Exodus 12:48-49 tells us that someone from another nation (a Gentile) could be circumcised and keep the Passover (in other words obey God) and become part of Israel (a Jew). Verse 49 says that there's one law for everyone. Jew or Gentile must obey the same law. It seems that both Jew and Gentile had the same opportunity to be saved in the Old Testament.
But in Ephesians 2:11-16, who were the Gentiles? What exactly was the wall or law that separated them from the Jews?
"The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; but every man's slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you." Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron" (Exodus 12:43-50).
There are several classes of people mentioned in this law:
- Foreigners who are Gentiles who are not circumcised.
- Slaves who are circumcised.
- Visitors and hired servants who are not circumcised.
- Strangers who are Gentiles who decided to be circumcised, thus becoming a part of the Israelite nation. In the New Testament, these people were referred to as proselytites.
- Natives who are natural-born Israelites.
Basically this law applied to everyone. If someone wished to partake of the Passover, they had to be first circumcised, which indicated that they had placed themselves under the Covenant. Exodus 12:49 only refers to the law of eating the Passover and not the entire body of law. Therefore, if a Gentile did not wish to join the Israelite nation, he was excluded from the Passover feast.
Being an Israelite did not mean a person was saved. Not being an Israelite did not mean a person was lost. Enoch, Job, and Noah were all Gentiles and yet they were called righteous men. "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:14-16). Having the law, however, made it easier to know how to please God.
The law, as a whole, was given exclusively to Israel. "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (Deuteronomy 4:7-8). Other nations (Gentiles) did not have the advantage of the laws the Israelites had. The only way was for individuals to choose to become a part of the Israelite nation.
"Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands -- remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 'And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our 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 are of God's household" (Ephesians 2:11-19).
Under Christ's law, a person does not have to become a member of a specific nation in order to be a part of God's kingdom. You could remain in whatever nationality in which you were born. Nor was circumcision required. "Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called" (I Corinthians 7:18-20).