Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: Therefore, remember that at one time you were Gentiles (heathens) in the flesh, called Uncircumcision by those who called themselves Circumcision, [itself a mere mark] in the flesh made by human hands. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NET: Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands – (NET Bible)
NLT: Don't forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders by birth. You were called "the uncircumcised ones" by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Do not lose sight of the fact that you were born "Gentiles", known by those whose bodies were circumcised as "the uncircumcised". (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: On this account be remembering that at one time, you, the Gentiles in the flesh, the ones habitually called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hand, (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: Wherefore, remember, that ye were once the nations in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands
THEREFORE REMEMBER THAT FORMERLY YOU, THE GENTILES IN THE FLESH: Dio mnemoneuete (2PPAM) hoti pote humeis ta ethne en sarki: (Eph 5:8; Deuteronomy 5:15; 8:2; 9:7; 15:15; 16:12; Isaiah 51:1,2; Ezekiel 16:61-63; 20:43; Ezekiel 36:31; 1Corinthians 6:11; 12:2; Galatians 4:8,9) (Romans 2:29; Galatians 2:15; 6:12; Colossians 1:21; 2:13)
Therefore (for this reason) (1352) (dio) is a term of conclusion which can also be translated "on this account" or "consequently". This charge to remember refers the reader not just to the preceding verses but all the way back to Ephesians 2:1 (And you were dead in your trespasses and sins), because this entire section is a single sentence in the original Greek.
W G Blaikie comments on "therefore" noting that…
Expositors agrees noting that…
Pulpit Commentary - The practical tenor of the apostle’s teaching is indicated by his “therefores.” He is always gathering up his views into some lesson. They are to “remember” the change between the past and the present—what they were by nature, and what they had become by grace. This is most useful to all, even though the contrast between the two be not so vivid as in the case of Paul and the Ephesians. The contrast is indicated in various particulars, both of outward condition and of inward privilege and character. First, the old condition. They were “Gentiles in respect of the flesh”—not bearing on their bodies the mark of the Israel of God, therefore not marked out for blessing, not apparently near it. (Ephesians 2 Exposition)
John Eadie - lest any feeling of self-satisfaction should spring up within them, they were not to forget their previous state and character. This exercise of memory would deepen their humility, elevate their ideas of Divine grace, and incite them to ardent and continued thankfulness. The apostle honestly refers them to their previous Gentilism. (John Eadie Commentary)
S Lewis Johnson writes that…
Remember (3421) (mnemoneuo from mnaomai = remember, call to mind, recall information) means to use the faculty of memory given by God and keep in one’s mind people, things, and circumstances because memory is basis of learning and of motivation for future action.
The remembering Paul is calling for is not simply a recalling of certain facts or situations nor simply a mental exercise but involved an meditation on what had happened and an acting upon it as a result. And "remember" (pun intended) that all God's commands include the divine provision of His enabling power supplied by His indwelling Spirit, Who provides not only the power to obey but the desire to obey - see Phil 2:13-note).
Mnemoneuo - 21x in 21v - Mt 16:9; Mark 8:18; Luke 17:32; Jn 15:20; 16:4, 21; Acts 20:31, 35; Gal 2:10; Eph 2:11; Col 4:18; 1Th 1:3; 2:9; 2Th 2:5; 2Ti 2:8; Heb 11:15, 22; 13:7; Rev 2:5; 3:3; 18:5. NAS = bearing in mind(1), made mention(1), recall(1), remember(14), remembered(1), remembering(1), remembers(1), thinking(1).
Paul uses the present imperative, thus issuing a command to continually remember the dismal spiritual condition you once were in as pagan Gentiles (Eph 2:1-3)! Second-generation Gentile believers, such as is likely the case with many who were reading Paul's epistle might be beginning to forget former abysmal dead spiritual condition outside of Christ. Paul is desirous for these Ephesians to truly apprehend what a tremendous thing it was that they should ever have become Christians, and not just that but that they should be members of the body of Christ Who is their Head! We must keep remembering these great miraculous truths, lest we slip into apathy and leave our first love as Ephesus did in only one generation removed from the readers. John records Christ's woeful words to the church at Ephesus (only some 30+ years later - beware of backsliding beloved!), the Lord Jesus Christ declaring…
When was the last time you remembered your salvation experience or better yet remember your former state of utter depravity and desperation outside of Christ? Perhaps now is a good time to pause and recall your "so great a salvation" (Heb 2:3-note). It is excellent "preventative medicine" for your soul. Nothing inspires gratitude more in a saved sinner than a look back to the pit from which he or she has been extracted by Divine, Amazing, Abounding Grace! Glory!!!
Why remember? Remembering should stimulate in believers an attitude of gratitude as well as an attitude of humility as we recall the striking contrast of the before/after pictures presented in the opening verses in Ephesians 2 (see notes Ephesians 2:1; 2:2; 2:3) and later in
To remember calls for one to make a decision (Remember is in the active voice = volitional choice, choice of one's will) with the implication that from that thought recalled flows heart felt gratitude to God. Perhaps however this suggestion finds you in the valley and remembering God's infinite mercies and abounding grace is not your heart's desire. Below is a worthy petition you might considering pleading before your Father in heaven (taken from the great resource Valley of Vision - a compilation of Puritan prayers)…
Now take a moment and bless the LORD, as you remember some of His great benefits. This will be good for your soul. (Ps 103:1,2)
The great Scottish expositor John Eadie wrote that…
The famous Puritan Pastor John Bunyan penned these thoughts on "remembering" which are apropos to this verse and to most of us for most reading these notes are Gentile believers…
The Pulpit Commentary has a nice section on "The Uses of Remembrance"…
That (3754) (hoti) gives the content of what is to be remembered.
