Among the many sad and dreadful fruits of the Adam fall, the enmity between God and man, and the enmity between man and man which sprang out of it, for we class them both together as produced by the same cause, was not the least or last. Sin, which set man at variance with God his Maker, set man also at variance with man his brother; and, as a proof of the breach thus made, the original sin which drove Adam out of Paradise speedily manifested itself in the actual sin which armed the hand of Cain against Abel. As long, then, as sin, the cause, remains, enmity, the effect, must remain too; and nothing but the removing of sin can remove the enmity which sprang out of it, whether it be between God and man, or between man and his fellow.
But as the expression "enmity between God and man" may strike some of our readers as harsh, let us explain what we mean by the term.
We have already observed that the enmity on the part of God is what we have called "a law enmity." There is not, there never was on the part of God any real enmity against the people of his love and choice, for enmity and love are incompatible with, and mutually destroy each other; but infinite Justice viewing them as sinners, God was of necessity an enemy to their sins. But this enmity against their sins is not enmity against their persons, no, is perfectly consistent with the purest, deepest love toward them. And here we may, for the sake of clearness, draw a distinction between enmity and anger. Anger reaches the person as well as the sin; but enmity may reach the sin without reaching the person. The Lord was angry with Moses (Deut. 1:37), with Aaron (Deut. 9:20), with Solomon (1 Kings 11:9)—angry with them personally on account of their sins, but was never at enmity with their persons. Moses was still God's servant, faithful in all his house (Numb. 12:7); Aaron was still the anointed high priest, and the saint of the Lord (Psalm 106:10); and Solomon was still beloved of the Lord (2 Sam. 12:24). We have a very simple, yet forcible illustration of this distinction between anger and enmity in the case of a father and his disobedient, unruly, or profligate son. The father is an enemy to his son's sins, but not to his son's person; and the more deeply and tenderly that he loves his son the more is he at enmity with those sins and that conduct which make a separation between them. But as regards his anger, not only is he angry with the sins of his son, but he is angry with his son also on account of those sins. But assume that his son has been drawn into bad courses by the arts of some vile tempter. How does the father feel toward this base wretch through whose instigation or example his son has been drawn aside into sin or crime? Does he not feel enmity against his person, against the man himself, as well as against his vile practices? We thus see that God is an enemy to the persons of the ungodly as well as to their sins; but as regards his people, he is an enemy to their sins, but not to their persons.
But assume further that his son repents of and forsakes his sins, and to make our illustration more complete, let the father be a gracious man, and let grace manifestly touch the son's conscience, and let him come home, like the repenting prodigal, with weeping eyes and a broken heart, confessing his crimes, will there be enmity or even anger between father and son any longer? We would confidently appeal to any gracious father who reads these lines, and whose grief and affliction it is to have an unruly son, if all his anger would not at once melt away like a snow wreath before the sun at the sight of his boy, and could he well refrain from falling on his neck and kissing away all his doubts and fears of a kind reception?
But suppose still further that this prodigal son had run deeply into debt, and that it was necessary that these debts should be paid before he could resume his place in his father's house, would there be any sacrifice which his father would not be willing to make that all those debts might be fully discharged, and that his repenting and reclaimed son might live with him honorably and happily without fear of creditor or jail?
All illustrations must, of course, necessarily be imperfect—but there is still a sufficient analogy between an earthly and a heavenly father which may be available to throw a clearer and fuller light upon the relationship in which God stands to his people and his consequent dealings with them. When, then, our gracious Lord rendered full satisfaction to offended Justice by his obedience, blood shedding, and death, this law enmity on the part of God was removed out of the way, and eternal love could now freely and fully flow forth from his bosom without let or hindrance. It is so necessary for our walking with God in peace and equity to understand, believe, and realize this that we have been induced thus to dwell upon it.
The word rendered (Mal. 2:6) "equity" means properly "straightness," and thence signifies, as it is sometimes translated, "righteousness," and "uprightness." To walk, then, with God in equity as well as in peace is to walk with and before him as justified by Christ's righteousness, and with that uprightness of heart, lip, and life which is the fruit and effect of it.
