United in God’s Kingdom
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, (2:19a)
Whether believers were previously apart from God and His people or whether they were previously nearby, they became one in Jesus Christ. Whether they were former strangers and outcasts or former aliens and guests, all believers in Christ become fellow citizens of God’s kingdom with the saints—the believers from every age who have trusted in God. God’s kingdom has no strangers or aliens, no second-class citizens. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), Paul declares, and the only citizens of heaven are God’s saints.
united in god’s family
and are of God’s household, (2:19b)
As if being members of His divine kingdom were not enough, God’s gracious work in Christ draws us even closer and makes us members of God’s household. Because we have identified ourselves with His Son by faith, God now sees us and treats us exactly as He sees and treats His Son—with infinite love. Because the Father cannot give anything but His best to the Son, He cannot give anything but His best to those who are in His Son. “Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father,” the writer of Hebrews tells us, “for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.… Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are” (2:11; 3:6; Rom. 8:17).
Heavenly citizenship and family membership are not distinct roles or positions but simply different views of the same reality, because every kingdom citizen is a family member and every family member is a kingdom citizen.
If believers have no distinctions before God, they should have no distinctions among themselves. We are fellow citizens and fellow family members, equal in every spiritual way before God. If God accepts each one of us, how can we not accept each other?
We Are Dear to God (2:19)
Unfolding the implications of the preceding summary that “through him [Christ] we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph. 2:18), the apostle says to the Gentiles now in the church, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people” (Eph. 2:19). Paul puts before us the grand consequence of the cooperative work of the Trinity in our behalf. Through the cleansing work of Christ we can now approach the heavenly Father. The word Paul uses to describe our “access” to God is used in New Testament times to describe access to a throne room. Our Father is a King.
Paul’s careful wording reminds us that we can enter the presence of the King of the universe and seek his favor because he loves us as his own children. By the sacrifice of the Son, the effects of our sin have been washed away. Now we—although of Gentile origins—can approach the Father with the same status as the covenant people of old. And the Holy Spirit himself ushers us forward, announces our presence, and carries our petitions.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unite in heavenly power and compassion to grant us purity, peace, and purpose. The trinitarian theology of this passage (Eph. 2:18; cf. 2:22) is reminiscent of other trinitarian texts in Paul’s letters (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:4–6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4–6), but here there is a special emphasis on the effect of their cooperative work on our corporate status.
No Longer Foreigners (Eph. 2:19a)
Having access to the Father means that we are no longer foreigners and aliens to the covenant (Eph. 2:19). This is the converse of what was previously said: “You who are Gentiles by birth … 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” (Eph. 2:11–12). Alienation from God and isolation from his promises and privileges characterized our former status, so that we were without hope and the comfort of God in this world of loneliness, trouble, and transition. But it is “no longer” so. We are no longer aliens and foreigners.
But Fellow Citizens (2:19b)
We are fellow citizens with God’s people. If you have been an alien in a foreign country, then you understand how important such citizenship is. In your own country, you conduct business, seek medical attention, participate in government, have legal protections, and do not even think of the privileges. But if you travel to another country where you have no automatic rights—you worry about whether your medical insurance will apply, or whether your currency will work, or whether you will have legal rights if you get in trouble. When you are a stranger in a strange land, you feel vulnerable, alone, and wary every day.
Having citizenship in the ancient world also meant that you had special rights and protection. This is why the city officials at Philippi, who had beaten Paul and Silas without a trial, became so alarmed when they learned the two were Roman citizens (Acts 16:38–39). The officials knew that the protection and power of Rome could be exercised against them for their treatment of its citizens. So when Paul here reminds us that we are “fellow citizens” with God’s people, he is reminding us that we have the power and protection of heaven. We are as treasured as any of the covenant people. Countering the vulnerabilities we feel in our travel through this world, Paul says we have the privileges of our heavenly citizenship to protect us.
And Family (2:19c)
Our privileges are not exhausted in our citizenship. Paul says that in addition to having the rights of citizens, we also have the benefits of being in God’s family. “You are … members of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19c), Paul says to the Ephesian Gentiles. Here the apostle narrows the circle of intimacy for those now in the Ephesian church. Paul began by broadly saying, “You are no longer foreigners and aliens.” Then he draws the relationship closer, saying, “You are fellow citizens.” Now he tightens that relationship even further by saying to people very different in race, class, and origin, “You are part of the same family.”
