Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
God’s work of salvation is not confined to the Jews; it extends to all peoples. This truth of God’s mission to save the nations is embedded deeply in the Old Testament (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 56:7) and made clear in the New Testament (Ephesians 3:1–6). Paul reminds the Gentile Christians of their previous state (“you who are Gentiles”, Ephesians 2:11); it should have made them shudder just thinking about it. They were:
To be separated from Christ is to be excluded from all spiritual blessings. To be excluded from God’s people is to be deprived of the promises, rights, and privileges He has given. To live without hope and God in this world is a most terrifying fate. Bible scholar William Hendricksen summarised the pre-conversion spiritual condition of the Gentiles: they were “Christless, stateless, friendless, hopeless, and Godless”.
We too were in such a desperate situation (whether we realised it or not) before we turned to Christ. We were alienated from God and His people. That was our condition “formerly” (v. 11), and it is good for us to remember that in order to fully appreciate the tremendous divine grace that has radically reversed our state of affairs.
Paul then moves to the “now” (v. 13) and reminds his Gentile brethren how they have been “brought near” (v. 13) to God and also to the Jews. This has been achieved “by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). There is no other way we can come near to God. Jesus himself emphasised this when He said: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Paul also declared in other letters that there is only one mediator between God and alienated men—Christ, who died as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5–6). Through His death, Christ has brought us near to God. Though we were once alienated from God, we are now reconciled with Him and have peace with Him (Romans 5:1).
John Stott, in pointing out the two phrases “in (or by) the blood of Christ” and “in Christ Jesus”, describes the two stages by which we are brought near to God: first, the historical event of the cross; and second, the personal event of conversion, which unites one with Christ (John 3:16–18; Romans 10:9–10).
Reflect on your own condition before your conversion and give thanks to God for saving you. Think of your loved ones who are still unsaved. Pray for them.
Assess how far or near to God you are. What does being “in Christ” mean and what difference does it make?