Jeremy Sarber

Sin divides while grace reconciles

Having reminded Gentile believers of their separation from both God and his people, Paul says, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13).

Notice the contrast Paul makes here: far off versus brought near. In Acts 2, Peter used similar language. He said, For the promise is for you and for your children, that is, the Jews, and for all who are far off, the Gentiles, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Ac 2:39).

Because the Jews had a covenant relationship with God, they spoke of themselves as being near God. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were far off because they didn’t have the same relationship. Plus, they were physically distant from God’s presence in the temple.

But that’s past tense. Anyone who is in Christ Jesus, Jew or Gentile, is brought near by the blood of Christ. Just as sin leads to division, holiness leads to harmony. Because Christ was perfectly holy, he could make atonement for our sin through his death. And because he has made atonement, the penalty of sin is washed away. The separation is removed.

Keep in mind that even the Jews were never as close to God as we are under the new covenant. Yes, they possessed the truth of God, his blessings, his special care, and even his presence in the temple. But under the new covenant, we are the temple of God. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? (1Co 6:19). So even the Jews were brought near—nearer, at least.

More to the point, there’s no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile. Whether they liked it or not, Paul told the Corinthians, He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him (1Co 6:17). Of course, if one becomes joined to the Lord, then he becomes joined to everyone else who is joined to the Lord. There is not one but two reconciliations taking place.

To illustrate this point, consider what happened in Genesis 11. When the people sinfully attempted to construct the infamous Tower of Babel, what was the consequence? The Lord confused the language of all the earth (Ge 11:9). So the penalty for their sin was disunity.

Compare that event with what happened on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Each one was hearing them speak in his own language (Ac 2:4; 6). It was an exact reversal of what sin caused in Genesis 11. Sin creates division while God restores unity not only with him but also with one another.