Day 27: The Jews, Jesus and the Gentiles.
‘‘And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.’’ Eph. 2: 1 – 2.
Additional reading: Eph. 4: 18; 6: 12; Col. 1: 21; 2: 13; 3: 6
Paul sounded a note of caution yesterday: ‘‘Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.’’ He declared to the church in Rome that at a time they were Gentiles that the Jews who received the promise of God first were rejected for their unbelief, but they were saved because of their faith in Christ. However, he warned that their salvation should not be a reason for them to become proud or begin to look down on the Jews.
Describing the saved Gentiles who were members of the church in Rome as wild olive tree, Paul said: ‘‘You Gentiles are like branches of a wild olive tree that were made to be part of a cultivated olive tree. You have taken the place of some branches that were cut off from it. And because of this, you enjoy the blessings that come from being part of that cultivated tree. But don’t think that you are better than the branches that were cut away. Just remember that you are not supporting the roots of that tree. Its roots are supporting you.’’ (Vv. 17 – 18 CEV). The Gentile who now believe in Christ by faith and were now members of the body of Christ, i.e. the church were simply described as wild olive tree that was grafted in — ‘‘…made to be part of a cultivated olive tree…’’ By simple deduction, Paul said that before conversion and before being made to be part of the cultivated olive tree, Gentiles lacked character, were not under control — were wild by nature.
It was against this backdrop that Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus reminded the brethren thus: ‘‘And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.’’ (Eph. 2: 1 – 2).
The best description for anyone in this state is a wild person lacking the righteous character of God. Paul said this was our state — dead in sin and trespass — completely given to sin and completely unaware of anything good — we had gone wild till we became part of the cultivated olive tree. We were quickened — brought back to the life of righteousness and holiness — spiritually dead, i.e. separated from God because of sin but when we accepted Christ through faith, our dead spirit man that was separated from God became alive and all Gentiles became part of the Household of God.
Interestingly, Paul made a remarkable statement: ‘‘All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.’’ (V. 3 NLT). When Paul said, ‘‘all of us,’’ he was simply referring to his fellow Jews. So it was not only Gentiles that lived riotous lives, even Jews did. They also needed to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ and not by dead works, (Vv. 4 – 7).
But permit me to say that though both Jews and Gentiles lived riotous lives, the Jews remained God’s chosen race, the Gentiles were simply a bunch of people without God — had no previous dealings with God — neither they nor their ancestors. It was by God’s demonstration of grace on account of His love occasioned by the Jews’ rejection of the Gospel that Gentiles were made part of the cultivated olive tree. By this action, both Jews and Gentiles became one that which separated these two separate people was dislodged.
Now read this and compare Paul’s declaration here with that recorded in Romans 11: ‘‘Therefore, remember that at one time you were Gentiles (heathens) in the flesh, called Uncircumcision by those who called themselves Circumcision, [itself a mere mark] in the flesh made by human hands. [Remember] that you were at that time separated (living apart) from Christ [excluded from all part in Him], utterly estranged and outlawed from the rights of Israel as a nation, and strangers with no share in the sacred compacts of the [Messiacnic] promise [with no knowledge of or right in God’s agreements, His covenant]. And you had no hope (no promise); you were in the world without God.’’ (Eph. 2: 11 – 12 AMP). Paul was simply telling the church in Ephesus and by extension all Christians that they needed to know their state in time past so as to appreciate the goodness of God and continue in it.
According to Paul, all Christians were at a time Gentiles — heathens, called Uncircumcision by the Circumcision, i.e. the Jews. And because they were Gentiles, they lived apart — separated and completely excluded from all part in Christ and in God. As a matter of fact, all Gentiles were estranged and outlawed — God had no feelings of affection towards Gentiles and we had no legal rights to God’s promises to Israel. Gentiles we strangers and had no share in God’s covenant relationship with Israel. This is simply what Gentiles were in time past — a no body.
Then something happened: ‘‘But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were [so] far away, through (by, in) the blood of Christ have been brought near. For He is [Himself] our peace (our bond of unity and harmony), He has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one [body], and has broken (destroyed, abolished) the hostile dividing wall between us, By abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law with its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled]; that He from the two might create in Himself one new man [one new quality of humanity out of the two], so making peace.’’ (Vv. 13 – 15 AMP).
Through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, Gentiles that were no bodies and were so far away from God have been brought near God. By this too, both Jews and Gentiles have been united and have become one people — God through Jesus Christ has created for Himself a specie of people out of Jews and Gentiles — the wall that separated these two people have been broken by His death.
So what benefit is this to Gentiles? ‘‘So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his spirit.’’ (Vv. 19 – 22 NLT). What a blessed conclusion!
Though Gentiles were so far away and separated from God, we have been drawn near and made to become citizens with God’s holy people. In fact, Gentiles are no more Gentiles — people without God, but are now members of God’s family and together with the Jews that believe are now His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus Christ Himself as the Chief Cornerstone. And guess what that house is? That house is the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ — both Jews and Gentiles are now part of His dwelling place — the Church where God lives by His Spirit.
Meditation: Can anything be more refreshing than this; that though I was a no body, by Christ I have become unique in His sight. That though I was estranged and outlawed from all rights, I am now a citizen and have all rights to every covenant and all blessings!
Prayer: Thank You for giving me dignity, which I never had. Thank You for drawing me to Yourself and restoring me, something I could never have done.
Questions: (1) Briefly describe the state of Gentiles as above without Christ. (2) What are the benefits of Jesus Christ and the cross? (3) What is the make-up of the Church?