The previous verses highlighted the difficulties both in converting to Judaism before Christ and in bringing Jew and Gentile together into one body in Christ. The cultural and religious barriers the early church overcame in bringing these two groups together cannot be understated. But in Christ Jesus those far off (the Gentiles) were brought together with those near (the Jews). We are made one in Christ – no matter our nationality, creed, or cultural background. He created a new man – kainos – meaning new in quality, not in quantity.
But we don’t always live this out. In fact we section ourselves off from other believers and build walls to separate. The death of Christ destroyed the wall between Jew and Gentile, but we have spent the last two millennium erecting new barriers. We segregate by class, race, worship style, and political bent. We split into denominations and sub-denominations. We tend to worship with the people with whom we are most comfortable.
Even in the early church Paul battled against this. In the Corinthian church some were claiming to follow Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and some Christ. And Paul told them as he would tell us today – you all should follow Christ! You are living in the flesh, not through the power of Christ!
I attend an amazing church where people of many different races, nationalities, and ages worship together in harmony. But I dare say that most of us choose who to sit with in service, which Bible Study class we feel most comfortable in, and who to talk with in the halls. Even in our own happy body we may avoid certain people who grate on our nerves.
Even though I personally can get along with anyone at my church, there are some professing Christians with whom I would not even want to be in the room. There are people who in my estimation have done damage to the body of Christ or to those I love, and I cannot see how they are even in the same body I claim. They likely think the same of me. Deep down I believe that I am a better believer with a better handle on God’s will. But if we are all in fact true believers then we are all the sons of God in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26). And although deep down I think I am better than them, and they may think they are better than me, if we are all sons and daughters of God then we are equal. God loves us equally. Whoever calls upon the Lord is saved (Rom. 10:12).
And listen people, those of us who are all in Christ out to be radiating that kind of acceptance and love. We ought to be ripping down those fences so that the world will know what our Christ really does. And the sad, sickening, disheartening thing of it all is that we just keep slapping up the fences even in the name of Christianity, don't we? Churches fight and quarrel and squabble and split. No wonder God's heart is grieved. When that's the one thing He came to do was make us one and we're constantly tearing it apart. Listen, all fleshly distinctions, race, nationality, color, all are nailed to the cross. It's over with.
– John MacArthur