Paul begins the second chapter of Ephesians with the condition of his hearers before they came to Christ, which was independent of God. Sin always alienates the originator of it from a holy and righteous God, such a state is portrayed for the entire world to see in the Gentile nations. God in His rightful sovereignty chose for Himself a people He would call His own – Israel, which left all the other nations as separated from Him.
The playing field was leveled at the cross of Christ. “For through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father” 2:18. That which once separated the two peoples was a stewardship of God’s laws, covenants, promises, and the lineage of the coming Messiah. Those who heard the law (the Israelites) were brought to know God’s holy standards, and were condemned by them; those who never heard God’s law (the Gentiles) were condemned by their conscience, which bore witness to God the creator and judge. “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law.” Romans 2:12
Therefore, it is “in Christ” we who were independent in the worse possible way are made intimate in the best possible way – O’ the glory and grace of God. “you (gentiles) were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world” 2:12. (Emphasis added)