Formerly (4218) (pote) means at some time and in context refers to the past. "You were at one time" is the idea. Note the repetition of this word in Ephesians 2 (Ep 2:2, 3, 11, 13-Ep 2:2; 2:3; 2:11; 2:13) in addition to the synonymous time phrase "at that time". (Ep 2:12-note). Clearly this is a key word in this section.
Pote - 48x in 45v - Matt 17:17; 24:3; 25:37ff, 44; Mark 9:19; 13:4, 33, 35; Luke 9:41; 12:36; 17:20; 21:7; 22:32; John 6:25; 9:13; 10:24; Rom 1:10; 7:9; 11:30; 1 Cor 9:7; Gal 1:13, 23; 2:6; Eph 2:2f, 11, 13; 5:8, 29; Phil 4:10; Col 1:21; 3:7; 1 Thess 2:5; Titus 3:3; Philemon 1:11; Heb 1:5, 13; 1 Pet 2:10; 3:5, 20; 2 Pet 1:10, 21; Rev 6:10. NAS = any time(1), ever(4), former(1), former times(1), formerly(8), last(2), never*(2), once(8), when(1), when once(1).
The principle of remembering what we formerly were is firmly rooted in the Old Testament, Moses for example recording…
In these OT passages, observe the repetition of the theme to remember what slavery was like (cf, Ex 2:23 "the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God"). How appropriate for Gentiles who are now believers to remember their former bondage to Sin and Satan! How prone to wander we all are! The remedy is to remember!
The "remember principle" is repeated in the New Testament…
Gentiles (1484) (ethnos - English "ethnic") defines a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions. In this verse Gentiles is preceded by the definite article ("the") in the Greek text, marking Gentiles out as a distinct class. Basically all of mankind can be divided into Jew and Gentile and thus "Gentile" is a synonym for anyone who is non-Jew, who is not a member of the "chosen people". The Hebrew word corresponding to Gentile is goyim. This description arises from a Jewish standpoint since neither Romans nor Greeks would call themselves Gentiles.
From Genesis 12 onward the majority of the Scriptures are about the Jews, with the Gentiles mentioned as they interface with the Jews. The NT does have more mention of the Gentiles after the formation of the Church (and Acts was written by a Gentile, Dr Luke), but the last book, the book of Revelation is predominantly Jewish with over 200 OT quotes or allusions to OT passages. Beloved, God is not finished with the literal nation of Israel as is erroneously and sadly taught even in evangelical churches.
In the flesh - Paul is not contrasting "in the flesh" versus "in the Spirit" as he does in Galatians (a different context) but in this context is referring to the covering of the body (specifically the prepuce). Paul uses this imagery in Colossians writing to the predominantly Gentile church reminding them that…
WHO ARE CALLED "UNCIRCUMCISION" BY THE SO-CALLED CIRCUMCISION : oi legomenoi (PPPMPN) akrobustia hupo tes legomenes (PPPFSG) peritomes: (1Samuel 17:26,36; Jeremiah 9:25,26; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 3:11)
Called (3004) (lego) means to speak or say something to explain more fully implications or intent of what has been said.
For modern day Christians it is somewhat difficult to fully appreciate the impediment that existed between those of the "uncircumcision" and those of the "circumcision". And yet the ancient world was truly divided into these two main groups, Jews and Gentiles. Not only was it a fact that the Gentiles had not been circumcised but sadly the Jews had exaggerated that fact, and had made it a wall of division which seemed to create a gap that could not be bridged! The uncircumcision of Gentiles was evidence of their estrangement from God, which in Jewish eyes could only be dealt with if a Gentile became a proselyte to the Jewish faith.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that…
Uncircumcision (203) (akrobustia [word study] from ákron = the extreme + búo = cover) refers to the prepuce or foreskin and thus to one who is uncircumcised and is known as the uncircumcision, which in context refers to the pagan Gentile. Uncircumcision was a name of contempt that the Jews flung at the Gentiles and was indicative of the low regard in which they were held.
Akrobustia - 20x in 17v - Acts 11:3; Ro 2:25, 26, 27; 3:30; 4:9, 10, 11; 1 Cor 7:18, 19; Gal 2:7; 5:6; 6:15; Eph 2:11; Col 2:13; 3:11.
Akrobustia is found in 16 verses in the non-apocryphal Septuagint all except Jeremiah speaking of literal circumcision - Gen 17:11, 14, 23, 24, 25; 34:14, 24; Ex 4:25; Lev 12:3; Josh 5:3; 1Sa 18:25, 27; 2Sa 3:14; Jer 9:25
Hodge writes that the term uncircumcision…
W G Blaikie comments on "uncircumcision" noting that the Gentiles…
David uses this same disparaging name ("uncircumcision") in his description of Goliath asking…
Circumcision (4061) (peritome [word study] from perí = around + témno = cut off) refers literally to cutting and removal of the foreskin. In context Paul is using peritome to refer not to the act of circumcision but to the people who were commanded to carry out this act, specifically the Jews.
