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Sunday, March 06, 2016

No Hope

Did you know that the Bible says that you and I had "no hope"? It does. Well, for some time in history.
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 -- 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:11-13)
Gentiles, those outside of God's covenant with Israel, are characterized in this text by the phrase "having no hope and without God." I don't know if that sinks home to you. It weighs heavily on me. Prior to Christ, those outside of Israel were without hope and without God. Imagine that. Only those in that tiny group known as "the children of Israel" had any hope, any connection to God. As a group, those not born Jews were "separated", "alienated", and "far off". Paul goes on to say that it wasn't merely an absence of opportunity, but a "dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14). Bad, bad news.

What happened? What was the good news that changed this horrendous condition? The text above begins with a "therefore". It references one of our favorite passages of Scripture.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9)
Saved by grace through faith. That is a shift, an alteration in the understanding of salvation. That was new information. Prior to this people thought they were saved by doing; Paul says they were saved by grace. But something else besides the available information changed. "In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph 2:13) The blood of Christ.

They will tell you that Jesus died as an example of obedience (known as the "Moral Influence" theory). True enough, but incomplete. Others will refer to His death as simply the victory of Christ (referred to as the "Christus Victor" theory) over Satan. Also a fact, but still incomplete. Paul says that the only means by which we who are not Jews (and, in fact, those who are) get "in Christ Jesus" is "by the blood of Christ". He didn't die merely as an example. "See how much God loves you?" some argue. No, His shed blood was necessary, not incidental. It wasn't simply martyrdom or even an accident as some argue. On the basis of His shed blood we can now enjoy a relationship with God that was not possible prior to His crucifixion and a new life not possible prior to His resurrection. That is what we celebrate every Sunday -- hope and God in relationship with Christ where none used to be.


David said...

It also goes to illustrate just how few people are saved. In all the time before Christ, only the Jews were saved (and not even all of them). A tiny portion of a tiny nation was saved for many generations, and that's forgetting how few were saved before the first covenant. If we extrapolate from that, the number of true Christians is low. Even now, we would have a "nation" of Christians, but only a fraction of those would be truly saved. I don't know about anyone else, but that terrifies me. That means, for the entirety of the Covenants, precious few are saved, even amongst those that believe themselves saved.

Alec said...

Hi David, you are right. The Bible is so clear that few are truly saved. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. When people have no fear of God's coming judgement, it's a cause of concern.

When the Law is ignored, people become self-righteous and ugly.
When the gospel is neglected, Christians become depressed and hopeless.

Godly terror at our own transgressions should bring us back into the arms of God. "God be merciful to me a sinner". "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". (1 John 1 (whole chapter)) All means all. The promises are real. Anyone who is concerned with these things, hungers for God's righteousness and trusts in Christ's one-time sacrifice now completed should have confidence. "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it. (Phillipians 1.6)

No matter how it may appear, God tells us that the final number of people who will be saved will be immense:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; (Revelation 7:9)

At least that's how I understand it. "Lord I believe. Help thou mine unbelief."


David said...

Certainly it wouldn't be in the thousands or tens of thousands, but definitely not the 60-some-odd-percent many believe it to be today.

Stan said...

Alec, I think, is referring to the "multitudes" that will be in the final count (which, over the history of mankind, will be a large number), while David, I think, is referring to "here and now", which, I think, is a significantly smaller number than the current population. (One survey I saw around 2000 said that while 75% of Americans, for example, identified as "Christian", only 15% went to church and only 5% said it made a difference in how they lived. If we took that 5% as a rule of thumb, that would be 5% of 7 billion or so. Just roughly. Which would be vastly less than the "75% who say they're Christians".)

Alec said...

Yes, Stan, that's right. I agree with David's assessment, but was trying to broaden the focus.

David said...

I was looking at both. Yes, there will be a multitude over the course of time, but based on the Old Testament and today, I'd say that multitude isn't nearly as large as people seem to think (think of any person that dies and is said to be in a better place).

Bob said...

many profess to be christian, but how many can call themselves "children of the promise"?
many professing Christians do not know the difference. many call themselves christian, but how many can call themselves "children of Abraham"? many call themselves christian, but how many can call themselves the "Elect of God"? the word christian does not mean very much these days. but when I consider the original biblical distinctions, i have to marvel, how wonderful is this.

Stan said...

Dan T,

I don't know if there is a reading problem or a comprehension problem or, perhaps more likely, a memory problem, but you keep commenting away. Maybe it's just that you don't care. Who knows? The only thing I know is "Dan Trabue commented so I deleted it." No one here is reading your comments. No one here will reply. Not even I know what you said because I delete them before bothering to read them. Perhaps you can save yourself the time and effort and just stop. Just trying to save you time and frustration.