We received the following communication:
Rev. H. Hoeksema, Editor of the Standard Bearer,
The Men’s Society of Oskaloosa has appointed me to lay before you a question with the explanations necessary to elucidate the question.
I shall do my best.
The passage is Ephesians 2:11-19. The question is: “What was the real nature of the enmity and also of the peace here spoken of and what was its deepest cause?
We reject the explanation that the partition was caused by the hopeless obscuration of the Old Testament Gospel by the formalistic Jews.
We also consider it impossible that the “enmity” was caused by the absence of the legal righteousness merited by Christ’s blood and Cross, since that righteousness was evidently available to, at least, the Jews and even to an occasional exceptional Gentile in the Old Testament dispensation.
And we also considered that the enmity or separation caused by the law of commandment in ordinances is surely a relative and superficial enmity, and partition compared with the spiritual enmity that alienates us from God and from one another in the deepest possible sense.
Therefore we considered it possible that the enmity and estrangement was due to the Old Dispensational form of revelation which built up an external, visible people and domain of grace and salvation, from which the “others” were externally, visibly excluded.
This served as no verbal teaching could have done to manifest and demonstrate grace and wrath; election and reprobation; the sphere, the land, the people of His pleasure and ditto of His abhorrence.
So this Old Testament middle wall and enmity was maintained by God rather for revelational purposes than from legally being bound by and to Himself to do so.
That this wall could fall away and the enmity he removed was therefore due to fullness of revelation that became possible in the dispensation of full revelation as seen in the life-ministry, death, resurrection, ascension of Christ, Pentecost and the indwelling presence of His Spirit in the world.
That, then, the “blood” “flesh” “cross” is mentioned in the passage is not because they remove the legal separation and incompatibility of Jew and Gentile, but rather because His blood is the legal meriting power for the revelational fullness of the New Dispensation during which it is no longer necessary to teach by means of a great object-lesson (formed by laws and rituals. For now by the Word of preaching applied by the Spirit of Pentecost the citizens of Zion can be gathered from every race, color and condition with no other means than faith in the Christ who can be perceived by all. Cf. Peter 1:20-21.
Now we would like your judgment on the meaning of the passage.
Your brother in the Lord,
Rev. A. Petter.
Let me first of all make a remark or two about the question.
I have been reading repeatedly the question as stated for the Men’s Society of Oskaloosa by Rev. Petter, and still I am not satisfied that I clearly see the point. Oskaloosa does not ask a specific question, but rather states its own views of the matter in contrast to various other possible views, which it rejects. And then it requests my judgment of the whole matter. I should, therefore, clearly see the point at issue. But I have a vague notion that I don’t. Especially do I fail to grasp the distinction between “the revelational purpose of God” and His “legally being bound by and to Himself” to maintain the middle wall of partition. What is the implication of this last expression, and why cannot both be true, that God sharply revealed His purposes of election and reprobation, and that He was “legally bound” (by and to Himself), supposing this expression can be used?
It appears to me that the society in the course of its discussion raised a question, which may be suggested by the text, but is not immediately stated in the text, nor answered by it, and cannot, therefore, be answered on exegetical grounds. The question I refer to is: what was God’s purpose in maintaining the middle wall of partition? And to this question there may be more than one answer that does not exclude one another.
But as I say, I do not feel as if I clearly grasped the point at issue. The trouble is, perhaps, that the Oskaloosa society must have discussed the problem rather thoroughly and that I was not present to follow the discussion. I would like to have more light, therefore, before I venture to express my judgment.
I can make a few remarks, of course, on the passage (Eph. 2:11-19) itself. Let me suggest the following:
Although all through the passage the apostle suggests the background of a deeper enmity and peace, he is, it seems to me, nevertheless, writing about a formerly existing enmity between Jew and Gentile, and of the removal of that enmity and the establishment of a peace relation.
This enmity is the middle wall of partition. It seems to me that there can be no doubt that vss. 14 and 15 ought to fee read thus, that “enmity” stands in apposition to “the middle wall of partition” as follows: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one and broke down the middle wall of partition, the enmity, in His flesh having abolished the law of commandments in ordinances, in order that He might make these two in Himself into one new man, making peace.”
This enmity between Jew and Gentile Christ removed, therefore, by His death (applied, of course, through His Spirit), by which He abolished the law of commandments in decrees, “slew the enmity” and made one new people: neither Jew nor Gentile, but believers.
As I said, the background and basis of this peace is certainly the peace with God established by the death of Christ and realized through His Spirit, so that the Gentiles are no longer aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, something which was certainly impossible as long as “the law of commandments in decrees” was not abolished. Yet, in the text, he refers to the relation between the Jew and the Gentile.
To an extent, therefore, I can offer my judgment on the conclusion reached by the Oskaloosa society. I believe that it is correct to say that “the enmity” and estrangement was due to the Old Dispensational form of revelation which built up an external, visible people and domain of grace and salvation, from which ‘the others’ were externally, visibly excluded.” For, this is exactly what “the law of commandments in decrees” did.
But for the rest, I would like to have a little more light from Oskaloosa.