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Ephesians 2:12

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

That at that time ye were without Christ - Not only were not Christians, but had no knowledge of the Christ or Messiah, and no title to the blessings which were to proceed from him.

Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel - Ye were by your birth, idolatry, etc., alienated from the commonwealth of Israel - from the civil and religious privileges of the Jewish people.

Strangers from the covenants of promise - Having no part in the promise of the covenant made with Abraham, whether considered as relating to his natural or spiritual seed; and no part in that of the covenant made at Horeb with the Israelites, when a holy law was given them, and God condescended to dwell among them, and to lead them to the promised land.

Having no hope - Either of the pardon of sin or of the resurrection of the body, nor indeed of the immortality of the soul. Of all these things the Gentiles had no rational or well-grounded hope.

Without God in the world - They had gods many, and lords many; but in no Gentile nation was the true God known: nor indeed had they any correct notion of the Divine nature. Their idols were by nature no gods - they could neither do evil nor good, and therefore they were properly without God, having no true object of worship, and no source of comfort. He who has neither God nor Christ is in a most deplorable state; he has neither a God to worship, nor a Christ to justify him. And this is the state of every man who is living without the grace and Spirit of Christ. All such, whatever they may profess, are no better than practical atheists.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Ye were without Christ - You were without the knowledge of the Messiah. You had not heard of him; of course you had not embraced him. You were living without any of the hopes and consolations which you now have, from having embraced him. The object of the apostle is to remind them of the deplorable condition in which they were by nature; and nothing would better express it than to say they were “without Christ,” or that they had no knowledge of a Saviour. They knew of no atonement for sin. They had no assurance of pardon. They had no well-founded hope of eternal life. They were in a state of darkness and condemnation, from which nothing but a knowledge of Christ could deliver them. All Christians may in like manner be reminded of the fact that, before their conversion, they were “without Christ.” Though they had heard of him, and were constantly under the instruction which reminded them of him, yet they were without any true knowledge of him, and without any of the hopes which result from having embraced him. Many were infidels. Many were scoffers. Many were profane, sensual, corrupt. Many rejected Christ with scorn; many, by simple neglect. All were without any true knowledge of him; all were destitute of the peace and hope which result from a saving acquaintance with him. We may add, that there is no more affecting description of the state of man by nature than to say, he is without a Saviour. Sad would be the condition of the world without a Redeemer - sad is the state of that portion of mankind who reject him. Reader, are you without Christ?

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel - This is the second characteristic of their state before their conversion to Christianity. This means more than that they were not Jews. It means that they were strangers to that “polity” - πολιτεία politeia- or arrangement by which the worship of the true God had been kept up in the world, and of course were strangers to the true religion The arrangements for the public worship of Yahweh were made among the Jews. They had his law, his temple, his sabbaths, and the ordinances of his religion; see the notes at Romans 3:2. To all these the pagans had been strangers, and of course they were deprived of all the privileges which resulted from having the true religion. The word rendered here as “commonwealth” - πολιτεία politeia- means properly citizenship, or the right of citizenship, and then a community, or state. It means here that arrangement or organization by which the worship of the true God was maintained. The word “aliens” - ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι apēllotriōmenoi- here means merely that they were strangers to. It does not denote, of necessity, that they were hostile to it; but that they were ignorant of it, and were, therefore, deprived of the benefits which they might have derived from it, if they had been acquainted with it.

And strangers - This word - ξένος xenos- means properly a guest, or a stranger, who is hospitably entertained; then a foreigner, or one from a distant country; and here means that they did not belong to the community where the covenants of promise were enjoyed; that is, they were strangers to the privileges of the people of God.

The covenants of promise - see the notes at Romans 9:4. The covenants of promise were those various arrangements which God made with his people, by which he promised them future blessings, and especially by which he promised that the Messiah should come. To be in possession of them was regarded as a high honor and privilege; and Paul refers to it here to show that, though the Ephesians had been by nature without these, yet they had now been brought to enjoy all the benefits of them. On the word covenant, see the notes on Galatians 3:15. It may be remarked, that Walton (Polyglott) and Rosenmuller unite the word “promise” here with the word “hope” - “having no hope of the promise.” But the more obvious and usual interpretation is that in our common version, meaning that they were not by nature favored with the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., by which there was a promise of future blessings under the Messiah.

Having no hope - The apostle does not mean to affirm that they did not cherish any hope, for this is scarcely true of any man; but that they were without any proper ground of hope. It is true of perhaps nearly all people that they cherish some hope of future happiness. But the ground on which they do this is not well understood by themselves, nor do they in general regard it as a matter worth particular inquiry. Some rely on morality; some on forms of religion; some on the doctrine of universal salvation; all who are impenitent believe that they do not “deserve” eternal death, and expect to be saved by “justice.” Such hopes, however, must be unfounded. No hope of life in a future world can be founded on a proper basis which does not rest on some promise of God, or some assurance that he will save us; and these hopes, therefore, which people take up they know not why, are delusive and vain.

