Stranger? Or Family and Friend?
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
The foregoing are words that Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, a congregation with which he worked for three years (Acts 20:31).
Some nineteen centuries before the birth of Jesus, Jehovah selected Abraham to be the founder of a new nation, the nation of Israel. The relationship was formalized even more with the giving of the law of Moses, which stood as a middle wall of partition, separating the Jews from other nations (Ephesians 2:14).
The purpose of this special relationship between God and Israel was redemptive, i.e., through these people the Messiah would come, and the Jews would play a role in preparing the world for this wonderful event. Jesus emphasized this truth to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar when he declared: “[F]or salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).
In view of this unfolding plan, there are many Old Testament references to, and provisions for, “strangers” (Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 16:11ff). While it is clear that the Lord cared for these “strangers,” they were alien to a formal relationship with God.
That day changed, however, as a result of the mission of Christ and the provisions of his new covenant for “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), a reality that had been foretold by the prophets of Israel (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4).
Hence, Paul could declare to the saints in Ephesus (mostly Gentiles by background; cf. Acts 19:8-10) that as a result of the conciliatory work of Christ (Ephesians 2:11ff), they were no more strangers and aliens, but “fellow-citizens” in the “household of God.” Note the phrase that depicts family!
What a thrilling concept it is to transition from being a stranger to becoming a citizen, indeed, a family member and a “friend.” Our Lord once said: “You are my friends if you do the things which I command you” (John 15:14).
It is a most unfortunate thing that many, who have the impression that they are friends of Christ, within his family even, actually are not. This is not because the Lord does not want them as such, but due to the fact that they either do not know, or ignore, the conditions for this relationship.
Some, such as the Universalists, contend there are no conditions. Others, like hardcore Calvinists, believe God chose them unconditionally before the foundation of the world, in conflict with Hebrews 5:8-9, which affirms that Christ is the Author of salvation to those who obey him. Not a few entertain the unfounded notion that their “morality” (and that is what they judge such to be) will get them by. Others allege that just because they “got converted” their level of dedication is irrelevant.
Happily, within this very book, the method of access into the family relationship is set forth plainly. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). The term “word” is a reference to the teaching of Christ, which constitutes the only source of instruction that can guide people from earth to heaven.
The expression “washing of water” is a clear allusion to the obedience of immersion in water, which culminates the “new-birth” process (John 3:3-5). Scholars virtually are of one voice in acknowledging that the “water” of this text refers to baptism (see the Greek lexicons of Thayer 1958, 634; Danker et al. 2000, 1024). No one prior to the time of Calvin even questioned that the water of the new birth was baptism (Wall n.d., 95-96).
It is very difficult to see why the denominational world so militantly opposes this conclusion, but it has a long history of stubbornness in this matter.
If you are a Christian, rejoice in your sweet relationship with Christ. You are not a stranger, but a family member and a friend.
If such is not your status, why not become a child of God and refresh your soul as a true kinsman and friend of the Savior? (Galatians 3:26-27).
- Danker, F. W. et al. 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
- Thayer, J. H. 1958. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark.
- Wall, William. n.d. The History of Infant Baptism. Vol. 2. London, England: Griffith, Farran, Browne & Co.