In the next section of his epistle – it is helpful to ignore the man-made chapter divisions when interpreting Scripture; they can mislead you into making flawed observations and conclusions – Paul contrasts the lives of the faithful “then and now”. “Then” refers to when they were still “dead in trespasses and sins”. “Now” refers to when God, who is “rich in mercy”, while they were yet sinners, made them alive in Christ. Not stopping there, Paul goes on to tell the faithful what is God’s utimate purpose in saving them.
At one time the faithful were “dead in trespasses and sins” and “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” – Satan himself. They were in-dwelt by his (Satan’s) spirit of disobedience. In no uncertain terms, Jesus explains that sinners do what they do because they are of their father, the devil, and they live to do their father’s will (John 8:44). They had made sinning a lifestyle because they were “by nature children of wrath” – destined to be consumed by the wrath of God.
In addition to this, Paul states five facts about them in their unregenerate state (2:12) which I will elaborate later.
1. They were “without Christ”.
2. They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”.
3. They were “strangers from the covenants of promise”.
4. They had “no hope”.
5. They were “without God in the world”.
This was our condition before our conversion as well.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Hallelujah!
This was accomplished by God. In mercy and “because of His great love with which He loved us”, the faithful were “made alive together,” “raised up together,” and “made [to] sit together” in Christ. The operative word here is “together”. This carries the idea that while salvation was extended to them individually, ultimately they would be joined with one another to form a collective called the Church, the Body of Christ.
The exact same thing happened to the dry bones that Ezekiel saw in the valley. The bones were scattered, disconnected from one another. But when Ezekiel prophesied as God had commanded, the bones began to rattled and come together, “bone to bone”, to form a complete skeleton (Ezek 37:7). After that, flesh and skin began to grow on it, and it became a body (37:8). In this case, “these bones are the whole house of Israel” (37:11).
In the same way, each believer has been touched and quickened by the Holy Spirit. Every one of them is then “fitted together” and made into “a holy temple … a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (2:21-22). In First Corinthians 12:27, Paul declares: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Everything that God did for the faithful was motivated by His love and accomplished by His grace through Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…”
As promised, I will now elaborate on the 5 facts about the unregenerate sinner and show you how these have change when the sinner is in Christ.
1. First, he is without Christ.
This needs no further elaboration, I believe. Someone who is without Christ is lost; no just for now and in this life, but for eternity. But when a person is saved by the grace of God and through faith, he is received into the Body of Christ and is known by Christ. This person now stands to experience all the benefits that are discussed below.
2. He is an “alien to the commonwealth of Israel”.
The word “commonwealth” is used to describe a group (usually of nations) that have united together for mutual benefit. The Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are two familiar examples.
Israel, as seen from the Scriptures, is God’s Chosen Nation and People. God’s firstborn (Ex 4:22). As such, Israel stands to enjoy the Presence and Provision and Protection of God, exclusively. The same cannot be said about any other nation in the world. But if any nation, or individual, wishes to enjoy the same privileges as Israel, it would have to join with Israel in a certain way.
In Exodus 12, Israel received instructions regarding the Passover. God orders that no foreigner (non-Israelite) is allow to partake in the Passover. However, if a foreigner and all the males in his household are willing to be circumcised, they would be allowed to partake in the feast. By being circumcised, they are identifying themselves with the Israelites; they have brought themselves under the Covenant of God; they are declaring, like Ruth, a Gentile, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Many Christians, for a long time now, are ignorant about the Jewishness of the Christian faith. Without Judaism, there could not be Christianity. And since Christianity came out of Judaism, Christianity cannot be understood apart from Judaism. Christianity today has many borrowed pagan practices and thinking. Christmas, for example, has pagan origins and undertones.
This ignorance is the result of their ignorance of Romans 11.
Paul, in Romans 11, states that Gentile believers are “wild” olive shoots that have been ingrafted into the “natural” olive tree. The natural olive tree represents the nation of Israel. The main trunk is Christ, and the roots of the tree are the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul reveals, in the later part of Ephesians 2, that the final olive tree which comprises Gentile and Jewish believers in Christ will be known as the One New Man.
This is not to say that every one who aligns with Israel must become Jewish. Just as those within the commonwealth of England are not required to convert and become British citizens, those who align with Israel need not become Jews. They do, however, need to acknowledge Yahweh as their God and regard, though not religiously, His appointed times (the feasts of the Lord).
