8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh–who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands–
12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, was not born a Caesar. Born as Gaius Octavius Thurinus, at around the age of nineteen he was adopted by his great-uncle Julius Caesar, and he essentially apprenticed with the famous general in the arts of statecraft and war. Known after his adoption as Gaius Julius Caesar, when his adoptive father was assassinated just a year later, the young man legally inherited nearly all of his adoptive father’s property and political power. He acquired the name “Augustus” when he became Emperor about sixteen years later, and so we know him today simply as “Caesar Augustus” – the august (majestic, venerable, eminent) Caesar. And he wasn’t even born a Caesar.
It is exactly this kind of adoption that the apostle Paul writes about in his letters. As a Roman citizen, Paul understood very well how the first Emperor had acquired his name and power. As a Jew and student of the Torah, and knowing that Jesus came from a Jewish background, Paul also understood how concerned some people would be about coming to Christ. After all, many believed that the promise of God’s blessing had been given only to “Abraham’s seed” – i.e. not to just everyone, but only to the children of Israel. But Paul understood that even the Gentiles were included in that promise if they accepted Christ Jesus. Today’s verses come from such a passage where Paul is describing how even the physically uncircumcised are included in the inherited promise of salvation.
Paul is telling us here that before Christ Jesus, only the heirs of Abraham stood under the “covenants of promise” – i.e. the promise of blessing and salvation. But as the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, His Son Jesus would be the new covenant with all mankind, even the Gentiles.
6 “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
7 “To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
8 “I am the LORD, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.
9 “Behold, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Before Christ, we are all essentially without hope and without God. But now through Christ, we have been “brought near” – literally, “made close” or “made ready.” (v.13) And that happens through the blood of Christ, through the faith we have in Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross, through the unending grace of the Almighty God. For it is not enough simply to place our faith in Jesus Christ as “Savior” in some nebulous sense of Him somehow pulling us from the fires of hell at some later date. No, we must understand and believe that the work of our redemption has already been done through Jesus’ painful death on the Cross.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
We who were once eternally separated from God by our sin, have now been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. We who were once outside the “covenants of promise” made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, we are now co-heirs with Israel of the blessings of God. We who once were stained by our own depravity, are now washed as white as snow by the blood of the Son of God.
In His final days before the Crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples:
31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
Only if He was “lifted up” – i.e. crucified – would He “draw all peoples” to Himself. Only through His blood are we brought near to Him, to be made heirs with Him, to take on His Spirit and His glory.
So draw near to Jesus and the Cross. Be washed in the precious flood, and allow yourself to be brought into His bosom. Be adopted by God and become an heir, taking on the proud name of “Christian” with your own lineage. Become part of the family of Christ.
“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
Accept the gift of grace through the blood of Christ. Do God’s will and become His son or daughter, and know that the blessing promised to Abraham shall also be yours.
Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace. How can I do anything but praise You for the blood shed by Your Son, Christ Jesus? Bring me to Your Cross, where blood and water flowed as a seal upon the new covenant of grace. Wash me, heal me, accept me, O Lord. Then use me to Your will, so that I become more like Your precious Son, whose name I humbly speak as my Brother, Savior, and Lord. Amen.