So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
(Ephesians 2:19-20 ESV)
As a pastor in Toronto likes to say, the overriding message of the Bible can be summed up in one sentence: God is creating a family and He wants to adopt you into it. Initially this family consisted of the nation of Israel. God chose Israel to be the people through whom He would demonstrate His greatness and His love to the rest of the world, thereby encouraging others to join His family too.
Throughout the Old Testament we see a few non-Jews intentionally joining God’s family including a few Egyptians who left Egypt with Israel during the Exodus [Exodus 12:38] and Ruth, a Moabite woman, who comes to realize that the God of Israel is the one true God [Ruth 1:16] as well as some others. But for the most part Jews and Gentiles did not mix either socially or spiritually.
By the time we get to the New Testament there is tremendous animosity between these two peoples. The Jews had forgotten that they were chosen by God not for anything inherently good within them, but simply because it was God’s choice [Deuteronomy 7:6-8]. Instead they saw themselves as superior over other peoples and looked down upon those who were not Jewish.
This is not surprising. Despite what our culture thinks, having pride in our differences does not make for a better world. The human race has a great tendency to use disparity to create discord.
However, as a result of Jesus taking on the punishment for sin there is only one group now. There is no more difference between Jew and Gentile. No one is excluded. Everyone is welcome.
Once Gentiles were “foreigners and non-citizens”. They were on the outside looking in. The Greek word for “foreigners” is ξενοσ (pronounced: zen’-os) which means “an outcast; one without a share”. It is the word from which we get our English word “xenophobia”. Until Jesus came along, Gentiles could not partake in any of God’s blessings. But now they can have citizenship in heaven and are also “members of God’s household”. Any Gentile who believes is part of His family with the same standing before God as any Old Testament Jew.
Its all quite simple: those people who believe in Jesus’ name are part of God’s family [John 1:12]. Those who don’t are not. It doesn’t matter what their background is, or what their religious upbringing was, or what or how many sins they’ve committed (we’ve all committed too many to count). All that matters is the person realizes his/her sinfulness and need to be forgiven.
The biblical word for that is “repent”. If anyone repents and turns to God for forgiveness then God – true to His word – will wipe their sins away, never to be brought up again [Acts 3:19, Micah 7:19]. That person will then be part of God’s family for all eternity.
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