THE POWER OF THE CROSS
BROUGHT NEAR BY THE BLOOD
. . . At one time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2: 12-13)
What is Paul saying? Does he mean that all Jews are “in” and all Gentiles are “out”? Not at all. In his letters to the Romans and Galatians, he stated quite clearly that not all Israelites are true Israelites. Only those who are the children of Abraham by faith in Jesus are the true Israel. They have completed the process which He began when He called Abraham to be the father of His people, by recognising and receiving Jesus as God’s promised Messiah and His gift of righteousness to which the old covenant pointed.
However, Gentiles were not even in line to be a part of the Old Covenant because God had called only the natural children of Abraham to be His special people. They received God’s Torah, His instructions for living and His promises, so that they could show the pagan nations around them the nature of the true God. It was through them that the Messiah would come, and they were to live in anticipation of His coming – prophesied over many centuries in uncanny detail so that they would recognise Him when He came.
According to the prophetic fingerprint in their sacred writings, He would come as both Suffering Servant and King, but their exile and repeated occupation by enemy forces because of their unfaithfulness to the covenant, aroused in them a longing to be free from their enemies and to rule their own country without interference from outside. The other side of Messiah’s purpose to recuse them from sin was either forgotten or ignored in favour of a king who would rule over them in justice and peace, as did their great ancestor, David.
When Jesus came, the Jews did not recognise Him because He did not fit their expectation of a political deliverer. What was even worse for them was that those who followed Jesus and preached that He was indeed their Messiah, had opened the door of faith to the Gentles. Their hatred for and prejudice against the Gentiles was so strong that the followers of Jesus were to be exterminated for daring to preach that their God was the God of the Gentiles as well.
In spite of the message of their prophets that God would call the whole world to obedience to Him, they resented the intrusion of Gentiles into their exclusive right to worship God. There were many “God-fearers” scattered across the Roman Empire in Paul’s day, Gentiles who worshiped the true God without actually embracing Judaism with its tedious rules and ritual. It was this group that were more ready to receive the good news about the Messiah than God’s own people.
In his letter to the Ephesian church, and the other churches in Asia Minor which also read his letter, Paul reminded them that, without the message of Jesus which they had heard and embraced, the Gentiles had not hope of reconciliation to God or participation in the promises of the old covenant made to Abraham and his descendants.
It was through Abraham that the whole world would be blessed. His descendants would receive and were to preserve the revelation of God given to them through His covenant with Abraham and expanded in the covenant He made with them at Mount Sinai when He espoused them to Himself as His bride. In the Abrahamic covenant was the promise that they would be a blessing to all nations.
The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ (Gen. 12: 1-3)
Through Jesus, God fulfilled His promise, opening the door to the Gentile world to embrace everything that He had promised His own people in His covenant. It was through Him that they were “brought near”, giving them access to the Father through the forgiveness He made possible, and allowing them to be a part of the promises that guaranteed their acceptance with Him and everything that the death of Jesus made possible.
Through faith in Jesus everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, becomes a part of God’s new race, no longer categorised as “Jew” and “Gentile” but by their new status as sons and daughters of the Father.
For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. (Eph. 2: 18-22)
When we consider how strong and how damaging the issue of racism is in our world, and no amount of external pressure can cure, we can only marvel at the miracle of reconciliation which Jesus made possible by His death.
This is the power of the cross.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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