“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2.11-13
It’s important to remember our past. When my children were little I would tell them stories of my childhood. They were not the most exciting stories but I always started it like this — “When I was a little boy growing up in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Berkeley Street….” (Or Avondale) depending upon my age in the story. Still to this day, when I begin a story like that my daughter hears the familiar beginning and knows what is coming next.
Paul is retelling the story to the Ephesians about their own beginnings. He is asking them to remember before they met Christ and how they were once “far away” but have now “been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Why? Because there is value in remembering.
Paul reminds them, since they were Gentiles by birth, they were once called “uncircumcised” by the Jews who were circumcised. (I.e. They were reminded they were not in the “in” crowd.) They were separated from Christ and not only that — they were “excluded from citizenship in Israel” as well as “foreigners to the covenants to eh promise.” This obviously left them ‘without hope and without God in the world.” They were far from God without any chance of drawing near to him. That is, however, until Jesus suffered, died and rose again as an atoning and complete sacrifice for all our sins — drawing everyone who will believe to the throne of grace.
This is the story of us, namely Gentiles and Jews alike. We were distant from God, without the chance of being saved, and Jesus came and welcomed all people. God made a way to open up his “covenants of promise” to all people. And now, as Paul will later remind us, we are children of God.
This is the greatest story of all time. We, who were once alienated from God, are name able to draw near to God by the blood of Christ that was spilled upon the cross. This is the gospel — period. It includes a virgin birth, a sinless man, a son of God, an innocent but violent death, a suffering servant, and a dying Messiah. It impacts both heaven and hell and all humanity for eternity.
Have you received your free gift of citizenship from the Lord? Today as we celebrate America’s Independence on this Fourth of July, we also can claim our citizenship in heaven. A citizenship that does not fade over time. A citizenship that lasts for all eternity and that is bought through the blood of the Lamb.
“O Lord God, I am thankful for Jesus. For his death and resurrection. For his suffering and his exaltation. I am thankful also to live in a nation in which my religious freedom can be expressed without threat or fear. In which I might worship God freely and find myself safe within your care. Come now, Lord God, and fall upon your people and upon our nation. Help us know the power of your love and the truth of your Word. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen