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Middle Wall

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MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION

 By:   Obed Kirkpatrick

         Jerry Lockhart

        Brian Sipes

Midle Wall

Over the years there have been magical moments that have changed my direction in life.  Sometimes there was major enlightenment from the Word of God that made understanding my Bible a lot easier and more meaningful.

This little booklet tells you about one of those events. When I realized who the parties involved in Ephesians 2:14-16 were, my understanding of rightly dividing the word of truth took a giant leap.

I wrote a small pamphlet on the middle all of partition in 1981.  I ran off a few copies on a copy machine and distributed it to my Bibles classes inBaton Rouge,Louisiana.

Comments from some of the preachers with whom I shared it ranged from, “That is interesting;” to “I need to check that out further;” to “You must be nuts.”

I mentiond it once again in Volume One of “The Limited Knowledge Series” but some people were confused, so I am attempting to make it less confusing and I have asked two of my fellow grace preachers to share their thoughts on the subject and the following information is an accumulation of those thoughts from Jerry Lockhart,Brian Sipesand me.

Please read it through carefully and prayerfully before you make any judgment calls. It will not make a difference in your inheritance but it might be a helpful Bible tool in understanding Paul.

Obed Kirkpatrick

 

General Information and Overview

 

◙    The Bible is about God and two groups of people: Jews and Gentiles.

◙ The first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, prophesied the following: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King will reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5).

◙    Christ is that righteous branch and the King that will be raised unto David, i.e. the Jews.

◙    God promised Abraham, the first Jew, that he would bless all nations who blessed him and curse all of them that did not.

◙    The Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, was given to and for the Jews, as was the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

 ◙   The Old Testament prophet Hosea prophesied thatIsraelwould be scattered and sowed to the four winds; that God would cease to be merciful to her and eventually would have to declare that she was not His people (Hosea 1).

◙    Jesus came to earth to train 12 men to preach a message to the Jews; it was called the gospel of the kingdom and/or the gospel of the circumcision.

◙    The message, noted above, was “repent and be baptized for the remission of sin” (Acts 2:38).

◙    But the blotting out of their sins would not occur until Christ returned to reign as King and execute judgment and justice in the earth (Acts 3:19-21).

◙    The twelve preached the gospel of the kingdom with fervor all the way through Acts 12.  But in Romans 11 we see thatIsraelstumbled and fell because they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

◙    We also see in the 11th chapter of Romans a progression ofIsrael falling from favor. In Rom. 11:12 we are told of the diminishing ofIsrael. In Rom. 11:15 we are told of her being cast away, which is a result of their fall in Rom. 11:11.

◙    God, who allowed the Israelites to fall out of favor,  called Paul to begin a ministry to Gentiles and Jews in Acts 9.

◙    In Acts 13 he begins his first missionary journey to spread the gospel of the uncircumcision. Those who believed the gospel became members of the body of Christ.

◙    The gospel he preached evolved from saying that Jesus was the Son of God (the Gospel of God), to Christ died for our sins, was buried and resurrected (the Gospel of Christ); to Christ died for those who had no hope of salvation because they did not bless Israel (the Gospel of the Grace of God).

◙    On his first and second missionary journeys, Paul preached the Gospel of Christ, first to the Jew and then to the Gentiles, in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Thessalonians and to some Ephesians (Acts 13-19).

◙    In Acts 20:24 he said: “…so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

◙    In Acts 28 Israel becomes Lo-Ammi (not my people).

◙    In Paul’s first two missionary journeys he was trying to be all things to all people if that meant the people would be saved (1 Cor. 8:13; 1 Cor. 9:22; 1 Cor. 10:23, 33; 1 Cor. 11:2).

◙    During this time period he did not want to offend his fellow Jews for they still had an advantage (Rom.3:1-3). In Acts 15:28-29 we see him agreeing to certain ordinances.

◙    There was a time that Paul baptized, required some of his followers to be circumcised, and gave the Corinthians what he had received from the Lord on observing the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11).

◙    Once Israel became Lo-Ammi (cast away) she no longer had an advantage and she was no longer an obstacle, so respect for the law contained in ordinances became a non-issue.

◙    Those saved during Paul’s early ministry were known as “those who first trusted.” They had no problem observing Jewish ordinances, for most of them were Jews who saw the truth concerning Jesus (Eph. 1:12).

