. . . remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,
Excluded From – Paul likes to use opposites to capture important ideas. We do the same thing, contrasting opposites in order to make our ideas clear. But Paul’s use of opposites isn’t quite the same as ours. Sha’ul thinks like a rabbi, so his idea of opposites isn’t quite like the Greek idea of contrasting pairs. Sha’ul uses opposite the way that Hebrew poetry uses antithetical parallelism, that is, one idea is elaborated by showing how it is disconnected from another idea. While we tend to think of opposites in terms of distance from each other, Sha’ul often expresses opposites in terms of their distance from the center. For him, Yeshua HaMashiach is the center. So, he views everything in terms of its distance from Yeshua. To be opposite is to be further away.
Think about this verse. Sha’ul says that once we who are Gentiles were far away from peace with God. We were separated from Yeshua and, as a consequence, we were excluded from Israel. The Greek verb is apallotrioo. Here it is a passive perfect participle. Yes, I know. Who can remember what those grammatical designations really mean? But in this case, the grammar is very important. The passive means that the action happens to us, not that we did it. Sha’ul is saying that some other force or circumstances caused us to be separated. That external force is sin. Sin did something to us. Furthermore, the verb is a perfect tense participle. That means it describes an action in the past that has continuing consequences in the present. Something happened that continues to keep us out.
The opposite of being in the commonwealth of Israel is to be a victim of sin. Sin takes us far off, away from God, away from Israel, away from the covenants of promise. Yeshua brings us close, back to Israel, back to peace with God, back to the covenants. When sin attacks us and we fall into its clutches, we are without hope. But Yeshua delivers us. He restores us to Israel by removing the separation. We are no longer opposite. We are now near.
Behind all this is the Hebrew word zur. You will find its connection to this Greek verb in the LXX translations of Job 21:29, Psalm 58:3 (57:4 LXX), Psalm 69:8 (68:9 LXX) and Jeremiah 19:4. It basically means “to turn aside.” It is the word used for strangers and aliens. This is important. It implies that once you are part of Israel, you are no longer zur. Now you belong. Sha’ul says that same thing in this verse. Notice what he does not say (we will be Greek for a moment). He does not say that once Yeshua brings you near, you will be a Christian. He says that once Yeshua removes the separation, you will come back to Israel. You won’t be a stranger to the household of God.
Accompanying the translation “excluded from” is the possible nuance that we did something to push us out. Sha’ul is more compassionate here. We were thrust out by an alien force. Since it is an alien force, it spawns offspring of the same nature – alienation. God intends fellowship and citizenship, the opposite of being a stranger.
Once more we see that Sha’ul sees Yeshua at the center of Israel. Not the “new” Israel that so many Christian theologians suggest, but rather the same Israel established at Sinai. Sha’ul uses a very Hebraic expression to help us see we were once aliens and strangers. Sin made us that way. But now things are different. Now we belong to the people of God. The gap is gone. Praise His name, He brought us home.
Topical Index: excluded, alien, stranger, zur, apallotrioo, Ephesians 2:12
For today’s photo, click here – Antigua, Guatemala