The Middle Wall (!)

By Charles H. Welch

The Middle Wall. The epistle to the Hebrews, it will be remembered, uses the figure of the "rent veil". The epistle to the Ephesians uses the figure of the "broken middle wall", the one, the veil, setting aside the law of type and shadow, under which "the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest" (Heb. 9:8), the other, the middle wall, setting aside certain "ordinances" which caused and perpetuated "enmity". Both figures have access in view, the one for the Hebrew, the other for the Church of the One Body; the one setting aside the law of Moses, the other setting aside the decrees of Acts fifteen. See article entitled DECREES.

"Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph. 2: 15).

This verse belongs necessarily to a larger context, which may be visualized, if shorn of all detail, as follows:

A 2: 1-3 IN TIME PAST. Children of wrath

B 2:4-10 BUT GOD. Entirely new sphere
                                   "made to sit together"

A 2:11,12 IN TIME PAST. Aliens and strangers

B 2:13-19 BUT NOW. Entirely new company
                                      "one new man".

It will be seen that in the first pair doctrine predominates and salvation by grace is the issue. In the second pair the alienation is not caused by wicked works, but arises out of the fact that there was a dispensational disability in being born a Gentile, quite irrespective of individual merit or demerit. This was cancelled when the time came for the truth of the Mystery to be made known. In both sections the sequel brings the believer into an entirely new or unique position. "Made us sit together in heavenly places" is a position of grace and glory never before revealed or enjoyed by any believer of any previous calling. "To make in Himself of twain one new man" we shall see is nothing less than a new creation. The word translated "to make" in Ephesians 2:15 is the Greek word ktizo "to create". This word occurs fourteen times in the N.T. and only once, namely in the passage before us, is it translated "to make". The word is used of the Creator Himself (Rom. 1:25), the creation of the world (Mark 13:19) and the creation of all things (Col. 1:16). Where the qualifying word "new" is used of creation, old things (2 Cor. 5:17) and former things (Rev. 21:1) pass away, and come no more into mind (Isa. 65: 17).

It has been maintained by some that all Ephesians 2:15 teaches is that, whereas, before Acts twenty-eight, the Gentile had a subordinate place in the blessings of Israel, now, the change had come, and the Gentiles have a place of equality. This is not, however, true. It assumes that the change that has been made is in the status of the Gentile, leaving the hope, the calling and the sphere of blessing already revealed in Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, etc., unchanged. This view by no means fully represents the truth. Such a condition would be but an EVOLUTION, but what we are facing is a CREATION. Let us notice t4e wording of the passage again, substituting now the correct word "create" for the word "make".

"For to create in Himself of the twain one new man".

Let us examine the word "twain", duo. This Greek word is translated "two" over one hundred times in the N.T. This is but a variation in the wording, for the word "both" has been used twice already, in Ephesians 2:14,16 and reappears once more in verse 18. Further, the word "twain" and the word "both" have the article. It is some specific company that is in view, who can be called "the both" and "the two". The two companies have already been named, they are believing Gentiles and believers of Israel, called the uncircumcision and the circumcision, and these "two" were never so united even during the dispensation that followed Pentecost that they could be likened to "one body". The figure which the Apostle employs rather emphasizes the inequality that obtained, even when Romans was written, for he speaks of the Gentile believer in Romans eleven, as a wild olive graft contrary to nature into the true olive tree. This figure continued to represent the subordinate position of the saved Gentile up to the end of the Acts.

The new creation of Ephesians two did not suddenly turn wild olives into cultivated ones, the truth being rather that all that belonged particularly to Israel was suspended. The olive tree was cut down to the roots, the hope of Israel deferred, and a new dispensation hitherto unrevealed and unsuspected, called the dispensation of the Mystery, was made known. This is something entirely new. Israel as lsrael has no place in it. A believing Israelite could of course become a member of this newly-created company, but not as an lsraelite. The Jew must leave behind his promises, his relation to the New Covenant, his descent from Abraham, his circumcision, even as Paul had done. The Gentile must leave behind his alienation, his uncircumcision, his promiseless and hopeless state, and "the both" must be made one, "the two" must be created one new man, in which all distinction of every kind ceases to exist, "so making peace".

The peace here is not the peace which the saved sinner experiences when justified by faith, nor that peace of God which passeth all understanding; it is a "peace" that replaces a previously existing "enmity". The enmity of Ephesians 2:15 which had been abolished, and which was symbolized by the middle wall of partition, was not a middle wall between the believer and his God, the veil in the temple symbolized that, but a middle wall that separated believers who were Gentiles from believers who were Jews, the enmity being the fruit, not of sin, but of "the law of commandments contained in ordinances". First let us be sure that we appreciate the figure of the middle wall. Josephus says:

"When you go through the cloisters, into the second temple, there was a PARTITION made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits; its construction was very elegant. Upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another . . . some in Greek and some in Roman letters, that no foreigner should go within that sanctuary" (Josephus, Wars, v. 5.2).

