The word of the day is “near.” What does it mean to be close to God and what does it mean to be far away from Him? In today’s reading from Ephesian’s 2:11-13, Paul gives a succinct answer “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” (vs. 12).
Either Near to or Far Away From God
Paul suggests that when it comes to our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer, there is no halfway. We are either “near” location (Strong’s #1451) or “far away” (Strong’s #3112). But what does it mean to be “far off” from God?
The key to this passage is the phrase, “alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel” (OSB vs. 12). The Greek term for “alienated” refers to being estranged (Strong’s #526, 32). And the term for “commonwealth” refers to citizenship in a nation (Strong’s #4174, 206). The meaning is the Gentiles were aliens or non-citizens of the people of Israel.
Recall that the Israelites were God’s Chosen People. Of all the nations of the earth, God gave this tiny and insignificant group of twelve tribes the promise of a Messiah (Christ) who would bring salvation from sin and death. But uncircumcised, the Gentiles, were the unchosen. They did were not the People of God and therefore had no part in the promise given to God’s elect.
The Gentiles were Separate from Christ and Without God
With this background in mind, we understand why the apostle says that the Gentiles were “separate from Christ” (OSB vs. 12). They had no way of knowing the prophecies about Him. They were strangers to the “covenant of promise” concerning the relationship between God and His people. And because they lived outside the knowledge of God, they were without God. They were ignorant of their Creator’s will, unenlightened by His wisdom, unaware of His commandments, and oblivious to His goodness.
To sum up all their deficiency of spirit, the Gentiles were “without hope” in the world—without hope because Christ is the only true revelation of God, the only reliable Redeemer of sin, the only Víctor over death, the only giver of eternal life.
Once Far Off, Now Brought Near
But the apostle addresses those Gentiles who had become believers in Christ. He states, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (OSB vs. 13). As aliens, strangers, and foreigners to the Chosen People and the Almighty’s revelation to them, the Gentiles had had no way of coming near to Him. But the appearing of the Son of God in the world showed the way to God not merely to the Chosen People, but, so the apostle insists, to the entire world.
Because of the revelation of Christ, the entire world could now know God and His race. And because of His sacrificial blood that He offered for the forgiveness of sins all humankind could be reconciled to God and come near to Him.
The apostle speaks about those were who aliens, strangers, and foreigners to God. Once they were far away from God, but now the Christ has brought them near to Him. But what about us? The Messiah (Christ) has come near to us. We have witnessed His manifestation as the Son of God at His baptism. And in this season of Theophany, He will reveal Himself as the way to knowing, loving, and serving our God.
Christ has brought us near to God. But have we come near to Him? The prophet Isaiah prophesied and the Lord repeated, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me” (OSB Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).
In this season of Theophany, may the Light of Christ be the star that guides us back to the heavenly home of God’s presence and the dwelling place of His goodness, joy, and life.