And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (
Those buried in the graveyard are in various stages of decomposition. If you exhumed some bodies, they would seem nearly alive by their appearance, having been recently buried. Others would be far from appearing alive—skeletal remains obviously dead. One thing all would have in common, however—all are dead!
This is spiritually true of everyone without a connection to Jesus Christ, “the Resurrection and the Life” (
John 11:25). Paul begins the second chapter of Ephesians
this way, “And you He made alive, who
were dead in trespasses and sins” (v.1).
Not all were equally corrupt—some were more religious, more moral, while
others were more obviously wicked and degenerate—but all shared the same
spiritual need of new life, because they were all spiritually dead in sin!
So, Paul will speak of “those who were near”—that is the Jews who knew about the true God and had in some measure submitted themselves to the moral demands of God’s law. Then, there were the Gentiles, “who were afar off” being pagans without the knowledge of the One True God and given over to the lusts of the flesh. The Apostle described our depravity in stark terms,
in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (
But, God in His rich mercy saved both Jew and Gentile and regenerated them, giving them equal access to the Father by the same Holy Spirit.
We see this in the church still today.
Here is someone raised in church—they know the language and the liturgy. They know when to stand and when to sit. They have been to Sunday School since nine months before they were born and the first song they learned to sing was, “Jesus Loves Me.” But, without Christ they are lost. Then the Gospel of Christ they have heard in their ears penetrates to the level of their heart, the Holy Spirit calls them by name and they recognize that they need peace with God and come to Him.
Then, you see someone baptized into the fellowship of the church who has never seen a baptism before. They are clueless as to the formalities of faith. You may as well be doing the service in Latin as to their understanding of some of the vocabulary of religion. They likely know Led Zeppelin’s, “Stairway to Heaven,” but have never heard Bill Gaither’s, “Because He Lives.” But, under the preaching of the Gospel, they have come to life, and all “tatted up,” and with various body parts pierced they are broken in conviction, birthed into salvation and baptized as their confession of faith.
And there is no difference! The same access to God is available to both. Connected to Christ, we are all—irrespective of religious background—connected to each other.