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By Charles H. Welch

ALIEN, Greek allotrios and apallotrioo. Allotrios is found fourteen times in the New Testament and is translated in the A.V. as follows: alien 1, another man’s 6, of others 1, strange 2, stranger 4.

Apallotrioo, be alienated 1, alien 1, alienated 1. The Greek word allotrios is one of a large family, the root of which is alla ‘change’, and it is of great importance to remember that alienation and reconciliation, the two poles of experience, are both derived from the same root. Reconciliation being either katallasso, apokatallasso, dialassomai and katallage; allogenes being translated ‘stranger’ (see RECONCILIATION 4 ). The word that has a direct bearing upon dispensational truth is apallotrioo which occurs as follows:


Eph. 2:12.

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.

Eph. 4:18.

Being alienated from the life of God.

Col. 1:21.

That were sometimes alienated.

The references in Ephesians 4 and in Colossians 1, belong to the practical and doctrinal sphere of revealed truth, the passage that interests us is Ephesians 2:12. The structure of Ephesians 2:11-19 divides the subject-matter into three time periods:

  1. In time past ... What we once were.

  2. But now        ... What grace has done.

  3. No longer     ... The complete reversal of the past.

Each part of Ephesians 2 deals with a time past in contrast with a time present, with its accompanying change. It is important to observe the distinctive features of these two parts, the former dealing with death and life, the latter with distance and nearness. Ephesians 2:1-10 uses such words as ‘dead’, ‘trespass’, ‘sin’, ‘disobedience’, ‘wrath’, ‘quickened’, ‘saved’, ‘faith’ and ‘walk’. Ephesians 2:11-22 uses an entirely new vocabulary. Instead of sin and death we have ‘Gentiles’, ‘uncircumcision’, ‘aliens’ and ‘far off’; instead of being quickened and raised, we have a ‘middle wall broken down’, ‘ordinances abolished’, ‘one new man created’ and the thought of ‘fellow citizens’ and a ‘holy temple’. Instead of trespasses we have dispensational distance; instead of the flesh with its lusts we have the flesh in its uncircumcision and enmity. In the first section we have a new creation, and in the second the creation of a new man; in the first, believers are seated together in the heavenlies, in the second builded together as an habitation of God.

These differences are important, for if the section before us deals with dispensational distance rather than with sin and death, this will materially colour the meaning of the reconciliation referred to here by the apostle. The trend of the two parts of this chapter may be seen if set out as follows:


Ephesians 2

A Doctrine

a 1-3. Once. Walk. World and flesh.

b 4. But God. Mercy. Love.

c 5-10. Made alive together.
             Raised together.
             Made to sit together.

A Dispensation

a 11,12. Once. Gentiles. In flesh. In world.

b 13-18. But now. Nigh. One.

c 19-22. Citizens together.
               Fitly framed together.
               Builded together.

The Gentiles who composed the majority of the members of the One Body had no Scriptures full of promises made unto their fathers; they were not only alienated from the life of God, but were also aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. The structure of the epistle as a whole (see article entitled EPHESIANS p. 275) throws into prominence two features - the new man and this twofold alienation. For the moment our attention is to be directed to the dispensational alienation, the dispensational disability of being a Gentile as contrasted with the dispensational privilege of being a Jew.

What was the position, dispensationally, of those who are now members of the One Body? This passage bids us remember that we were once:


A Gentiles in the flesh.

B Without Christ.

C Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.

C Strangers from the covenants of promise.

B Having no hope.

A Godless in the world.

There was nothing personally wrong in being a Gentile, but being born a Gentile carried with it great dispensational disabilities.

‘He sheweth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for His judgments, they have not known them’ (Psa. 147:19,20. See also Amos 3:2; Rom. 3:2).

We observe in Ephesians 2:11,12 that the sphere of Gentile disability is ‘in the flesh’; so also is the sphere of Israel’s privileges. Some of these privileges are set out by the apostle in Romans 9:

A According to the flesh ... Brethren.

B Israelites.

C Adoption (placing as sons).

D Glory.

E Covenants.

E Law.

D Services.

C Promises.

B Fathers.

A According to the flesh ... Christ (Rom. 9:3-5).

In the flesh, the Gentile is without Christ. He can only be in Christ ‘in the Spirit’; in the flesh he is without hope, for it was of Israel according to the flesh, that Christ came. Thus the words en pneumati (Eph. 3:5) really preface the threefold fellowship of the mystery detailed in verse 6.

At the close of the dark list of Gentile hopelessness are the words ‘in the world’. The world is at the present time an abandoned evil, the enemy of God and of truth. Its prince is the devil, for the Saviour’s kingdom is not of this world. The whole world lieth in wickedness, and its rudiments are antagonistic to Christ. It is totally oblivious of the work and witness of the Spirit. Its elements hold the Gentiles in bondage. Nothing but utter hopelessness, therefore, can be the condition of those who are ‘in the flesh’ and ‘in the world’.

From this pit of corruption, and from this godless, Christless, hopeless wilderness, God, in His rich mercy, stooped and saved those whose destiny is to be blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ. The Syrophenician woman shows us something of the meaning of the words:

‘Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise’ (Eph. 2:12).

The Gentile was by nature ‘far off’. How could he be made nigh? The answer is that, while the dispensation that included the nation of Israel lasted, Gentile believers could be grafted into the olive tree of Israel. Romans 9 does not refer to a merely national position - those addressed were ‘brethren’ and were reminded that they stood ‘by faith’ (Rom. 11:20,25). The justified Gentile during the Acts period did not become a member of the body of Christ; he became a graft in the olive tree of Israel of which Abraham was the root.

‘But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ’ (Eph. 2:13).

When we realize something of the slavery of Satan and the dominion of sin (Eph. 2:1-3), with what relief do we read the words of Ephesians 2:4, ‘but God’. Again, when the helplessness and the hopelessness of the Gentiles’ case dispensationally, as set forth in Ephesians 2:11,12 is realized, how blessed the ‘but now’ of verse 13. The blood of Christ which accomplished deliverance from the bondage of sin (Eph. 1:7) now breaks down all barriers and gives perfect access. The former condition of alienation is closely linked with a special enmity. The new status brings in peace, evidently the result of the cessation of that enmity.

The reader should refer to MIDDLE WALL , DECREES  p. 212, BOTH  p. 125, and ADOPTION p. 40, to obtain an all-round view of what this alienation involved, and how it has been met by grace.