Peritome - 36x in 32v - John 7:22, 23; Acts 7:8; 10:45; 11:2; Rom 2:25, 26, 27, 28, 29; 3:1, 30; 4:9, 10, 11, 12, ; 15:8; 1Cor 7:19; Gal 2:7, 8, 9, 12; 5:6, 11; 6:15; Eph 2:11; Phil 3:3, 5; Col 2:11; 3:11; 4:11; Titus 1:10
John MacArthur - A rabbinic writer tells of an incident that explains the common Jewish attitude toward Gentiles. A certain Gentile woman came to Rabbi Eleazar, confessed that she was sinful, and told him that she wanted to become righteous. She wanted to be accepted into the Jewish faith because she had heard that the Jews were near to God. The rabbi is said to have responded, “No. You cannot come near,” and then shut the door in her face… God made Israel distinct for two reasons. First, He wanted the world to see and notice them, to realize that they did not live and act like other men. Second, He wanted them to be so distinct that they would never be amalgamated with other peoples. He gave them such strict dietary, clothing, marriage, ceremonial, and other laws that they could never fit easily into another society. Those distinctions, like the special blessings God gave them, were intended to be a tool for witness. But Israel continually perverted them into a source for pride, isolation, and self–glory… When a Jew entered Palestine he would often shake the dust off his sandals and clothing in order not to contaminate the Holy Land with Gentile dust. Because Samaritans were partly Gentile, most Jews would go far out of their way to avoid traveling through Samaria. If a young Jewish man or woman married a Gentile, their families would have a funeral service, symbolizing the death of their child as far as religion, race, and family were concerned. For fear of contamination, many Jews would not enter a Gentile home or allow a Gentile to enter theirs. For many hundreds of years the animosity between Jew and Gentile had festered and grown. Although they were not always in open conflict, their mutual contempt continued to widen the gulf between them. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
John Eadie writes that circumcision "was the national distinction on which the Jews flattered themselves. Other Abrahamic tribes, indeed, were circumcised, but the special promise was—“In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (The Epistle of St Paul to the Ephesians)
The sign of circumcision was given as a command by God to Abraham in Genesis 17…
As time went on the command was neglected, especially during the days when the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness. Perhaps this was a sign that the nation had broken their covenant with God through their disobedience. The rite of circumcision was resumed when they entered the land of Canaan, with Joshua performing the ritual on the generation born in the wilderness (Joshua 5). Over the years that followed, the Jews came to take great pride in circumcision and in fact as alluded to here in Ephesians 2:11, circumcision came to be synonymous with Judaism and was touted as a badge of their spiritual and national superiority! This practice fostered an exclusivist mentality instead of a missionary zeal to reach the Gentiles which was God's original intent for His "chosen" people who were to be lights unto the Gentiles.
A daily prayer of a strict Jewish male was to thank God that he was neither a woman, a Samaritan, nor a Gentile. Gentiles came to be regarded by the Jews as the “uncircumcision,” a term of disrespect implying that non-Jewish peoples were outside the circle of God’s love. In divine irony, as discussed below, God applied the same term ("uncircumcised") to His "chosen" people. The terms “circumcised” and “uncircumcised” became emotionally charged symbols to Israel and their Gentile neighbors. This issue later brought discord into the fellowship of the New Testament church (see Acts 15) and especially caused confusion about how one obtained genuine salvation (read the epistle to the Galatians).
The Jews should have known the true spiritual meaning of circumcision for several reasons. One of the most important reasons is "chronological". That is God's command to Abraham to undergo circumcision was many years after his "day of salvation" recorded by Moses in Genesis 15…
Another reason the Jews should have understood the symbolic nature of circumcision was that Moses and several of Israel's prophets used the term “circumcised” as a symbol for purity of heart and readiness to hear and obey. For example, through Moses the Lord challenged the Israelites to submit and
In short, the most significant aspect of the physical act of circumcision was that it was a symbol or sign and as such it pictured man's need for his heart to be cleansed from sin’s deadly disease. This "cutting" needed to happen internally, for God was calling for the removal of the "body of the flesh" (Col 2:11-note), which represent the "sin virus" inherited from Adam and which kept man dead in his transgressions and alienated and hostile toward God. It may be that God selected the reproductive organ as the location of the symbol for man’s need of cleansing for sin, because it is the instrument that sadly is most indicative of man's depravity and since by it he reproduces new little sinners (who are infected with the same "sin virus" from Adam - Ro 5:12-note).
In summary, physical circumcision was a sign of being under God’s covenant with Abraham, a covenant that was entered into by faith, not by works. But the Jews for the most part turned it around and made circumcision a work by which they falsely thought one could enter into covenant with God.
In the midst of a series of warnings to Israel regarding punishment for disobedience to the LORD, Moses records a ray of hope in God's gracious promise that
Much of the Old Testament is a record of Israel's continual rebellion against God, and the root cause of this rebellion was an “uncircumcised heart,” a heart that had never been changed by the LORD and one which therefore refused to bow and to be humbled before Him.
