Earlier this week, I heard a few snippets of a sermon on Ephesians 2, and it's really been sticking in my mind. Story of my life, of course: I can't remember who it was who was preaching. My local station is WRVL-FM - Victory FM, broadcast by Liberty University. However, since I also have XM in the car (and that's where I listen to the radio the most), it could also have been their Family Talk Radio station.
But what the pastor was talking about regarding Ephesians 2 was the huge and transformational difference between who we were before salvation, and who we are now after salvation. It's been going around and around in my mind, and showing me, yet again, how wonderful, gracious and awe-inspiring God's love is!
Here's Ephesians 2:11-22, which is the passage on which I'd like to concentrate:
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands-- 12 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Look at verses 11 and 12: before God, through His Holy Spirit, called us, we were:
- Gentiles in the flesh
- without Christ
- without God
"Gentiles in the flesh" is a reference both to the Old Testament call for Israel to be a people who were separate and unique, specially called to be God's chosen people, and to the New Testament call for Christians to obey the Spirit of God Who indwells us, rather than our sinful flesh ("flesh" referring to our sinful nature, NOT our bodies). "Uncircumcision," to a Jew, means being cut off from the Covenant blessings of God, just as "without Christ" means the same to Christians.
"Aliens," "strangers," and "hopeless." How can there be hope when we are estranged from God? How can He bless us when we are in rebellion against Him and His laws? "Without God" is truly a terrible, desolate, and futile condition - always on the outside, looking in. Or, even worse, on the outside and not even knowing there is an "inside."
Without God, we are mortally ill and powerless to change our condition. However, God Himself has the power to effect the transformation, and He does this through His Son. Because Jesus the Christ, the only begotten Son of the Living God, has shed His blood and paid the price for our sins, God has opened a way to draw us into His family. And so, instead of being strangers and alien and cast out, we now have a place and a purpose.
Our Lord and Savior has taken away the veil of separation, He has paid the penalty, and He has won the peace between God and man. Christ Himself has become our peace, and through Him we may come as children of the Living and True God.
Why did God do this? Well, to answer that, we have to look at the verses near the beginning of the chapter, Ephesians 2: 4-10:
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
God's mercy and love called us to Him, and raised us up with His Son. He foreknew us and chose us before the foundations of the earth so that He might show Himself powerful and gracious and kind. He chose us to be conformed to the Image of His Son, and has prepared works for us to do so we might display His glory and power.
What an amazing transformation! We came into this world hopeless and powerless, cast off and denied the covenant blessings of God. BUT! Because of His great love for us, and because of the Work of Christ, He
brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps. (Psalm 40:2)
Out of the poverty of our sin, He lifted us and transferred us to His Kingdom, into the family of His Son. We are seated together with Christ in Heaven so that we may rejoice in the mighty power and the merciful grace of the Lord God Almighty throughout eternity. We are now children of the King of Heaven, blessed and cherished beyond measure! As the old hymn goes:
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
Christians need to remember the depths from which God has saved them. When we see other peoples' sins, we need to remember, "But for the grace of God, there go I!" and respond to others with the grace, love and humility of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ our Lord. We need to remember the miracle God has wrought in our own lives and offer it freely, with peace and joy, to those who long for a reconciliation with their Creator.
Ah, Father! How great is Your love for Your children! How vast is the reach of Your mercy and grace, and how bountiful the blessings You give to Your Church! Revive our hearts, Lord - turn us to You in gratitude and worship. Let us live in Your grace and guidance all of our days, and may You give us the wisdom and strength to obey Your commands. Let us glorify Your Name, O Lord God our Father, so that the wonders of Your mercy and love are proclaimed from all the lands!