For the 9th Sunday after Pentecost the three assigned readings are Jeremiah 23:1-6 (False shepherds); Ephesians 2:13-22 (No longer strangers) and Mark 6:30-34 (Compassion on the multitudes). The verse chosen to examine from a Law and Gospel perspecctive is Ephesians 2:15a which reads, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”
The false teaching that might be concluded from this passage is known as the rejection of the third use of the Law. The three uses which God makes of the Law are 1) Curb evil through the government; 2) Accuse of sin through the Church and 3) Provide a guide or rule when Christians ask what is the will of God for their lives.
There are those who deny the 3rd use of the Law preferring to rely on the “spirit within them” to make moral decisions. It is that kind of heresy which leads to the condoning of abortion, homosexuality, etc. It is NOT that the 3rd use motivates us to act properly; it’s only function is to inform the igorant of what is the will of God since a newly created Christian still needs instruction in God’s will.
But if Jesus has not abolished the commandments that result in sin and the divide between man and God, what has He abolished? Note that the text does not read that Jesus abolished the commandments but the LAW of commandments. That LAW refers to the curse of the Law which states that “In the day that you sin, you die!” Death is the natural consequence of sin which no man can overcome.
However, one Man did overcome that curse for you by dying on the cross and being raised from the dead. That Man was Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity who took upon Himself flesh to pay the punishment of our sins. Jesus did not really take away the sins of Christians in the sense that we no longer sin. Rather, He took away the curse associated with that sin which was the middle wall of division between us and God. (verse 14)
This is a great comfort to Christians who are quite aware that they remain poor, miserable sinners deserving nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. Unable to follow Jesus as their Example, they look to Him as their Savior Who did for them what they were unable to do for themselves. He took away the curse of sin.
It is why the first word Jesus said to the disciples cowering in the upper room was the same spoken by the angels to the shepherds. “Peace” That peace broke down the middle wall of divisions between us and God not because we have changed from bad to good but because Jesus did for us what was impossible for us to achieve.
And to those who imagine that such a message leads people to not care about sin, the Bible makes clear that the more we realize how much Jesus did for us, we spontaneously respond with love towards Him and our neighbor. Such a response is referred to as the fruit of the Holy Spirit referred to in verse 22 which reminds us that “you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”