It’s Different Now!
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 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: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” —Ephesians 2:11-13
The short book of Ephesians probably summarizes what it means to be a Christian more than any other book in the Bible. New Testament scholar Clinton E. Arnold suggests that this letter outlines what it means to be a Christian better than any other book of the Bible. He writes, “It clarifies the heart of the Christian faith, explores the dynamics of a personal relationship with Christ, sets forth God’s overall plan for the church, and draws out the implications of what it means to live as a Christian.”1
As a result, the author of this article would strongly encourage every Bible-believing Christian to read the book of Ephesians and try to understand the heart of the apostle as he presents his theology to us.
One of the most exciting details that makes this epistle unique is that Paul is not writing to address any major problems within the Gentile church as he did with many of his other letters. However, unity is on the mind of the apostle. Truth be told, there is no love lost between the Jews and the gentiles as ongoing tensions continue to boil over.
In Ephesians 2:11, Paul begins with a literary term known as anamnesis, which means remembering things from a previous existence or experience. What did he want them to remember? He wanted them to remember that they were once godless and dwelt outside the covenant. They were without Christ, aliens, and strangers, and they had no hope whatsoever. They were wholly excluded from the covenant and could not approach God the same way their counterparts could. However, something happened! These same people outside of the covenant found the greatest gift they could ever know—salvation.
Take a look at this transition: Paul begins in Ephesians 2:11 by wanting them to remember who and what they were before they met Christ. Then, in verse 13, we read, “But now.” What a declaration! What a change! No longer are they without Christ, aliens, strangers, with no hope, and without God. No longer are they outside of the covenant. No longer are they far away, but now they have been brought near unto God through Jesus Christ.
Please think of the fortunate contrast of where the Ephesians used to be and where they are now. Everything the gentiles have lacked they now have in Christ, for they have been brought near through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This is the most pivotal transition for the Ephesians because without the blood of Christ being applied to their hearts, they would never understand what salvation was all about.
Take a moment to think about where you used to be. How lost were you? How far away were you? But take a look at where you are now and see just what God has done for you. You are no longer the same person that you used to be. Now, you are saved. Now, your whole life is changed for the better—all because of Jesus.
The only way for man to be brought into right relationship with God is through the blood of Jesus Christ. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. And with the blood of Christ being shed, the moment a person expresses faith in that finished work, he or she is instantly saved. It was the blood of Christ that bridged the gap between God and man. Man had nothing to offer, yet God, in His love, reached down and bridged the gap for man to have life and life more abundant.
The Sacrificial Work Of Christ
What is so beautiful about Ephesians 2:13 is that it contains two references about Christ—the only way we are brought near unto God is through Christ and the blood of Christ. These two details express the importance of who Christ is, what He has done for humanity, and why all believers everywhere should keep these two aspects front and center of their lives and ministries. Through the act of self-sacrifice, regeneration, reconciliation, and peace, access to God is granted to those who believe. By experiencing this great salvation, we share in a new life provided by Christ, which also means that we are no longer slaves to the evil nature. Liberty and victory are granted to all who are in Christ and washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Why did Christ have to die and shed His blood for mankind to be saved?
First, man was set at variance with God due to sin. Humanity rebelled against God, turned on Him, and worked all sorts of evil against Him. Due to the fall, humanity, as a whole, was separated from God both spiritually and physically. The only way for there to be restoration between God and man is through a perfect sacrifice, and man is anything but perfect. So, God provided the perfect man, Christ, to bring man back to God.
Second, Christ died to show man what love is. There is no greater way for one person to show another how much he loves than by laying down his life for that person (John 15:13). Not to mention that God revealed this love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
What Christ did at the cross was of the utmost importance, for without His sacrificial work, there would never be a way for man to approach God. Many believe that there are multiple ways to approach God, and most think it is through merit. However, the only way that a person can come near to God is through Christ. The Gentiles could not move themselves any closer to God through their means, and neither can we. The blood of Christ is the bridge that connected God to man, and through the simple act of faith in His atoning work, man can experience a right relationship with God.
1 Arnold, Clinton, E. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Ephesians. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2010.
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