Paul makes this relationship even more special by reminding the church that it is not just any family of which they are members; they are members of God’s family. We understand how special this wording is when we see that Paul uses this word for family (oikeios) to refer to actual family members in 1 Timothy 5:8 and in a metaphorical sense to speak of the family of God (the “household of faith”) in Galatians 6:10 (cf. oikos in 1 Tim. 3:15). Thus even the adopted children of God (Eph. 1:5) can be assured that God is their Father and they are his family. Paul wants us to understand the great privilege and comfort that come from knowing that God claims us as his own family no matter what our past difficulties or failures.
Humorist Garrison Keillor tells the story of a young woman named Lydia who tires of her staid and proper upbringing in Lake Wobegon. She moves to New Orleans and takes up in the revelry until it, too, becomes routine. She longs for something more. Eventually she discovers that the “something more” is to feel important to someone, to be cherished and loved. She takes up with a man that she has met amidst the parties. He moves in with her, but he cannot leave aspects of the revelry that have become compulsive in his life. He cannot keep a job, but gives her the job of picking up his beer bottles that daily litter the floor and the sofa. She eventually tires of him, too. One day she leaves a month’s rent on the TV and leaves him asleep at midday to make life on his own.
She takes the bus back to Lake Wobegon. They whisper about her there. Her days of ill repute generate much conversation over coffee at the local café where she now works. Though she is back at home, she is a foreigner. Familiar surroundings only make her feel more alien, reminding her that she does not belong here.
She goes to her parents’ home for Thanksgiving. She sits at the table but feels out of place, not at home, although she is at home. So, as soon as the pie is eaten and the dishes are piled at the kitchen sink, she goes to a remote part of the living room to escape the relatives who now seem alien to her. Tracing her hand along the fireplace mantle, she glances over all the familiar objects in all the familiar places, and then sees an unfamiliar picture. It is her picture from her senior year in high school. There she is fresh-faced with every hair in place, but there is something different about the picture now. Beneath her image in the frame is stuck a little label typed from her father’s old Remington typewriter. It simply says, “Our Lydia.” How strange to be labeled in one’s own house, and yet Lydia knows the purpose. Before the world and against all the whispers this was her father’s announcement to everyone who came into the house and knew nothing or everything about her: “This is ‘Our Lydia.’ ” The “our” meant so much. Those three letters were as jewels to her, each one a diamond that said she was treasured in this house. No matter how far she had traveled in distance or behavior, no matter how foreign her place or practices, no matter what had transpired, no matter the time passed, no matter the rumors told, or the truth revealed—amidst all the transitions and enduring beyond them she was a member of this family. She was “Our Lydia.”
God says in this passage that we are his family. We are treasured in his house always, always. Whatever transitions come, whether they are transitions away from current location or away from his approval, whether they are transitions of success or failure, whether they are transitions of family or difficulty or career, the love of our Father will never waver. His heavenly power and protection are active in our behalf wherever we go—near or far, to places familiar or alien—because we are citizens of his kingdom and members of his family. Through Christ we not only have access to our Father’s presence, we also have access to our Father’s heart. There his Spirit advocates for us with tenderness beyond our provoking, and pronounces to our heart what the heavens announce to the world: “You are our child, and you will always be.”
The words sound wonderful. But our fears, frailties, and failures make us wonder how confident we can be of God’s unfailing love. How strong or fragile is our relationship with the heavenly Father? Can we lose it? How sure can we be of heaven’s love in a world of transitions? Paul answers these questions too.
