Brought Near By the Blood of Christ
January 6, 2019
It is not easy for us to wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not easy at all. But our heavenly Father loves us. He has given to us today his word. And his word reminds us of our sad and desolate history of long ago.
We who are Gentiles were at one time separated from Christ. We were at one time alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. We were at one time strangers to the covenants of promise. We were at one time without hope and without God in the world. All of this was true at one time for us who are Gentiles - that is, anyone who is not Jewish by blood.
But what does this all mean?
After Adam’s sin and the fall of mankind, God made a promise for a people. He promised that he would provide salvation from sin and death. And he promised this good news to a huge number of people - to a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Revelation 7:9). This is what is John 3:16 means when it says: God so loved the world. His heart is so big. His mercy and grace is so vast. Praise the Lord!
But in his glorious and sovereign wisdom, our God decreed that his promise of salvation from sin and death would come true slowly. And it would start small and tiny. For in his glorious and sovereign will, our God chose and used the earthly nation of Israel in the Old Testament to be a picture and a preview of the person and the work and the kingdom and the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. And so God’s people would first start off as the Jews.
It is in this sense, this historical and corporate sense, that we who are Gentiles were at one time alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise. We were not recipients of things such as circumcision or the passover lamb. We were therefore at one time foreigners and outsiders of God’s people.
It is in this sense, this historical and corporate sense, that we who are Gentiles were at one time separated from Christ, having no hope and without God in the world. We were not recipients of the tabernacle or temple. There was no pillar of cloud by day and no pillar of fire by night for us. We were therefore at one time disconnected and absent from God’s people.
This was our history. This was our past. And this is very sobering and serious. Even though we know that God ultimately planned to give mercy and grace to us who are Gentiles, even though we know that God’s promise of salvation from sin and death was meant for a great multitude of people from every nation and tribe and language, it is still very sobering and serious to remember that there was a time when that promise was not yet in full blossom. Married couples ought to tremble at the idea that they were at one point in their lives single folks who were strangers and separate from one another. We who are Gentiles ought to shudder at the idea that we were at one point in corporate history separated from Christ. Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. Strangers to the covenants of promise. Without hope and without God in the world.
But this goes deeper than just our relationship to the Israel of old. This gets at our relationship with God himself. The Apostle Paul seems to be blending the horizontal and the vertical. A separation between Jews and Gentiles is one thing. A separation from Christ himself is another. It is one thing to be alienated from the commonwealth of Israel because of our blood. It is another thing to be alienated from the God of heaven and earth because of our sin. Being a stranger to the covenants of promise is one thing. Being a stranger to the Almighty one who made the covenants of promise is another. It is one thing to be without hope and without God in the world. It is another thing to be without hope and without God in hell.
But praise be to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! We were once dead in our trespasses and sins. We were once spiritually dead - dead in our trespasses and sins against God. We were once all about the world, the enemy, and ourselves. We were once by nature children of wrath, sinners who deserved the holy justice and punishment of God. This was who we once were. This was our dark past.
But God made us alive in Christ. He made us a new creation. He gave us new hearts, new strengths and new minds. He raised us up with Jesus and seated us with him. And now in Christ Jesus we Gentiles who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
We have been brought near by the blood of Christ. This concept of nearness is very huge and very, very real. In the Old Testament times, there was the temple. It was Israel’s place of worship to God. It was God’s house, God’s dwelling place. But the thing about the temple was that it was structured in such a way to show that mankind cannot draw near to God because of sin. The thing about the temple was that it was structured in such a profound way to show that sinners cannot draw near to God without sacrifice, atonement, death and blood.
Gentiles were not allowed to enter the temple. The Jews were. But Jewish women were not allowed to go closer than a certain distance from the center of the temple. And then after that, any Jewish male who was not a priest was not allowed to go closer than a certain distance. And then after that, only one person, the high priest, was allowed to enter into the place of the presence of God. But that high priest could only enter with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. God is holy. No sinner can stand before the presence of the Lord and live without justice, payment, sacrifice and death. This was a profound picture of what Jesus did for us.
Jesus is our peace. Jesus made us into a new creation. Jesus reconciled us to God the Father through the cross. Jesus has provided access to the Father.
So now we are no longer separated from Christ. For it is written these words in Romans 8: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So now we are no longer strangers and aliens in relation to God. For it is written these words in Ephesians 2: You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. So now we are no longer hopeless. For it is written these words in Hebrews 6: We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever. So now we are no longer without God. For it is written these words in Matthew 1: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). For now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us never take this for granted. Today’s text actually contains a command from the Lord. And it is this: we are to remember our past. We are to remember our sad and desolate historical past as Gentiles. This is so important and relevant for us today because many of us here in this room have been Christians for a long time. But we have a long ways to go. As we run with endurance the race that is set before us, we can easily forget where we came from. And as a result, we can easily lose our thankfulness, our joy, our contentment, our love for God.
Praise be to our God. He deserves our heartfelt thankfulness. He is worthy of our joyful gratitude. We ought to appreciate and value and treasure our salvation in Christ. We must never lose the wonder and amazement of his love for us.
Dear church, may we renew this here at Highland as we begin a brand new year, as we share the gospel of Christ with other strangers and aliens who have not yet repented and believed in the Lord, and as we wait for the return of our King.
Come Lord Jesus! Come soon!