I have never been outside of the United States. It’s a little embarrassing. My son’s friends have been to more exotic places in this world than I have. We didn’t travel much when I was growing up. We took one epic road trip to Disney World, which created a lifetime of awesome and weird family memories and then we camped all over the state of Wisconsin. I’ve always wanted to see the great places in the United States, and since my list is fairly long… I just haven’t made it further. I guess I don’t know what it’s like to be a foreigner.
That bunch of new Christians in Ephesus did. They had been Gentiles, people outside of the Jewish faith. They had been people who, by birth, were excluded from club. They were denied access to God. Now, after Jesus came and tore the curtain in the temple and broke the mold of the old ways-- God was not off limits. The Church was no longer about birthright, it was about being drawn in.
Verse 13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Imagine what it was like for those first Christians. How revolutionary the love of Jesus really was for them. It meant being drawn near to God, when they had spent their whole lives being turned away.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (v. 19-22)
For those who spent their lives being outside of the Temple, never being allowed in, this imagery that Paul was creating was so significant. God was building his dwelling, not in a structure of stone, but through his people-- Jews and Gentiles. Through the Holy Spirit, they both were gathered in, and became part of God’s Temple. They didn’t need access to the Temple, God was building his home in them through the Spirit.
We don’t carry the same kind of baggage those first Christians did. We haven’t been formally denied access to God. But, perhaps, it’s felt that way. Maybe we have felt pushed aside. Not worthy. Too far gone. Hopless. Maybe God has felt so far off and we’ve craved being gathered close to him.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (v. 4 & 5)
Like the Gentiles, there is nothing we can do to be closer to God. We are outsiders and foreigners. Because of His great love, God himself reaches out to us. He scoops us up out of our hopelessness and breathes his Spirit in us. He draws us close and dwells in us.
Let’s go this week, God’s Spirit dwelling in us, and let us be the arms that draw others in.