19. Now therefore ye are no more strangers. The Ephesians are now exclusively addressed. They were formerly strangers from the covenants of promise, but their condition was now changed. They were foreigners, but God had made them citizens of his church. The high value of that honour which God had been pleased to bestow upon them, is expressed in a variety of language. They are first called fellow-citizens with the saints,—next, of the household of God,—and lastly, stones properly fitted into the building of the temple of the Lord. The first appellation is taken from the comparison of the church to a state, which occurs very frequently in Scripture. Those who were formerly profane, and utterly unworthy to associate with godly persons, have been raised to distinguished honour in being admitted to be members of the same community with Abraham,—with all the holy patriarchs, and prophets, and kings,—nay, with the angels themselves. To be of the household of God, which is the second comparison, suggests equally exalted views of their present condition. God has admitted them into his own family; for the church is God’s house.
19 This final subsection begins with a favorite Pauline way of drawing a summation or conclusion: “therefore,” “so then,” “consequently” (ara oun; other uses include Ro 5:18; 7:3, 25; 9:16, 18; 14:12, 19; Gal 6:10; 1 Th 5:6; 2 Th 2:15). Paul tells the Gentile readers what is no longer true of them as a result of Christ’s actions. No longer are they “foreigners” (v. 12) and “aliens” (paroikos, GK 4230)—a word that connotes a foreigner or alien in either a literal (Ac 7:6, 29) or some metaphorical sense (1 Pe 2:11; these are its only other NT uses). Together “foreigners and aliens” functions as another hendiadys (two words expressing one idea), roughly equivalent to “excluded from citizenship in Israel” (v. 12). Happily that exclusion has terminated. The reverse is true: they enjoy full citizenship; literally they are “fellow citizens [sympolitai, GK 5232] of the saints” (hagiōn, NIV “God’s people”). To whom does Paul refer in using the term “saints” here? To which preexisting group are these Gentiles joined? Options include (1) Israel; (2) Jewish Christians; (3) the initial generation of Christians; (4) all Christians; and (5) angels (recall that some see “saints” as angels in 1:18). The first three have little to commend them. Yoder Neufeld, 125, argues against making a choice, taking “saints” broadly for all holy ones—human and angelic. Best opines that “saints” here includes “glorified saints” raised to heaven along with the heavenly angels. But lacking other evidence in the context, I see no need to so complicate the reference. As mentioned earlier, “saints” or “holy ones” typically designates all the people of God (1:1; cf. 4:12; 5:3; 6:18). This may be a circuitous way of speaking of the body of Christ, but we have seen that Paul savors such language in this letter. The best option is the simplest one: these Gentiles who believe have joined the company of God’s holy people as citizens with full rights.
Changing the metaphor from the political realm to that of the family, Paul describes these Gentiles as “members of God’s household.” The term oikeios (GK 3858)—used only here and in 1 Timothy 5:8 (“immediate family”) and Galatians 6:10—refers to “persons who are related by kinship or circumstances and form a closely knit group, members of a household” (BDAG, 694). No longer outsiders, not guests or even distant relatives, Gentiles now enjoy full membership in God’s immediate family or household. Where is this household located, and who is in it? Paul’s earlier references to believers “in the heavenly realms” might suggest that this is another example of realized eschatology, picturing the entirety of the people of God with whom God dwells (2:22; cf. Rev 21:3).
19 The first Gentile believers who were admitted to a church comprising Jewish Christians could well have felt ill at ease; it was desirable that they should be made to feel completely at home. The church had a Jewish base; its members had Jewish presuppositions, and it would have been too easy for Gentile Christians to do or say something which was felt to be out of place. What indeed was their status in such a community? Were they there on sufferance, as visitors, like the God-fearing Gentiles who attended synagogue in cities of the dispersion? Was their position like that of resident aliens in a Greek city, or that of peregrini in Rome? In a crisis like that which arose in Antioch when Peter and others abandoned the practice of table-fellowship with Gentile Christians, the latter must have got the impression that they were at best second-rate citizens. Against this apparent demotion of Gentile Christians Paul protested vigorously at Antioch (Gal. 2:11–14), and it is Paul’s attitude that finds uncompromising expression here. Gentile Christians are not adherents or visitors or second-rate citizens in the believing community; they are full members. If the community is viewed as a city, they are citizens, not resident aliens. The “saints” with whom they are fellow-citizens are the original “saints”—“we who first placed our hope in Christ,” as they are called in Eph. 1:12. Gentile believers are now included among the “saints”—not only among the followers of Jesus but among the people of God of all ages. Once the Gentiles had no place among the people of God, but now a new situation has come about—a situation to which Paul has already applied words from the book of Hosea:
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘my beloved.’
