“Remember, You Were Once Separate From God’s Salvation”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 2.11-13
Ephesians chapter 2. Our text this morning will be verses 11-13. As many of you know, I was sick a week ago today and a week ago this past Thursday. I want to thank John and [deacon name] for covering for me while I was gone.
Ironically, just after my fever broke, I had an immigration doctor’s appointment in Edmonton. They were trying to see if I was healthy enough to stay in the country. All went well. Thank you for your prayers for me and my family.
But praise the Lord, I got an opportunity to share Christ with the doctor. I told him “it’s not every day that I get to preach to a doctor.” He said, “I feel like I’ve been preaching to you!” The Dr. grew up Catholic, but seems to be very sympathetic with Martin Luther and presently does not attend church.
But he had an interesting question that happens to be a question that is often asked when our passage this morning. And I will get to that question a little later on the message.
But first, let’s get into our text this morning.
Just to remind us of the context that we are in, at the end of the Ephesians 1, Jesus is clearly presented to be the cosmic ruler of the universe. And God displayed His great power in his resurrection. Paul’s point at the end of Ephesians 1 is that that same resurrection power is given to believers.
The first time that that resurrection power was demonstrated in somebody who believes is found in the next chapter, at the beginning of chapter 2.
Chapter 2 … Before you truly came to Christ, verse one, you were spiritually dead because you were united to your sins. And you lived verse two according to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air ( … that’s Satan) and in verse three you lived in the lusts of your flesh and the end of verse three, you were, … because of your very nature, a child of wrath. You are deserving of eternal fires in hell to punish you for your sins.
But verse four instead God was rich in mercy and love you with great love and even while you were dead, he caused you to be raised from the dead … verse five he made us alive together with Christ.
And so you can see there the resurrection power that is given to believers. “He made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved.”
And the whole point of this is verse seven. Why does God save anybody? You ask yourself, “why me?” Why did God save me?
It is because verse seven so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. In other words, in future ages, God is displaying the church as the masterpiece of his grace. That’s why he saved you so that you can be a part of this masterpiece demonstrate how gracious and kind he is.
And how did this salvation come about in someone? It is not of yourself verses 8-10. You are saved by God’s grace and the faith and all of that is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God verse eight says. It’s not of works verse nine. But we are to work, verse 10. We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works. We should be doing good works.
So, when you trust in Christ in a saving way you were made alive together with Christ.
And so the cosmic ruler of the universe was attentive to you, a wretched sinner! And he brought you to faith in Christ, indeed, if you are trusting in Christ.
And now not only were you dead as a sinner, even more now, as Gentiles you were separated from promises of God in salvation. Not only as sinners in chapter 2 verses 1-10, but as Gentiles we sense our unworthiness to be a part of God’s program for salvation.
In other words, God did not have to shift his program of salvation to include Gentiles.
So in verses 11-13 of chapter 2, we see our unworthy privileged position as Gentiles. In verses 1-10… Earlier in the passage… We saw the unworthy privileged position that we have as sinners. But today were focused on our unworthy position as Gentiles.
And the main exhortation is found in verse 11. Paul commands his readers in the second word of verse 11, to “remember.” And this is the only command in chapters 1-3. All the other commands in this book are found in chapters 4-6.
And Paul’s command here is that we must remember something as Gentiles. As Gentiles we must remember that racially … Because we are not Jews, we were separate from God’s program of salvation for the nation of Israel.
You can see that in verse 12. Remember that you were at that time before Christ “separate from Christ excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.”
So I would like to preach on “Remember, You were once separate from God’s Salvation.”
First, note the structure of verses 11-13. First in verses 11 to 12, we have Paul’s declaration that we Gentiles are strangers to Christ. And just a note here the word “remember” in verse 11 actually goes with verse 12. And that’s why verse 12 in the New American Standard has “remember” in italics. In verse 11, then, is Paul’s declaration that as Gentiles we were looked down upon by the Jews for not being circumcised.
