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12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

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12. without ChristGreek, "separate from Christ"; having no part in Him; far from Him. A different Greek word (aneu) would be required to express, "Christ was not present with you" [Tittmann].

aliensGreek, "alienated from," not merely "separated from." The Israelites were cut off from the commonwealth of God, but it was as being self-righteous, indolent, and unworthy, not as aliens and strangers [Chrysostom]. The expression, "alienated from," takes it for granted that the Gentiles, before they had apostatized from the primitive truth, had been sharers in light and life (compare Eph 4:18, 23). The hope of redemption through the Messiah, on their subsequent apostasy, was embodied into a definite "commonwealth" or polity, namely, that "of Israel," from which the Gentiles were alienated. Contrast Eph 2:13; Eph 3:6; 4:4, 5, with Ps 147:20.

covenants of promise—rather, "… of the promise," namely, "to thee and thy seed will I give this land" (Ro 9:4; Ga 3:16). The plural implies the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the whole people at Sinai [Alford]. "The promise" is singular, to signify that the covenant, in reality, and substantially, is one and the same at all times, but only different in its accidents and external circumstances (compare Heb 1:1, "at sundry times and in divers manners").

having no … hope—beyond this life (1Co 15:19). The CONJECTURES of heathen philosophers as to a future life were at best vague and utterly unsatisfactory. They had no divine "promise," and therefore no sure ground of "hope." Epicurus and Aristotle did not believe in it at all. The Platonists believed the soul passed through perpetual changes, now happy, and then again miserable; the Stoics, that it existed no longer than till the time of the general burning up of all things.

without GodGreek, "atheists," that is, they had not "God" in the sense we use the word, the Eternal Being who made and governs all things (compare Ac 14:15, "Turn from these vanities unto the living God who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things therein"), whereas the Jews had distinct ideas of God and immortality. Compare also Ga 4:8, "Ye knew not God … ye did service unto them which are no gods" (1Th 4:5). So also pantheists are atheists, for an impersonal God is NO God, and an ideal immortality no immortality [Tholuck].

in the world—in contrast to belonging to "the commonwealth of Israel." Having their portion and their all in this godless vain world (Ps 17:14), from which Christ delivers His people (Joh 15:19; 17:14; Ga 1:4).