Saturday, 30 July 2016
…that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12
In one verse, Paul defines five conditions with which those outside of Israel were in. If considered in their proper light, the ramifications are terrifying. All people on earth, with the exception of those who were in a particular group were “without Christ.” As God is infinite and holy, and as man is finite and fallen, there is an infinite gap between the two. There is no possible way to bridge that gap apart from Christ. “Without Christ” then means “without access to God.” There was only birth into the stream of humanity apart from God, life of woe leading to death, life ending at death, and a continued and eternal separation from the Creator. Without Christ, there was (and still is) no hope. It is not that Christ was just not present with them, as if they could call out to Him and be reconciled to Him. Instead, they were without Him in the fullest sense; they had no part in Him.
He next notes that they were “aliens form the commonwealth of Israel.” The word in Greek is a verb, not a noun. It reads “being alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” They were out, and they were kept out by the state they were in. With few recorded exceptions, this was the state of all people on the planet. They were born, lived, and died apart from the access to God which was provided through Christ to all who were of Israel’s commonwealth.
The importance of “being alienated” rather than “being aliens” is understood in the promise to Abraham that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” through him. The alienation came from the fall; the commonwealth of Israel is a restoration of that. Until Christ came, this was the default position for all people outside of Israel. It should be noted that this is a spiritual, not a national commonwealth. Paul explains this in Romans 9:6 stating that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”
For those who lived by faith in the hope of Christ, they were set apart within this spiritual commonwealth, enjoying the benefits that are derived from it. As a side note concerning this, if we are brought into the commonwealth of Israel through Christ, then it shows that we are not Israel. The church has not replaced Israel, but is brought into a right relationship with God through this spiritual commonwealth. Israel is Israel; the church is the church.
To further highlight the plight, he moves on to “strangers from the covenants of promise.” The Greek reads “the promise.” Further, the word “covenants” is plural and the word “promise” is singular. A promise was made right after the fall that restoration would be made and that man would be brought back into a right relationship with God. After that time, a series of covenants was made in order for this to come about based on that one promise. This is reflected in the words of Hebrews 1:1 –
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets…”
The Gentiles were not a part of these covenants, and yet they were a part of the promise. Until Christ came, they had no hope in the world and were cut off from what Christ was doing through these covenants.
Paul then notes that the state of these people was, “having no hope.” They may have had thoughts about eternity, and indeed they wrote and spoke about such things, just as non-believers do today. However, these were and are merely speculations and fanciful wishes which are not based in reality. The word “hope” here doesn’t mean “an expectation of.” Today Muslims who blow themselves up in the name of their false god have “an expectation of” paradise, but it is not one based in God’s reality. The “hope” Paul refers to is “a certainty of that which is offered by the one true God through Christ.” The Gentiles were in this terrible state and were “condemned already” according to Jesus’ words of John 3:18.
Finally, Paul notes that they were “without God in the world.” They had God in the general sense of receiving His goodness in rains, sunny days, blue skies, and etc. These things reveal God and make us aware of His nature, but what Paul is referring to is the connection to Him which comes through Christ. Christ the Mediator is what allows us to be “with” God in the fullest sense; to be “children of God” through adoption; and to have the eternal inheritance that He offers through Christ.
Through Him, these five terrifying states of existence are obliterated. We now have full access because of what He has done. And yet, today, people voluntarily exist in the state that at one time they had no choice in participating in. God has offered the restoration of all things to us if we will simply receive them by faith. And yet, we as humans will do anything to set aside this grace and establish our own reconnection to God; something which is impossible.
Life application: In Christ, we who were once far off are now brought near to God. Let us never forget the magnitude of what He has done for us.
Lord God, we stand in awe of what You have done through Jesus Christ. The connection was severed; the gap was infinite. Man had no hope in this world but being born into a state of expectant death and eternal separation from You. But in Your great love with which You love us, You sent Christ to reestablish the connection and to bring us back to You. May we not squander this marvelous offer! Open eyes and hearts to the truth of what He has done, O God. And may Your glorious name ever be praised. Amen.