Who is the One New Man of Ephesians 2:14-15?
The Iglesia Ni Cristo teaches that the "one new man" of Ephesians 2:14-15 is Christ and his church. They seem to take this position because it aids them in saying that salvation comes through membership in the church. While membership in a local church body is important, the membership that saves is not membership under a human administration, but membership in the body of Christ though a spiritual baptism into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). A careful examination of Ephesians 2 reveals that verses 14-15 are not speaking of Christ and the church, but of Jews and Gentiles who have been united under Christ.
Let's begin with verse 11:
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands
Here we see that Paul is addressing Gentiles. He is telling them that they used to be called "the uncircumcision", a name which separated them from the Jews. Paul also points out that this thing which separated them was merely a physical form of identity, circumcision.
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Paul notes that in addition to being separated from the nation of Israel, the Gentiles were also separated from Christ. The did not have any hope for salvation because they had no access to the promises which God gives his people.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
However, because Christ died, saving all who believe regardless of their race or physical status, the Gentiles have access to salvation. Those who have been brought near by the blood of Christ have God's promises that were mentioned. Believing Gentiles have not only been brought near to God, but to believing Jews as well.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
Now Paul points out that Jesus made peace between the two groups. He did this by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. Those commandments were those physical requirements such as circumcision. That is why Jews and Gentiles are no longer separated. Jesus broke down the requirement of circumcision that separated Jew and Gentile.
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Paul says that Jesus reconciled us both to God. This must be speaking of Jews and Gentiles. If it is speaking of Christ in the church, then it would be saying that Christ reconciled himself to God -- implying he is a sinner who needs reconciliation. Clearly, "us both" refers to Jews and Gentiles.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
This is the same peace spoken of in verse 14. It's peace to "you who were far off" -- the Gentiles being spoken to -- and "those who were near" -- the Jews who already believed. If these two were Christ and the church, then Jesus would be spoken of as "those", and he is a single person.
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
The "him" through which we have access is obviously Jesus. Therefore, it is impossible that "we both" includes Jesus. "We both" must be speaking of Jews and Gentiles.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
The Gentiles Paul is speaking to should no longer be considered foreigners. Rather, they are also children of God, along with the believing Jews.
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Yes, the church is founded on Christ and the word of God found in the writings of the apostles and the prophets. However, what is being brought together on that foundation is a church of Jews and Gentiles who by Christ's blood are no longer separated.
We have seen that the church is the collection of Jews and Gentiles who have been brought into Christ. Naturally, it is essential to be among these if wish to be saved. However, the INC uses this passage to say that it isn't sufficient to be apart of that group that trusts in Christ, we must also be a member on the rolls of a human administration called "the church". Because of this, we should look at the verses that immediately preceded our passage.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
It is not through membership in a human organization that we are saved; it is through faith in Christ. Gaining membership into a human organization is a work, one in which we may boast -- and so many do! We do not gain salvation through our works, but rather through salvation we are created in Christ to do good works.
If one did not read the rest of Ephesians 2, it might be possible to understand the "two" of verses 14-15 as Christ and the church. However, any honest reading of the context makes it extraordinarily clear that the passage speaks of Christ bringing together Jewish and Gentile believers.
This is why we must be diligent to read the Bible and examine the scriptures to see if what ministers say is true (Acts 17:11). Unfortunately, most INC members assume that the minister is teaching the Bible correctly. Others go as far as to read the verses to make sure he quoted them correctly, but very few, if any, read the surrounding context to see if the passage is really saying what the minister claims. It's reasonable to think that if they did, they might realize that the teachings are false and leave the INC for a Protestant church that loves the Bible and makes every effort to see what the Bible says instead of forcing their own meaning upon the text.