11 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 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 2:11–12 (ESV)
Paul also wrote for Gentiles (non-Jews) to “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.” Separated, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God are strong descriptive words.
All non-Jews were separate from (lit., “without”) Christ not only personally (true also of many Jews) but also in that they had no national hope of the Messiah. The word separated (χωρίς; choris) means to have no relationship with as Savior or Lord.
We were also excluded from citizenship in Israel. The Gentiles did not belong to the theocratic state of Israel (cf. Rom. 9:4). The word “excluded” (ἀπαλλοτριόω; apallotrioo) means to be “alienated” or “estranged.” It is used only two other times (Eph. 4:18; Col. 1:21). Though some Gentiles were admitted into Judaism as proselytes, Gentiles as a whole were excluded.
The word strangers (ξένος; xenos) means a foreigner or an alien. The covenants of promise found in the Old Testament were not intended for Gentiles.
We were also people without hope. This means that unbelievers did not have any confidence in God or His promises. This is because they were not aware of them. There was no hope of any kind for any type of salvation from God.
Finally, non-Jews were without God in the world. This is a fitting description of atheists. This means, in the original sense, of being without God but also in the sense of hostility to God from failure to worship him. Romans 1:18-32 gives a truthful description of those without Christ. “In the world” (ἐν τῳ κοσμῳ [en tōi kosmōi]) goes with both phrases.
As one author writes, “It is a terrible picture that Paul gives, but a true one.” However, thank the Lord for the truth found in Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Take the time today to give praise to God for bringing us to Himself by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!