Moses gave Israel a prophetic promise that
What God's law demanded, God's grace enabled. As noted above, Deuteronomy 30:6 primarily refers to the future salvation of Jews alive at the return of Christ, when by faith they will have their hearts circumcised. In the intervening centuries, God has partially fulfilled this promise, as there have always been physical Jews who by faith received God's promise of new life in Christ (and how we praise God for these dear souls who compose the remnant!) In the OT, the believers were looking forward to the Cross (cf Gal 3:8, 16), whereas in the NT they (and all believers today) look back to the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Thus circumcision of heart defines an internal work by God's Spirit and is another way to describe genuine salvation, a salvation that imparts to that individual a new heart and a new will (a "want to") that out of love and a longing for holiness, desires to to obey God instead of to rebel against Him. This promise of a new heart would allow the Israelites to love the Lord with all their heart and soul, and reaches its fullest expression in the New Covenant (read Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 11:19, 36:26 - see also notes on topic New Covenant in the Old Testament).
The physical circumcision God had called for was always meant to be an external sign of an internal change of heart resulting in a love for God. Thus Paul wrote that in Christ the believers at Colossae
Here Paul is explaining the figurative meaning of circumcision as the "cutting off" of Christ at His Crucifixion.
In Romans Paul had made it clear that
This internal "circumcision" is what Jesus was alluding to when He declared
On the basis of the previous explanation, now you can understand what Jeremiah meant when he addressed faithless, unbelieving Judah and Jerusalem commanding them to…
As Biblical history records they refused to heed the warning and were utterly defeated by Nebuchadnezzar in 589BC.
Jeremiah characterized rebellious Israel as having “uncircumcised” ears declaring
Through Jeremiah the LORD later says
The Jews boasted in the covenant sign of circumcision, but it was only in their physical flesh and not "the foreskin of their heart". The true spiritual circumcision God always desired had never transpired in their hard hearts. In a similar way, people today who depend on baptism, any church sacrament (ordinance) or any supposed "meritorious" work, and yet who have never repented and trusted in Christ, are in the same situation as the Jews in Jeremiah’s day - they may think that they are a part of the God's New Covenant, but their confidence is false and they stand deceived and in imminent danger of entering into a Christ-less eternity. (cf the notes on Jesus' loving but stern warning in Mt 7:21, 22, 23-Mt 7:21, 22; 23)
In Acts Stephen infuriated his Jewish audience with the indictment that
Their uncircumcision in heart and ears marks the Jews as just like the unsaved Gentiles (who Paul refers to here in Ephesians 2:11 as the "uncircumcision"). Their sin had never been forgiven. They were as unclean before God as uncircumcised Gentiles and they therefore stood condemned before God.
A crisis erupted in the church at Antioch when some men
The Judaizers insisted that a believer from a non-Jewish background (Gentile) must first become a Jew ceremonially (by being circumcised) before he could be admitted to the Christian brotherhood. A council of apostles and elders was convened in Jerusalem to resolve the issue (Acts 15:6-29). Among those attending were Paul, Barnabas, Simon Peter, and James, a leader of the Jerusalem church. To insist on circumcision for the Gentiles, Peter argued, would amount to a burdensome yoke (Acts 15:10,19). This was the decision handed down by the council, and the church broke away from the binding legalism of Judaism which demanded physical circumcision.
How do these truths about circumcision apply today? We have already inferred that there are many who may have been taught as children, and even as adults that the thing that makes them acceptable to God is the fact that they were baptized or that they joined a church, etc. To the Jew it was the rite of circumcision that gave them the false confidence that they were acceptable to God. But tragically they distorted the clear teaching of both the Old and New Testaments. Why? Because they failed to read what had been clearly stated -- that circumcision as originally commanded was only meant to be a sign of the covenant (Ge 17:11). To reiterate, circumcision was an external sign of an internal work of grace by faith (Genesis 15:6), when Abraham believed. Remember, as discussed above, that Abraham's belief and "day of salvation" (the day his heart was "spiritually circumcised") preceded by many years God's call for physical circumcision.
The Jews read what the "sages" and "wise" rabbis wrote in the Talmud and other writings about the meaning of circumcision -- they read and heard what other men said (the "commentaries" so to speak) but failed to check it out with what God said (Acts 17:11) and it cost them dearly (and eternally). The question one must ask is have many in the modern day church gone the same route placing more emphasis on what men say about the Word of God than in what God says in His Word? Have many based their eternal destiny on a physical act performed in the flesh or on a spiritual transaction performed on the heart by the Spirit?
WHICH IS PERFORMED IN THE FLESH BY HUMAN HANDS : en sarki cheiropoietou: (Colossians 2:11)
Performed by human hands (5499) (cheiropoietos from cheir = hand + poieo = make) describes whatever is handmade or is manufactured and thus is of human construction and human skill.
Paul emphasizes that circumcision is performed “in the flesh by human hands” so that the reader will recognize circumcision for what it is—an imperfect, outward sign of an inner-spiritual reality. The New Testament parallel over which many stumble is baptism. The physical act of baptism doesn’t save but is merely the outward expression of the inner heart transformation God produces in the individual who is saved by grace through faith.
