22: God’s Handicrafts

Lesson 22: “God’s Handicrafts”

Ephesians 2:10-13

I have a neighbor who builds sailboats in his garage. He works tirelessly for several weeks at a time, seemingly from sun-up to sundown (and I say “seemingly” because I don’t get up early enough nor stay up late enough to have personally witnessed it.) But I have some idea of what he is doing out there in the garage, because he has some power tools – saws and sanders and routers, and drills, and so forth, all of which work at such a high pitch that only dogs can hear most of it. Oh, by the way, did I mention that these are miniature sailboats? But they are crafted with such detail and precision that he has sold some of them for surprisingly high prices.

But I mention my neighbor and his hobby because he and his craftsmanship are a great illustration of the passage to which we

come in our lesson today, Ephesians 2:10-13

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

This passage is one of the best known and most helpful verses in the entire Bible. It tells us exactly where we fit in the plan of God. And it tells us where “good works” fit into the plan of God – one of the most understood subjects in all of religion. But most importantly, it speaks of our unique relationship to God – we are His “craftsmanship,” it tells us.

Now that term carries some important information about our relationship with God. If you have had any dealings with craftsmen you know that in order to make the end result of their work worth having they do some things to the materials they work with very painful if the materials were living things – cutting, honing drilling, sanding, and so forth. And that is something that God has to do to us as His “raw materials”

Notice how verse 11 starts: “Therefore remember . . .” And as has been pointed out so many times before, the word “therefore is a connecting link between what has been said previously and what is about to be said. And without going into all the details, let me just jump right to the point and say that this last section of the chapter deals with bringing that piece of workmanship out of the workshop and putting it to use.

But what would we think of a beautiful piece of furniture that couldn’t be used? Or a beautiful expensive car that was never driven anywhere? My wife’s family used to live next door to a family who had a large beautiful home with a full basement. The first floor was beautifully and tastefully furnished. When friends would drop by to see someone in the family they would comment on how clean and neat the house always was. But what very few people knew was that the basement had exactly the same floor plan as the first floor. But if a visitor had come into the basement they would see that it was furnished with all the old worn out furniture from their previous home. And usually there were clothes strewn about and beds unmade and dirty dishes in the sink.

Why would anyone want to have beautiful useful possessions that they never put to use? I think that must be times when the Lord must feel that way about many of us as His children live.

However, to get this truth in proper perspective, we need to review a little bit about the chapter: Ephesians, chapter 2 is a chapter of contrasts. Between the new and the old, between hope and despair, between heaven and hell. But the focal point of all of these contrasts is salvation – surely the greatest contrast in all of eternity.

In our previous studies we have seen that verses 1 through 3 we find an assessment of the past (before salvation.) Then in verses 4 through 10 we have an appraisal of the present. These verses present thoroughly the contrast between spiritual life and death. Now the last third of the chapter shows the importance of the subject, because these verses are actually a review or a restatement of that same wonderful truth. Verses 11 through 12 form a review of the affirmation of the purposes of God.

In verses 11 and 12 we have a review of verses 1 through 3 – the hopelessness of the past. Then in verses 13 through 18 there is a review of verses 4 through 9: the blessings of our salvation. (Notice in verse 4 – “But God” and verse 13 – But now”)

And finally in verses 19 through 22 there is a review of “workmanship” as compared to “habitation.”

So lets begin thinking now about this affirmation of the purpose of God. The first thing to notice is the contrast in the purpose brought out in verses 11 through 13:

(11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and stran­gers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

As you can see, verses and 11 12 deal with the past estate of the Gentiles. And verse 13 deals with their present. Look at that description of the past again: “Gentiles” – verse 11 – total aliens and outcasts from God’s chosen people. “Uncircumcision; “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” No legal rights among the people of God; “strangers from the covenants” – verse 12 – none of the protections and provisions made for God’s people – verse 12 Summary: “having no hope and without God in the world” – verse 13!

In short, in Old Testament times Gentiles were complete “outsiders” in every way.

From our own social structures we know, or at least can picture what it would be life to be an outsider. – Most people build their lives and ambitions around being accepted by others. But the Jews had raised it to an art form. They called Gentiles “dogs” (to the point that Jesus often built plays of words around it.)  They would go miles out of their way to keep from going through Samaria, which was only partially Gentile.

