|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 18
Meditation Title: Brought Near
Eph 2:11-13 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Here comes again that continuity of flow – “Therefore”. In other words, because of what has gone before, do this. All this really goes back to chapter 1: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (1:18) What followed was a reminder of our ungodly past before God stepped in and gave us new lives, concluding in the observation that, “we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ( 2:10 )
So, the ‘therefore' says, as we have been considering the wonder of your inheritance in Christ and the hopelessness of your background previously, realise in addition how hopeless it was in comparison to your Jewish brethren – and that will make it seem even more wonderful!
He now specifically addresses all those in Ephesus and surrounding churches (to whom the letter would probably also be sent) whose background is not Jewish: “formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision". Up until recently the church had been mostly Jewish. Indeed there were some who saw this new expression of faith as simply an extension of the old Jewish faith, and wanted all the old things - sacrifices, circumcision, keeping the Law etc. – to continue. Although they had been through hard times and were still under Roman rule, they still saw themselves (and still do) as a special people, a privileged people, indeed the only people of God. They had been created at Sinai, and they alone went right back to Abraham and the covenant of circumcision that had been the first sign of a genuine ongoing relationship with the Lord. This was a highly significant thing. This marked them out as a unique people in God's eyes and those who were not part of this covenant community were simply called ‘the uncircumcised' or Gentiles.
In and through the eyes of the Jews it became clear that they alone were God's people, they alone were close to God and they alone had access to Him. They were the ones with history with God. They alone were special – until now! Paul summarises all of that with, “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.” That's what they HAD BEEN, that's how up to Jesus it had been, which makes what follows all the more powerful: “ But now.” See the ‘BUT'. It's all changed now. Seeing all that has gone before in this chapter is wonderful enough, but when you put it in the context of Jew and Gentile as it has been up until now, it is even more wonderful: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” We who were previously ‘far away' from God have now been ‘brought near' – just like the Jews.
We'll see more of this in the following verses in future meditations, but for now we need to grasp the wonder of the truth of this – Jesus has brought us as near to God as it is possible to get, actually even closer than the Jews had known previously. Only now was the significance of Jeremiah's prophecies being realised: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD . "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD ,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD . "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:33,34) This is the wonder of that new covenant that went far beyond national boundaries and a specific nation (and that's what many Jews found difficult), that God would put inside every believer Himself, so that His law, His will, His way of thinking even, would be there in every child of God, to know Him, regardless of background or history.
No longer was there a special nation as far as salvation was concerned (they still do have a special place in God's plans, yet to be fulfilled) for now salvation was for the whole world, for whoever would come. Anyone and everyone can come and be drawn near, made near to God, as near as it is possible this side of heaven. How wonderful!