Therefore, remember that formerly you who were Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2: 11-12).
What does it mean to be without hope? I think it’s like being in a dangerous situation without any promise or possibility of rescue.
I have read many stories of slavery in America before their emancipation as a result of the Civil War. Cruel slave masters, who cared nothing for the wellbeing of their slaves, ripped families apart. Mothers screamed and wept when their children were dragged away from them. Husbands and wives were cruelly separated. Their masters owned them and treated them like property. They were a people without hope.
Then there are those who are ensnared by habits which they cannot break – substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, anger, bitterness, greed and selfishness – people without hope. The Ephesian recipients of Paul’s letter would well remember when they were part of an evil and debased religious system which offered them no hope. They were at the mercy of cruel and capricious gods who demanded from them but gave them nothing back.
What must it have been like for them to hear the truth from Paul’s mouth and to respond in faith to the invitation to submit their lives to one who offered them hope? Instead of an uncertain life and an unknown future, what Paul taught them made sense and attracted them towards a God they could trust and a life that was free from fear, guilt and shame. The moment they put their faith in Jesus and their lives under His authority, they experienced the peace in their hearts that had eluded them all their lives.
O, the utter relief of being free from the uncertainties and insecurities that had plagued them all their lives! The hope that held them steady was based on fulfilled prophecy, historical fact and the indisputable proof of the resurrection. No longer did they have to pin their hopes on myths and legends that had nothing to substantiate them.
Their faith was built on the history of a nation that God had called, led and molded for Himself in preparation for the coming of His Son into the world. This nation received God’s covenant and all the promises that offered them hope. The God they worshipped, who had introduced Himself to them as “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving sins . . .” had miraculously intervened to meet their needs and rescue them from their enemies, time and again.
The Jews thought that they had exclusive rights to this God until Jesus came, opened the door to the Gentiles and sent His disciples out to tell the world that there was hope for them, too. Fanatical Jews were incensed by this move and mercilessly persecuted those who dared to obey the Master. Time and again, Paul experienced the effects of their vicious hatred, but he was never daunted by their prejudice.
He wanted his beloved converts to know that they were just as entitled to God’s mercy and grace as were the Jews because the message of Jesus was for the whole world. Although they had once been cut off from God and had no part in the life and benefits of His chosen people, they were now part of God’s people with full rights to all the benefits of His covenant and His promises.
What was this hope of which Paul spoke which had made such a difference to their lives? Have you ever baked a cake or crafted something according to a design? You gather all the materials and follow the instructions because you have a picture, either in your mind or on paper, of the end result. If you follow the instructions carefully, you will produce a replica of the picture before you. The picture is your “hope”.
God has intervened in our lives when we were without hope. We had no idea where we were going and, subsequently, we had no idea how to get there. Jesus made a promise to us. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He also told us what to do. He said, “Follow me.” He promised that He would take us to the Father if we follow Him.
What is our hope? What will be the end result if we follow Him? He has promised us eternal life in the presence of the Father. Everything that had ruined and made our lives miserable will fall away. We will be perfected and we will have perfect and imperishable bodies, just like Jesus’ resurrected body, and we will live in perfect love, joy and peace with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit forever.
Is that not a hope worth having? There is nothing that can happen to us in this world that can destroy or take away that hope because God Himself has guaranteed and promised us that, if we follow Jesus, we will never perish but have eternal life.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com