However, it is important recognize even though they had carried it to extremes, there was a certain legitimacy about it all. God had made covenants with Israel that He did not make with any other nation. For example, Amos 3:2 says, “you only have I chosen among all the nations of the earth.” And ultimately Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of David and rule over the whole earth. And yet underlying all of that was the fact that God’s original covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3 said “and in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

So the result was one of complete alienation between Jews and Gentiles. And this even carried over into the early believers. In the very beginnings of the church the first recorded argument was between Jewish and Gentile believers over the distribution of food to widows. Peter himself had such a disdain for Gentiles that God had to give him a special vision to go to the Gentile Cornelius with the gospel (summarized in Acts 10:28.) When a group of Gentiles got saved some Jews taught that they still had to keep the Jewish ordinances and it took a church council to settle the issue (Acts 15:6 through 11.)

But verse 13 underscores the contrasts between those attitudes of the past and the unity of the present:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once afar off have been made near by the blood of Christ.

There is all the difference in the world between verses 11, 12, and 13. So much so that we have to stop and explain differences that used to exist. But it is still an applicable truth. Even those of us who live in this “Gentile age” were once “afar off.” Some of us lived in open rebellion against Him. But even those of us who didn’t had no claim on God. No matter how good you may be, what makes you think you have any right to come into the presence of a Holy God? (would you have the nerve to try to walk right into the White House, or even the office of a corporate president?) Truly, we were “far off” from God. But now we have been “made near” – but notice how: Not because we learned the Jewish customs, nor because we studied a lot of theology and became more interested in God, but very simply “by the blood of Christ.”

The blood of the Old Testament Jewish sacrifices brought the Jews “near” to God – but had no effect on Gentiles unless they converted to Judaism. But the blood of Jesus Christ brought us – Jews and Gentiles – into the very presence of God.

This passage is going to stress the importance of unity between believers – and that is an extremely important issue – and one that needs our attention. But before that can ever take place you must be brought near by the blood of Christ. This is such an important topic that it is stressed at the beginning of this chapter and now again here at the end of it.

 

Lesson 22: “God’s Handicrafts”

Ephesians 2:10-13

I have a neighbor who builds sailboats in his garage. He works tirelessly for several weeks at a time, seemingly from sun-up to sundown (and I say “seemingly” because I don’t get up early enough nor stay up late enough to have personally witnessed it.) But I have some idea of what he is doing out there in the garage, because he has some power tools – saws and sanders and routers, and drills, and so forth, all of which work at such a high pitch that only dogs can hear most of it. Oh, by the way, did I mention that these are miniature sailboats? But they are crafted with such detail and precision that he has sold some of them for surprisingly high prices.

But I mention my neighbor and his hobby because he and his craftsmanship are a great illustration of the passage to which we

come in our lesson today, Ephesians 2:10-13

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

This passage is one of the best known and most helpful verses in the entire Bible. It tells us exactly where we fit in the plan of God. And it tells us where “good works” fit into the plan of God – one of the most understood subjects in all of religion. But most importantly, it speaks of our unique relationship to God – we are His “craftsmanship,” it tells us.

Now that term carries some important information about our relationship with God. If you have had any dealings with craftsmen you know that in order to make the end result of their work worth having they do some things to the materials they work with very painful if the materials were living things – cutting, honing drilling, sanding, and so forth. And that is something that God has to do to us as His “raw materials”

Notice how verse 11 starts: “Therefore remember . . .” And as has been pointed out so many times before, the word “therefore is a connecting link between what has been said previously and what is about to be said. And without going into all the details, let me just jump right to the point and say that this last section of the chapter deals with bringing that piece of workmanship out of the workshop and putting it to use.

But what would we think of a beautiful piece of furniture that couldn’t be used? Or a beautiful expensive car that was never driven anywhere? My wife’s family used to live next door to a family who had a large beautiful home with a full basement. The first floor was beautifully and tastefully furnished. When friends would drop by to see someone in the family they would comment on how clean and neat the house always was. But what very few people knew was that the basement had exactly the same floor plan as the first floor. But if a visitor had come into the basement they would see that it was furnished with all the old worn out furniture from their previous home. And usually there were clothes strewn about and beds unmade and dirty dishes in the sink.