◙    With the ordinances a non-issue, there was unity among those who first believed and were required to observe certain ordinances, and those who also believed but were not required to observe them.

 

The Middle Wall of Partition

These words are a source of contention among fundamentalists. It only appears in Ephesians 2:14, but it is a very controversial passage, although it does not need to be controversial for it is a minor thing in Scripture but a major thing among theologians. Let’s look at the passage.

Ephesians 2:14-18:

14       For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

15       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;

16       And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

17       And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

18       For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father (underling added).

Starting at Genesis 12, God has made distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. These divisions were even seen in Solomon’s temple. The temple was divided, there was a court for the Jews, and a larger outer court for the Gentiles. These two courts were separated by a wall, almost five feet in height. It is believed to have had pillars on top of the wall separating the two courts with an inscription that “no stranger was, on the pain of death, to pass from the court of the Gentiles into that of the Jews.”

Jesus was sent to Israel – if you do not believe that you are a babe in Christ.

In Matthew 15:24 Jesus said: …, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

He also made the following statement: …., It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. (Matthew 15:26).

The words, “the children’s bread,” are in reference to the gospel intended for the Jews, which is the gospel of the circumcision that was committed unto Peter in Galatians 2:7-9. That gospel is also called the Gospel of the Kingdom.

So, this division between the Jew and the Gentiles extended to the message each was to receive as well. God formulated a gospel whereby all Israelwould be saved. It was the gospel that Peter preached in Acts 2:38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

However, the middle wall is not between Jew and Gentile, it is between Gentiles and early Jewish converts to Christianity who had to keep certain ordinances.

Paul and Peter preached different messages. Look at 1 Cor. 1:17: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect (Underlining added).

Paul was given his instructions from the Lord to go to the Gentiles, and he was given a gospel that was completely different from the one issued to Peter. Peter preached a gospel of works and Paul preached a gospel without works, a gospel of grace.

The message Paul preached was confusing to Peter, as we see in 2 Peter 3:15-16: And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (Underlining added).

Peter knew he was called by the Lord to preach baptism for remission of sins, and he knew that Paul was not called to preach the same message (1 Cor. 1:17).   It was hard for Peter to understand it, but he knew Paul’s message of grace was from the Lord just as his message of baptism was from the Lord.

Peter accepted Paul’s calling, but he was in the minority. There was a larger number of Jews who discredited everything that Paul preached.  Many were sent from the religious hierarchy atJerusalemto follow Paul wherever he went and to harass him every time he preached.

Look at Romans 11:11-15:

11          I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

12          Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

13          For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

14          If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

15          For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (Underlining added).

Israelbegins to stumble and fall in Acts 5.  Paul’s ministry was to Gentiles primarily, but God showed him he was to go to the Jew also. God initially allowed the salvation of the Gentiles so as to provoke the Jews to jealousy.

In Romans 12 we see the words “the diminishing of them.” This is in reference to the Jews. The word diminishing in the Greek is hettema – is a decreasing or a loss, defeat because of failure. (See Isaiah 56:1-8 and Acts 11:19-26.) In the English dictionary it means the same: a. To make smaller or less or to cause to appear so; b. To detract from the authority, reputation, or prestige of

Then we see in Romans 11:15 the words “the casting away of them,” which was prophesied in Hosea 1:1-11. This casting away is the Lo-ammi of Hosea 1:9.

 

Paul’s Early Ministry

Prior to his conversion, Paul persecuted many Christians (See Acts 7:59-8:1). When he first began his ministry, he preached the gospel of God; which was simply acknowledging Jesus was the Son of God.

When he departed from Antioch on his first missionary journey, the message Paul preached is what we call the gospel of Christ, which is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

So, Paul, who at the start of his ministry only acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, now says the Son of God has died for your sins; and he was not ashamed to preach it.

Romans 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

When Paul leaves Antiochhe preaches to both Jew and Gentile. Many of the Jews saw the truth in Paul’s teaching and were saved believing the gospel of Christ. Once they believed they became members of the Body of Christ by spiritual baptism. For 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. 1:13).

It was during this early ministry of Paul that we see him assenting to things pertaining to the law of commandments contained in ordinances. Look at the following verses.