And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
they will be called ‘sons of the living God’ ” (Rom. 9:25–26).
If the community is viewed as a house or household, the Gentile believers are full members of the family—not household servants but sons and daughters, with all the rights of inheritance that sons and daughters enjoy. The Father to whom they have access is the same Father as he to whom their brothers and sisters of Jewish origin have access—it is by the same Spirit that his Gentile and Jewish children alike acknowledge him as their Father.
In writing to the Christians of Rome, Paul implies that some of the Gentiles among them were inclined to look down on their Jewish fellow-Christians as poor relations, mercifully rescued from an apostate nation, and he warns them against such an attitude: “remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” (Rom. 11:18). They had been cut out of the wild olive, the fruitless shoot to which they originally belonged, and grafted into the good olive tree, to share the nutriment and fertility of the true people of God. The credit was not theirs; they were entirely indebted to God’s mercy. In our present epistle there is no suggestion that its Gentile recipients stood in need of such a warning; what they are given is full encouragement to magnify the grace of God which has rescued them from their former place as rank outsiders and instated them among his children.
2:19 / Now that the apostle has discussed the effects that Christ’s death had upon Jews and Gentiles (2:14–18), he returns to his discussion of the Gentiles to complete the contrasts that he began earlier. At one time they were foreigners who did not belong to God’s people (2:12), but now they are no longer foreigners (xenos) or aliens (paroikos). Foreigners are people outside a country or community, with no special rights or privileges. The word for aliens (paroikos) often is translated as “sojourners,” a term that accentuates the transient nature of the Gentiles. In that condition they were like aliens with an “immigrant visa,” which granted them limited rights and privileges, but not full citizenship or permanent residency.
But the status of the Gentiles has changed remarkably: First, the author uses a political expression and affirms that they are now fellow citizens (sympolitai) with God’s people, that is, they are on equal standing with the historic people of God. Second, he uses the imagery of a building (oikos) to affirm that they are members of God’s household.
19. Now, therefore—rather, “So then” [Alford].
foreigners—rather, “sojourners”; opposed to “members of the household,” as “strangers” is to “fellow citizens.” Php 3:19, 20, “conversation,” Greek, “citizenship.”
but—The oldest manuscripts add, “are.”
with the saints—“the commonwealth of (spiritual) Israel” (Eph 2:12).
of God—the Father; as Jesus Christ appears in Eph 2:20, and the Spirit in Eph 2:22.
Ver. 19.—So then ye are no more strangers and foreigners. “Sojourners” is nearer πάροικοι than “foreigners;” it denotes persons dwelling in a place, but without citizen rights and privileges; but as such persons are usually foreigners, it is immaterial which term is used. But ye are fellow-citizens with the saints. The saints are the chosen ones of all time (comp. Heb. 12:22, “But ye are come unto Mount Zion,” etc.). “Their names are engraven on the same civic roll with all whom ‘the Lord shall count when he reckoneth up the people.’ It is as if they who had dwelt in the waste and howling wilderness, scattered defenceless and in melancholy isolation, had been transplanted, not only into Palestine, but had been appointed to domiciles on Mount Zion, and were located in the metropolis, not to admire its architecture, or gaze upon its battlements, or envy the tribes who had come up to worship in the city which is compact together; but to claim its municipal immunities, experience its protection, obey its laws, live and love in its happy society, and hold communion with its glorious Founder and Guardian” (Eadie). And (members) of the household of God. A nearer relation to God and a higher privilege is denoted here. You are not guests or occasional visitors, but permanent dwellers in the house and members of the family. Compare the Queen of Sheba’s words to Solomon (1 Kings 10:8).
