Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye 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” (Eph. 2:11-12).
In these verses Paul is addressing his remarks to Gentiles―the Uncircumcision. He calls on them to “remember.” Memory plays an important part in our lives. “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). “Remember the word that I spake unto you” (John 15:20). “These things have I told you, that when the time is come, ye may remember that I told you of them” (John 16:4). “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus…” (Acts 20:35). “…we should remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). “Remember that Jesus Christ…was raised from the dead” (II Tim. 2:8). “Remember them that are in bonds” (Heb. 13:3). “Remember them which have spoken unto you the word of God” (Jude 17). “Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent” (Rev. 2:5). It would be good for all of us if we as Christians would pause now and then and look up to God and remember the way it was before we became Christians.
It is difficult for us today to appreciate fully the exclusiveness of ancient Israel and the way they felt toward all other races. Perhaps the following, written by William Barclay in The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, may give us an idea of it: “The Jew said that God created Gentiles as fuel for the fires of hell, that of all the nations God made, He loved Israel alone, that the best of serpents crush and the best of Gentiles kill, that it was not even lawful to aid a Gentile woman in labor because it would only bring into the world another Gentile. The barrier was absolute. If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, a funeral for that boy was carried out. Even setting foot in a Gentile’s house defiled a Jew.” The “glorying” that Paul writes about in this Epistle had to do with such conceit and arrogance as that pictured in this statement by Barclay.
There is a description in these two verses describing the pre-Christian state of the Gentiles. This is what Paul is calling their attention to. He described their condition physically, they lacked the ancient sign of the covenant. Politically, they had no part in the religious life or national life of the nation of Israel. Spiritually, they had no knowledge of God. There is a five-fold description in the negative sense given. They were “without Christ,” “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” ”strangers from the covenants of promise,” “having no hope,” and “without God.” These are all serious handicaps.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). Notice the contrasting words “in times past” and “at that time” contrasted with “but now.” What a contrast is indicated by the little word “but.” It shows all the difference in the world between their having been dead in trespasses and sins and their now being godly, civilized people who call upon the name of the Lord.
No one can hope to be brought near to God except by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the blood which cleanses from sin, making it possible for us to enter the Temple of God (Rev. 1:5). It was the ransom paid for the redemption of souls under bondage to Satan and sin (I Pet. 1:18-19). It was the purchase price for the church (Acts 20:28). By the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, they that believed and obeyed it, who were far off, have now been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Jesus came to break down the barrier between Jew and Gentile, and in so doing He made peace between them. He came to make them nigh to God and to one another. Jesus bought them to God by shedding His blood for them in order to reconcile them to God. And now those once “aliens” have been bought and made fellow-citizens in the one fold with one shepherd (John 10:15-16). If Jesus could make peace between these two groups, there is no legitimate excuse in the world for different races not getting along in peaceful accord.
Paul M. Wilmoth