1 Cor. 8:13: Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

1 Cor. 9:22: To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1 Cor. 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

1 Cor. 10:33: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

1 Cor. 11:2: Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

What do we see in these passages?

1.    I will not eat meat if eating it offends a brother.

2.    I became all things to men if it meant they would be saved.

3.    Even though all things are lawful for me, all things do not edify Christ.

4.    I tried to be pleasing if it meant that many would be saved.

5.    Keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.

Points of Contention

There were some ordinances Paul practiced or allowed to be practiced that can be confusing today if we do not rightly divide the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15).

We know he baptized some believers. 1 Corinthians 1:14-17:

14    I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15    Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16    And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

17    For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect (Underlining added).

Even though he baptized, Paul was thankful he only baptized a few. Red Flag: If baptism was so important, why would Paul be thankful for baptizing such a small number? (Most churches who do baptize want the world to know the number baptized in any given period of time).

Answer: Christ did not send Paul to preach repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Christ sent him to preach the gospel of Christ, i.e. that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again for our justification.

If Christ did not die for remission of sins thenCalvarywas a scam. Baptism for remission of sins was for the Jew who would have their sins blotted out when Christ establishes his earthly kingdom. The blood of Christ would be applied for them at Christ’s second coming.

So why did Paul baptize?  So as not to be offensive to those who believed the gospel Peter preached and in the hopes that the Jews might see Jesus as the Christ.

Paul did many things in the beginning of his ministry that he quit doing later on, and these Corinthians fall into the “all things to all men” category. 

Before Paul was imprisoned he wrote Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. We call these the pre-prison epistles; and in these six books Paul was trying to be all things to all people.

You will see he is not so accommodating in the books we call the prison epistles, they are: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.

The Gospel of the Grace of God

Paul’s attitude changed about ordinances once God allowed him to reveal more of the mystery given him; which he could not reveal untilIsraelhad been set aside

Part of these new revelations included the message he now preached. The message is called the gospel of the grace of God, which we find first mentioned in Acts 20:24: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

What is the gospel of the grace of God? It is the gospel of God and the gospel of Christ plus something. It is, “Jesus is the Son of God, and he died for our sins and was buried and resurrected for our justification, even for you Gentiles who were previously excluded from salvation.

Who Were the Excluded Gentiles?

If you will go back to Genesis 12:1-3 you will find the Lord speaking to Abram. He tells Abram he will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. There were many Gentiles in those days who did not acknowledge the God of the Jews.  You might say there were many who hated the Jews as well as the God of the Jews. Those would be cursed and not have a hope of salvation.

It is to those Gentiles that Paul addressed in Ephesians. I want you to look at Ephesians 2:11-12: Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: (underling added).

You will notice there were a group of Gentiles in time past that were:

  1. Without Christ,
  2. Aliens from thecommonwealthofIsrael,
  3. Strangers from the covenants of promise,
  4. Having no hope, and
  5. Without God in the world..

This select group of Gentiles was those spoken of in Genesis 12. The reason these people had no hope was because they did not blessIsrael.  So, something has happened to give those who were cursed the opportunity to be saved. It is the gospel of the grace of God.

The first Ephesian Gentiles who were saved under the gospel of Christ had no problem blessingIsrael, but this second group of Gentiles did.

In the book of Ephesians we see two groups of Gentiles:

Group One                                  Group Two

       We                                                Ye

In Ephesians chapter one you will see the words above being used frequently.

Those in Group One are referred to as “we who first trusted” and the ones in Group Two as “ye also trusted.”

The word “us” is used to indicate both groups of believers collectively. They were all members of the body of Christ.

In Ephesians 1:3-14, “We” is found four times, “us” is found six times and “ye” is found three times. In Eph. 1:12 Paul speaks of “we” who first trusted and in verse 13 he speaks of “ye” who also trusted.

It is clear Paul is speaking of two separate groups of believers atEphesus, both of whom are members of the body of Christ. When Paul began his ministry he usually went into the synagogues.  Some of the Jews believed the gospel of Christ.  Once they believed, they ceased to be known as Jews but members of the body of Christ.

Galatians 3:27-28: 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 ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Group One believers (We) were saved believing the Gospel of Christ and Group Two believers (Ye) were saved believing the Gospel of the Grace of God.