And without God in the world - Greek ἄθεοι atheoi- “atheists;” that is, those who had no knowledge of the true God. This is the last specification of their miserable condition before they were converted; and it is an appropriate crowning of the climax. What an expression! To be without God - without God in his own world, and where he is all around us! To have no evidence of his favor, no assurance of his love, no hope of dwelling with him! The meaning, as applied to the pagan Ephesians, was, that they had no knowledge of the true God. This was true of the pagan, and in an important sense also it is true of all impenitent sinners, and was once true of all who are now Christians. They had no God. They did not worship him, or love him, or serve him, or seek his favors, or act with reference to him and his glory. Nothing can be a more appropriate and striking description of a sinner now than to say that he is “without God in the world.”

He lives, and feels, and acts, as if there were no God. He neither worships him in secret, nor in his family, nor in public. He acts with no reference to his will. He puts no confidence in his promises, and fears not when he threatens; and were it announced to him that there “is no God,” it would produce no change in his plan of life, or in his emotions. The announcement that the emperor of China, or the king of Siam, or the sultan of Constantinople, was dead, would produce some emotion, and might change some of his commercial arrangements; but the announcement that there is no God would interfere with none of his plans, and demand no change of life. And, if so, what is man in this beautiful world without a God? A traveler to eternity without a God! Standing over the grave without a God! An immortal being without a God! A man - fallen, sunk, ruined, with no God to praise, to love, to confide in; with no altar, no sacrifice, no worship, no hope; with no Father in trial, no counselor in perplexity, no support in death! Such is the state of man by nature. Such are the effects of sin.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Christ and his covenant are the foundation of all the Christian's hopes. A sad and terrible description is here; but who is able to remove himself out of it? Would that this were not a true description of many baptized in the name of Christ. Who can, without trembling, reflect upon the misery of a person, separated for ever from the people of God, cut off from the body of Christ, fallen from the covenant of promise, having no hope, no Saviour, and without any God but a God of vengeance, to all eternity? To have no part in Christ! What true Christian can hear this without horror? Salvation is far from the wicked; but God is a help at hand to his people; and this is by the sufferings and death of Christ.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 568

Both thought and action will be necessary if you would attain to perfection of character. While brought in contact with the world, you should be on your guard that you do not seek too ardently for the applause of men and live for their opinion. Walk carefully if you would walk safely; cultivate the grace of humility, and hang your helpless souls upon Christ. You may be, in every sense, men of God. In the midst of confusion and temptation in the worldly crowd you may, with perfect sweetness, keep the independence of the soul. 4T 568.1

If you are in daily communion with God you will learn to place His estimate upon men, and the obligations resting upon you to bless suffering humanity will meet with a willing response. You are not your own; your Lord has sacred claims upon your supreme affections and the very highest services of your life. He has a right to use you, in your body and in your spirit, to the fullest extent of your capabilities, for His own honor and glory. Whatever crosses you may be required to bear, whatever labors or sufferings are imposed upon you by His hand, you are to accept without a murmur. 4T 568.2

Those for whom you labor are your brethren in distress, suffering from physical disorders and the spiritual leprosy of sin. If you are any better than they, it is to be credited to the cross of Christ. Many are without God and without hope in the world. They are guilty, corrupt, and degraded, enslaved by Satan's devices. Yet these are the ones whom Christ came from heaven to redeem. They are subjects for tenderest pity, sympathy, and tireless effort; for they are on the verge of ruin. They suffer from ungratified desires, disordered passions, and the condemnation of their own consciences; they are miserable in every sense of the word, for they are losing their hold on this life and have no prospect for the life to come. 4T 568.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 238

As God's people labor earnestly, humbly, self-sacrificingly, they will gain the rich reward of which Job speaks: “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; ... the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.... I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” Job 29:11-16. 7T 238.1

The blessing of good works will follow into the eternal world those who deny self for the sake of their Saviour. When the redeemed stand around the throne of God, those who have been saved from sin and degradation will come to those who labored for them, with the words of greeting: “I was without God and without hope in the world. I was perishing in corruption and sin. I was starving for physical and for spiritual food. You came to me in love and pity, and fed and clothed me. You pointed me to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” 7T 238.2

My brethren in the South, be strong, yea, be strong. The hand of oppression and robbery shall not afflict you if you will exalt the holy principles of God's law. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard for you against him. You are engaged in an important work, and you are to take heed, to watch and pray, to make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. Work with an eye single to the glory of God, with a sense of your individual responsibility. Remember that the Lord alone can make your efforts successful. 7T 238.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 144.4

Hope for One With a Hardened Conscience—Now you have no hope; you are without God; and yet Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. Will you now cry to God with a broken, repentant heart, “Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me”? I press this matter upon your conscience. May God urge it upon your soul with arguments of mighty power. Oh, that the blind might see the solemnity of eternal judgment, and deepen the appeal I make to you at this time. I am writing in the early morning hours, while all in the house are locked in slumber. Be not determined to be lost. You cannot comprehend what a terrible thing it is to be lost. Your conscience has become hardened in sin and transgression and unbelief; but you may, if you will, fall on the Rock Christ Jesus and be broken before it is utterly too late, crying, “Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.” If you do this, God will not leave you to perish.... TSB 144.4

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 58.2

Without the kingdom of God we are lost ... and are without hope in the world, but salvation has been provided for us through faith in Jesus Christ. He is the treasure, and when the rubbish of the world is swept away, we are enabled to discern His infinite value.... TMK 58.2

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