In the Septuagint (LXX) cheiropoietos is used of idols. For example in Leviticus 26 we read…
O'Brien adds this note on cheiropoietos…
Flesh (4561) (sarx) in this context refers to the physical flesh. In summary, Paul makes it abundantly clear in three ways that the Jews to whom he refers are not saved - "so called circumcision" (God was always more interested in the internal heart circumcision), "in the flesh" (not in the heart), "by human hands" (not by the Spirit of God) (See notes Romans 2:28; 2:29).
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Harry Ironside was on a train going to a preaching assignment in southern California when he was accosted by a gypsy who said
To which Ironside replied…
The gypsy replied earnestly
At that point Ironside reached into his pocket and brought out his New Testament.
With that introduction Ironside turned to Ephesians 2 and read the words “you were dead in your transgressions and sins… ” declaring…
The woman tried to get away protesting
To which Ironside replied…
Undeterred Ironside continued
By this time the gypsy was on her feet and on her way down the aisle, exclaiming…
Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: [Remember] that you were at that time separated (living apart) from Christ [excluded from all part in Him], utterly estranged and outlawed from the rights of Israel as a nation, and strangers with no share in the sacred compacts of the [Messianic] promise [with no knowledge of or right in God’s agreements, His covenants]. And you had no hope (no promise); you were in the world without God. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NET: that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (NET Bible)
NLT: In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from God's people, Israel, and you did not know the promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: You were without Christ, you were utter strangers to God's chosen community, the Jews, and you had no knowledge of, or right to, the promised agreements. You had nothing to look forward to and no God to whom you could turn. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: that you were at that time without a Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of the Israel and strangers from the covenants of the promise, not having hope and without God in the world. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: that ye were at that time apart from Christ, having been alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and without God, in the world;
You Gentiles were characterized spiritually by 5 "less attributes" - Christ-less, country-less, covenant-less, hope-less and god-less!
Remember has been added here by the translators for continuity.
Now Paul enumerates five things that were true of the uncircumcised Gentiles. If you don’t understand the history behind the Gentile nations and where Israel came from, then you don’t really understand the significance of how powerful the before/after truths in Ephesians 2 really are. Most of us are Gentiles and naturally we have a "Gentile mentality" thinking we deserve salvation and the Jews have received their due. We mistakenly think that God immediately came to save Gentiles. Many even forget that Jesus Himself was a Jew! Gentiles don’t seem to understand we are the late comers. We were the ones far off who have been brought near as Paul describes in Ep 2:13-note.
At that time - before your salvation experience when you were still dead in your trespasses and sins. Synonymous with "formerly" as discussed above.
Time (2540) (kairos [word study]) means a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. It means a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time (at the right time). Kairos speaks of a limited period of time, with the added notion of suitableness ("the suitable time", "the right moment", "the convenient time"). Kairos refers to a distinct, fixed time period, rather than occasional moments.
Kairos is not so much a succession of minutes (Greek chronos 5550), but a period of opportunity. Chronos refers to chronological time, to clock time or calendar time, to a general space or succession of time. Kairos, on the other hand, refers to a specific and often predetermined period or moment of time and so views time in terms of events, eras, or seasons. In other words, kairos defines the best time to do something, the moment when circumstances are most suitable, the psychologically "ripe" moment.
Separate (5565) (choris) is used as an improper preposition to mean apart from, separate from, at a space. It means separately and serves as a marker of dissociation indicating a distinct separation from something.
Choris - 41x in 38v - Matt 13:34; 14:21; 15:38; Mark 4:34; Luke 6:49; John 1:3; 15:5; 20:7; Rom 3:21, 28; 4:6; 7:8f; 10:14; 1 Cor 4:8; 11:11; 2 Cor 11:28; 12:3; Eph 2:12; Phil 2:14; 1 Tim 2:8; 5:21; Philemon 1:14; Heb 4:15; 7:7, 20; 9:7, 18, 22, 28; 10:28; 11:6, 40; 12:8, 14; Jas 2:18, 20, 26
Christ (5547) (Christos from chrio = to rub or anoint, consecrate to an office) is a transliteration of the Greek word Christos and refers to the Anointed One and thus is a title of the Messiah (the English translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach = besmeared or anointed), Who is the Divine One the Jews were looking for and of Whom the Old Testament bore prolific prophetic witness.
NET Bible Notes - Both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.” Because the context refers to ancient Israel’s messianic expectation, (Ed note: not that the majority Jews had received Messiah as Savior though, cf John 1:11,12 and remnant) “Messiah” was employed in the translation at this point rather than “Christ.” (The NET Bible Notes. Biblical Studies Press)
The Uncircumcised Gentiles had no connection with Christ. The Jews (even those who were not saved) lived with an attitude of at least hoping and waiting for the coming of their Messiah (e.g., note this same belief among Orthodox Jews in Israel persists in our time - but they are looking for His "first coming" not accepting the truth that He has already come once as Savior and next as King of kings). On the other hand the Gentiles had no expectation of a Messiah to light up their spiritual darkness and they knew nothing at all about Him.