Group One was observing certain ordinances so as not be offensive to the Jews. Group Two could have cared less whether they offended the Jews or not.

Both those in Group One and Group Two are members of the Body of Christ and their inheritance is in heaven.

Now look at Ephesians 2:14-15: For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 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; (Underling added)

Paul is saying that there is no longer cause for division over whether one should observe ordinances or not. The wall which had separated them (ordinances) had been broken down and it is no longer necessary to practice certain ordinances. Why not, because the Jew had been set aside or had become Lo-Ammi, not my people?  It did not matter if Jews were offended or not or if their ordinances were to be obserbed.

Paul says there had been a division among those of you who were asked to keep certain ordinances and those who were not asked to keep them. This caused much confusion as well as animosity. Many of Paul’s followers wondered why he told Timothy to be circumcised but not Titus.

Answer: Timothy’s mother was a Jew but Titus’ parents were both Gentiles. It would have been offensive to the Jews had Timothy not been circumcised.  It would have been offensive to the Gentiles if Titus was compelled to be circumcised.

This barrier between both groups was broken when the Jews were declared Lo-Ammi (Acts 28:25-28). But the middle wall is not about Jew and Gentile.  It is about ordinances: those who kept them and those who did not. Group One contained both Jew and Gentiles, but Group Two was most likely all Gentiles.

That being said, the two sets of believers can now be united.  Those who believed the Gospel of Christ can rejoice in the fact that every Gentile can be saved without ever having blessedIsrael.

The Gentiles who had no hope of salvation have a hope because of the gospel of the grace of God.

Group One, those called “we,” and Group Two, those called “ye,” are now united.  The ordinances that had caused the division were no longer practiced by Group One.  Now both groups can operate as one.

What about today?

Are there divisions among God’s people over the practice of ordinances? Yes there are! The biggest division of all is baptism.  I list seven divisions in my booklet titled Baptism. I list the big one here: There are those who say you must be baptized to be saved and those who say water baptism cannot save.

In time past baptism was a requirement for salvation for those who believed the gospel Peter preached (Acts 2:38), but not in the gospel of Christ which Paul preached. Once the middle wall of partition had been removed, all that remained for salvation was to believe the gospel of Christ, which is now called the gospel of the grace of God.  Going to the Jew first was no longer important becauseIsraelhad become LoAmmi.

Look at Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

There are too many divisions among believers today. The Baptists have issues with Catholics. Catholics have issues with Episcopalians. There are issues between Calvinist and non-Calvinist. Some Christians have issues with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness, and the list goes on and on.

The Middle Wall of Partition has been broken down.  There should not be but one issue that is divisive and that issue is unbelief.  Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for our sins, was buried and rose again for our justification, or do you not believe it?

There will be no denominations in heaven, there will only be members of the body of Christ.  There will be no denominations on earth after Christ returns, there will only be those who believe that Christ is the King.

I have furnished you a dispensational time chart, now is the time to look at it.  There is the color blue, which representsIsraeland there is the color red, which represents the body of Christ.

There are also three major divisions on the chart: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. These divisions coincide with three divisions we find in Ephesians two.

Yesterday is known as time past, and is found in Ephesians 2:11: Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; (Underling added)

These are those Gentiles who had no hope of salvation because they did not bless Israel. Ephesians 2:14: That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

Today is the “but now’ of Ephesians 2:13: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

And Tomorrow can be seen as “ages to come” in Ephesians 2:7: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

The Lord will showIsraelthat because he allowed them to fail and fall, He was able to show grace to the Gentiles who had no hope of salvation.

Look at Romans 11:11-15: I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Israelwas cast aside in the hopes that that action would provoke them to jealousy and they would accept Christ as Messiah. But they were also cast aside so that salvation could be had by Gentiles who would never blessIsrael. 

It was for these Gentiles, as seen in Ephesians 2:12, that God allowed his chosen people to become Lo-Ami (not my people) for a period of time.

When the Lord returns to earth at his second coming, he will show Israel why it was necessary to do what he did, and they will see “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:7.

WhenIsraelwas set aside, the dispensation of the grace of God began.  It is because of this action that all people can be saved by simply believing the gospel of Christ, which is Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day – for our justification.

Have you believed the gospel of Christ?