But closely connected with the removal of enmity on the part of God, is the removal of enmity on the part of man, both against God and against his brother; and as this is not only a point of great importance, but the main subject of the Apostle's argument in that portion of the chapter which is now before us, we shall here resume our exposition. "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near." (Eph. 2:14-17.)
There was apparently in the Apostle's mind a blending of several things together which has given to his language a degree of difficulty. It will be, therefore, our pleasing task to unravel, as far as we have light and wisdom bestowed upon us, his mind and meaning, and thus set the whole matter in a clearer point of view before our readers. His grand topic here is reconciliation between God and man and between man and man by the blood of the cross. We shall have, therefore, to unfold the nature and means of this reconciliation in both these instances.
The enmity between God and man, and the enmity between man and man, of which we have spoken as springing out of the fall, is of the widest and most desolating nature. When this spark was first lighted it was the kindling of a fire which burns to the lowest hell, the first breaking out of a deadly disease, which has filled earth with the deepest misery and peopled with millions of inhabitants the gloomy regions of eternal despair. No thought or tongue of men or angels can conceive or describe what it is for a man to be at enmity with God; and the records of misery produced by the enmity of man against man might well be written in characters of blood. The havoc, the ruin, the misery, produced by this state of enmity none but the Son of God could repair, and he only by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, and by enduring in his own Person the wrath of God justly due to us. The reconciliation thus effected by his blood shedding and death is beautifully described by the Apostle in the words, "And you that were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight." (Col. 1:21, 22.)
But as reconciliation necessarily implies the removal of all enmity, or it would not be complete, it is needful to observe that this work of reconciliation consists mainly in these three things—(1) the reconciling of the persons of the elect unto God; (2) the reconciling of their understanding, their conscience, their will, and their affections; and (3) the reconciling of them to each other. These three fruits of redeeming blood are expressed or implied by the Apostle in the words before us, which we have already quoted. The reconciliation of their persons, whether Jew or Gentile, is expressed by the words, "And that he might reconcile both unto God." The reconciling of our understanding, conscience, will, and affections is implied by the words, "For he is our peace." And the reconciling of man to man, and especially of Jew to Gentile, is expressed by the words, "For to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace."
But these points need and deserve a fuller explanation, not only for a clearer unfolding of the mind and meaning of the Apostle, but as also involving blessed experimental truth. Upon the first point, the reconciling of our persons unto God, we shall not dwell, as we have already sufficiently touched upon it. But the reconciliation of our understanding, conscience, will, and affections, and the reconciliation of us to one another, are subjects which well deserve our closest attention.
Reconciliation implies the removal of enmity both in its cause and effects, and the uniting of the contending parties in amity, friendship, and peace. The blood of the cross by the atonement made thereby for sin removed the law enmity on the part of God; and the same blood as experimentally revealed, applied, and sprinkled removes also the enmity which there is in our understanding, in our conscience, in our will, and in our affections, and thus produces in them harmony, amity, and peace. But as this enmity must be seen, known, and felt before it can be sensibly removed, we shall, at the risk of a little digressing from our subject, show how it is discovered and brought to light. And here we see the effect of the moral law as distinct from the effect of the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law, as we showed in our last number, provoked and stirred up enmity between Jew and Gentile; but the moral law, entering into the conscience, stirs up and provokes the enmity of the heart against God. This enmity against God, which is the very breath and being of the carnal mind, lies for the most part benumbed and torpid in the heart until roused up as a sleeping lion from his lair, or as a serpent awaked out of its winter's sleep by a ray of light shining into its hole. How many amiable persons do we find who, never having seen or felt the enmity of their heart against God, would be shocked if they were told that they by nature hated him with absolute hatred.
And, on the other hand, into what deep distress, guilt, and bondage is many a dear child of God thrown by the hissing of the venomous serpent within, by the awful rebellion and enmity which seem to break forth at times as with an overwhelming flood, as if the end would be eternal misery and despair.
