“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by 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).
Paul went on to detail three disadvantages the nations (the non-Jewish world) were under before Christ came and died on His cross. He attached an exhortation to these disadvantages — remember them. He desired the grafted in Gentile believers in every generation of the church to recall the divide, the lostness, they were previously under.
First, we were separated from Christ.
The Messiah had been promised to Israel. David was theirs, and his kingdom had an everlasting promise attached to it. His reign, followed by Solomon’s, was simply a foretaste of the coming glory of the Messianic age. Israel’s battles would cease. The Prince of Peace would come. The government would rest on His shoulders while the lion and lamb rested with each other. But this glorious age was promised to Israel. Gentiles were at that time separated from Christ.
Second, we were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise.
The Messiah would come to save the world. We did not have Him, nor did we have the promises attached to Him. Again, we were outside the sphere of the world’s redemption. To become part of His program, at that time, we had to become proselytes. To adopt God meant adopting Judaism.
Third, were had no hope and were without God in the world.
We were without the hope of God’s salvation and redemption. Without Christ, we only had despair in our future. We could not look at the warring of the nations, disease or famine, and expect anything different. We could not look forward to the golden age of David’s everlasting son to sit on the throne, driving out all the hurt and pain and heartbreak. We had no real hope because we did not have God.
We are to conclude, from Paul’s teaching on what we were, that we were completely outside God’s program.
Like a poor child looking into the window of a wealthy child’s home, we were on the outside looking in. We were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son (Luke 15). We are to remember and feel the weight of this lostness.
This brings up a question: did God contribute to this alienation when He chose Abraham? When He selected Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and finally David, wasn’t He creating a division in humanity? Afterall, each selection meant others were rejected. Ishmael was not Isaac. Esau was not Jacob. And Saul was not David. But it is important to remember the world was already divided, hostile, at one another’s throats by the time of Abraham. God’s intention in choosing the one man was to provide a way to unify all men. Christ and His blood would provide the way for humanity to come together, for it is only by the blood of Christ that warring and alienated peoples can find peace together.