Contemporary Christianity is obsessed with the idea that boundaries are inherently hostile and that breaking down barriers is a “Gospel imperative” in order to bring about true racial reconciliation. The passage that is most often referenced to this end is Ephesians 2:11-22 (KJV/ESV). Many instances of this passage’s application abound in contemporary preaching, but this podcast and article by John Piper is a good representative example. The terminology in this passage has been co-opted to support a globalist agenda. Many home in on Paul’s statements that Christ has “broken down in the flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14), having made “one new man in place of the two” (v. 15).
At first glance this would certainly seem to affirm the idea that racial distinctions have been abolished in Christ. It is immediately apparent why so many alienists and globalists appeal to this passage in order to establish a biblical basis for their radical agenda. Many modern globalists use this passage to justify mass migration, total racial integration, and universal political participation through voting and holding public office as a natural outworking of the Gospel.
There are good reasons why a globalist interpretation of this passage ought to be rejected. This interpretation, when taken to its logical conclusion, would delegitimize all boundaries of any kind. Implicit in the globalist interpretation is the idea that the hostility mentioned in Ephesians 2 is synonymous with boundaries or borders in general. Consequently these pastors teach that national borders and distinctions should be at best irrelevant, and at worst are positive hindrances to genuine fellowship. The issue is that there is no reason to limit this to national or ethnic distinctions. The immediate context of this passage is the division between hereditary Israelites and Gentile converts in the Temple, not national borders in general.
Many modern evangelicals such as Russell Moore, David Platt, and Matt Chandler argue that the differences in wealth or success between the races are evidence of oppression or injustice, but why shouldn’t their logic be extended to individuals and families? Couldn’t individual familial property be considered a “dividing wall of hostility” that is to be broken down by the Gospel? This is precisely the premise of utopian societies that sought to eliminate such “dividing walls of hostility” between families through the practice of communalism. An extreme example of this was the nineteenth-century utopian Oneida community, which went so far as to abolish traditional marriage in favor of “communal marriage.”
The very real problems that result from these utopian societies manifest that God has wired us to need a degree of separation from other families, tribes, and nations. This is not a symptom of sinful hostility, but rather a simple manifestation of God’s design. The agenda to abolish national boundaries in any meaningful sense is nothing less than a pretext for socialism and the abolition of private property. Globalists have no intention at stopping after abolishing any meaningful racial or ethnic differences. Individual families with claims to private property will also be targeted for extinction, because private property will become the next “dividing wall of hostility” to be torn down by the “Gospel.”
To counter the oversimplified globalist understanding of Ephesians 2, we should note that Paul is condemning not all divisions or distinctions, but those born out of unjust hostility. In Ephesians 2, Paul teaches that we have been saved and reconciled to God by His grace, and consequently groups of Christians such as Jews and Gentiles who had previously been at enmity were now reconciled into genuine Christian fellowship. Paul says nothing about politics, voting rights, citizenship in any particular country, or living arrangements. There is nothing in Ephesians 2 or anywhere else in the Bible that necessitates the twentieth-century “civil rights movement” as a consequence of the Gospel. Such a view is completely unmoored from history, because Christians have always understood that true Christian unity doesn’t erase or diminish the existence of distinct nations, genders, or social classes.
God has revealed the sanctity of private property and the importance of multigenerational inheritance (the eighth commandment; Num. 27, 36). God also commands that legitimate property boundaries, whether familial, tribal, or national, are not to be transgressed (Deut. 27:17; Prov. 22:28). God divided the nations, giving each a distinct national inheritance (Deut. 32:8-9; Acts 17:26-27). Individual property, such as each man dwelling under his own vine and fig tree, is celebrated as a token of God’s blessing both now and in the world to come (1 Ki. 4:25; Mic. 4:4; Zec. 3:10). Jesus also illustrates this principle by teaching his disciples that there are many mansions in his Father’s house. Matthew Henry comments,
There are mansions there; that is, First, Distinct dwellings, an apartment for each. Perhaps there is an allusion to the priests’ chambers that were about the temple. In heaven there are accommodations for particular saints; though all shall be swallowed up in God, yet our individuality shall not be lost there; every Israelite had his lot in Canaan, and every elder a seat, Rev. 4:4…There are many mansions, for there are many sons to be brought to glory, and Christ exactly knows their number, nor will be straitened for room by the coming of more company than he expects. He had told Peter that he should follow him (Joh. 13:36), but let not the rest be discouraged, in heaven there are mansions for them all. Rehoboth, Gen. 26:22.1
The globalist interpretation of Ephesians 2 brings about the seemingly opposite consequences of atomization and collectivization. The tearing down of national and ethnic boundaries eliminates a meaningful sense of cultural identity for people who then lose motivation to marry, have children, and raise a family without any sense of multigenerational continuity. This devalues inheritance as a means of establishing multigenerational security and undermines the family as the foundational building block of society. Individuals are severed and deracinated as they become just one more member of an undistinguished mass of billions of people. The elimination of the family, as well as ethnic and national identity, has always been a foundational Marxist principle. The only solution is the genuine respect for neighborly boundaries among different families, tribes, and nations that true Christian charity demands.
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, John 14:1-3. ↩