Now it is the entrance of the law into the conscience which not only discovers, but stirs up, provokes, and, as it were, puts life into this dreadful enmity of the carnal mind. So Paul felt and found it. "Without the law," he says, that is, without the application of it, "sin was dead." Lust, and enmity, and every other evil lay in him as if dead, without breath or motion; and being able to discharge all his moral and religious duties without hindrance, "touching the righteousness which is in the law," that is, its external performance, he "was blameless." Thus he was "alive without the law once;" "but when the commandment came," that is, when the law in its spiritual meaning, power, and authority came into his heart, sin, which before was dead, revived, and taking occasion by the commandment deceived him and slew him. And thus he died before God, smitten down by the curse and condemnation of the law, without help or hope.
The enmity thus discovered, and irritated also and provoked by the application of the law to the conscience, must be removed before any inward reconciliation can be felt or known. The Apostle, therefore, tells us that it is slain, and shows us how—"And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:16.)
The "one body" of which he here speaks is his mystical body, and as this mystical body is made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and they are alike enemies to God by wicked works, there was a necessity that both should be alike reconciled unto God, that being knit together as living members of Christ they might have union and communion with him their head, and with each other in him. But this union and communion cannot be felt or realized as long as there is enmity in the heart either against God or against one another. Hence arises the need of reconciliation internally as well as of reconciliation externally—internally of the soul, as externally of the person. It is by the cross, and by the cross alone, that this twofold reconciliation is effected. On the cross and by the cross the blessed Lord slew the enmity, the law enmity which severed God from man, and the carnal enmity which severs man from God.
We have shown how the law in its application to the conscience discovers and provokes this enmity of the carnal mind. As, then, it was needful to remove the law out of the way as being a bar to God's friendship with man, so it was needful to remove it out of the way as being a bar to man's friendship with God. This the Apostle beautifully unfolds in those striking words—"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." (Col. 2:14.) These words, taken in connection with the passage which we are now attempting to open (Eph. 2:16), throw a clear and blessed light on the wondrous way by which this enmity is slain. "The handwriting of ordinances" spoken of as being "blotted out" is not the ceremonial, but the moral law, for it is this which is "against us" as sinners, and "contrary to us," as condemning us for transgressing it in thought, word, and deed. It is called "the handwriting of ordinances" because written by the finger of God on the two tables of stone which he gave to Moses; and we may observe that what the finger of God wrote nothing but the finger of God could blot out. When, then, the Son of God fulfilled the law both by his perfect obedience and by enduring its curse, he, so to speak, with his own divine fingers blotted out the handwriting by sprinkling it all over with his most precious blood, and he thus "took it out of the way," so that it should no longer stand against us as a bill of charges, but become null and void; and not only so, but "he nailed it to his cross," that none might take it down as a condemning law, but that it might ever stand and be seen as blotted out, and to be to all ages a permanent trophy of his victory over the curse and condemnation of the law.
When, then, under a sweet and blessed revelation of the Person and work, blood and righteousness of the Son of God to the soul, it is seen by the eye of faith that this cursing, condemning law was blotted out and taken away by the blood of the cross, then the enmity of the carnal mind stirred up by the law is slain, the bar between God and man removed, peace proclaimed, and sin forgiven. The Apostle, therefore, connects the forgiveness of sin with the blotting out of the handwriting of ordinances, clearly showing thereby that "the handwriting of ordinances" is not the ceremonial, but the moral law; for it is that, and not the ceremonial law, which brings us in guilty before God. "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses, blotting out the handwriting," etc. (Col. 2:13, 14.)
To know and enjoy this reconciliation is to receive the atonement (Rom. 5:11, margin), and to be reconciled unto God internally, feelingly, and experimentally by receiving the ministry and word of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:19, 20.)
Now this reconciliation as an inward blessing spreads itself, so to speak, over every faculty of the soul, and reconciles everything in it which before was at variance with God. Thus 1. It reconciles the understanding by showing how "God can be just, and yet the justifier of him who believes in Jesus," filling it with a heavenly light and a holy admiration of the wisdom of God in contriving such a way of saving sinners through the blood of his dear Son, and thus making mercy and truth to meet together, righteousness and peace to kiss each other. 2. Secondly, it reconciles the conscience, which before was full of guilt, and purging it by the blood of sprinkling, gives it peace with God. 3. Thirdly, it reconciles the will, removing out of it its frowardness and disinclination to submissive obedience, and brings it into harmony with the will of God. 4. And fourthly, it reconciles the affections by dethroning all idols, and filling the heart with the tenderest love to him who is the altogether lovely. It thus makes a complete conquest of the soul, reconciling and harmonizing every inward faculty to move in sweet unison with the will and word of God, and to enjoy peace in believing.
