Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:11-13 NIV).
We can all tell stories about people alienated from one another. Since we or friends would be the subjects, we would tell them with a sense of the pain of alienation.
However, our topic in this post is not primarily about fractured human relationships, though what we’ll think about provides the only reliable basis for rebuilding or renewing them. Our concern is with our alienation from God. As we have seen in this series on the power of the cross, our basic problem is that because of our sin or rebellion against God, he must act in holy justice against us. In this situation we need our sins forgiven and his wrath removed. God did this through the power of the cross of Christ. He died as a sacrifice that would secure forgiveness and remove wrath. But what of the practical situation of God’s alienation from us? In holy justice he was against us, but can he bring us back in peace and as his friends?
In order to grasp the importance of what the Lord accomplished, we must understand our situation before the cross. We were far away. All people have had a two-part legal problem. All people everywhere are by nature people who step over (transgress) the limits God established for human behavior and who fail to properly represent his worth or glory. This last makes us like a TV that cannot show clear pictures but only warps and blurs them. Not only that, we don’t even want to show the picture of God’s glory. We wrongly choose to show the pictures of God’s enemies in order to project ourselves. This made us practically worthless as God’s image bearers and objects of God’s wrath, because we have desired to live this way (Ephesians 2:1-3).
In his love, God called Israel out of slavery to be his nation, and he gave them many blessings and privileges (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:12). He brought them into a relationship with him based on the law (or old covenant). God promised them life, if they would obey. Israel’s problem was simply that they were sinners, and the law could not deal with the problem of sin. In fact, sin took advantage of the law situation and by the commandments of the law put Israel to death (Romans 7:7-13). Israel was in a hopeless situation.
The rest of the nations (the Gentiles) did not receive the blessings that Israel had received. Instead, God had handed them over to sin (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) and let them go their own way (Acts 14:16). They had no way to become his nation or people, and the nations were in a hopeless and godless situation.
Please take a few minutes to slow down and to think about the condition humanity was in before the cross. Israel had a good law covenant from God that they could not keep. The nations were largely abandoned by God, since they willfully pursued a way of life that refused the true and living God and place in their lives. (This still holds true in our time.) How could people return to a relationship with the Holy God over all? A Mediator was necessary who could bridge the gap between God and sinful people. This is what God did in Christ at the cross. Are you reconciled to God through Jesus Christ?
Grace and peace, David