Before Paul came on the scene, “the twelve” were active with the preaching of “the Evangel of the circumcision”. That is the message that Israel should come to repentance so that the Kingdom of the Messiah could become a public reality. When Israel rejected this message, it was through a thirteenth apostle (Paul) that the Evangel was sent to the nations (Acts 22:21; 28:28). With this, “the Evangel of the circumcision” had become “out of date”. It can readily be understood that “the twelve” and all those with a circumcision background, had great difficulty with this transition. Peter writes about this in his last letter (2Pet.3:15,16).
In Ephesians 2, from verse 11 onward, Paul elaborates on the position of the two groups of believers, who, in the book of Acts, so often faced each other in opposition. First there were the believing Jews with an expectation specifically for the circumcision and “the covenants of promise” (Eph.2:11,12). But when, due to Israel’s unbelief, the Evangel was sent to the nations, there arose an entirely new situation. The question is: what has happened now with the circumcision group; with James, Peter, John, the other apostles and all the (ten-)thousands of zealots for the law (Acts 21:21)? Paul makes known by revelation (Eph.3:3) that this group has merged into a new formation: the ecclesia, the body of Christ (together with the believers out of the nations). The middle wall of separation, “the law of commandments” (2:15) is nullified so that the previous, privileged position of the Jew, currently, plays no role at all.
Thus “the two are made into one body” (2:16).
Translation: Peter Feddema