16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
In this verse Paul explained how the enmity between Jew and Gentile came to a termination. The conflict centered on the ceremonial law, but Jesus resolved that issue by the cross.
16 and that He might reconcile them
Jesus reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God by His work on the cross.
The Greek word for “reconcile” here occurs only in this verse and Colossians 1:20. Reconciliation sets aside enmity and restores amity in relationships. God returns His enemies to favor with Himself. The word “reconcile” here is intensive (addition of prefix apo to the verb), giving the idea that God completely reconciled Jew and Gentile to Himself.
both to God
Jewish and Gentile reconciliation to God means inevitably that they are reconciled to each other.
in one body
The “one body” here is the universal church. A person’s body is a physical organism, but here the body is a spiritual organism—the church. God introduced a new entity different from the nation Israel, an organism rather than an organization. There is a difference between Israel and the church; to conflate them is to distort both entities. No, there is a “one new man” formed here called the “body” or the church (v. 15).
through the cross,
The death of Christ accomplished vertically what men could not do horizontally (Ro 5:1, 10). Jesus did this at one place forever. On the cross Jesus paid the price for sin, thereby effecting peace with God.
thereby [by the cross] putting to death [slain] the enmity.
Jesus put to death the enmity between Jew and Gentile and between man and God. The reconciliation of enmity between God and man results in reconciliation between people.
Normally enmity does the killing, but here the cross did the killing. This is a paradox. Jesus’ death on the cross killed the enmity principle.
As God brings us to Himself, He brings us to each other.
Man cannot reconcile man to God; only God can do that (Ro 5:10). Jesus brings peace by the blood of His cross (Co 1:19-20). The cross is the answer to man’s hostility to man. Otherwise, all we will see is hostility, animosity, bigotry, segregation, and discrimination. Human strife will prevail unless the cross of Christ intervenes. We owe fellowship with each other because of the price Christ paid on the cross.
Once Jesus dealt with self-righteousness, whether by Jew or Gentile, a new unity began. Believers see themselves as forgiven and no better than anyone else. There is no pointing fingers in this. This is simple acceptance of the grace of God in Christ.