Albert Barnes - You were without the knowledge of the Messiah. You had not heard of him; of course you had not embraced him. You were living without any of the hopes and consolations which you now have, from having embraced him. The object of the apostle is to remind them of the deplorable condition in which they were by nature; and nothing would better express it than to say they were "without Christ," or that they had no knowledge of a Saviour. They knew of no atonement for sin. They had no assurance of pardon. They had no well-founded hope of eternal life. They were in a state of darkness and condemnation, from which nothing but a knowledge of Christ could deliver them. All Christians may, in like manner, be reminded of the fact that, before their conversion, they were "without Christ." Though they had heard of him, and were constantly under the instruction which reminded them of him, yet they were without any true knowledge of him, and without any of the hopes which result from having embraced him. Many were infidels. Many were scoffers. Many were profane, sensual, corrupt. Many rejected Christ with scorn; many by simple neglect. All were without any true knowledge of him; all were destitute of the peace and hope which result from a saving acquaintance with him. We may add, that there is no more affecting description of the state of man by nature than to say, he is without a Saviour. Sad would be the condition of the world without a Redeemer-sad is the state of that portion of mankind who reject him. Reader, are you without Christ? (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)
MacArthur writes that the Gentile's…
Eadie - The Jewish nation had Christ in some sense in which the Gentiles had Him not. It had the Messiah—not Jesus indeed—but the Christ in promise. He was the great subject—the one glowing, pervading promise of their inspired oracles. But the Gentiles were “without Christ.” No such hopes or promises were made known to them. No such predictions were given to them, so that they were in contrast to the chosen seed—“without Christ.” The rites, blessings, commonwealth, and covenants of old Israel had their origin in this promise of Messiah. On the other hand, the Gentiles being without Messiah, were of necessity destitute of such theocratic blessings and institutions. Such seems to be the contrast intended by the apostle. (John Eadie Commentary)
Wuest explains that…
Jeremiah pleaded with God on the basis of His Messianic Name, the "Hope of Israel" (God's Names all reveal some aspect or attribute of His character), declaring
In spiritual terms to be without Christ meant the Gentiles were (among other things) without salvation for there is none in any other name (Acts 4:12), without the real Life of which He is the Only Source (John 14:6), without the Light of which He is the Only Source (John 8:12), without peace for He Alone made peace through the blood of His Cross and without the rest He Alone gives (Mt 11:28).
In Romans 9 Paul has a similar list of "Jewish advantages" writing…
It is interesting that although the Gentiles were separated from Christ, Christ still had them on His heart declaring in John…
EXCLUDED FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL: apellotriomenoi (RPPMPN) tes politeias tou Israel: (Eph 4:18; Ezra 4:3; Isaiah 61:5; Ezekiel 13:9; Hebrews 11:34)
KJV translates excluded "aliens from". In respect to the nation of Israel, the Gentiles were aliens or those who did not “belong.” They were strangers and foreigners, without the rights and privileges of citizenship in the nation of Israel. As far as the community of Israel was concerned, the Gentiles were on the outside, looking in. In the OT God had a covenant with the nation of Israel and governed that state directly. Those who were not Jews were foreigners or aliens.
Constable summarizes this Gentile deficit writing that…
Excluded (526) (apallotrioo from apó = marker of dissociation implying rupture of former association with emphasis on the idea of separation + allotrióo = alienate from allotrios = strange, foreign, an enemy) means to alienate entirely, to be alienated or to be estranged from. To be cut off entirely. Alienated always implies loss of affection or interest. It is not simply being called aliens but living in that state, a state of complete estrangement, the state prior to man’s reconciliation to God.
The idea of separation and estrangement is strongly expressed by apallotrioo.
Webster adds that alienate means to to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent where attachment formerly existed.
Paul's use of the perfect tense speaks of the permanence of the Gentile condition of alienation. Thus apallotrioo is a powerful term, indicating the desperate and settled state of the lost. Had God's Spirit not intervened this would our settled state, fellow saint. This truth should stimulate at least an "arrow prayer" of thanksgiving to our Father for having performed so great a salvation!
In Ephesians 4 Paul is describing lost Gentiles as…
The only other NT use of apallotrioo is also by Paul and again to remind his believing readers that…
In sum, the three NT uses of apallotrioo describe the tragic threefold state of alienation of every unbeliever - from God (Colossians 1:21), from life of God (Ephesians 4:18) and from the commonwealth of Israel.
There are 9 uses of apallotrioo in the Septuagint (LXX) (Josh 22:25; Job 21:29; Ps 58:3; 69:8; Jer 19:4; 50:8; Ezek 14:5, 7; Hos 9:10)
Apallotrioo is used by Josephus to denote a sentence of expatriation. (Antiquities 11.4)
Apallotrioo is used in the Septuagint where David explains that
David's point is that their corruption is not a development of later life but can be traced back to their birth - they were alienated and estranged from birth. Their lawlessness and rebellion are inborn, so that as men begin to talk, they begin to lie! They don't have to be taught! In Ezekiel God says that
Commonwealth (4174) (politeia from politeúo = to behave or act as a free citizen <> compare polites = citizen, inhabitant of a city, one who has the right of citizenship) is literally the condition and the civic rights belonging to members of a political entity. It defines the right to be a member of a sociopolitical entity. The literal use thus describes citizenship, with the inherent rights and freedom belonging to a citizen.
Politeia indicates the government of Israel framed by God in which religion and polity were joined (a far cry from the so-called separation of church and state argument we hear almost daily on the news in post-Christian America).
