) and all of the oracles of God. Whether they had the benefit of the divine revelation or no, both groups fell into sin and were under God’s wrath. Thus, Jesus’ death was to save both and to bind the two into one people — Jew and Gentile alike.
This is one of the errors of the dispensational system of theology. They maintain that Jew and Gentile are yet two separate peoples in the economy of God’s plan. Yet, Paul plainly teaches here that we are made one. Chrysostom makes the analogy of two statues, one silver and one lead, being melted down and recast as a single, golden statue. It is true that the Jew had the great benefit of the Word of God (hence they are the statue of silver), but they were just as lost as the gentile due to sin. Both Jew and Gentile needed the same remedy and Jesus provided that remedy to both in the same way — the cross. And now he makes his faithful into one body. The analogy is not that Jesus has multiple bodies running about, but that he has one — and that he has one bride. Will Jews be saved in abundance in latter days? Indeed, just as Paul writes in Romans 12:23-24. Yet, notice that even here, Paul speaks about the Jew needing to cease in their unbelief. They come to faith in the same way that we do — God the Father draws them to God the Son through the regenerative work of God the Holy Spirit. Was that not being done in Paul’s day? Is that not still being done today? Indeed, it is.
So the dividing wall has been broken down. Paul speaks of the hatred or enmity of the flesh and the commandments of the law being nullified. Salvation is by the grace of God given to his elect though faith. Works of the Law do not earn us merit in the eyes of God. Whether there be circumcision or no; whether there be obedience to the ceremonial law or no, those dividing walls have been broken down in the person of Christ who fulfilled the law for his own people, making us one bride and one body. How is this done? It was done through the cross whereby we were reconciled to God and our hatred of God has been brought to an end.
Hatred? Yes, hatred. Jesus says that the way we demonstrate our love for Him is through obedience (John 14:15). And so, given our disobedience, what other word but hatred is appropriate. As the Heidelberg Catechism clearly teaches, our nature is to hate God and our fellow man (Question 5). In Christ, our hatred of God is broken down and the fruit of obedience grows freely. And so, one of the marks of the Christian is faithful obedience to God (or at least an attempt at it). Those who refuse to repent of their sins and obey the Word of God betray their unregenerate hearts.
Question ninety in the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What is the birth of the new man?” In other words, it wants to know what it is that distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever…or more personally, what distinguishes your life today as a Christian from the way you lived before as a non-Christian. The answer to this question is both telling and convicting. It is simply that we take a “heartfelt joy” in the Lord. So, beloved, up front, does that describe you when it comes to your church attendance, your devotional time, your family worship, and your prayer? If it doesn’t, then you may need to reevaluate your priorities a bit.
Yet, in case we are unclear as to what “heartfelt joy” looks like in our lives, the question goes further. It describes heartfelt joy as taking delight in two things: living according to the will of God and doing good works. In English, “delight” means that we take pleasure in these things — that they satisfy our hearts.
But do we really “delight” in living according to the will of God? You know, this ties in with Jesus’ statement that “if you love me you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Is obedience to God something that satisfies our soul and brings pleasure to our lives or is it something we do out of some sort of legalistic obligation? Do we groan on Sunday morning when it comes to getting out of bed and contemplate whether we really need to go on a given morning? Or to we rejoice that Sunday morning has come and look forward to being in the House of the Lord on this day with God’s own? Do we look forward to our personal Bible reading and devotional time, protecting a block of time so that we can practice it undisturbed? Or is it something we do some of the time so long as the “urgent” matters of the day do not distract us? Does our sin create in us a genuine and heartfelt sorrow? Or, do we just brush off our sin as no big deal, figuring that “God will forgive me anyway.” And, if you fall into this category, you may want to read Deuteronomy 29:18-20 just to refresh your mind as to God’s view of those who think this.
And, do we really delight in good works? Perhaps that is one that weighs easier on our souls because we all enjoy those random acts of kindness that we sometimes do. But, wait, the next question in Heidelberg reminds us that Good Works have three characteristics: they are done in faith, according to the Law of God, and are done for God’s glory alone. If all three of these criteria are not met, a work that someone does, no matter how noble, is not truly “good.” So, if we get the credit for it…or if anyone but God gets the credit for it, it is not good. So, do we truly delight in such works as are defined here?
Psalm 37:4 reads this way:
“Delight in Yahweh and he will give you the petitions of your heart.”
Does this mean that God gives us anything we want when we ask him? No. Does that mean that if our heart is in the right place and we pray in faith, God will give us anything for which we desire? No. What it does say is that if we truly delight in God, then our desire will be for a deeper and deeper relationship with God, and that he will give to us. Our error (and especially the error of the so-called “prosperity gospel” and the “word faith” movements) is that we tend to focus on the outcome and ignore the command. We need to focus on the imperative command that we find at the beginning of the verse: “Delight in Yahweh!”
Think about it this way. If you delight in the Lord then you will desire for your life whatever the Lord desires for your life. And God places into your life what he sovereignly designs for your life because it is designed to conform you into the image of Christ (and is thus, for your good). Sometimes that “good” is hard to see when you are in the middle of the “slough of despond” or the “valley of the shadow of death,” but through your delight in the Lord, these things become your heart’s desire and you can embrace them with thankfulness.