Genesis 3, the account of humanity’s first sin, tells us clearly that disobedience to the Lord brings about at least two forms of alienation. First, sinners are alienated from God, the shame of their wickedness driving them to do whatever they can to hide from His holy gaze (vv. 7–8). Second, human beings are alienated from one another, making us all too eager to point the finger at others and even “throw them under the bus,” as it were, if we think it might get us out of trouble (vv. 10–13). Every problem we face is simply an outworking of this alienation. Our predicament is so bad that we use the Lord’s good gifts to further our alienation from Him and from each other. This proved true for many first-century Jews who took the good law of Moses and used it to wall themselves off from the nations.
Instead of obeying their calling to shine as a light to the world (Isa. 42:6), the Jewish leaders took their superficial conformity to the Mosaic law as evidence of their superiority to the Gentiles around them, even though these same Jews were no less guilty of sin than their Gentile counterparts (Rom. 1–3). Rather than admitting their failures to keep the law of Moses and confessing their need of a Savior so that the Gentile nations might recognize their own need of a Savior reflected in the lives of the Jews, the Jewish majority saw the Mosaic law as a mark of their own righteousness and looked down upon those outside the borders of Israel.
Though this sinful misuse of the Torah to increase the alienation between Jews and Gentiles was not due to anything in the Mosaic law itself, it was still necessary to tear down this “dividing wall of hostility” in order to achieve reconciliation. This is exactly what happened in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, as today’s passage reveals. Our Savior fulfilled God’s commandments, removing the Mosaic law as the defining mark of His people and replacing it with His own person (Eph. 2:14). It is not that the Lord’s people no longer have to be concerned with God’s commandments, for we are under the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Yet those who belong to God are no longer identified as such according to the Mosaic covenant, but by our relationship to Christ Jesus. He is our peace, having taken away the old covenant law’s dividing wall so that Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled.