That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Did the Gentiles who lived before Jesus’ incarnation have an opportunity to know God? Although there are such examples scattered throughout the Old Testament, the odds of this happening were slim to none. Paul explains why in this verse.
But first, allow me to share a few thoughts on the nation of Israel. When God devised his plan to save the human race, he had to choose a people group through whom the Savior would come. He needed to prepare a community and to put into place everything necessary so that when the time came, humanity would be ready and equipped to receive its redeemer. God chose Abraham’s descendants for this task. As a result, they had extraordinary access to the Lord that the rest of the human race didn’t enjoy.
Paul outlines five specific areas where the Gentiles were at a disadvantage spiritually. First, they were “without Christ.” This word means “the Messiah,” or literally, “the anointed one.” It refers to the Savior promised throughout the Old Testament. The Gentiles were unaware of the prophecies concerning the Christ, and therefore they had no expectation of his coming and no connection with him at all.
Secondly, the Gentiles were not citizens of the state of Israel, and therefore, they did not benefit from the Mosaic covenant that God had established with the Jewish nation, which enabled the Israelites to know God.
Thirdly, they had no part in the Messianic covenant. In other words, they were strangers to the promise that someday, a Messiah would come.
The next two items are the result of the first three areas Paul mentioned. Since the Gentiles were ignorant of the coming Savior, they had no hope that this fallen world would ever change for the better. And finally, they had no relationship with God. Despite their plethora of idols, they had no connection with the Creator and no knowledge of him.
The good news is that the story doesn’t end here. It is precisely because of the deplorable spiritual state of the Gentiles described by Paul that Jesus came into the world. God’s plan was always to restore people from every tribe and nation to himself. Before the coming of Christ, the Gentiles had a much harder road than the Jews did to find God. How wonderful it is that this is no longer the case.