No Longer Strangers

 

The identity of the Church is bound to the history of the Jewish people. The household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.[1] We ought to familiarize ourselves with what the apostles and prophets have said concerning the people of God.

“For salvation is from the Jews.”[2]

"The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” [3]

"They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God.”[4]

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have stewarded the promises of God. It was the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who wandered in the desert waiting for the promised Land. It was not the Gentiles who protected the Ark of the Covenant. Gentiles did not maintain the sacrificial system for generations. It was not through our lineage that the Messiah has come. Yet, through Jesus, God has allowed Gentiles to partake in the Jewish covenants of promise, though we bring nothing to the table. What a mercy. What a tremendous privilege!

Understanding the nature of the New Covenant will help us, as Gentiles, appreciate what we have been brought into by God. The New Covenant was made in the Old Testament. It’s not a covenant with Gentiles, but with the house of Israel.

“Therefore remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in world.”[5] 

Gentiles were formerly strangers to the New Covenant. Isaiah prophesied that God would make a "new covenant" with "those in Jacob."[6] Without ambiguity, Jeremiah foretold that the Lord would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel.”[7] An "everlasting covenant.”[8] Ezekiel echoes the other prophets in saying that the Lord will be “God to the house of Israel.”[9] Each mention of the New Covenant is consistent and explicit. In all four accounts we are shown a new and everlasting covenant with the house of Israel.

As Gentiles today, we have a tendency to take our salvation for granted. But in the early days following Jesus’ death, there were disputes among Jewish leaders about whether a non-Jew could even follow the Jewish Messiah. Paul told us that the Jewish followers of Christ, who were scattered by persecution, spoke to no one except Jews.[10] They didn’t share the Gospel with Gentiles. It wasn’t until Peter had his vision on the roof that the disciples began sharing the good news with non-Jews.[11] Years after Jesus shed His blood to inaugurate the New Covenant He promised to the Jewish prophets, His disciples began to understand that He provided a way for Gentiles to be grafted into the covenant.

“If then God gave the same gift to them [Gentiles] as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”[12]

When Jesus enjoyed a final Passover meal with His disciples on the night He was betrayed, He picked up a cup and declared that the New Covenant would be inaugurated by the shedding of His blood.[13] It’s important to note that at that time, all those who were with Him were Jews who were familiar with the prophesies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Jesus Himself was a Jew. The new covenant He was speaking of is a covenant with the Jewish people. Of course, it’s not just for the Jewish people, as God promised Abraham that through his offspring all nations would be blessed.[14] Paul gives us an explanation of this mystery that Gentiles are being included into the Jewish covenants.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”[15]

“When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of ChristThis mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”[16]

We have been given the unimaginable privilege of becoming "partakers of the promises.” Not takers; partakers. Through Jesus, we are no longer strangers to the covenants. Though we bring nothing to the table, we are permitted to enjoy all the benefits of God’s everlasting covenant with Israel. Now that is good news for non-Jews! The lineage of Abraham indeed has become a blessing to all nations!

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”[17]

So now there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.[18] Not because the Jewish identity has been dissolved (it hasn’t), but because, through Jesus, foreign Gentiles are now permitted to partake in the covenants that were formerly only available to ethnic Jews.

Gentiles are now able to sit at the table of the household of God. Now that we are partakers of the everlasting covenant through Jesus, we have a responsibility to our temporarily and partially hardened brothers to provoke them to covenantal fidelity to their Messiah.[19] We are asked by God to love the Jewish people, “our beloved enemies,” as Paul puts it,[20] and prioritize bringing back their good news that saved our souls. Let the apostle Paul’s deep, emotional anguish over the lostness of His Jewish brothers echo in our day and in our hearts as we endeavor to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples in all nations—to the Jew first.[21]

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”[22]

May we recover this kind of anguish for the very people through whom our Messiah has come!

The foundations of the household of God are thoroughly Jewish. The covenantal promises made to the Jewish patriarchs and prophets, mediated by the Jewish Messiah, and proclaimed by the Jewish apostles is the foundation that the New Testament Church is built on. Any church separated from this foundation is no church at all. They are still without hope and without the God of Abraham in the world.

The God of Israel will keep His everlasting covenant with Abraham by giving his literal offspring the physical Land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to bless all nations through the eternal reign of the Son of David from the eternal city of the Great King, Jerusalem. And because our Jewish Messiah is so kind, Gentiles can come too.

 
 

Jordan Scott lives in a Muslim-majority country with his wife and two children, where he serves as Director of Community Development. He can be reached by email at jordan@faimission.org.


 

[1] Ephesians 2:19-20
[2] John 4:22
[3] Romans 3:2
[4] Romans 9:4-5
[5] Ephesians 2:11-12
[6] Isaiah 59:20-21
[7] Isaiah 59:20-21
[8] Jeremiah 32:40-41
[9] Ezekiel 36:24-28
[10] Acts 11:19
[11] Acts 10
[12] Acts 11:17-18
[13] Luke 22:20
[14] Geneses12:1-3; 22:18
[15] Ephesians 2:13
[16] Ephesians 3:4-6
[17] Ephesians 2:19
[18] Romans 10:12
[19] Romans 11:25-26; Romans 11:13-15
[20] Romans 11:28
[21] Romans 1:16