God’s kingdom (verse 19a)
According to verse 12 the Gentiles used to be stateless and disenfranchised outsiders, ‘alienated from the commonwealth (politeia) of Israel’. But now, he says to them, you are fellow citizens (sumpolitai) with the saints, which seems here to mean the Jewish people, the saints or ‘holy nation’. Only a few years previously the word politeia had been used of Roman citizenship in Paul’s conversation with the tribune in Jerusalem. Now he writes of another citizenship. Although he does not develop the metaphor, he appears to be alluding to citizenship of God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God is neither a territorial jurisdiction nor even a spiritual structure. God’s kingdom is God himself ruling his people, and bestowing upon them all the privileges and responsibilities which his rule implies. To this new international God-ruled community, which had replaced the Old Testament national theocracy, Gentiles and Jews belonged on equal terms. Paul is writing while the Roman Empire is at the zenith of its splendour; no signs had yet appeared of its coming decline, let alone of its fall. Yet he sees this other kingdom, neither Jewish nor Roman but international and interracial, as something more splendid and more enduring than any earthly empire.7 And he rejoices in its citizenship more even than in his Roman citizenship. Its citizens are free and secure. The words no longer strangers and sojourners but … citizens emphasize the contrast between the rootlessness of a life outside Christ and the stability of being a part of God’s new society. ‘We no longer live on a passport, but … we really have our birth certificates, … we really do belong.’
God’s family (verse 19b)
The metaphor changes and becomes more intimate: you are … members of the household of God. A kingdom is one thing; a household or family is another. And in Christ Jews and Gentiles find themselves more than fellow citizens under his rule; they are together children in his family. Paul has just written in the previous verse of the new and privileged access ‘to the Father’ which Jews and Gentiles enjoy through Christ (verse 18), and earlier in the letter he has enlarged on the blessings of ‘adoption’ into his family (1:5). Soon he will have more to say about God’s archetypal fatherhood (3:14–15) and about the ‘one God and Father of us all’ (4:6). But here his emphasis seems to be less on God’s fatherhood than on the brotherhood into which, across racial barriers, the Father’s children are brought. ‘Brethren’ (meaning ‘brothers and sisters’) is the commonest word for Christians in the New Testament. It expresses a close relationship of affection, care and support. Philadelphia, ‘brotherly love’, should always be a special characteristic of God’s new society.
19. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints and members of the household of God … The Ephesians, believers from the Gentiles for the greater part, had been “strangers” (see verse 12), as it were citizens of another country, but no longer were they to be considered mere foreigners who happened to be visiting the people of another land. Nor were they even to be regarded as aliens or sojourners, mere Gibeonites who dwelt in the midst of Israel without having obtained full rights of citizens. Cf. Exod. 2:22; Acts 7:6. On the contrary, they are “fellow-citizens” (a word occurring only here in the New Testament) with the saints, that is, with all those who were separated from the world and consecrated to God as a people for his own possession. The church is not to be divided into first-class members (Jewish converts to Christianity) and second-class members (Gentile converts to Christianity). The terms of admission are the same for all: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a faith working through love. The rank or standing is also the same. Expressing this thought in language still more intimate, the apostle declares that these former Gentiles are now “members of the household” of God. The household or family is a more intimate unit than the state. “Brothers and sisters” (household-members) is a more endearing term than “fellow-citizens.”
2:19. Redeemed Jews and Gentiles are no longer estranged from each other but are fellow citizens of the kingdom of God. Race or nationality make no difference. All are redeemed people through Christ’s cross. God’s people represents the niv interpretation of the Greek hagion, literally, “holy ones.” Other interpreters see the holy ones as Israel, Jewish Christians, the first Christian generation, all believers, or the angels of heaven. The contrast may be between who the Gentiles were—aliens—and who they now are—kingdom citizens along with those who have always been kingdom citizens—Jews. In that case they have extended the meaning of holy ones so that it is no longer limited to Jews but also includes Gentiles, now meaning all believers. The reference could maintain the discussion of being seated in the heavenly realm and allude to the angels as other inhabitants there. Most likely, it is a general reference to people of God from all generations and uses the contrast of the Gentiles’ previous state to enhance the understanding of their present state. Alienated foreigners with no citizenship papers, they have joined the people of God with heavenly citizenship. Not only are they citizens of a heavenly kingdom, but they are also members of a spiritual family, God’s household.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 81–82). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 122–125). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
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 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
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 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ephesians (pp. 66–67). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (pp. 104–106). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, p. 141). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, pp. 114–115). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.