Strangers Aliens Fellow Citizens Sojourners and Exiles

by Mike Ratliff

17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:17-22 (NASB) 

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12 (NASB) 

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 NASB translates as “strangers,” “aliens”, “fellow citizens,”  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 (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 (paroikos). This is made up of two words, παρά (para), “by or alongside” and οἶκος (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 (sumpolitēs). What is this? The root πολίτης (politēs) referred to a citizen, an inhabitant of a city, a freeman who had the rights of a citizen. However, by adding the prefix σύν (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. These 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 (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, within the context of 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!