Why would anyone want to have beautiful useful possessions that they never put to use? I think that must be times when the Lord must feel that way about many of us as His children live.

However, to get this truth in proper perspective, we need to review a little bit about the chapter: Ephesians, chapter 2 is a chapter of contrasts. Between the new and the old, between hope and despair, between heaven and hell. But the focal point of all of these contrasts is salvation – surely the greatest contrast in all of eternity.

In our previous studies we have seen that verses 1 through 3 we find an assessment of the past (before salvation.) Then in verses 4 through 10 we have an appraisal of the present. These verses present thoroughly the contrast between spiritual life and death. Now the last third of the chapter shows the importance of the subject, because these verses are actually a review or a restatement of that same wonderful truth. Verses 11 through 12 form a review of the affirmation of the purposes of God.

In verses 11 and 12 we have a review of verses 1 through 3 – the hopelessness of the past. Then in verses 13 through 18 there is a review of verses 4 through 9: the blessings of our salvation. (Notice in verse 4 – “But God” and verse 13 – But now”)

And finally in verses 19 through 22 there is a review of “workmanship” as compared to “habitation.”

So lets begin thinking now about this affirmation of the purpose of God. The first thing to notice is the contrast in the purpose brought out in verses 11 through 13:

(11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and stran­gers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

As you can see, verses and 11 12 deal with the past estate of the Gentiles. And verse 13 deals with their present. Look at that description of the past again: “Gentiles” – verse 11 – total aliens and outcasts from God’s chosen people. “Uncircumcision; “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” No legal rights among the people of God; “strangers from the covenants” – verse 12 – none of the protections and provisions made for God’s people – verse 12 Summary: “having no hope and without God in the world” – verse 13!

In short, in Old Testament times Gentiles were complete “outsiders” in every way.

From our own social structures we know, or at least can picture what it would be life to be an outsider. – Most people build their lives and ambitions around being accepted by others. But the Jews had raised it to an art form. They called Gentiles “dogs” (to the point that Jesus often built plays of words around it.)  They would go miles out of their way to keep from going through Samaria, which was only partially Gentile.

However, it is important recognize even though they had carried it to extremes, there was a certain legitimacy about it all. God had made covenants with Israel that He did not make with any other nation. For example, Amos 3:2 says, “you only have I chosen among all the nations of the earth.” And ultimately Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of David and rule over the whole earth. And yet underlying all of that was the fact that God’s original covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3 said “and in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

So the result was one of complete alienation between Jews and Gentiles. And this even carried over into the early believers. In the very beginnings of the church the first recorded argument was between Jewish and Gentile believers over the distribution of food to widows. Peter himself had such a disdain for Gentiles that God had to give him a special vision to go to the Gentile Cornelius with the gospel (summarized in Acts 10:28.) When a group of Gentiles got saved some Jews taught that they still had to keep the Jewish ordinances and it took a church council to settle the issue (Acts 15:6 through 11.)

But verse 13 underscores the contrasts between those attitudes of the past and the unity of the present:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once afar off have been made near by the blood of Christ.

There is all the difference in the world between verses 11, 12, and 13. So much so that we have to stop and explain differences that used to exist. But it is still an applicable truth. Even those of us who live in this “Gentile age” were once “afar off.” Some of us lived in open rebellion against Him. But even those of us who didn’t had no claim on God. No matter how good you may be, what makes you think you have any right to come into the presence of a Holy God? (would you have the nerve to try to walk right into the White House, or even the office of a corporate president?) Truly, we were “far off” from God. But now we have been “made near” – but notice how: Not because we learned the Jewish customs, nor because we studied a lot of theology and became more interested in God, but very simply “by the blood of Christ.”

The blood of the Old Testament Jewish sacrifices brought the Jews “near” to God – but had no effect on Gentiles unless they converted to Judaism. But the blood of Jesus Christ brought us – Jews and Gentiles – into the very presence of God.

This passage is going to stress the importance of unity between believers – and that is an extremely important issue – and one that needs our attention. But before that can ever take place you must be brought near by the blood of Christ. This is such an important topic that it is stressed at the beginning of this chapter and now again here at the end of it.

