Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-13)
I was sitting in my living room with my wife seated next to me. Across from us sat a couple we’ve known for about a dozen years, but it was the first time they’d sat in our home. There’s a long story behind that, but it was great having them in our home with their family. It was great spending quality time with them. As they have been for a lot of those dozen years, they were a tremendous blessing to us.
As we conversed, in my mind the word ‘commonwealth’ popped up.
Later I was walking and thinking about why on earth did that word pop up. Stereotypically I’ve heard the term used about the former colonies of the British Empire. I cynically viewed it that to keep them and us with the idea that we share something together even though they’re no longer colonies they are still part of the Great British club. I never really saw any benefits from the arrangement on either end.
So that was my initial impression of a commonwealth. Then of course, before I went to a dictionary, I looked at the word itself. It was the word itself that actually struck me as the important thing. Commonwealth. Wealth we have in common. Riches that are shared among a defined parameter. Benefits enjoyed by a selected group.
Then being the diligent guy I am, I looked at the Bible – cos I was sure I heard it mentioned there before – and lo and behold there it was in Ephesians. Sure I read the verse, I read the context and then I looked at the biblical definition of the term. They seem to relate it to citizenry. That is to suggest that Gentiles were not really a part of the Israel club, if you will. There were benefits of being a part of the community of the God’s chosen. It was, understandably a point of pride for the people of Israel. Whatever status they were in – residents of their promised land or exiles in a strange land or subjects in their land as ruled by others – no one could take away their link to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were children of the promise. The people of God.
Those benefits were the same for any member of that prestigious Circumcision Club.
The good news in Christ is that those benefits are extended to those who were not part of the Circumcision Club without the physical procedure. By faith our citizenry changes from the nationality to which we are affiliated on earth, to the heavenly one.
That citizenry has certain responsibilities attached to it. But the responsibilities are birthed in the grace that made us citizens. Indeed we only fulfil those responsibilities based on that grace. That amazing grace as well makes brothers and sisters of various earthly nationalities share a set of benefits sourced by the Almighty One who makes us one.
Sitting there in my living room with my wife and the couple was enjoying those benefits together. It’s what we do when children of God get together.
The thing about this commonwealth, though, is that it’s not something that we take pride in and keep to ourselves. Well it’s not supposed to be that way.
Such are the rich benefits of the commonwealth there is a compulsion to have others enjoy it. We want those who don’t share that sweet communion to be a part of it. We long for those struggling outside the commonwealth looking to eek out an existence outside the source of life, to get in on the action, to experience the peace, love and joy that flows like a river because of our heavenly citizenry.
That’s how it is for thousands of heavenly citizens sharing the benefits for all here on earth. That’s how I hope it will be for those who get to share life with us as we enjoy the benefits of the commonwealth.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden