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Ephesians 2:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 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 2:12 is a verse in which Paul is emphasizing the inclusion of Gentiles in the body of Christ.
This verse is continuing the thought from verse 11 and reminds believers who were formerly Gentiles that before coming to faith in Jesus, they were separated from Christ and excluded from citizenship in Israel. They were also considered to be foreigners to the covenants of the promise, which refers to the promises made by God to His people through Abraham and the Jewish people.
The phrase “without hope and without God in the world” suggests that these believers were in a state of spiritual separation from God and did not have the hope or salvation that is found in Jesus. It emphasizes the fact that before coming to faith, these believers were lost and without hope, but through faith in Jesus, they have been reconciled to God and given new life and hope.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ – This phrase serves as a reminder to the Gentile readers of their previous state before they came to faith in Jesus Christ. Before their conversion, they were “separated from Christ,” which means that they were outside of the saving relationship that God offers through Jesus.
Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel – The Gentile readers were also “alienated” from the people of God, the commonwealth of Israel. This means that they were excluded from the privileges and blessings that come with being part of God’s chosen people.
Strangers to the covenants of promise – The Gentile readers were also “strangers” to the covenants that God made with the Israelites, which promised blessings and salvation through faith in God. They were not privy to the promises of salvation and redemption that God had made to His people.
Having no hope and without God in the world – As a result of their separation from Christ and alienation from the commonwealth of Israel, the Gentile readers had “no hope.” They had no expectation of salvation or redemption, and they were “without God” in the sense that they were outside of God’s saving relationship.
Overall, Paul is emphasizing through these phrases that before their conversion, the Gentile readers were in a state of exclusion and alienation from God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. And through their faith, they have been included, brought near, and reconciled to God, which means having hope, and God is no longer remote from them but in them.
Historical and Cultural Context
In Paul’s time, there was a distinct divide between Jews and Gentiles. Jews, who were God’s chosen people and had access to the covenants of promise, and Gentiles, who were considered outsiders and did not have access to these covenants. This created a sense of superiority among the Jews and a feeling of inferiority among the Gentiles.
Paul, as a Jew himself, wrote to the Gentile Christians in Ephesus, a city in the Roman province of Asia. The community of believers in Ephesus was mainly composed of Gentiles, and it is likely that many of them were converted from paganism, which furthers the idea that they were in a state of alienation from God and from the community of believers.
In Ephesians 2:12, Paul is reminding his Gentile readers that before they came to faith in Jesus Christ, they were in a state of separation from Him and from the commonwealth of Israel. They were also strangers to the covenants of promise and had no hope for salvation. Paul emphasizes that through faith in Jesus Christ, these Gentile believers have been included in the body of Christ and have been made part of God’s chosen people. This was a significant message, as it conveyed that Gentiles were now on equal footing with Jews in terms of their access to God’s saving grace.
Additionally, the context of the letter of Ephesians is one of unity and reconciliation. Paul is keen to show that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jewish and Gentile believers, reconciling them to God in one body and making peace through the cross (Eph 2:14-18). Paul is emphasizing that the Gentile believers in Ephesus were no longer outsiders but fully included in God’s saving plan and the community of believers.
In summary, when interpreting Ephesians 2:12, it is essential to consider the historical and cultural context of the divide between Jews and Gentiles and how the message of salvation in Jesus Christ was breaking down barriers and creating a new community of believers united in Christ.
Again, this verse is a reminder of the transformative power of faith in Jesus and the fact that it is through Him that we are reconciled to God and given new life and hope. It is a powerful reminder of the grace and love of God toward believers from all backgrounds.