 

Lesson 22: “God’s Handicrafts”

Ephesians 2:10-13

I have a neighbor who builds sailboats in his garage. He works tirelessly for several weeks at a time, seemingly from sun-up to sundown (and I say “seemingly” because I don’t get up early enough nor stay up late enough to have personally witnessed it.) But I have some idea of what he is doing out there in the garage, because he has some power tools – saws and sanders and routers, and drills, and so forth, all of which work at such a high pitch that only dogs can hear most of it. Oh, by the way, did I mention that these are miniature sailboats? But they are crafted with such detail and precision that he has sold some of them for surprisingly high prices.

But I mention my neighbor and his hobby because he and his craftsmanship are a great illustration of the passage to which we

come in our lesson today, Ephesians 2:10-13

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

This passage is one of the best known and most helpful verses in the entire Bible. It tells us exactly where we fit in the plan of God. And it tells us where “good works” fit into the plan of God – one of the most understood subjects in all of religion. But most importantly, it speaks of our unique relationship to God – we are His “craftsmanship,” it tells us.

Now that term carries some important information about our relationship with God. If you have had any dealings with craftsmen you know that in order to make the end result of their work worth having they do some things to the materials they work with very painful if the materials were living things – cutting, honing drilling, sanding, and so forth. And that is something that God has to do to us as His “raw materials”

Notice how verse 11 starts: “Therefore remember . . .” And as has been pointed out so many times before, the word “therefore is a connecting link between what has been said previously and what is about to be said. And without going into all the details, let me just jump right to the point and say that this last section of the chapter deals with bringing that piece of workmanship out of the workshop and putting it to use.

But what would we think of a beautiful piece of furniture that couldn’t be used? Or a beautiful expensive car that was never driven anywhere? My wife’s family used to live next door to a family who had a large beautiful home with a full basement. The first floor was beautifully and tastefully furnished. When friends would drop by to see someone in the family they would comment on how clean and neat the house always was. But what very few people knew was that the basement had exactly the same floor plan as the first floor. But if a visitor had come into the basement they would see that it was furnished with all the old worn out furniture from their previous home. And usually there were clothes strewn about and beds unmade and dirty dishes in the sink.

Why would anyone want to have beautiful useful possessions that they never put to use? I think that must be times when the Lord must feel that way about many of us as His children live.

However, to get this truth in proper perspective, we need to review a little bit about the chapter: Ephesians, chapter 2 is a chapter of contrasts. Between the new and the old, between hope and despair, between heaven and hell. But the focal point of all of these contrasts is salvation – surely the greatest contrast in all of eternity.

In our previous studies we have seen that verses 1 through 3 we find an assessment of the past (before salvation.) Then in verses 4 through 10 we have an appraisal of the present. These verses present thoroughly the contrast between spiritual life and death. Now the last third of the chapter shows the importance of the subject, because these verses are actually a review or a restatement of that same wonderful truth. Verses 11 through 12 form a review of the affirmation of the purposes of God.

In verses 11 and 12 we have a review of verses 1 through 3 – the hopelessness of the past. Then in verses 13 through 18 there is a review of verses 4 through 9: the blessings of our salvation. (Notice in verse 4 – “But God” and verse 13 – But now”)

And finally in verses 19 through 22 there is a review of “workmanship” as compared to “habitation.”

So lets begin thinking now about this affirmation of the purpose of God. The first thing to notice is the contrast in the purpose brought out in verses 11 through 13:

(11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and stran­gers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

As you can see, verses and 11 12 deal with the past estate of the Gentiles. And verse 13 deals with their present. Look at that description of the past again: “Gentiles” – verse 11 – total aliens and outcasts from God’s chosen people. “Uncircumcision; “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” No legal rights among the people of God; “strangers from the covenants” – verse 12 – none of the protections and provisions made for God’s people – verse 12 Summary: “having no hope and without God in the world” – verse 13!

In short, in Old Testament times Gentiles were complete “outsiders” in every way.

From our own social structures we know, or at least can picture what it would be life to be an outsider. – Most people build their lives and ambitions around being accepted by others. But the Jews had raised it to an art form. They called Gentiles “dogs” (to the point that Jesus often built plays of words around it.)  They would go miles out of their way to keep from going through Samaria, which was only partially Gentile.

