Welcome to Tuesday’s Foundation Podcast. Yesterday, we looked at who we are – God’s handwork- a one off piece of divine poetry. What an amazing truth that is!
In today’s passage (Verses 11-16 which you can hear read at the end), we discover yet another incredible truth about our identity and then reflect on what our response to this ought to be.
I was particularly drawn to verse 13 which I’ll read for us now:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
‘You who were once far off’.
Paul is writing this letter to the Ephesians – the Gentiles, the non Jews. Throughout the Old Testament, the Gentiles were those people groups who were outside of the covenant God had made with his people through great leaders – through Abraham, Moses and David.
Paul is writing to a people group who would have thought of themselves as outsiders! In V11 -12 , Paul describes how these were a people who at one time were called the ‘uncircumcised’, were ‘separated’, were ‘alienated’, were considered as ‘strangers’, as outsiders to the people of God and the promises He made to them. Paul writes that these were a people without hope. These were a people without the presence of God in their lives.
The Ephesians here represent the entire non Jewish population of that time. In essence, the vast majority of the world’s population were at one time seemingly far off from God. And whilst that was true then, and the Christian faith has since grown rapidly and is indeed flourishing in certain parts of the world, we still of course know that there are many parts of the world, many people who whether it’s through their own choice or through circumstance appear ‘far off’ from God.
Let me read the start of verse 13 again. ‘But now…’. Paul is indicating here that something has fundamentally changed. That the old way has passed. And that something new is here. And that something is Jesus coming to the world. That through Jesus, through God himself coming to live amongst us and through his subsequent death and resurrection, those who were ‘once far off have been brought near’. Those who were once outsiders, who were at one time alienated from God, now have access to Him through the ‘blood of Christ’, through what Jesus did and won for us on the cross. The rest of the passage (verse 14-16) goes on to explain this further.
The far offs were us. That was a reality for us until we met Jesus. For me, it was on an Alpha course, 5 and a half years ago. What about you? Can you point to the time when you realised who were no longer an outsider and that through Jesus, God welcomed you in? Let’s take some time to reflect on that today – that God has rescued us, he’s redeemed us, he’s welcomed us in and let’s give thanks for that.
But let’s also reflect on the fact that there are so many people who we know whose personal reality is that ‘I’m far off‘. The ones who say they don’t need God. The ones who think God couldn’t love them because of what they’ve done in the past. The outsiders – the ones who are always on the edge, the ones no one seems to talk to. The ones that we really don’t like. The ones who seem to waste it all. The ones who mess it up.
The message of today’s passage is this – that may have been a previous reality for people in the past but that time has now gone. There is a new entity – a new people who being restored, being reconciled to God – his church. A place where the ‘far offs’ can be brought near Him.
Our vision here at STC this year is ‘Join Us in Building Community’. It’s a vision to extend an invitation to those who, for whatever reason, find themselves apparently on the outside – to come on in and discover Jesus – who he is and who we really are. It’s a vision that makes us ask the question, ‘Who are the ‘far offs’ that we encounter each and every day?’ Who are the ones God is calling us to invite in? To have over for a meal? To come over for a toddler play date? To hang out at this youth event on a Friday night? To come and join you at this thing you and your mates from church are doing this weekend?
That’s the invitation that we as church are called to extend to others. Jesus changes everything. There are no more far offs. There are just those who are in the process of being brought near. Who are you going to invite in today?
Jesus, thank you that you through you we can know God. That we can know that we are no longer outsiders, that we are welcomed into your family. Open our eyes God today to those who appear far off and show us how we can invite them in. Amen.
READING: EPHESIANS 2:11-16
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.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.