11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Paul is writing specifically to the Gentiles here; Gentile was a generic term to indicate all other nations besides Israel so unless you are Jewish by blood then you are a Gentile and Paul’s words here are for you.
We Begin Life Separated from God...
The Gentiles were called the “uncircumcised” by the Jews who were of course themselves the “circumcised”. I find it interesting that Paul describes circumcision as something that is done in the body with human hands. This description doesn’t need to be here for the context of the text to work but yet Paul still pointed it out. I suspect he did this to indicate that there was nothing special with the spiritual act of circumcision, in and of itself, and that there is no extra special spiritual thing that transpires in this religious ceremony. If I am correct then the Jews could have taken offense at this because the ceremony of Jewish circumcision was what made a person a part of the Jewish community, a special almost sacramental spiritual ceremony that bestowed the blessings of God on the child; it would have been much akin to the act of infant baptism today. So I notice Paul’s almost flippant remark of the act as being merely done by ‘human hands'.
The point of this section though is not about the ceremony of circumcision but about the reality that we Gentiles were from our birth naturally separated from Christ. We were excluded from citizenship in Israel, we were foreigners to the covenants of the promise (blessing of God), and we were without hope because we were without God in this world. Of the ways in which we Gentiles were separated from God, the most damning part was our exclusion from the “covenant of the promise.”
Back in Genesis 12, God called Abram to leave his family and country and go to a place that he would be shown. God promised Abram that he would make him a great nation, keeping and blessing him, and his kin particularly, and throughout history God made covenants (agreements) with the Children of Israel to bring about that initial promise. Those who were circumcised were the proper agents of those covenants of the promise and those who were not circumcised were just,,, well, they were just SOL. So when Paul tells us Gentiles that we were separated and excluded from God and without a single hope in this world, he was being quite literal for we truly were on the short list of the wrath of God.
Here at the end of versus 11 and 12 we are left with a depressing position of woe as we learn that we are destitute and excluded from the blessings of God. I sure hope that next week Paul will write us something that is gospel good-news.
Oh the suspense is killing me! Join me next time as we hear what else the Apostle Paul has to say.