Back in 1980, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard squared off with opponent Roberto Duran in what has become known as the No Mas fight. Late in the eighth round of this epic battle, Duran turned away from Leonard and said to the referee, “No mas!” which is Spanish for “No more!” Sugar Ray was declared the winner by technical knockout, and surely experienced an indescribable feeling of elation that no doubt eclipsed the sting of his earlier defeat to Duran a few months before.
As inexpressible as his joy was that day, however, it pales in comparison to the joy the Ephesians experienced when the Apostle Paul used those same “no more” words in his epistle to them:
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
These dispensationally revolutionary words no doubt eclipsed the sting of the apostle’s earlier description of their position before God as Gentiles in time past:
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles…that at that time ye were… strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11,12).
Imagine the jubilation those dear Ephesian believers experienced upon learning that they had gone from being “strangers from the covenants of promise” to being “no more strangers”! Sugar Ray never had it so sweet!
But here we need to point out that the Gentiles were not just strangers from God in time past, they were strangers from “the covenants of promise” that God made with Israel. These covenants of promise differed from the conditional “if-then” type covenant that God made with Israel in the Law in that they involved unconditional promises that God made to His people with no strings attached.
The Abrahamic covenant, for instance, was an unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham wherein He promised to give him the promised land “for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8). Inherent in that promise of the land is the promise of eternal life, for Abraham could not possess the land forever without living forever. It is this covenant of “promise” (Rom. 4:16) that Paul says extends “to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” In this covenant of promise, God promised Abraham eternal life in exchange for nothing more than believing the gospel that was preached to him, just as God graciously does for us (Rom. 4:3-5). Thus it is that we partake of the spiritual blessing of eternal life that was promised to Abraham without partaking of the physical blessing of the land that was promised to him.
The New Covenant was another unconditional covenant that God made with Israel (Jer. 31:31-34), a covenant to which we were once strangers but now are “no more strangers” to the “spiritual things” of this wonderful covenant of promise (Rom. 15:27) which we receive by grace. We partake of the spiritual blessings of the new covenant without the physical blessings of this covenant which belong to Israel, just as we partake of the spiritual blessing of eternal life that God promised Abraham without partaking of the physical blessing of the land that God promised him.
We know that there are some in the grace movement who hold that we are still strangers to the New Covenant, but when Paul says that we were “strangers from the covenants of promise” in time past, but now “are no more strangers,” we have to assume that he is saying that we are no more strangers to the thing he mentioned we were strangers to just a few verses before, the covenants of promise. The Greek word and English word for “strangers” is the same.
Boxer Manny Pacquiao recently lost the “fight of the century” after Floyd Mayweather landed 148 of his punches to his 81, with 348 of Manny’s punches connecting with nothing but air. But armed with eternal life, and equipped with the spiritual things that once pertained only to Israel (Rom. 9:4,5), and furnished with “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3), you are now ready to step into the ring and “fight…not as one that beateth the air” (I Cor. 9:26). If you’re not familiar with all of these blessings that God has to offer people freely by His grace, why not get in the Book that you “might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Cor. 2:12). Then, “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8), and be ready to fight anyone who tries to put the saints under the conditional promises of the Law!
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.