Once Far, Now Family

June 23, 2024

Book: Ephesians

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I read a story about a boy named Dwight whose dad could do nothing, and yet got everything done. Dwight’s dad would say: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”

Of course, this is true for us as well. Interpersonal connections with others makes life so much easier.

But the bigger question related to this is this: Is there a God, and can we know Him? How we answer that question will determine how we live our lives.

When we read the Bible, we find that God is not only out there somewhere, but that He’s near to us. In fact, God brings us into His own family by grace through faith in Jesus.

Ephesians 2:11-13 says:

So, then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

As I was preparing this week, I learned an interesting fact about adoption in Japan.

In Japan, 98% of adoptions are actually not of children, but adult men, aged between 20-30 years old. This is so that business owners can keep their businesses in the family.

The adopted sons are extremely blessed!

When God adopts us into His family, we’re also extremely blessed. John 1:12 says:

But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name.

And Ephesians 1:3-5 says:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

For the next four weeks, we’re going to be talking about being a part of the family of God. It’s a big family, including both Jews as well as Gentiles, which together, makes up everybody. And this is a big deal for us, because we’re Gentiles.

Very early in history, we all sinned against God. Romans 5:12 says:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.

But then God, out of His grace, chose one family to be His chosen people: the Jews. But by doing so, God wasn’t turning His back on the rest of the world. Genesis 12:1-3 says:

The Lord said to Abram: Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Through the Jews, and through Jesus specifically, God displayed His love for all the world. And yet, it’s easy to miss what God is doing, how God is making us one big family in Jesus.

Even the earliest believers needed to be reminded of God’s plan to unite all things in Jesus. (v. 11) It was no secret that Jews often looked down on Gentiles. Many Rabbis even insisted that it was not lawful to help a Gentile woman in childbirth, for that would be to bring another Gentile into the world. In many Jewish families, if a Jew married a Gentile, a symbolic funeral of that Jew was carried out. And yet, Paul points out that the thing that Jews most boasted in was not done by God, but themselves.

We tend to exclude people based on all kinds of criteria that we make up. We exclude people based on different politics, different sins that we consider acceptable, and even a different way of following the same God. How often do we boast not in God, but in ourselves? Galatians 6:14-15 says:

But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.

We need to always remember that our standing before God is not by our works, but His grace.

Even still, it’s true that the Gentiles did not believe in or follow God. (v. 12) Without Jesus, we’re outside of the family of God. Gentiles were obviously outside of the citizenship of Israel, but they were actually supposed to be invited in! Isaiah 49:6 says:

It is not enough for you to be my servant raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the protected ones of Israel. I will also make you a light for the nations, to be my salvation to the ends of the earth.

Being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven gives us hope today. Without Jesus, we have no claim to the promises of God’s people.  Without Jesus, we have no hope, since we’ve turned our backs on the God of hope.

But God was not content with us being far from Him. (v. 13) God loves to bring those who are far from Him into His family, so through Jesus, He did. Jesus described the kingdom of God as a little leaven introduced into a lot of flour. In Matthew 13:33, Jesus said:

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and mixed into fifty pounds of flour until all of it was leavened.

God will not stop until all people are reconciled to Himself through Jesus, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:19.

That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.