Politeia was a significant word in the Roman Empire and Paul draws on his privilege as Roman citizen in order to keep from being scourged, Luke recording that…
Here in Ephesians 2:12 Paul uses politeia figuratively as an allusion to the privileged religious position of Israel in God's plan of the ages.
Barnes writes that "excluded from the commonwealth of Israel"…
Expositors comments that "excluded from the commonwealth"…
John Eadie has an interesting note writing that…
Israel (2474) (Israel) refers to the people and/or nation of Israel.
Marvin Vincent in his note on Acts 3:12 explains that the title Israel was
AND STRANGERS TO THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE: kai xenoi ton diathekon tes epaggelias: (Genesis 15:18; 17:7, 8, 9; Exodus 24:3-11; Numbers 18:19; Psalms 89:3-18; Jeremiah 31:31, 32, 33, 34; Jeremiah 33:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26; Ezekiel 37:26; Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; Romans 9:4,5,8; Galatians 3:16,17)
Strangers (3581) (xenos) describes a person (Gentile) belonging to socio-political group other than reference group (Jew). Xenos has the particular meaning of one who is not a member of a state or city, is used here in a general sense of foreign to a thing, having no share in it. Gentiles were spiritually "homeless", not having any share in or access to the Messianic promises in the Covenants. In this respect, the Gentiles were in the position of aliens who could not claim the prerogatives of nationals.
One can find numerous books in Christian bookstores which catalogue the thousands of promises of God in the Bible, but Paul's implication in this verse is that (with few exceptions), the Gentiles had no access or right to partake of these "promise books" because the majority of the promises apply to those who are in Christ!
Peter writes of the exclusivity of the divine promises explaining that God
A stranger is one ignorant of or unacquainted with someone or something, in this case the "covenants of promise" which God gave to Israel. In a certain sense this is still true of all unbelievers.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that unbelievers…
Covenants of promise - means covenants having the promise as their distinctive possession, and characterized by it.
Wayne Barber writes that…
Covenants (1242) (diatheke from dia = two + tithemi = to place pictures that which is placed between two Thus, a covenant is something placed between two, an arrangement between two parties.) was a commonly used in the Greco-Roman world to define a legal transaction in settling an inheritance. Diatheke denotes an irrevocable decision, which cannot be cancelled by anyone. A prerequisite of its effectiveness before the law is the death of the disposer and thus diatheke was like a "final will and testament". In reference to the divine covenants, such as the Abrahamic covenant, diatheke is not a covenant in the sense that God came to agreement or compromise with fallen man as if signing a contract. Rather, it involves declaration of God’s unconditional promise to make Abraham and his seed the recipients of certain blessings.
Promise (1860) (epaggelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) originally referred to an announcement or declaration but in later Greek came to mean a declaration to do something with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated (thus a promise or pledge). It is notable that in the Greek the definite article ("the" - tes epaggelias) indicates not just any promise but "the" promise, which in turn probably alludes to the promised Messiah as the ultimate promise.
In Acts Luke records this instructive passage…
In Romans Paul speaks of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant writing…
Barnes - The covenants of promise were those various arrangements which God made with his people, by which he promised them future blessings, and especially by which he promised that the Messiah should come. To be in possession of them was regarded as a high honour and privilege; and Paul refers to it here to show that, though the Ephesians had been by nature without these, yet they had now been brought to enjoy all the benefits of them. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)
Vincent feels the promise here is specifically
The Covenants of promise would include the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.
The promises to Abraham were based on this covenant, a covenant the Gentiles had no share in. In the same way the Gentiles were "strangers to" the encouraging blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant.
And so we see that the Gentiles were "strangers to this covenant of promise" the ultimate promise being that of righteousness imputed by God through faith in God's promises which ultimately culminated in the promised Messiah as Paul explains to the Galatians writing that…
(2) The New
The New Covenant was first given to Israel (not to the "Church" as is commonly misunderstood) in the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Although the name "New Covenant" is not found in Ezekiel's prophecy, nevertheless this prophecy clearly gives further truths regarding this covenant.
At the Last Supper (the Passover meal) Jesus shared with His disciples, He explained to them that what they were about to partake of was symbolic of His coming sacrifice on the Cross. When Jesus offered His body as the perfect sin offering, the New Covenant was inaugurated, His blood representing the blood of the New Covenant. Remembering that this covenant was initially offered to Jews in the OT and was inaugurated in the presence of Jesus' Jewish disciples, we begin to understand the import of the declaration that they Gentiles were "strangers to the covenants of promise."
(3) The Davidic
The promises of this covenant are first described in 2 Samuel 7 where we see God speaking to King David declaring…
Although the word "covenant" is not used in this preceding passage, the following passage identifies God's word as one of the "covenants of promise".
The fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant which was promised "forever" would of necessity have to pass through the line of David, a lineage which Paul summarizes in the opening verses of Romans writing…
Jesus Christ was in the line of David and it would be through Him that the covenant promises of an everlasting kingdom would be fulfilled. The apostle John elaborates on this fulfillment in the Revelation, explaining that when Jesus returns at the end of this age…
And thus we see the fulfillment of the promises of the Davidic Covenant as the Suffering Servant returns as King of kings to begin His reign on earth for 1000 years (Millennium, Part 2, Part 3) after His defeat of the Antichrist and his allies. John records this in a vision writing…
HAVING NO HOPE: elpida me echontes (PAPMPN): (Jeremiah 14:8; 17:13; John 4:22; Acts 28:20; Colossians 1:5,27; 1Thessalonians 4:13; 2Thessalonians 2:16; 1Timothy 1:1; Hebrews 6:18; 1Peter 1:3,21; 3:15; 1John 3:3)
Having (2192) (echo) means literally to have or hold something and figuratively of possessing something in the present context.
Having no ground for looking forward to better times, no reasonable expectation of improvement in your religious condition. Gentiles were hopeless. Like all men they had aspirations for the present and lived for the present moment, but cherished no hope for the future and the life after death.
H ope (1680) (elpis [word study]) in Scripture is not the world's definition of "I hope so", with a few rare exceptions (e.g., Acts 27:20.) Hope is defined as a desire for some future good with the expectation of obtaining it. Hope is confident expectancy. Hope is the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment. All of these aspects of Biblical "hope" were something the pagan Gentiles sorely lack.
If there is no hope, all is lost. Without hope there is nothing. Hopeless is surely one of the most dreadful words in the English language.
As Hodge writes…
John MacArthur explains hope writing that…
In the OT we see that God is referred to by this term "hope", Jeremiah recording…
In Acts Paul testifies…
Paul mentions "no hope" in his letter to the saints at Thessalonica writing that…
Expositors Greek New Testament adds that…
The only hope a pagan Gentile could count on was a desire for some future occurrence of which they could not be assured of attaining. In fact, because of this fact, the ancient world did not generally regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion. Historians tell us that a great cloud of hopelessness covered the Gentile world. Philosophies were empty; traditions were disappearing; religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. People longed to pierce the veil and get some message of hope from the other side, but there found none unless they found Christ.
Seneca, Rome's leading intellectual figure, tutor of the depraved emperor Nero (who forced Seneca to commit suicide!) and contemporary of Paul, tragically defined hope as “an uncertain good”, the antithesis of Biblical hope! but really the only correct definition of a Gentile's hope! What a difference the new birth in Christ makes in one's perspective.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's gave a Gentile perspective on hope writing that it is “the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.”
A study of WWII concentration camp survivors found that those prisoners who were able to hold onto their sense of hope (‘things are going to get better’ or ‘we’re going to get out of here one day’) were much more likely to survive. Hope was not optional but for the prisoners proved to be a matter of life and death.
Hope in Scripture is the absolute certainty of future good and believers are to be continually, actively, expectantly "looking for (prosdechomai) the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." (Titus 2:13-note)
A living hope motivates a "looking" hope" so that believers are those who are (at least they should be) waiting eagerly, expectantly and anxiously for Christ's return at any moment, this Messianic hope (certainty) providing great incentive to "discipline (one's self) for the purpose of godliness" (1Ti 4:7-note) knowing that godliness "is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1Ti 4:8-note)
AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD: kai atheoi en to kosmo: (2Chronicles 15:3; Isaiah 44:6; 45:20; Hosea 3:4; Acts 14:15,16; Romans 1:28, 29, 30, 31, 32; 1Corinthians 8:4, 5, 6; 10:19,20; Galatians 4:8; 1Thessalonians 4:5)
Without God (112) (atheos from a = without + Theós = God) is literally without God and is equivalent to an "atheist"!
The verse could be paraphrased "and atheists in the world".
The Gentiles were atheists in the original sense of being without God and also in the sense of hostility to God from failure to worship Him. It was not that the Gentiles were intellectual atheists, because most of them believed in many gods. Some were pantheists, believing that divinity was in everything, animate and inanimate. To reiterate, the problem was not that the Gentiles had no god but that they did not have the true God.
In Classic Greek atheos primarily meant godless, describing one who did not care about existence of gods and consequently did not honor them.
In Sophocles "Oedipus Tyrannus, 661" we read "“Since I wish to die godless, friendless,” etc. and thus is used in the sense of "without God's help".
Blaikie writes that atheos means…
John Eadie writes that the idea is…
Notice how Paul begins with separated from Christ and ends with without God. This is a dismal description of their former state. God is the source of every good thing (James 1:17-note), including hope. So if we are without God, we are without everything, despite appearances to the contrary.
The Gentiles were without God, specifically without the knowledge of the only true, living God and thus destitute of any God. Paul address this Gentile disadvantage in Galatians writing
World (2889) (kosmos) in this context could refer to the planet earth as their place of inhabitation but could also refer to the present evil, godless world system dominated by Satan and adamantly opposed to and alienated from God.
In the world - what does Paul mean by this addendum? Blaikie has an interesting thought noting that…
Barnes writes the following regarding "without God in the world" that they are…
Hughes writes that…
Warren Wiersbe nicely sums up this first section writing
Diogenes a Gentile (Greek) philosopher wrote:
The Roman poet Catullus (circa 50BC) wrote:
Spurgeon said regarding "Ye were without Christ … aliens … strangers … having no hope … without God"…
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Several famous people were asked what they felt was the saddest word in the English language. Here’s what some of them said…