Summary: Alienated from the life of God, strangers to the covenants and the promises, we needed help! (#20 in the Every Spiritual Blessing series)
“Aliens”. I wonder how many different pictures pop into people’s heads these days when they hear that word.
If I was pressured to guess, I suppose I’d say that the larger majority, at least in the American culture, would say that when they hear the word they think of beings from other planets.
Those who live in the border states, and especially border towns, or employees of Port Authorities might first think of people from Canada or Mexico or Cuba coming into the United States.
Anyone stopping to meditate on the word “aliens”, would eventually realize that an alien is not just someone who comes to America from a different country and a different citizenship. An alien is anyone who is in a place he does not necessarily belong; either legally, or due to vast social and cultural differences, or because of historical estrangement from the people who are there.
One example of aliens being something other than little green men, is in Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. People of Earth go to Mars to colonize in anticipation of Earth’s destruction with the use of nuclear weaponry, and on Mars, we (humans) are the aliens.
Now in case you haven’t noticed yet, the New American Standard version of the Bible, which I use both in my study and my preaching, does not use the word ‘aliens’ in Ephesians 2:12. The King James Version does, and a few others.
The reason I’m focusing on that word, even though my Bible of choice does not use it, is because it comes closer to expressing the thought being projected here by Paul. My NASB says, “...excluded from the commonwealth of Israel”. But the actual truth is much stronger than an exclusion.
In fact, the word ‘aliens’ does not quite do the job. The most appropriate word, used only by a few of the lesser used translations, is ‘alienated’.
“Alien”, denotes someone out of place. But when we say “alienated”, we generally think of someone who has been deliberately singled out as not belonging; not being welcome. Persona non grata.
That is what Paul says we were, so I want to use that word today, ‘alienated’, and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate our understanding as to how desperate our situation was.
Alienation is a theme we see running through the entire history of mankind. Adam and Eve were alienated from God through sin.
Cain was alienated from society when he murdered his brother.
Abraham saw all kinds of alienation. He was an alien in a strange land, he was in a sense alienated from his nephew Lot when they had to divide their herds and go their separate ways, he suffered alienation from Hagar and his son Ishmael, when they had to be driven from the camp.
Jacob’s deceit alienated him from his brother, Esau
Moses was alienated from his own people by the circumstances God put him in, but then had to alienate himself from Pharaoh’s house in order to serve God as Israel’s deliverer.
David knew alienation all his life. The prophets too, from their own nation, because of their message.
And the beat goes on. Of course, the One who suffered the worst and most undeserved alienation was our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when He was “despised and forsaken of men” (Isa. 53:3)
And I could bring it down to the present day, and say that most if not all of us know the sting of rejection and alienation; couldn’t I? It’s not an unfamiliar emotion to us at all.
So let’s just get right to the text now, and talk about;
WHAT THE “THEREFORE” IS THERE FOR
That’s got to be one of the oldest catch phrases in preaching. “Before we go on from verse 11, we have to look back at previous verses and see what the ‘therefore’ is there for”.
But worn out as it may be getting, it’s valid. Paul begins verse 11 with the word ‘therefore’, so we should glance back and remind ourselves of what has brought us to this point in the chapter.
Remember that Paul is writing to Ephesian believers. In fact, many Bible scholars question whether this letter was specifically addressed to the Ephesian church, or just the gentile churches in general, because verse one of chapter one, in many of the ancient manuscripts, does not contain the words ‘at Ephesus’.
One way or the other though, it is definitely written to gentile believers. That is well established for us in verse 11, having already been alluded to in chapter 1 verse 13 when he says “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth,...”; the ‘you also’ being an accepted reference to the gentile believers as a group.
So when he says in verse 11 “Therefore remember...”, he obviously wants them to remember something in the light of, and in contrast to, what he has told them in previous paragraphs of his letter.