And then in verse 12 this is what we were to remember. We are to remember that previous to Christ we were separate from God’s program of salvation.
And then in verse 13 is the solution to that problem. The solution is that we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. We are no longer a far off; we are brought near by the blood of Christ.
So, let’s read Ephesians 2:11-13 11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded 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 formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Before, we were snubbed strangers to Christ (Eph. 2:11-12)
So first, before Christ came, we were strangers to Christ.
Admittedly Snubbed (Eph. 2:11) … but ….
But notice again verse 11. Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—
Notice the timeframe we are in ” formerly.” Therefore remember that ” formerly.” Previous to the coming of Christ is the idea. Verse 12 has that similar timeframe in mind. Remember that you were “at that time” separate from Christ.
Also verse 13 but now in Christ Jesus you who were “formerly” far off. So this timeframe formerly in verse 11 “at that time” in verse 12 and “formerly” in verse 13 all refer to the same time frame which is the time before Jesus Christ came to earth.
And notice how Paul in verse 11 makes the physical distinctions. Notice how describes the Gentiles “you, the Gentiles in the flesh.”
And the Jews. For the Jews, the circumcision at the end of verse 11 is performed “in the flesh by human hands.” So there’s this physical distinction.
Physically, you are Gentiles. Physically, the Jews circumcise their eight day old sons out of obedience to the Law. And by doing so, they have received the Old Testament mark of the covenant and, because they received the mark, they think they have eternal life.
But Paul is drawing out those physical distinctions to emphasize the opposite. Paul is emphasizing being spiritually united Christ.
EXP: Now, notice how Paul explains the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in verse 11. Paul will expand on this hostile relationship more next time in our passage, beginning in verse 14. We’ll get to that next time.
But now he introduces this concept and he says that the Gentiles are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision.”
And what is this but a “holier than thou” mindset in verse 11. They’re thinking of Gentiles “Ha, you who are uncircumcised.” And they scoff at them.
In our house we call this being snooty. And those who are being snooty are snubbing other people. So the snooty, holier-than-thou Jews are snubbing the Gentiles because they are “uncircumcised.”
Paul’s reminder is that this is all physical. In the sight of God … this is not God’s focus. Man is looking on the outward, but God looks at the heart.
So there is hostility between Jew and Gentile. And the problem is, God is bringing both into the church! People who are naturally hostile toward one another are being saved. This is like saving Iranians and Israelis and putting them into the church.
TRANS: So physically, Gentiles have been snubbed by snooty Jews. The Jews have look down their nose with a holier than thou mindset against the Gentiles because Gentiles are the “uncircumcised.” And the Gentiles hate the Jews, naturally.
That’s physically. But actually, spiritually there really is a problem verse 12. As Gentiles, not only have we been snubbed by the Jews, but what do we say about our relationship with God? Have the Gentiles been snubbed by God?
Actually Strangers (Eph. 2:12) … and undeservingly…
EXP: And so here in verse 12 is what we are commanded to remember. We were “at that time” before Christ came, we were separate from Christ… And then Paul lists 4 other descriptions of the Gentiles being outside of God’s people and his saving purposes. We are to remember that we were separate from God’s program of salvation.
Notice how he puts these five descriptions.
The first four are in verse 12. The 1st is ….
1. “Separate from Christ.”
2. “Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel”
3. “Strangers to the covenants of promise”
4. “having no hope and without God in the world”
5. and finally number five is in verse 13 “far off.”
Each of these five descriptions have to do with us being separated from God’s people Israel. And before Christ came, we were outside of God’s saving purposes because of that. Remember that, you Gentile! God was working His program of salvation in the Jewish nation. And if you didn’t come in contact with God’s revelation, you were lost. “Salvation is from the Jews” Jesus says.
If you have trusted Christ today, you are in an unworthy position to be a part of God’s program. God did not have to shift His saving program to the Gentiles.
