Strangers just don’t get the same deal as the in crowd. A few years ago I moved to a small town known somewhat for its exclusivity. I tried to blend. After purchasing gasoline for a couple of years at a particular station, the owner called me aside one day and said, “You’ve been living here for quite a while now. I’m going to start giving you the two cent per gallon discount I give the regular folks here!” Honestly I wouldn’t have known that I wasn’t a regular folk had he not told me; I thought I was one of them!
The word stranger as used by Paul and John has a similar, but somewhat different connotation. In speaking to and about Gentiles, Paul wrote, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2.19). John wrote, “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers…” (3 John 1.5). In both cases, the word stranger is used to speak of people who were not in the family of God (i.e. in a saved relationship with Him). Paul’s Gentile audience heard the word in an even more technical sense in that he contrasted the nation of Israel under the old law with the Gentiles who had no national covenant with God. They were (past tense) strangers and foreigners. But, now the Gentiles who obeyed the Gospel were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
To be a stranger in a community is one thing; to be a stranger to God is something entirely different. Two cents on a gallon of gas is of little consequence; to miss the benefits that God offers His children is literally to miss everything. The phrase no longer strangers is significant for that reason. What believers have been, they are no more. We all were at one time without God, but due to the adoptive process that the Gospel extends to all men, we did not have to remain in that hopeless and helpless situation. It was this wonderful and unsurpassed blessing that Paul focused on when he wrote these lines.
Those who were once foreigners to the family of God are now in equal standings (fellow citizen) with all other members of His family. The newly adopted children did not have a probation period after which they could file for citizenship and then hope to later receive the same benefits as the regular folk. Once adopted into the family of God we are all regular folk. As such, we are all “…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2.20). In that context, we are a part of the “…whole building, being joined together…” and we grow “…into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom [we] also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2.21-22).
There are blessings of citizenship and there are responsibilities of citizenship. Our view today has focused somewhat on the blessings, but it would be incomplete without at least mentioning the responsibilities that go along with citizenship. We could go into a long list of things that we are called upon to do, but a short list might be better. Jesus stated it simply when He stated that His disciples were “in the world,” but they were not “of the world.” (see John 17.11 & John 17.16). This principle runs throughout the New Testament epistles. Paul stated it explicitly when he said, “Our citizenship is in heaven…” (Philippians 3.20). Our first responsibility is to show unwavering allegiance to our country!
To be a stranger here (the world) is to be a citizen there (heaven). Dual citizenship is not an option!
1. In what way had the Gentiles been strangers? In what way had the Jews not been strangers?
2. How do/did Gentiles cease to be strangers?
3. What difference, if any, is there between the blessings available to the Jews and those available to the Gentiles?
4. Why did I say that dual citizenship is not an option? Agree or disagree? Implications?
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