Ephesians 2:11-13 The many paths to the same Door
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Paul evokes the path that the Gentiles took to arrive at the Door of salvation, that is Christ. He reminds the Gentiles of their pre-Christian days so that they could appreciate all the more their present situation; the wisdom and power of God who despite their alienation from God were brought near. Hence, Gentiles must never return to their pre-Christian days, but live a life of intimacy with God. Paul endeavors to help Gentiles appreciate the heritage of Jews (the circumcision) so that they could accept them as brothers through Christ.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands
It is human nature to despise another because they were different in culture and beliefs. The Jews call the people of other nations (Gentiles) “the uncircumcision” signifying inferiority and having no knowledge of God’s laws. The Jews take pride in the fact that their males were circumcised – the mark of their covenant with God (see Genesis 17:9-14). At the same time there is a hint of ridicule in Paul’s words: made in the flesh by hands, which he implies the ritual of circumcision as lacking in real benefit to save the sinner.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Paul wants Gentile Christians to reflect on their former condition so that they could appreciate all the more the privileges of their present situation. And at the same time to understand the heritage of their salvation that came from Israel.
First, the Gentiles were without a Savior (Christ): separated from Christ, with no one to deliver them from the curses of poverty, sickness and injustice. Secondly, they were not included in the citizenship of the heavenly kingdom: alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. Thirdly, they were not heirs of the promises of blessings given to the patriarchs of Israel, namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and with David: strangers to the covenants of promise. Fourthly, there have no true hope for salvation at the end-time, which is the resurrection and eternal life. Gentiles live in a world without the true God, which means their world together with their hopes and dreams would one day end abruptly in death.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
The Gentiles in their pre-Christian days: you who once were far off, who have no one to deliver them from curses of sin, not being included in God’s Kingdom nor the promises, and having no hope of eternal life is now reconciled with God: have been brought near. The blood of Christ has sealed the covenant of salvation for all who come to Him. The covenant of salvation through the blood of Christ does not require Gentiles to be initiated into the Jewish community and partake in the temple sacrifices. In fact, there is no physical rituals involved except by faith expressed through water baptism. Water baptism is not a covenant per se but an external seal of the covenant made in the heart. Paul says,
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10).
1. The different paths to the Door reveal God’s wisdom and ability to meet different races in their own culture and mindset. Jews and Gentiles have very different paths to salvation although they pass through the same Door, which is Christ Jesus. Jews have the word of God for thousands of years, they have a great heritage of God’s working in their midst. Whereas many Gentiles for generations are steep in idolatry and sin and without hope and God in the world. Although both Jews and Gentiles arrive at the same Door, taking very different paths, but both have the same standing before God as sons. However, Gentiles must also understand the advantage Jews have who possessed the word of God for generations, which Gentiles must now keep up to speed. Jews understand God’s faithfulness and perseverance in a way Gentiles will never. Paul says, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1-2). Those of us who were born into Christian families must try to appreciate the different paths people take to arrive at the Door. Recognize the unique heritage they possess that characterized them. Some arrive at the Door through an intellectual path of science and philosophy, some through a miracle that reveals His existence and power, and some through a quiet realization of His empathy and love. Different heritage brings a diversity of strengths into the Christian community.
2. Despite the different paths people may take to arrive at the Door, these paths merge to become one narrow path after passing through the Door. Jews knew the Law and endeavor to fulfill the Law, whereas Gentiles have no knowledge of the Law at all. Nevertheless, both paths must enter the Door of salvation; that is to acknowledge Christ as Lord, and to recognize His work on the cross that gives eternal life. Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). After passing through the Door, the route to the end point, that is eternal life and glory involves living the kind of life Christ lived. Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Whether one comes from a Christian or Buddhist or atheist background, there is only one path to glory: the path of Christ-likeness and to fulfill God’s commission.
1. Try to appreciate while giving thanks for God’s magnificent grace that some who were in darkness for years could experience God and come to an immediate transformation. And they are lifted up to the same position as those who has been Christians for a long time.
2. Appreciate and recognize the importance of knowing the Old Testament, which is the heritage of Jews. Make plans to read the Old Testament and understand the path that leads them to salvation.
3. Spend some time to recall and appreciate the path you took to encounter God as well as your unique heritage. Understand what you could learn concerning God through your journey.
Dear Lord, I thank You for calling and meeting me in my culture and mindset. My path to salvation is my heritage which reveals Your wisdom and my predestination in the circumstances of my life. Help me to appreciate the different paths others took which are vastly different from mine. Use me to be an instrument to help others encounter You in their own path. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.