Memory loss ranges from the incidental “Where did I put my keys?” to the debilitating effects of dementia. Diagnosing the actual condition of our memories is important and revealing.
In Ephesians 2:11-13 Paul urges the Gentile Christians to use their memories in acknowledging what they were before their situation was radically altered by God.
What were these Gentiles?
1) born Gentiles; 2) called “uncircumcised” by the “circumcision” group; 3) separated from Christ; 4) excluded from citizenship in Israel; 5) foreigners to the promise covenants; 6) hopeless; 7) without God in the world. Their condition was desperate. Read the story line in the Old Testament. Most of it focuses on the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Gentiles were on the fringe, outsiders to the main plot that unfolds. Paul wants them to remember ‘that part’ of the story.
But who was Abraham before God called him? Who was Rahab or Ruth? Why was Jonah rebuked by God for his lack of evangelistic concern for a Gentile city of 120,000? How had God’s people failed in their divine mandate? These questions would be asked and answered another day!
These Gentile members of the Ephesian congregation had experienced exclusion right in their own city. They weren’t full ‘members’ of the synagogue and Paul had started there — “to the Jew first” was his praxis. But soon the gospel came to them. The closed door of the Jewish ‘teaching centre’ led to the use of the ‘lecture hall’ next door. Their time had come.
Wouldn’t you have loved to listen to those first sermons Paul preached? Here was a ‘Jewish’ preacher proclaiming God’s acceptance of Gentiles through the one Saviour–the Saviour of the world.
They WERE outsiders. They WERE at a distance. They WERE without salvation. BUT….that tiny conjunction reflects God’s intervention. “But now in Christ Jesus” – the ‘Jewish’ Messiah, these ‘Gentiles’ had direct access. Those ‘far away’ were close, yes, even closer than their ‘religious’ neighbours who had kept their distance from them.
Isn’t this a description of God’s gospel plan? In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees, who considered themselves ‘in’ with God were bypassed by tax collectors and prostitutes whose hearts God opened to the claims of His Son. Many times ‘good people’ trust their ‘good’ activities and reject a call to repentance. Rugged, rough sinners gain forgiveness, and good, decent-living people never experience the joy of sins forgiven.