Vol. 5, No. 5
~ Page 9 ~
We have all looked into magazines or newspapers in which we have found those "Before and After" pictures. Before the person was obese, after he is very thin. Before the person had no muscular build, after he looks "muscle-bound." The purpose of those pictures, and the advertisements which they depict, is to get us to buy some product that is purported to work on our physical bodies in some magical way to make of us something that we are not. We rather suspect that the most of them do not do any good that would not have been done without them if the person had put forth the same amount of effort.
However, there is a "before and after" picture, a "then and now" picture found in the New Testament to which we should give some careful attention. In Ephesians 2:11-13, Paul gave a "then and now" picture to the Gentiles who had become Christians in the city of Ephesus in order to show them just how greatly God had blessed them by adopting them into his family.
In times past, these Gentile Christians were Gentiles according to the flesh, and as such, they were looked down upon by the Jews who referred to them disparagingly as the "Uncircumcision." It is no secret that the Jews looked upon all Gentiles as barbarians, and at the same time took great pride in the fact that they were the descendants of Abraham and recipients of the great promises of God, as well as the Law of Moses and other spiritual benefits. At the time that the Jews were feeling this superiority, Jesus came into the world to make it possible for all men to be redeemed from sin. But even for some time after the ascension of Christ, the Gentiles at Ephesus, and other places, were without him because the Gospel had not yet been preached to them. At the time in which they were in the spiritual condition described above, they were also "aliens" from the citizenship of Israel, that is, they did not belong to the chosen people of God. At the same time, they were "strangers (foreigners) from the covenants of promise." The covenants of promise had been made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob first and then applied to the nation of Israel who was to be a light to the Gentiles. The reason that the Gentiles were "strangers to the covenants of promise" was not that God did not have them in mind when he told Abraham that all clans of the earth would be blessed in him and in his Seed, but they were strangers because they had never been told of the promises in the covenants of God. The Jews had been! During this same period of time, these Gentiles had no hope for salvation because they were living in a godless world of sin and idolatry. That was the picture then!
The Holy Spirit, as he wrote through the hands of Paul, went on to say that now there is a very different picture. Now, since they had been added to the body of Christ, the picture has completely changed and these Gentiles were as spiritually close to God as they could be because they had been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. Since the blood of Christ was the ransom price paid for the redemption of mankind, all who were cleansed by it had been brought "near" to God. To be "near" God means that one has been redeemed by God, that he is reconciled to God, and therefore, he and God are no longer strangers but friends. This was all accomplished in a relationship with Christ, for Paul said, "But now in Christ Jesus..." these changes have been made. Once these people had been "...in the flesh..." That is, they conducted their lives according to the demands of the flesh, but now, after conversion, they were "...in Christ Jesus."
What was true of the Gentiles of Ephesus in ancient times is also true of us. If we are still in the flesh, that is, walking according to the demands of our lusts, we are persons with no hope and are without God in the world. But if we will obey from the heart the doctrine to which we have been delivered, and come by conversion into Christ, then we do have remission of sins, we are filled with hope for the future life and we have a satisfying relationship with God the Father, and with Jesus the Son. The ugly hopelessness was then But living in a reconciled relationship with Yahweh and Christ is now! Thank God for now!