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.
therefore (v.11) — an indication that what is to come in the next passage is an application drawn from the preceding passage
Gentiles (v.11) = the Gentiles — marking them as a distinct class
flesh (v.11) — (here) the physical body — their uncircumcised bodies proclaim their position as Gentiles
uncircumcision (v.11) — a further definition of “the Gentiles in the flesh” — a name of contempt
This sentence also is introduced with reference to the poverty of the previous condition of these Godless, Christless Gentiles. The point seems to be that the inferiority in which they were held, and which was expressed by the contemptuous name Uncircumcision, meant all the more as it was fastened on them by those to whom, while proudly calling themselves the Circumcision, the distinction was nothing more than an outward, manual act performed on their bodies. The rite, when its spiritual significance and use are in view, is spoken of with honor by Paul (Romans 4:11). As a mere performance, a barrier between Jew and Gentile, a yoke imposed by the former on the latter, a thing made essential to salvation, he spoke of it in terms of scorn and repudiation. — Wuest, page 72.
Five distinctions of the former state of the Gentiles:
- without Christ (v.12) — without Christ as Messiah — while the Jews were waiting and hoping for Christ, the Gentiles had no connection to Him — they had no covenant connection.
- aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (v.12) — aliens = strangers, as contrasted with those who are at home. Commonwealth = state — the Gentiles had no part in the theocratic state of Israel.
- strangers from the covenants of promise (v.12) — strangers = foreign to a thing, having no share in it. Covenants — those made with Abraham and the patriarchs, the Messianic promises
- no hope (v.12) — no Messianic hope, but also no hope beyond this world
- without God in the world (v.12) — without knowledge of the true God, and so without any God (Galatians 4:8). In the world — in this present evil world
now (v.13) — in contrast to that time
Christ Jesus (v.13) — His Messianic name and His personal name — the promised Messiah and the actual Savior
There is an old saying that applies to the Gentiles in time past: “You have no one to blame but yourself.” When “they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened … For this cause, God gave them up unto vile affections” (Romans 1:21, 26). Once this took place, God channeled His blessing through Abraham’s seed. Consequently, the nations came to be known as the Uncircumcision — Gentiles in the flesh. “In the flesh” does not speak of lineage, rather it points to the fact that they were uncircumcised. Insofar as the Gentiles were outside of the Abrahamic covenant, there was little hope of them ever being saved. Although religious circumcision did not guarantee salvation to a child of Abraham, it did show favor and opportunity.
The promise of the Messiah, who would deliver His people from their sins, was given to Israel. Christ sprang out of the tribe of Judah; He was a Jew who came unto His own (John 1:11). We did not have a redeemer; we were “without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” Since the covenants of promise find their fulfillment in Christ, we were homeless, strangers to the Theocracy. The Gentiles, as Gentiles, were not citizens of the kingdom, therefore we had no rights or privileges. — Sadler, pages 98-99