The middle wall the Apostle likens to the law of commandments contained in "ordinances". Here again we must exercise care. It has been common among Christians to refer to Baptism and the Lord's Supper as "ordinances", the note in the Oxford Dictionary reads, "applied especially to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, 1830". It is extremely unlikely that when the translation of the A.V. used the word "ordinance" that such an application of the term would have entered their mind. The Greek word translated "ordinance" is dogma, a word having nothing in common with the "ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper" but meaning "that which appears good or right to one" (Lloyd's Encyc. Dict.). Dogma must not be confused with doctrine. Crabb discriminates between dogma and doctrine thus:

"The doctrine rests upon the authority of the individual by whom it is framed; the dogma on the authority of the body by whom it is maintained".

Dr. Bullinger in his Lexicon says:

Dogma, that which seems true to one, an opinion, especially of philosophic dogmas; a public resolution, decree (occ. Luke 2:1, Acts 16:4; 17:7).

We find this word employed for "the decrees" of Cresar, and for "the decrees" delivered to the church, and this reference takes us to Acts fifteen, where we shall find a decree resting on the authority of a body by whom it was maintained. To quote Crabb again "that which appears good and right to one", was actually used in Acts fifteen. The council that met at Jerusalem was convened to decide what measures could be taken to solve the problems that arose out of the coming into the church of Gentiles whose whole upbringing, feeding and habits, rendered them obnoxious to their Jewish fellows, and to quote this time from the ordinance itself given in Acts fifteen, "it seemed good unto us, being assemblied . . . to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things" (Acts 15:25-28). While there were four items of conduct prescribed for the Gentiles, the added comment "for Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him" (Acts 15:21) suggests that the Jewish believer would continue to observe the full ceremonial law. This difference between the two companies of believers set up in effect a middle wall of partition making membership of "one body" during the Acts impossible. It is this "decree" which is the ordinance referred to in Ephesians 2:15. This has now been abolished.

This word, "abolished", translates the Greek katargeo which means rather "to render inoperative", as can be seen in such passages as Romans 7:2 "loosed from the law"; "done away" (2 Cor. 3:7,11,13,14) and "to make of none effect" (Gal. 3:17, 5:4). The temporary measures introduced by the Council at Jerusalem were abrogated when the truth for the present dispensation was revealed and this abrogation was seen to have been accomplished, even as access into the true tabernacle had been accomplished by the death of Christ. Instead of this divided company of believers where the Jew was first, where the Gentile was but a wild olive graft contrary to nature, we have the creation of the two, in Himself, of one new man. In this new company neither Jew nor Gentile as such can be discovered; the Church of the One Body is not something carried over from earlier days, remodelled and reconstituted in order to give the Gentile a better place in it.

It is a new creation, in which all previous privileges and disadvantages vanish, in which there are blessings hitherto unknown to any son of Adam. To teach that all that Ephesians 2: 15 reveals is that the Gentile had been promoted to an equality with the Jew is such an understatement as to be virtually a contradiction of truth. The calling into which these hitherto divided Jews and Gentiles now found themselves is unrelated either to Abraham, the New Covenant, or the New Jerusalem. Neither Jew nor Gentile had hitherto been associated with a cal1ing that went back to before the foundation of the world, or went up so high as to be "far above all" where Christ sits. This calling is unique, and to attempt to see allusions to 0ld Testament types is to prevent the essential newness or uniqueness of this calling from being perceived.

There is a superficial likeness in the wording of Ephesians 2:15 to the record of the creation of Adam and Eve, and some have been tempted to elaborate that likeness into a definite doctrine. There are one or two essential features that Scripturally characterize the relationship of Adam and Eve that make it impossible that there should be any idea of "fullfilment" here in Ephesians 2:15. We are distinctly told by inspired comment, that:

  • "Adam was first formed, then Eve" (1 Tim. 2:13).
  • "The head of the woman is the man" (1 Cor. 11:3).
  • "He is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man" (1 Cor. 11:7).
  • "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (1 Cor. 11:9).

The same Paul who wrote these inspired comments on Genesis one and two, wrote Ephesians two, and his comments written AFTER Ephesians (i.e. 1 Tim. 2:13) differ nothing from his comments written before (i.e. 1 Cor. 11). If we import into Ephesians 2:15 the type of Genesis one and two, then the Jew must stand for Adam, and the Gentile must stand in the place of Eve. In this new company the Jew will therefore of necessity be still "head" even as was Adam, and the explicit teaching of the Mystery thereby nullified. The whole Church of the One Body, the Church that includes within it both Jew and Gentile, is looked upon as a perfect MAN (aner "husband"). The marriage of this perfect "man" does not take place during this dispensation but awaits the day of the Lord.

Then another company called "The Bride" will be ready. Both the Church which is the perfect husband, and the Church that is the perfect wife will then fulfil the primeval type, but that is not in view in Ephesians two. In the church of the present calling, the "Jew" and the "Gentile" as such do not exist, neither one nor the other is "head"; this church is "a joint body" where perfect equality is seen for the first time. Every type will find its anti-type, but like all the ways of God, the realization will be in its own special season. To take an event that is future and attempt to place it on the calendar of God centuries before its legitimate time is what so many have done who were ignorant of the great principle of interpretation "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Under the heading THE DECREES will be found a fuller exposition of Acts fifteen.

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