One New Man
In the ancient world there were two groups of people: Jew and Gentile. And these were very different groups. When the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C., they scattered the Jews far and wide throughout the Mediterranean world. Some Jews returned to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem some seventy years later under Persian domination, but most Jews remained scattered throughout the empire. And since kingdoms come and go according to God’s sovereign plan (Acts 17:26), the Jews in those lands passed from Persian domination to Greek and then to Roman by the first century. At any rate, the obvious differences between Jew and Gentile were noted as early as the Persian Empire under Ahasuerus when Haman complained to the king, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people…” (Esther 3:8). Thus, the Jewish laws concerning circumcision, dietary restrictions, and Sabbath-keeping were well-known and contrary to the usual way of doing things in the ancient world, and we may assume their moral laws even more so as enumerated in the Ten Commandments. The animosity between the two groups was only intensified by the first century and was, unfortunately, mutual.
But now the distinction is broken down in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Gentile but one new man. Though the ordinances were necessary as they were given to the Israelites by God’s order under Moses, they were merely preparatory till the coming of the One under whose new administration they would become unnecessary, that new administration being by the Spirit who, upon our Lord’s ascension, was sent forth by both him and the Father. Now he is the Holy Spirit who has come to reside in the hearts of those who have been born of him, who enlightens our minds by the word and empowers us to live by that word not by coercion but by faith working through love. And so we are now at peace—peace with God and one another, Jew and Gentile as one in Christ.
I am aware that this peace has not always been lived out, and the believing Gentile Christian has been more at fault in this than the unbelieving Jew. Let this no longer be the case. Let us rejoice that the wall has been broken down between us and may we as believing Gentiles now patiently wait for our unbelieving Jewish brethren, “for if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:12, 15).