However, it is important recognize even though they had carried it to extremes, there was a certain legitimacy about it all. God had made covenants with Israel that He did not make with any other nation. For example, Amos 3:2 says, “you only have I chosen among all the nations of the earth.” And ultimately Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of David and rule over the whole earth. And yet underlying all of that was the fact that God’s original covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3 said “and in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

So the result was one of complete alienation between Jews and Gentiles. And this even carried over into the early believers. In the very beginnings of the church the first recorded argument was between Jewish and Gentile believers over the distribution of food to widows. Peter himself had such a disdain for Gentiles that God had to give him a special vision to go to the Gentile Cornelius with the gospel (summarized in Acts 10:28.) When a group of Gentiles got saved some Jews taught that they still had to keep the Jewish ordinances and it took a church council to settle the issue (Acts 15:6 through 11.)

But verse 13 underscores the contrasts between those attitudes of the past and the unity of the present:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once afar off have been made near by the blood of Christ.

There is all the difference in the world between verses 11, 12, and 13. So much so that we have to stop and explain differences that used to exist. But it is still an applicable truth. Even those of us who live in this “Gentile age” were once “afar off.” Some of us lived in open rebellion against Him. But even those of us who didn’t had no claim on God. No matter how good you may be, what makes you think you have any right to come into the presence of a Holy God? (would you have the nerve to try to walk right into the White House, or even the office of a corporate president?) Truly, we were “far off” from God. But now we have been “made near” – but notice how: Not because we learned the Jewish customs, nor because we studied a lot of theology and became more interested in God, but very simply “by the blood of Christ.”

The blood of the Old Testament Jewish sacrifices brought the Jews “near” to God – but had no effect on Gentiles unless they converted to Judaism. But the blood of Jesus Christ brought us – Jews and Gentiles – into the very presence of God.

This passage is going to stress the importance of unity between believers – and that is an extremely important issue – and one that needs our attention. But before that can ever take place you must be brought near by the blood of Christ. This is such an important topic that it is stressed at the beginning of this chapter and now again here at the end of it.

 

Lesson 22: “God’s Handicrafts”

Ephesians 2:10-13

I have a neighbor who builds sailboats in his garage. He works tirelessly for several weeks at a time, seemingly from sun-up to sundown (and I say “seemingly” because I don’t get up early enough nor stay up late enough to have personally witnessed it.) But I have some idea of what he is doing out there in the garage, because he has some power tools – saws and sanders and routers, and drills, and so forth, all of which work at such a high pitch that only dogs can hear most of it. Oh, by the way, did I mention that these are miniature sailboats? But they are crafted with such detail and precision that he has sold some of them for surprisingly high prices.

But I mention my neighbor and his hobby because he and his craftsmanship are a great illustration of the passage to which we

come in our lesson today, Ephesians 2:10-13

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

This passage is one of the best known and most helpful verses in the entire Bible. It tells us exactly where we fit in the plan of God. And it tells us where “good works” fit into the plan of God – one of the most understood subjects in all of religion. But most importantly, it speaks of our unique relationship to God – we are His “craftsmanship,” it tells us.

Now that term carries some important information about our relationship with God. If you have had any dealings with craftsmen you know that in order to make the end result of their work worth having they do some things to the materials they work with very painful if the materials were living things – cutting, honing drilling, sanding, and so forth. And that is something that God has to do to us as His “raw materials”

Notice how verse 11 starts: “Therefore remember . . .” And as has been pointed out so many times before, the word “therefore is a connecting link between what has been said previously and what is about to be said. And without going into all the details, let me just jump right to the point and say that this last section of the chapter deals with bringing that piece of workmanship out of the workshop and putting it to use.

But what would we think of a beautiful piece of furniture that couldn’t be used? Or a beautiful expensive car that was never driven anywhere? My wife’s family used to live next door to a family who had a large beautiful home with a full basement. The first floor was beautifully and tastefully furnished. When friends would drop by to see someone in the family they would comment on how clean and neat the house always was. But what very few people knew was that the basement had exactly the same floor plan as the first floor. But if a visitor had come into the basement they would see that it was furnished with all the old worn out furniture from their previous home. And usually there were clothes strewn about and beds unmade and dirty dishes in the sink.

Why would anyone want to have beautiful useful possessions that they never put to use? I think that must be times when the Lord must feel that way about many of us as His children live.

