Ephesians 2:12, “That at that time ye 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:”
This morning, I take stock of the things which I have. Far too often when I engage in this exercise, I find that many of the blessings of my life are taken for granted. We fail to think of our health until it slips. People may not surface to our minds and attention like they should until they are taken from this earth. It is a failing of man to poorly cherish something until he loses it. In this fast-paced, modern world we inhabit, I fear that too many of God’s children fail to consider what a great spiritual blessing it is to live in this time. Therefore, let us engage some grand Scriptural lines of thought to reaffirm and re-establish – as the songwriter put it – how “truly blessed is this station.”
Our study verse follows on the heels of some oft-rubbed Scripture by ministers. We love to enter the fields of Ephesians 2:1-10 and do what my father used to describe as a “romp and stomp” of the blessings of God’s grace to poor and undone sinners. Glorious lessons and illustrations are brought to bear showing forth the glory and mercy of God to weak and worthless creatures such as we are. In verse 11, Paul then begins to draw from this lesson to describe in some detail a discourse on Jews and Gentiles. Verse 11, sets the stage for this distinction, as he describes the case of the Gentiles prior to the coming of Christ.
Verses 13-14 show us that Christ’s coming marked a distinction in how God chose to interact with people. In our age today, God interacts differently than He did in the Old Testament. Paul makes the same case in Hebrews 1:1. God’s nature has not changed, but His methodology of communication reflects a change in this world that has occurred with the advent of His Son. But, prior to the 1st coming of Christ, what was it like to be a Gentile? Paul describes what it was like to a Gentile in the old dispensation.
The language of our study verse reads like a litany of woe. Dire language indeed! Let some of those statements sink in: 1. without Christ, 2. aliens, 3. strangers, 4. no hope, 5. without God! What child of God would read that and say, “Sign me up!” To understand what Paul is talking about here requires some background discussion so that we do not walk away with the wrong impression. Though these statements are very dire, Paul is not describing the case of an unregenerated Gentile person. If he were, then he is saying that there were no children of God among the Gentiles prior to Christ’s coming. Since the redeemed sing a new song in heaven as the blessed family of God out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9), there must have been Gentile elect persons prior to Christ’s coming. Some of the nations and tongues that this earth experienced came and went during those ancient times, meaning there must have been children of God among those cultures.
However, what God did do during those ancient times is reserve His special presence and blessings primarily to one nation: Israel. Gentiles through the centuries did not have prophets giving them the word of the Lord, the law service to worship God, and most importantly, the cleansing of conscience that came through trying to seek after the Lord and feeling His presence. Consider what that must have been like. Paul’s description of the child of God’s warfare in Romans 7 is brutal (but we can relate to it). Now imagine going through that warfare and strife of mind without any relief. How burdensome!
These terms and expressions from our study verse describe for us what a child of God’s life is like without gospel knowledge, pattern of worship, and ignorance to the testimony of our Lord. If we see this as the condition without gospel blessings, then we can reverse the language and describe the condition of the blessedness of gospel peace. In that setup the verse would read, “That at this time ye were with Christ, being brethren to the commonwealth of Israel, and friends to the covenants of promise, having hope, and with God in the world.” How magnificent!
Too many times, we fail to value what we have been given, and even the blessed station of living in this time. Most everyone I know is of Gentile ancestry. Though I have met a few Jewish people, my interaction has been over 99% among Gentile people. Therefore, if everyone I know and have known were transported back in time about 2,500 years, our station would look much different than it does right now. We would be shut out of the knowledge of our God and what He has done. We would fail to draw upon a great hope for days to come. How blessed is it for us to live in today’s time? I freely confess that I do not thank Him enough for it. How much do I thank Him for the gospel?
My life has been a station of blessedness that is very much not my own doing. I was raised a preacher’s son. Made to go to church. Made to read my Bible. Watched the example of prayer before being made to do it myself. In other words, I never had to go looking for the truth or knowledge, it was around me, given to me, and at times, thrust upon me. Sometimes I feel like the children of Israel about to inhabit Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. They reaped in vineyards and fields that they did not plant. They enjoyed the fruits of other men’s labours. Much of what I enjoy today came – at least early on – from the labours of others. How much have I thanked Him for that? Precious little.
Friends, if we are blessed to have access to God’s word, inhabit His church, fellowship with His brethren, and draw great strength for tomorrow through the grand hope we have in His promises and covenants, we are blessed indeed. While the gospel cannot give eternal ramifications, it does give power in this life like nothing else does. Consider how many times the term “power of God” is used in the New Testament, and we see how selective the Lord is with that expression. However, the predominant use of it in the New Testament references the gospel and its great benefits. May we continually associate ourselves with this magnificent gift from God. As a result our hope will be increased, we will feel the presence of Christ, and know that God is in the world working in our lives.