TRANS: Take the first one.
Separate from Christ
“Separate from Christ” in verse 12. This simply means that, as Gentiles, we were separated from any messianic expectation. And we were separated from the work of God through that Messiah even before He came. Before Christ came, God was saving Old Testament saints through the yet future work of the Messiah on the cross and in the resurrection. But as Gentiles, our ancestors before Christ were separated from that work.
TRANS: Now the second one, “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.”
Excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel
To be ‘excluded’ means to be “cut off” or separated from.” And so as Gentiles we were separated from the nation of Israel. We were cut off from being close to in residence or in citizenship of the nation of Israel. Our Gentile ancestors were cut off from Israel.
ILL: This American has a hard time with this word Commonwealth. You are more familiar with this term. The British Commonwealth is a group of those nations that are territories of the former British Empire. These nations are united today by language history, culture, and their shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
There is a commonality. Now, to be a part of the commonwealth of Israel was even more significant. If before Christ came you were able to live within the boundaries of Israel then you likely received the word of God of Israel. You were of all men at that time on the earth most blessed! And if you were a Gentile, you may have become a proselyte. That is, to become a true disciple of the God of Israel, you may have forsaken your own people to become a part of Israel and that system of worship under God’s Old Covenant.
And of course, through this, you would have been exposed to the word of God that is required for salvation.
TRANS: but under the Old Covenant, the Gentiles … With that third description now in verse 12 … The Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants of promise.”
Strangers of the Covenant of Promise
We had no idea about God’s promises that he had made to his people. We think of the promises God made to Abraham. And God passed that promise on through to Isaac and Jacob. God made his promises to the nation of Israel and to David.
TRANS: And as Gentiles, we had no idea that God was making promises to the nation of Israel. And so the result of all of this is that end of verse 12 that we were “without hope and without God in the world.
Having no Hope and Without God in the World
Think about it! Apart from God’s work of salvation in Christ, the Gentiles would have no hope! Until Christ came, the Gentiles would be without the true God. We would have no hope, that is, we would have no confidence or assurance for our future death.
When our loved ones that believe in our idols like we did, when they would die, we would grieve as those who have no confidence of the future! We would have been enslaved to our various lusts and walking according to the course of this world …. Slaves to our own idols that we would make with our own hands. NO HOPE!
NO HOPE! NO ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE! Cut off from God’s promises! And hell for us would be as certain as the earth is round.
APP: Believer, rejoice that God has brought salvation to the Gentiles! When Christ came, God spread the good news of salvation to all the Gentiles. And rejoice, that someone completed the Great Commission in your life. Rejoice that someone brought to you the good news of Christ and that you received it and received eternal life. And now you have an eternal confidence and God is with you wherever you go. Rejoice!
ARG: But, was this fair that God didn’t allow Gentiles to be apart of His plan before the coming of Christ? How can God be righteous not to allow Gentiles to be a part of this?
You remember when I went to the doctor this past week, the doctor had a question. This was his question. “What about those who have never even heard of the name of Jesus in the remote parts of the world?”
We are concerned about even those people today. And that of course was all the more the case before the coming of Christ. What happened to all those people?
And I told the doctor that the answer to that question is Romans chapter 1. And I would like us to turn there.
Paul, in Romans chapter 1, gives the course of all of Gentile history previous to the coming of Christ and even today as the Gentiles reject Christ.
And the question is, “What has God already revealed?” Do the Gentiles who do not know Jesus Christ and the way of salvation, do the Gentiles really have an argument that God has failed to reveal his will for them? Do they?
And the answer is “No, God has revealed an incredible amount of light already through what has been created.” The issue is that they have already rejected all of the light and knowledge that they have received from God. Paul’s conclusion will be that they are without excuse.
So, let’s ask the question again, “What about all those people who never heard the way of salvation?” And were talking about either before or after the coming Christ. “What about all those people who never heard the way of salvation?”
