Have you ever been in a church where there existed a dividing wall of hostility? There have been many reasons given for such divisions often focusing around frustration on the part of some and a desire for control on the part of others. Sometimes the reasons have been about some form of tribalism, not always based on ethnicity but on theology, family, friendship groups, history, class, regional identity, personal pride and ambition. In Ephesians the dividing wall of hostility was between Christians from the “commonwealth of Israel” v12 and Christians from all other nations who were deemed to be “without God”. v12 For Israel there was a horizontal dividing wall of hostility between themselves and those of Gentile identity. In the Ephesian church there continued to be people who maintained that horizontal division fundamentally misunderstanding the work of Jesus on the cross.
The commonwealth of Israel were the 12 tribes of Israel who were unique in that they were the recipients of God’s covenantal promises from Abraham, through Moses and David, confirmed repeatedly by the Old Testament prophets. History showed that despite a minority of Godly leaders the overall direction the covenant people took was one of rebellion against a loving God. The primary form of that rebellion was idolatry in defiance of the first four of the ten commandments. They built a vertical wall of hostility between themselves and God. This culminated in God’s judgement on the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the reign of Manasseh because their idolatry and evil practices were even worse than those of the people they had driven out of Canaan when occupying the promised land. 2 Kings 21:10-16 The Northern Kingdom of Israel was never re-established following the Assyrian invasion. Idolatry creates a wall of hostility between people and God. Idolatry is anything that people put in the place God should occupy in their lives. Although then the “circumcised” were the way God chose to reveal himself to the world and the means by which the whole world was intended to be blessed, their rebellion placed them in exactly the same position as those who had not been part of Israel. They were now equally a people, “without hope and without God in the world.” v12 How has idolatry created walls of hostility in the contemporary church?