Christ’s perfect work destroys the power of the hostility that once existed between Jews and Gentiles, enabling God’s plan to create one family made up of peoples from every tribe and tongue to advance decisively. Fashioning this family was the Lord’s goal from the beginning (Gen. 12:1–3), but ancient Israel, considered as a whole, failed to serve its God-given role in this plan. Instead of living according to the law of God as a light to draw the nations to Yahweh, the one true God and covenant Lord of Israel, most ancient Israelites used the law sinfully and lived pridefully, acting as if the nations could never be included among the Creator’s people (Isa. 42:6; Mark 11:15–19; Rom. 9:30–33). In making atonement for this sin and all of the other transgressions of His people, Jesus broke the power of divisiveness, showing Jewish believers that they must seek the conversion of the nations and the full unity of all those who trust the Messiah in His body — the church (Acts 10; Eph. 2:11–21).
Although Jesus broke sin’s power to compel us to set up improper divisions, sin remains present among us (1 John 1:8–9). The apostles were well aware that Christians might revisit this transgression and set up walls within the body of Christ, separation that clearly violates God’s will to create one united family of disciples. Only the practice of Christian love, which Paul prays for in today’s passage, can prevent this separation and destroy it if it is reestablished (Eph. 3:17–19). As we have seen, this petition is part of a prayer that is rooted in the understanding that Jesus has torn down the dividing wall of the Mosaic law (2:11–21; 3:14). Since Christ’s work effects reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles who follow the same Lord, believers must practice reconciliation that is grounded in truth and love. This can be done only when we begin to understand the extravagant fullness of Jesus’ love (3:18–19). As this comprehension grows, we become ever more “rooted and grounded in love” (v. 17). The love of Christ is the soil in which our own love develops and flourishes, moving us to fulfill our call to further God’s eternal plan through the pursuit of loving unity in the church. Dr. John MacArthur comments that Paul’s prayer is that we might be “so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love, that one is totally dominated by the Lord with nothing left of self” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1691).