The Way of Christ began as a Jewish movement. Not, of course, in the sense that it was a splinter of Judaism (Act 24:5, 28:22), but that it first and foremost reached to Jewish audiences as the culmination of the Jewish system. On this topic, Paul gives his defense at his trial. “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:14-15, emphasis mine). By divine design, a Jewish ear was intended to hear the message of Jesus. But what about Gentiles? What was our status in the initial stages of the preaching of the Gospel?
Paul tells us about our condition in Ephesians 2. There he invites us to remember the time before Christ. The Jews called us “the Uncircumcision;” a derogatory term highlighting our lesser relationship and commitment to our Creator (2:11). We were separate from the promise of Messiah (2:12a). In fact, we were on the receiving end of His conquest, depending on your interpretation of the prophets. We were excluded from, not only participation in the wonderful act of worship, but from citizenship in Israel, and all the promises and beautiful law contained therein (2:12b, Deut. 4:8). We were “the afar off” ones; another term used by the Jews (2:13a).
Not only this, but we were also dead in our sins; enslaved to them and their consequences (2:1, Rom. 6). We did Satan’s bidding whether we knew it or not (2:2). But we thought we were in control. We did whatever we wanted to do (2:3). Because of that, we added to our future the end that awaits Satan. We acted like his children, so we deserved every bit of that end. With no atonement, no sacrifices, no priests, no holy feasts, and no way in before the mercy seat to plead our case, we had no hope (2:12). We had no God. We had nothing.
But then Jesus appeared. We were “afar off,” but He brought us near through His blood (2:13b, Acts 2:39). With His flesh, He made it so that there was no difference between us and the Jew (2:14), no need for the “Gentile Court” at the temple. With His cross, He remade us to be a new person and imitation of Him (2:15-16, Col. 2:13-14). Through the Spirit raising Him from the dead, we have access to our God and Father, citizenship in Israel, life, and no more need for a temple (2:17-22, 5). The temple is what we are!
Strangely, many Jews would hear this message and not think it worthwhile (Acts 13:46). But when Gentiles first heard this, they could not contain their joy (Acts 13:47-48)! Let us not forget where we came from and how exactly Jesus gentled our condition.