THE DISTINCTION

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made of hands — 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.” (Ephesians 2:11,12)

In order to understand this passage, we have to go back to Old Testament times. There was a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews originated from God’s call to Abraham from paganism. God made a promise to Abraham that he would become a great nation. The Jewish people are those descended from Abraham and his family. God declared them to be His covenant people — “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

All the other people on earth were called “the Gentiles.” These people did not received the blessings of God (with a few notable exceptions — Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, etc.). Paul, in this passage, is reminding the Gentiles of their state prior to being engrafted into the people of God. They were “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.”

Therefore, what Paul is saying is that in past times the Gentiles were not part of God’s family. There were two clear-cut distinctions — Jews and Gentiles. But now this is no longer true — “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). Christ has now brought the Gentiles into the family of God. The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is made up of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Thus, Paul is saying that the distinction is now gone.

However, the problem in Paul’s day was that the barriers were gone but the distinction was still there practically. There were believing Jews in Paul’s day who wanted to maintain the distinction. They called the Gentiles “the uncircumcision.” These Jewish believers wanted the Gentiles to become Jews ceremonially, mainly to be circumcised. They missed the point that circumcision signified something that takes place in the heart. The physical act is done in the flesh by human hands. However, it is what God does in the heart of people that matters. Like Baptism, circumcision was an outward sign of the inward work of God on a person’s heart.

Today there is but one true distinction, the one God made — those who are in Christ and those who are separated from Him. All other distinctions have been leveled — “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:28). We must be very careful not to create any other barriers between believing people. We are all one in Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank You for bringing me near to You by Your blood shed for me. Thank You that I am no longer separated from you, a stranger to the covenants of promise, without hope, and without God in the world. You have made it possible for me to be a part of the family of God by Your grace.

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