However, to get this truth in proper perspective, we need to review a little bit about the chapter: Ephesians, chapter 2 is a chapter of contrasts. Between the new and the old, between hope and despair, between heaven and hell. But the focal point of all of these contrasts is salvation – surely the greatest contrast in all of eternity.

In our previous studies we have seen that verses 1 through 3 we find an assessment of the past (before salvation.) Then in verses 4 through 10 we have an appraisal of the present. These verses present thoroughly the contrast between spiritual life and death. Now the last third of the chapter shows the importance of the subject, because these verses are actually a review or a restatement of that same wonderful truth. Verses 11 through 12 form a review of the affirmation of the purposes of God.

In verses 11 and 12 we have a review of verses 1 through 3 – the hopelessness of the past. Then in verses 13 through 18 there is a review of verses 4 through 9: the blessings of our salvation. (Notice in verse 4 – “But God” and verse 13 – But now”)

And finally in verses 19 through 22 there is a review of “workmanship” as compared to “habitation.”

So lets begin thinking now about this affirmation of the purpose of God. The first thing to notice is the contrast in the purpose brought out in verses 11 through 13:

(11) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; (12) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and stran­gers from 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 made near by the blood of Christ.

As you can see, verses and 11 12 deal with the past estate of the Gentiles. And verse 13 deals with their present. Look at that description of the past again: “Gentiles” – verse 11 – total aliens and outcasts from God’s chosen people. “Uncircumcision; “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” No legal rights among the people of God; “strangers from the covenants” – verse 12 – none of the protections and provisions made for God’s people – verse 12 Summary: “having no hope and without God in the world” – verse 13!

In short, in Old Testament times Gentiles were complete “outsiders” in every way.

From our own social structures we know, or at least can picture what it would be life to be an outsider. – Most people build their lives and ambitions around being accepted by others. But the Jews had raised it to an art form. They called Gentiles “dogs” (to the point that Jesus often built plays of words around it.)  They would go miles out of their way to keep from going through Samaria, which was only partially Gentile.

However, it is important recognize even though they had carried it to extremes, there was a certain legitimacy about it all. God had made covenants with Israel that He did not make with any other nation. For example, Amos 3:2 says, “you only have I chosen among all the nations of the earth.” And ultimately Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of David and rule over the whole earth. And yet underlying all of that was the fact that God’s original covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3 said “and in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

So the result was one of complete alienation between Jews and Gentiles. And this even carried over into the early believers. In the very beginnings of the church the first recorded argument was between Jewish and Gentile believers over the distribution of food to widows. Peter himself had such a disdain for Gentiles that God had to give him a special vision to go to the Gentile Cornelius with the gospel (summarized in Acts 10:28.) When a group of Gentiles got saved some Jews taught that they still had to keep the Jewish ordinances and it took a church council to settle the issue (Acts 15:6 through 11.)

But verse 13 underscores the contrasts between those attitudes of the past and the unity of the present:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once afar off have been made near by the blood of Christ.

There is all the difference in the world between verses 11, 12, and 13. So much so that we have to stop and explain differences that used to exist. But it is still an applicable truth. Even those of us who live in this “Gentile age” were once “afar off.” Some of us lived in open rebellion against Him. But even those of us who didn’t had no claim on God. No matter how good you may be, what makes you think you have any right to come into the presence of a Holy God? (would you have the nerve to try to walk right into the White House, or even the office of a corporate president?) Truly, we were “far off” from God. But now we have been “made near” – but notice how: Not because we learned the Jewish customs, nor because we studied a lot of theology and became more interested in God, but very simply “by the blood of Christ.”

The blood of the Old Testament Jewish sacrifices brought the Jews “near” to God – but had no effect on Gentiles unless they converted to Judaism. But the blood of Jesus Christ brought us – Jews and Gentiles – into the very presence of God.

This passage is going to stress the importance of unity between believers – and that is an extremely important issue – and one that needs our attention. But before that can ever take place you must be brought near by the blood of Christ. This is such an important topic that it is stressed at the beginning of this chapter and now again here at the end of it.

2 thoughts on “22: God’s Handicrafts

  1. Good work brother. I am going to use some of the info when I preach at Union Gospel Mission. Lesson 22 was duplicated several times on this website.

    Like

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