3. He is a “stranger from the covenants of promise”.
Everyone who is in Christ immediately benefits from the promises of God. Most of the promises God has made in the BIble are part of covenants He has made with His people Israel. To Abraham God promises to give to him and his descendants the land of Canaan as an inheritance. Through Moses God gave His people the Torah. And if they were obedient to it, they would become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. He also promised that the Throne of David would be an everlasting one. This would be fulfilled with the next coming of Christ. When He comes again, He will rule the world from His throne in Jerusalem as the King of kings and Lord of lords. And by the New Covenant, His people will be given the Holy Spirit.
Some of the covenants are unconditional while others are conditional. One must know which is which so that he will know how to rightly appropriate the promises of God. Unfortunately, Christians are generally quite ignorant about the Covenants of God. As such, they have taken some of the promises of God out of context and applied them inappropriately, thus giving themselves false hope and baseless faith.
Christians have taken promises such as the one in Isaiah 49:15-16 for themselves: “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” They understand it to mean that God would never forget the believer because he/she has been engraved on the palms of His hands. On this verse, and a few others, a doctrine was built: the doctrine that says “Once saved, always saved.”
Think about this: While God has made this promise to Israel, is every Israelite saved? For that matter, will ever Jew be saved when Israel, as a nation, turns to Christ their Messiah? Absolutely not. This is God’s promise to a nation, not to individuals in that nation. There are promises God made to individuals, and we must be able to tell the difference.
4. He has no hope.
Since only those in Christ are eligible to appropriate the promises of God, those who are without Christ are without the promises of God – and therefore have no hope in the world. Everything in their lives are left to chance. They can still hope, but it would be like hoping that a house built on shifting sand would stand. Christians, however, can have true hope because their hope is built on a firm foundation, Jesus Christ Himself.
5. He is without God in the world.
A sinner will remain an enemy of God as long as he is unregenerated. He has not been reconciled with his Creator. And he will never spend eternity in His presence.
Jesus tells us that He is the Way to God. The “Way” implies that some journeying is involved. You have not come to God when you come to Christ. Rather, Christ will take you to the Father … if you follow Him.
I see in the 5 facts about an unregenerate sinner a sequence. It shows us the path from Christ to God. After coming to Christ, one has to begin to see himself as a member of the commonwealth of Israel. He must begin to see Israel as God’s Chosen Nation, and the Jews as God’s Chosen People. The Church has not replaced Israel, period. He must also gain an increasing understanding and appreciation of the Lord’s Feasts; and even observe them, though not religiously. It would be beneficial for him.
Next, he should gain an understanding about the various Covenants of God: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosiac Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. Through these covenants, he will know why God does what He does. It would also give him hope, knowing that God will fulfill His promises and prophecies.
Finally, through it all, he would have seen God as the Faithful, Covenant-keeping God, and the Sovereign One who declares the end from the beginning.
In verse 17, Paul said something that has confused many for a long time. He said that Christ “came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near”. If those who were “afar off” is a reference to the Gentiles, who then are “those who are near”?
The Jews, of course. They were the first to know God and to have His Word (the Torah). But since they too have need to have the gospel preached to them because till now they only one had pictures and types of Christ, not the full knowledge of Him.
The gospel of Christ is the common ground between the Jewish and Gentile believers. What has kept the two apart – “the wall of separation” – has been the “law of commandments contained in ordinances”. Even these, Christ has removed so that He could create “in Himself one new man from the two”. He has “made both one”.
The story of Ruth is not just a good Bible story about loyalty. It is a story about the bond that should exist between Jews and Gentiles. In history, the joining of a Gentile (Ruth) with a Jew (Boaz) brought about the first coming of the Messiah. In prophecy, the joining of the Gentiles and the Jews will bring about the second and final coming of the Messiah.
Satan does not want Christians to see that. And so, since the second century, he has driven a wedge between Jews and Gentiles, resulting in an almost permanent rift that lasted centuries – till now. This rift is slowly but surely being bridged as more and more of our Jewish brothers and sisters are acknowledging Yeshua as their Messiah. This must increase. At the same time, Christians and Messianic Jewish believers (as Jews who believe in Christ as called) must learn to know and worship God together. In doing so, we are becoming the One New Man in Christ. And together, we will usher the Return of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.