Strangers Aliens Fellow Citizens Sojourners and Exiles

by Mike Ratliff

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)

When a Christian is born of God into His Kingdom he or she also undergoes a change in status not only there, but in the kingdom of darkness, the world, from which they came. Carefully read the two passages I placed at the top of this post from the Apostles Paul and Peter. Sadly so much of what we hear in what pretends to be Christianity these days emphasizes the exact opposite focus. They push agendas of political reform and social change rather than in truly discipling their flocks to prepare them to be sojourners (pilgrims) just passing through a very hostile world on the way to their real home. 

Let’s look at the words from the two passages above the ESV translates as “strangers,” “aliens”, “fellow citizens,” “sojourners,” and “exiles.”

Here is Ephesians 2:19 from the Greek text, “ἄρα οὖν οὐκέτι ἐστὲ ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι, ἀλλὰ συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων καὶ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ Θεοῦ,” Here is my personal translation, “Therefore you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are fellow citizens of the saints and of the household of God.” The word translated here as “strangers” is ξένοι the nominative, plural form of  ξένος or xenos. To the Greeks a ξένος was the same thing as a barbarian. It could even refer to a wanderer or a refugee. The word translated here as “aliens” is πάροικοι the nominative, plural form of πάροικος or paroikos. This is made up of two words, παρά or para, “by or alongside” and οἶκος or oikos, “house.” Therefore, πάροικος literally means “by the house” or “next to the house” or “one who has a house alongside others.” This word was used to describe a foreigner who lived beside the people of a country, one was a neighbor that enjoyed the protection of the community but who had not citizen rights because his citizenship was elsewhere. He was a resident alien or licensed sojourner, one who paid an “alien tax” to live in the area without being naturalized. Paul was telling the Ephesians that Christians are not in either of these categories in the Kingdom of God. Instead, they are what?  Christians are συμπολῖται of the saints of the household of God. This word, συμπολῖται is the nominative, plural form of συμπολίτης or sumpolitēs. What is this? The root πολίτης or politēs referred ti a citizen, an inhabitant of a city, a freeman who had the rights of a citizen. However, by adding the prefix σύν or sun “together with,” yields the idea of a citizenship with others.

Christians have a common citizenship in Christ with incredible rights forthcoming in our home to which we are traveling as sojourners and exiles. This rights are not for now to be enforced over the kingdom of darkness in this time. That is for the judgment and that will be in God’s timing. For now, we are not in our home and must understand that we are on a pilgrimage to our home. This is not it.

Look again at 1 Peter 2:11-12. Here it is from the Greek text, “᾿Αγαπητοί, παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους, ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς,” Here is my personal translation, “Loved ones, I encourage you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from fleshly passions which wage war against your soul.” Notice that Peter’s point is that we are to approach this walk through this life as a sojourn or pilgrimage and this will help us fight the battle to deny our flesh. In any case, the word translated here as sojourners is παροίκους the accusative, plural form of πάροικος or paroikos. Again, this is another word for a resident alien, but with the added dimension of that person being a “sojourner” or one traveling through.” One of my lexicons translates this word as “a transient.” Notice that Peter also refers to us as παρεπιδήμους. What is this? This is a word describing a temporary resident without a license. I think the word “exile”in the world’s eyes applies, but from out perspective we are pilgrims.

Now my brethren, with yesterday’s post on the centrality of the sovereignty of God in our salvation, how true Christians are God centered instead of man-centered or religious centered, et cetera and we look at that through the lens of our being mere pilgrims, sojourners, aliens in a hostile world journeying to our true home where our true citizenship with its rights and privileges awaits, then shouldn’t that change how we live this life now? Are we to be about kingdom building here? Will we be about focusing on our “best life now?” No, we should be focusing on God and His glory as we prayerfully seek His wisdom and direction as we journey through this increasingly hostile and dangerous world. Also, notice how so many professing Christians are getting derailed here and are off the path and are focused full bore on the temporal rather than the eternal. Let us uphold each other in prayer and seek to obey our Lord in all things according to His will until we reach the end of this journey.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Strangers Aliens Fellow Citizens Sojourners and Exiles

  1. Amen.
    I feel more like an alien every day.
    Praise God for a home in Heaven.
    Some day soon, I will be there, maybe today!

  2. Mike,
    Here is a wonderful prayer that we can pray for others of the family (and ourselves) just as Paul did that goes along with what you are saying.
    Col 1: 9For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 13For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    Paul

  3. Truly! Truly!

    You know, it’s so good to be reminded that we are not just aliens wandering about in circles on this earth until He comes to take us home, but we are (as you said) traveling through to our destination. We are on a path that He has ordained, we are to stay on it, He has winnowed our path and it contains all that He wants us to go through. Even though sometimes it may seem like we are wandering around in circles, it is actually, in God’s economy, a straight path leading directly to His eternal home for us.

    Therefore, it seems like we can consider this path, akin to the paths of the Jews as they made their ascent three times a year to go to Jerusalem. And just as they started out from all over the country of Israel from their individual villages and towns, as they marched toward Jerusalem, the smaller roads would meet up with the more traveled roads and they would gather together in larger and larger groups until they reached their destination – so too, we have each started out from our own little corner of the world, and as we march forward on our ascent toward the heavenly Jerusalem, our paths sometimes converge with other pilgrims. What a blessing! What a privilege!

    This then makes me think of the portion of the Psalms that the Jews sang on their ascents to Jerusalem and how the sound of that choir of saints would ring louder and louder the closer they came to Jerusalem – both because the number of people gathering on the road, and their anticipation to be reaching the city of the King, had escalated!

    Glorious worship resounded from the saints as they approached Him. I can’t help but think those in Jerusalem loved to hear this sound of the approaching of their fellow Israelites, and I think the king, himself, would have gloried in the sound of his subjects coming to his city to honor and obey the true King.

    So too, I think as the day of His appearing draws near to us our hearts and voices should be singing, ever louder, ever stronger, the praises of our King in his holy city! And I have no doubt that our King finds pleasure in the voices of His faithful chosen ones, glorifying His Holy Name, as they approach His glorious presence!

    Thanks, Mike, for reminding me of the path we fellow citizens travel.

    Sharon

  4. This is an encouraging word. As I read this my heart smiled. With so much evil abounding in the world today and seeing many so hopeless, this is a good word. Thank you, Mike for your obedience to rightly dividing the word.
    God Bless

  5. Hi Mike,
    A beautiful encouragement and reminder of what we are to be doing and focusing on….sharing the gospel where and when we are able to do so and keeping our eyes on our heavenly home-our true home. We can only do this if Christ has become more precious to us than this present world.
    God bless you for your continued stand for truth.

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