17 January 2023

All are welcome in God's new society

Jim Bryden

In an extract from his study guide on Ephesians, Jim Bryden reminds us that Christ has smashed the walls of division between us.

Key text

We can sometimes feel that the ‘best’ always goes to another; that somehow, we don’t count for much. Someone else gets all the breaks and we’ve got to make do. This is how it was for many in Paul’s day. Religion, culture and race were barriers between people. Is it any different today?

Consider religion. When I used to take the War Cry (a weekly publication) into the public houses, often I was accosted with, ‘Religion has caused more wars than anything else in the world.’ Then, as now, I agree. All major faiths – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus – have spilt innocent blood. Why? They saw the other as the ‘outsider’ a threat, a rival – even an enemy. The past troubles in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics and the slaughter in Iraq involving Sunni and Shia are frightening examples. Still today we have the war in Syria, which has 'led to more than 500,000 deaths and displaced an estimated 13 million – over half of Syria's pre-war population'. [United States Institute of Peace 'The Current Situation in Syria Fact Sheet' August 2020]

Image shows the front cover of Jim Bryden's study guide on Ephesians

Ephesians 2:13

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Read the Bible passage

Paul’s ‘one in Christ’ message (see Galatians 3:28) now deals with a contentious issue in the Church of his day: Jews and Gentiles. At the heart of the dispute was the question of who belongs to God. The Jews regarded themselves as the ‘chosen’ people to the exclusion of everyone else. It came as a great shock to discover that Gentiles also are included in God’s cosmic plan of reconciliation and special relationship with himself. Those who had been ‘outsiders’, aliens without covenant promise or hope, are now, through the blood and death of Christ, included in the circle of God’s love. Jesus took the hostility and hatred into himself. When he died, it died.

Because of Christ, the walls that divided are smashed to pieces. A building where Christ is the foundation stone stands in its place. As Dr John Stott puts it, we have ‘the portrait of an alienated humanity’, then, ‘the portrait of a peace-making Christ’ and lastly ‘the portrait of God’s new society’.

In God’s new society Christ is everything and everyone counts for something. No one is out in the cold who is in Christ. No longer is there one favoured people. All are welcome! Together they are invited to form one body of Christ where God’s Spirit lives.


  • What were the barriers in Paul's day to people coming together?
  • In today's world what prominent factors divide society?
  • Where does the Christian life figure in forming God's new society?
  • List and comment on what Christ has done to eliminate alienation and antagonism amongst God's people, give peace and make them 'one in Christ'.

Bible study by

Jim Bryden

Jim Bryden

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