- Published: 13 December 2010
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In Ephesians Paul speaks of himself as the prisoner of the Lord for the Gentiles. Our question is just this: Who are these Gentiles?
In chapter 2 verse 12, these Gentiles are spoken of as being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise. Then on in verse 19, these same ones are told that they are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens in the Holy of Holies and members of the household of God.
Do these terms, aliens, strangers and foreigners refer to some Jews that had neglected circumcision? There is no Scripture that says that Jews neglected circumcision after they came out of the wilderness to enter Canaan. Aliens means alienated from. Does that mean that they were once members of the commonwealth of Israel and then removed? If so, then we prove too much. For in 4:18 it is used of other Gentiles alienated from the life that is in God. Does that mean that they once had life and then lost it? That is not the teaching of Scripture. They were aliens because of ignorance and blindness. So the aliens were not of Israel. Note again the words used; aliens, strangers - strangers, foreigners. The first pair is explained by the latter pair. A foreigner could not be one who had been an Israelite.
Furthermore, if these were Israelites, then where do we come in? Where do the descendants of Japheth have an opportunity? You will note in Gen 9:27 that God was to enlarge Japheth and that he would dwell in the tents of Shem. It is very probable that here tents is the plural of majesty and refers to the Great Tent or Tabernacle of Shem. And that is largely true today. The descendants of Japheth have taken to themselves the God of Shem and worship Him. That is where most of my readers and myself come in. We were at one time aliens and strangers, but now no longer strangers and foreigners. One time far off from God and God's people (as the context shows), but we have contrasting words, such as fellow citizens, of the household of God, a temple in which God dwells by the Spirit, made nigh, etc.
Some of the dispersed of Israel were called far off in relation to their city Jerusalem, but that is not the context of Eph 2:13.
So we would like to reassure those who have been disturbed by the suggestion that when the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles ( Acts 28:28), that it was only to Israelites who were out in the provinces and had neglected circumcision and other Jewish rites. For immediately the question comes up: what part we, who are from the line of Japheth, could have in the salvation of God. Would we still be dogs? Is God still dealing with Israel as a nation, even after the pronouncement of Acts 28:28? And has there been no secret revealed after all, but God's purpose for Israel still going on?
Remember that during Acts the Gentiles who attended synagogues of Israel in Asia and Europe could not have been uncircumcised Israelites. The covenant of Gen 17:14 was still valid.