But from this inward reconciliation with God flows reconciliation with all the dear family of God, and the removal of that enmity which set the hand of man against his brother, and, as we showed in our last paper; especially set at variance Jew and Gentile. For, as these were to be reconciled in one body by the cross, so as to be knit together in one harmonious body, they must also have peace one with another that this harmony and union might be complete. The Apostle therefore says, "To make in himself of twain (that is, the two, that is, the Jew and Gentile) one new man, so making peace."
The Apostle seems to draw here a distinction between the "one body" and the "one new man;" at least, as the expressions differ, we may well assume that the meaning intended by them is different also. By the "one body," then, we may understand that mystical body of Christ of which elect Jews and elect Gentiles are alike members; and by the "one new man" that possession by them of a new and divine nature whereby, as baptized into and made to drink of one Spirit, they have spiritual union and communion with one another.
To set this point in a clearer light, let us ask, What is the main cause which separates between, and divides asunder the living family of God? What is it which rends churches to pieces, often separates chief friends, causes coldness, shyness, and even variance between those who once walked in love and affection, and thus mars harmony and peace? Is it not the flesh? Pride, ambition, covetousness, wrath, stubbornness, obstinacy, self will, prejudice, slander, hasty tempers, cutting speeches, unkind actions, are not these and other similar fruits of the flesh almost the sole causes of division and disunion among the family of God? Did any circumstance ever arise to divide a church or separate bosom friends which cannot be traced to the old man, the body of sin and death which we carry about with us?
And ask again, What brings together, unites and cements soul to soul, heals divisions, restores peace when broken, and knits together in sweet harmony and love the living members of Christ? Is it not the new man of grace—that "new man which after God (that is, after the image of God) is created in righteousness and true holiness?" If ever we have felt in our own bosoms the bitterness, the misery, the bondage, the sadness, the mournful days and sleepless nights, produced by disunion and strife in churches or between Christian friends; or if, on the other hand, we have ever felt the happiness, the sweetness, and the blessedness, the spiritual profit and comfort, of walking in love and union with the dear family of God, we know by our own experience that the old man in ourselves or others has been the cause of all the misery, and that the new man in ourselves and in others has been the spring of all the sweetness we have ever felt in the company and conversation of the living saints of the Most High. We see then and know from our own experience both of the bitter and the sweet what is the Apostle's meaning when he speaks of our gracious Lord making in himself "of twain one new man, so making peace." It is thus that he makes peace between those who were once at variance by communicating to them of his own grace and Spirit, and thus knitting them together by the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We see from these remarks, if, at least, we have rightly interpreted the mind and meaning of the Spirit, how inward reconciliation unto God brings with it reconciliation to man, and unites all the mystical members of Christ, not only into one body, but also into the possession of one Spirit, as the Apostle speaks—"There is one, body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph.4:4), and to the same purpose—"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:13.) In Christ, and by fellowship with him, all those distinctions which separate man from man, and are of the flesh, are lost. Rank, sex, age, station, all natural and worldly distinctions, melt away before a spirit of love and union. When this is felt toward any dear child of God, we think no longer of any difference that there may be naturally between us. The rich and the poor, the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated, the master and the servant, the mistress and the maid, are all one in Christ. All natural distinctions are swallowed up and lost by virtue of union with him and with one another in him. As we experience and realize this sweet union of heart with heart and spirit with spirit, we "put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him; where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision; Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Col. 3:10, 11.) And again—"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female—for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:27, 28.) O how clearly and blessedly does the Holy Spirit in these passages of inspired truth set forth the nature of that spiritual union which knits together in Christ the living family of God! And O that it were more fully realized, felt, and known, that there might be a visible fulfillment in us of that wondrous prayer of our gracious Lord—"Neither do I pray for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one—as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20, 21.)