No Longer Strangers
The Lord sometimes directs his people to look back and remember what they were — that the contrast between the past and the present may . . .
increase their gratitude,
deepen their sense of obligation, and
fill them with admiring thoughts of his free and sovereign grace!
Paul often does this in his epistles to the Churches — let us look at one instance. "Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners — but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." Ephesians 2:19.
WHAT WE WERE BY NATURE. "Strangers." Strangers upon earth — strangers to all that is great, good, and glorious. We were strangers to ourselves, as fallen, depraved, and yet immortal beings. We knew not the disease under which we labored, nor the only remedy by which we could be restored. We knew not our extreme weakness — or our desperate wickedness. We were strangers to God, having no correct views of his nature or government, much less of his covenant character, as" a just God and a Savior." We knew him not as revealed in Jesus, nor Jesus himself as the only, almighty, and all-willing Savior. We were strangers to the spirituality of the law, and the extent of its requirements; and also to the graciousness of the gospel, and its wondrous provisions. We knew scarcely anything of the most solemn and important subjects, living as we did without hope and without God in the world.
We were not only strangers, as we might be in some
parts of our own country — but we were "foreigners." We were subjects of
another prince, having lived in another kingdom. The Lord's people,
their experience and privileges, were altogether strange to us. We could not
. . .
comprehend their ideas,
understand their language,
like their habits, or
enjoy their privileges.
All were new, strange, and uncommon to us; as they must be to all — until they are born again, and by the Spirit's teaching enter into the kingdom. This is well called being delivered from the power of darkness, and being translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. We come among strangers, and into a city where all is new, because all is spiritual.
WHAT WE ARE BY GRACE. We say by grace, because it is of grace alone — that we differ from what we were. We were afar off from God and his people — but we are made near by the blood of Christ, who is our peace. He made peace with God for us, and by his gospel proclaimed peace to us, and entitled us to free and uninterrupted access to God.
We are now "fellow citizens with the saints." We are come to the mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and are entitled to all the privileges and immunities of that honored and beloved city. We are at liberty to wash in the city fountain, opened for sin and uncleanness, where we may cleanse our persons, and make our robes white in the blood of the Lamb. We are entitled to wear the city robes, which constitute our court dress, and in which we are declared to be all fair. These are the garments of salvation, and the robe of righteousness. We may make use of the city treasury, and from the unsearchable riches of Christ draw all that we need, and as we need it. It is our privilege to claim a place at the city feasts, enjoying fellowship with the most exalted personages in the city. We share in the city protection, being surrounded with the walls of salvation and the bulwarks of grace. We have access to the chief magistrate, even the King of kings and Lord of lords. We worship at the city altar, even that altar which sanctifies both the giver and the gift. We are also of the "household of God." God, the eternal God, is our father. The unsearchable riches of Christ are our birthright. The glorious host of angels are our attendants. Heaven, which is our Father's house, is our final home. O blessed state! O glorious privilege!
Man by nature is truly miserable. He is a stranger to all that is good, and destitute of all that is necessary to make him happy. He is afar off from God — and involved in guilt and misery. All at present, all is dark and dreary, and the future is charged with all that is alarming and dreadful.
Saints by grace are really happy. They are reconciled to God, and enjoy peace with him. They are acquitted from all charges, and enjoy the divine favor. They are accepted in the Beloved, and are assured of everlasting life.
If we enjoy this happiness, we should be affected with the contrast between the present and the past.
We were children of wrath — we are now the children of God.
We were strangers to God — we are now His friends.
We were foreigners — we are now fellow citizens with the saints.
We were homeless and fatherless — we are now members of the household of God.
We should therefore praise the riches of divine grace, which has made us to differ! We should spread abroad the glorious good news of our redemption and salvation. We should help the city heralds, in publishing the city proclamations, and in inviting others to the city feasts! We should help the city watchman, in guarding the walls, and being on the look out for invading foes! We should be prepared to co-operate with the city guards, in defending the rights, privileges, and honors of the city! We should assist the stewards of God's household, in the varied duties that devolve upon them, especially in feeding the young of the family.
Reader, what is your state? Are you in the state of nature — or in grace? Are you afar off from God — or made near by the blood of Jesus? Are you a stranger — or a member of God's household? Are you a foreigner — or a fellow citizen with the saints? One or the other you must be. You were the former naturally, as all are by nature; but are you the latter by grace, as only the Lord's people are? No strangers enter Heaven, only those of the household. No foreigners are admitted to the inheritance of the saints in light — but only those who are now fellow citizens with the saints. Gracious Lord, where am I? What am I? Let me not live and die a stranger to you — but let me be your friend, your servant, your child — for Jesus' sake!