Let’s read, starting in Romans 1:18. And as we read, notice what God has revealed.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
There is one. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven. God’s wrath against sin is common knowledge in the hearts of the Gentiles.
Somebody says, “Yes that’s why I see all the sacrificing of sacrifices all over the world. But who could blame them. They knew God was angry and so they sacrificed to the gods that they thought existed.” Is that it? …
Well Paul continues … Romans 1:18-19 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
See, through creation, the true God made his power and divine nature known to those lost Gentiles in the jungles. God’s power and nature is clear to them. So, they know God is angry, they know who God is, and they know His power.
Well, somebody says, “if it is so clear, why do they not receive it?”
Keep going Romans 1:21-23 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
You can see here that first of all verse 21 they knew God. They understood who he is by what he has made. But they made a moral decision not to honor him nor to give thanks to Him. And from this then they became foolish and rejected God’s glory for the making of their own God’s. The general course of human Gentile history is just this: a moral choice to reject the light that God gives.
And the result of this is all the sin that is described in verses 24-31. They are idol worshipers and they obeyed the lusts of their flesh, whether it be for men or women unnaturally.
And you can see the list of sins as we have them in verses 28 to 31. This is all a result of rejecting the duty to honor God and to give thanks to him for what knowledge they do have of God. They reject that knowledge of God. And they actively reject the requirement of God to honor Him. There is no heartfelt desire within them to honor God.
And what else is revealed to them is verse 32. Romans 1:32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
See, they know the ordinance of God. They know deep in their heart that those who practice such sins as they do, they know in their hearts that they are worthy of death. They know it. It is well known to them.
Well, what is the problem then? The problem is verse 18 that even though God’s wrath against their sin is revealed, they … End of verse 18… “Suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” So although they know these things, they choose not to properly use this clearly revealed knowledge. They hold it down. They suppress the truth. They try to keep the truth from becoming more readily apparent.
These people are made in the image of God and Romans chapter 2 clearly tells us that they’ve been given this conscience that tells them that they are doing wrong and they reject the testimony of their own consciences. They reject their testimony of creation and the conscience. Their conscience says … “Hello, you are doing wrong!” But they do it anyway!
So what the lost need is not necessarily more information. What they need is to attempt to get them not to suppress the truth. The truth of God, his power in creation and the knowledge of sin and how they are condemned before God…all that is within them. No matter who you speak to. This is common knowledge among humanity because God made it evident to them.
But some have rejected what God has clearly shown to them and they will deny it to your face, but they reject it, not because they don’t have enough intellectual arguments, but because they’ve been suppressing it morally. They suppress the truth verse 18 says in unrighteousness or better, with unrighteousness. They suppress the truth by using their own sin. It’s their sin that they use to suppress the truth.
So, has God been unfair to these people? No, they have rejected God. All the Gentile nations before Christ came and all the lost people in the jungle today have clearly rejected the truth of God for a lie and they are morally responsible before God.
So I told the doctor that day that these people in far-off places you’ve never heard the name of Christ clearly rejected the truth God. And before Christ came, this is the story as well.
This demands that we go tell them! We must tell people who have never heard the name of Jesus…we must preach Christ to them! “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
But this issue of how to think of these lost Gentiles has caused such a turmoil, that Christian leaders everywhere are saying things like Billy Graham said in 1997. Are the Gentiles who have never heard the name of Jesus really lost? Ask Billy Graham.
Robert Schuler of the Crystal Cathedral in California interviewed Billy Graham on May 31st 1997 and Robert Schuler asked Billy Graham, “What is the future of Christianity?”
Billy Graham responded…[QUOTE]
“I think everybody that that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people … out of the world for his name whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world … they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but … they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven”.
As far back as 1978, Billy Graham is quoted as saying in an interview in McCall’s magazine…
“I used to play God, but I can’t do that anymore. I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost – were going to hell – if they did not have the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God – through nature, for instance – and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying “yes” to God.”
Billy Graham teaches that pagans in far-off countries are not lost and do not need the gospel of Christ preached to them to be saved. They do not need Jesus to be saved, he says.
Bible nowhere teaches this. The Bible only teaches that apart from the preaching of the gospel to these people, they are lost and without Christ and are headed for hell. They have rejected God.
So we can safely assume that the vast majority of those Gentiles who have not heard the name of Jesus have perished without him.
They have willfully, desirably and wholeheartedly rejected the light that God has given to them.
But, in fact, the vast majority of the people in the history of the world have been exposed to the name of Christ. And let me prove that to you. Christ came at the fullness of times the Bible says. One way we know this is through studying the population growth in world history. Population of the world previous to A.D. 1650 was doubling about every 1,500 years.
At that time in 1650, a population explosion occurred along with the Industrial Revolution. This brought on more prosperity and livelihood. And by about 1810, human population had doubled to 1 billion in less than 200 years doubled again 2 billion in just over 100 years. And today, human population growth continues to accelerate, doubling now every 39 years!
My point is that Christ has been available to the vast majority of people in the history of the world. We didn’t have 1 billion people on Earth until 1804. And now, we are pushing 7 billion.
So, God sent Jesus Christ before the population explosion of the world. God showed himself merciful to this world by giving most of this world exposure to Christ.
So, we Gentiles before Christ came were work cut off from Christ and excluded from God’s program of salvation. We were without hope and without God in the world.
TRANS: This is extremely, unimaginably depressing. But God in his grace did not leave us here! He gave us of His Son that the Gentiles might hope in him.
Verse 13 now we have been brought near to God’s program of salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ. Formerly, we were far off from the program of salvation, but now we are brought near by the blood of Christ.
Now, we are brought near to Christ (Eph. 2:13)
But now verse 13 Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Though we were once far off, now that we have been spiritually united to Christ Jesus we are brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.
To be found to be “in Christ” requires that you trust in Christ. Trust him as a person. He is alive. He died for our sins, but he has been raised again from the dead. Now he ever lives at the Father’s right hand to make intercession for us.
This is all possible because of the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. Apart from the coming of Christ and his shed blood at the cross, the Bible says, we would have no remission of our sins.
And Paul in the next section is going to explain how the shed blood of Christ also brings Gentiles near to God’s program of salvation. How exactly does that work? He’s going to explain that in our passage for next time.
APP: Now, let me apply this in this way. Since God has brought to himself the Gentiles … Dirty pagan Gentiles like us, we should also receive one another. Receive one another as God in Christ has received you.
There are no strangers in God’s kingdom. Those who have been saved by God’s grace, no matter where they live, no matter what their lifestyle, if they are truly saved by God’s grace, then they are no stranger and we must receive them and love them.
As we’re going to discover more next week, there is no cause for looking down our nose at anybody else.
“Red and yellow black and white they are….precious in His sight.” There is no more division and causes for racial hostility or any kind of hostility among the different cultures and nationalities and races. It doesn’t matter how many tattoos, or how dirty and smelly, or crass they may appear to be. If they are in Christ, especially, we are to be good to them.
Galatians 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
If a Jew and Gentile can get along, then anyone can get along.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 2.11-13
And so remember this, you Gentile. You have no cause to be favorable to one brother over another. Remember this you Gentile. Remember that at one time that you were cut off from the promises of God! You were without hope!
You were without God! Your life was a life of vanity apart from the work of God in you. You are blinded by the things of this world delighting yourself in the same filth of this life, without God and headed for hell.
And so it is amazing, isn’t it? That God can bring such different people from such different cultures into the same assembly because what unites them is Jesus Christ.
But how can God bring such snooty Jews and such hate-filled Gentiles and wash them both up and put them in the same church and expect them to get along?
And that’s next week, when we’ll solve the problem of snootiness.
But now! …. [stand] 400 “Jesus, They Blood and Righteousness.”