ISRAEL: APPLE OF GOD'S EYE
INCLUSION OF THE GENTILES
Israel has a pivotal role in the salvation of the world.
1 AS PART OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT …
… there is the expectancy that the Gentiles would be included with Israel. The Abrahamic Covenant is tri-partite. For the moment, we note the third part, concerning an international blessing:
3… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3).
This aspect is a stern warning to those who want to allegorise away Israel, or to give the nation (of Israel) no part in God’s overall plan. The Gentiles depend upon Israel! Well might we quote Paul again:
17If some of the branches [of Israel] have been broken off, and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root [Israel],
18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You [Gentiles] do not support the root [Israel], but the root [Israel] supports you [Gentiles]. (Romans 11:17-18, emphases added).
We are blessed ONLY because we Gentiles are included in the Abrahamic Covenant. So don’t boast, as if independent of Israel.
Isaiah points out the significant appointment of Israel having an “evangelistic” witnessing role in relation to the Gentile world. And further, we note that the Gentiles can become “descendants” of Abraham through faith.
2 GENTILES BY DEFAULT
We note that the Gentiles may be saved by “accidentally” keeping the Mosaic Law—which was given to Israel. They keep the law that God has written on their hearts—as for all created human beings—and their consciences act as independent witnesses. Paul says:
13For it is not those who hear the [Mosaic] law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the [Mosaic] law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,
15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (Romans 2:13-15, emphases added).
God’s law is written on all men’s hearts apart from the written Mosaic Law.
So the Gentiles are able to be identified with the people of Israel—God’s people.
3 THE DAY OF PENTECOST
On the Day of Pentecost—a Jewish festival—the Gentiles are included.
On that day (Acts 2:17-21) Peter quotes the passage from Joel (2:28-32), to indicate that God’s plan was always to include the Gentiles.
17“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people …
21And everyone [Gentiles as well as Jews] who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:17, 21, emphases added).
Further, he affirms that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for the Jews and “for all who are far off” (the Gentiles) – Acts 2:39.
- Initially, the appeal and response is Jewish.
1 When the day of Pentecost came … there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:1, 5, emphasis added).
The festival and the entire audience was Jewish, from every nation under heaven.
- On this Jewish occasion, the Gentiles are included:
17“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people …
21And EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:17, 21, emphases added).
4 PETER’S REVELATION …
… concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles.
In an unmistakable vision from God, Peter—even after his speech on the Day of Pentecost, as just noted, where he unwittingly quoted from the prophet Joel relating the giving of the Holy Spirit to ALL people, and that anyone (and everyone) may call on the Name of the Lord, thus including the Gentiles—was shown dramatically that God includes all:
9About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
10He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.
12It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air.
13Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
(Acts 10:9-16, emphases added).
Peter was too smart by far! He was not going to be caught off guard in regard to clean and unclean animals. But his reply betrayed him: “Not so Lord” (verse 14, AV). You cannot call Jesus Lord and at the same time refuse Him! If He is Lord, and He is, then He must be obeyed.
God rebuked Peter—three times (was this a reminder of his triple denial of His Lord at the time of the mock trial and crucifixion of Jesus?)—making the clear point: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Shortly afterwards, Peter was speaking to Cornelius:
34 … Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism
35but accepts men from every nation [includes Gentiles] who fear him and do what is right …
43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
(Acts 10:34-35, 43-45, emphases added).
Later, at the Jerusalem Council, Peter clearly affirmed this revelation, and its fulfilment at his hand—see next.
Unmistakably, the Gentiles were to be included with Israel.
5 THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL
Peter’s vision and the unmistakable message just noted, was reinforced on a more influential scale at the Jerusalem Council:
7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
(Acts 15:7-11, emphases added).
This decision, at the Council, formed the foundation for subsequent missionary activity to the Gentiles—with a corrective against Jewish opposition, as was experienced significantly in Galatia.
6 PAUL’S “EUREKA” MOMENT - THE GENTILES
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks about the identity of the church in many aspects. This identity is premised upon the foundational statements in chapter 2:
11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—
12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. [The unregenerate state of the Gentiles apart from the ministry of Christ—the Jew].
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one [Jews and Gentiles] and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two [This is the church], thus making peace,
16and in this one body [The church] to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility [Jew/Gentile hostility is removed in Christ].
17He came and preached peace to you who were far away [The Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [The Jews].
18For through him we both have access to the Father …
19Consequently, you [Gentiles] are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people [Israel] and members of God’s household,
(Ephesians 2:11-19, emphases added).
On the basis of this revelation, Paul now shares his own testimony and call to minister to the Gentiles, and he refers to their significant new relationship with the Jews:
1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you,
3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation [Paul’s eureka moment], as I have already written briefly.
4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.
6This MYSTERY is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.[The Mystery: that the Jews and the Gentiles should be together in one body—the church].
(Ephesians 3:1-6, emphases added).
For Paul, this mystery was the basis of his own special call and ministry to otherwise outcasts, people afar off, Gentile dogs!
7 PAUL’S CALL TO THE GENTILE MINISTRY
7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.
8Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the GENTILES the unsearchable riches of Christ,
9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
(Ephesians 3:7-9, emphases added).
As he looks back, Paul is aware that his revelation in Ephesians, was pre-dated by his initial call—from birth:
15 … God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles …
(Galatians 1:15-16, emphasis added).
But he did not appreciate this until much later.
As a dedicated Hebrew, he persecuted the new Christian group (those of “the Way”), as he testified in Jerusalem:
4I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
(Acts 22:4-5, emphases added).
But it was on that very journey to Damascus that he was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ—the Jewish Messiah Who he persecuted—and he was converted.
Before King Agrippa at Caesarea, Paul recounted the story even more graphically:
9“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
(Acts 26:9-11, emphases added).
Subsequently, after his conversion, he risked his life by visiting Jerusalem, and was warned by the Lord to flee because they would not accept his conversion testimony.
19“‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
21“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
(Acts 22:19-21, emphases added).
And the Lord used this experience to confirm his call to preach to the Gentiles.
THE JEWISH MESSIAH—THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.
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