So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of Gd's household. - Vs 19
Earlier in this chapter, Paul describes the believer's condition prior to coming to Christ. He uses some pretty strong language: Separate. Excluded. Strangers. Having no hope. Without God in the world. Far off. He says we used to live "in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of our mind, and were by nature children of wrath" (Vs 3). We were "dead in our transgressions" (Vs 5). We "walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air" (Vs 2). He uses some pretty bleak language, and for a reason. Because unless we understand the bad news, we will never fully understand or appreciate the Good News.
Sometimes it's hard for us to embrace the truth about who we were without Christ. But the point is, because we were without Christ, we were without God. Paul refers to us as "children of wrath." That's a semitic idiom that means we were destined for wrath. One translation renders it this way: "…the punishment of God was waiting for us even as for the rest" (BBE). In other words, we were deserving of God's judgment and wrath. Our Godless condition doomed us to a Godless eternity. And we could do nothing about it. No amount of good works, righteous efforts, rule-keeping, law-abiding, or self-effort could alter our standing before God.
But then something happened. God made us alive together with Christ! (Vs 5). Even when we were as good as dead, incapable of doing anything to save ourselves, God stepped in. Why? Because He was rich in mercy. He was literally abounding, overflowing in love toward us. Mercy is "kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted." Mercy isn't just some kind of sympathy that looks on in sadness at the state of another, but it takes action. It does something. And that's exactly what happened. God did something about our condition. He "raised us up" and "seated us" in the "heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Vs 6). He saved us. And He did it out of His grace. Charles Ryrie defines grace this way:
First, grace is unmerited favor. As a concise definition of grace, this serves well. More elaborate definitions have their place; but simply stated, grace is unmerited favor. It is undeserved on the part of the recipient. It is unearned and unearnable.
God showed me unmerited favor or kindness. The important word here is unmerited. What God did for me was totally unearned and undeserved. Paul stresses this when he says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, is the gift of God" (Vs 8). Even our faith, our ability to believe, was a gift from God. Why is this so important? Because if not, we would have reason to boast. We could say we somehow earned or deserved what we received. And that would devalue the price that Jesus Christ paid on the cross. If we could have saved ourselves, there would have been no reason for Jesus to die on our behalf. Charles Ryrie continues his definition of grace:
Second, grace is not cheap. Grace is expensive. It is free to the recipient but costly to the donor. The only way one may say that grace is not very costly is if the particular benefit costs the donor very little. But to use the word cheap in the same breath with the grace of God in salvation seems almost blasphemous. It cost our Lord Jesus His life. Some may insult grace, reject it, trample on it, or disgrace it, but that does not lower its infinite value."
God has shown me grace! And it cost Him dearly. Because of His grace, I have been "brought near by the blood of Christ" (Vs 13). I am no longer an alien or a stranger, but a fellow citizen with the saints, and am of God's household. Now that's amazing grace!
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive'
Grace Greater Than Our Sin, by Julia H. Johnston and Daniel B. Towner, 1910, 1938
Father, than You for Your amazing grace. I don't fully understand it. I will probably never fully comprehend it. But I stand in it. Thank You for not leaving it up to me. Because I would still be without hope and without You. But because of Your mercy and grace, I am Your child. Thank You. Amen