See on the hill of Calvary
My Savior bled for me
My Jesus set me free
And look at the wounds that give me life
Grace flowing from His side
No greater sacrifice
See on the hill of Calvary
My Savior bled for me
My Jesus set me free
And look at the wounds that give me life
Grace flowing from His side
No greater sacrifice
"As Jewish people, most of us grow up without considering whether or not Yeshua is the Messiah expected by our people for millennia. Yet, something happened in our lives that changed each of us and caused us to rethink the usual Jewish views about Jesus. Usually, it was a series of events and ultimately the prophecies in the Tenach – the Old Testament that caused our “Storytellers” to become followers of Yeshua.
In fact, most of our people do not realize that Yeshua was born a Jew, the first believers of Yeshua were all Jews and the first messianic communities were all Jewish…they were Israelis just like me!
I hope you will watch with an open mind and allow the Holy One of Israel to speak to your heart. Enjoying a personal relationship with God through the Messiah is the greatest joy of our lives and I pray that this will be true for you as well. Who knows, you might be one who begins with curiosity and concludes with faith."
ISRAEL IS EXPERIENCING A GOSPEL REVOLUTION!
"The story and ministry of ONE FOR ISRAEL is part of something much larger – the miraculous restoration of the Jewish people and the miraculous unity between Jewish and Arab believers in Jesus. We are seeing not only the physical restoration of Israel after a 2000-year exile, but a spiritual revolution is taking place right in front of our eyes. Jewish people are returning to their God and accepting the Messiah in numbers not seen since the early church! Not only that, but many Arab people are coming to the Lord and many Arab believers are finding a deep unity with their Jewish brothers and sisters.
ONE FOR ISRAEL exists to do ministry within this miracle. We are Jews and Arabs, together serving Messiah Jesus, sharing the Gospel with Israel and the world, making disciples, training leaders, and blessing our communities in the name of Yeshua."
TOGETHER WE ARE ONE. UNITED
JEWS AND ARABS, UNITED IN CHRIST
With Jewish and Arab leadership and Jewish and Arab-focused outreach, we are daily living out the reality of the “one new man” – Jews and Gentiles serving Jesus and growing together.
'Our goal is to personally engage with each new believer who reaches out to us. Our team meets with Israelis every day on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to answer questions, gift them with a New Testament, and connect them to a congregation in their region. Our team is answering questions directly to seekers online in our Hebrew and Arabic outreach campaigns.
We’re meeting face to face and connecting new believers with local pastors and ministers in their area. But many are unable or afraid to take that step into the local congregation and personal meetings. And that’s why our next step is so crucial. For many in Israel, meeting face to face to discuss their new faith feels impossible. Most are confused with questions and afraid others will find out. Many Israelis fear being cut off from family and friends."
Our online outreach videos are viewed over
30,000 TIMES A DAY IN ISRAEL ALONE!
Paul made clear in 1 Corinthians 9 that the Gospel is the same, but the approach on how he taught his Jewish brothers was drastically different than how he taught and related the scriptures to the Gentile church. It’s no different today. Our series of teachings goes deep into the questions many of us faced in our walk of faith and connects with the Jewish and Israeli society in a powerful way. We offer 2 courses for free online, “The Teachings of the New Testament” in Hebrew and “Follow Messiah” in English.
We are chatting daily with seekers on Facebook and What’sApp. Discipleship is crucial to all the work we’re doing, and we’ve developed a multi-faceted approach to discipleship uniquely crafted for ministry in Israel.
Bible Questions Answered
Do you have a question about God, Jesus, the Bible, or theology? Do you need help understanding a Bible verse or passage? Are there any spiritual issues in your life for which you need advice or counsel?
Ephesians 2:15b-16, “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
When Paul mentions creating one new humanity of the two, he is talking about Jews and non-Jews coming to Christ. Their identity as Jews or Gentiles becomes secondary to their identity in Christ. What shapes your identity and what shapes the perceptions you have of others? In our congregations we don’t have an issue with the Jewish/Gentile divide but we have been conditioned to see each other through a racialized lens. We see each other as white, black, Asian, Latino, Native American.
The biblical worldview is the only antidote to identity politics. Intersectionality erodes the bedrock of civil society and dismantles decorum precisely because it is predicated and upon differences. It will only tolerate and celebrate divergence and divisiveness. The Christian worldview, however, offers a powerful response to identity politics. The biblical reply does not deny the reality nor the importance of identities to the human story. It does, however, begin with what unites all humanity—the Imago Dei. The biblical worldview starts in sameness not differences. It grounds the value of an individual in something more transcendent than experience, background, race, or gender; it starts with the image of God that resides in every human being on the planet. Humanity stands united by virtue of our common descent from Adam and Eve. Christians, therefore, do not reject identity politics and intersectionality merely because of its failure as an ideology, but because it denies the common bond that beats in the heart of every human: we are all made in God’s image. That identity is precious, perennial, and most to be cherished.
By the way, this issue helps to underline why biblically committed Christians must point again and again to the common descent of all humanity from Adam and Eve. We all share the same first parents. Modern evolutionary theory denies the very possibility of common descent from a single couple. Ideas have consequences.
Christians must understand and hold fast to the image of God that unites humanity in a common identity. The most important identity for every human is not our own self-prescribed definition based upon their experiences and background, but the identity given to them by the God of the universe. That identity trumps everything else.
Additionally, the biblical argument is not drawn only from Genesis. It reaches not only into the truths of Genesis, but the glories of the New Covenant of redemption inaugurated by Christ. Jesus Christ is creating a new humanity—a people not of this world but of heaven, a people for God’s pleasure. It is a people made up of every tribe, tongue, people, and language—a citizenry of every ethnicity and race, of every socio-economic background and culture. Its citizenship does not stand on its differences but on our common salvation in Christ. In Christ we find our true identity. Believers in Christ share an eternal and glorious unity in Jesus Christ the Lord—a unity we enter upon faith in Jesus’s perfect sacrifice and atonement for sin.
Intersectionality and identity politics breed division. These ideologies atomize society and drive humanity away from its core and essential commonality. This is where Christians must counter with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture. Only the gospel secures peace and establishes truth. Only the gospel will unite a fractured society. Only the gospel can stem the tide of modernity’s downward spiral into chaos and decay. Identity politics is bad enough in the culture. In the church, it denies the gospel altogether.
Of this, I am certain: At the marriage supper of the Lamb, no one will hold any kind of sign claiming their own identity.
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at Brandenburg Gate at a ceremony commemorating the 750th anniversary of the City of Berlin. In his speech he uttered some of the most famous words every said by an American President, “Mr. Gorvacbev, Tear Down This Wall!” That Wall, which began to come down in November of 1989, tells a deeper story about the nature of humanity: humans are willing to divide themselves over any issue. There is something in our hearts that causes us to divide ourselves and erect walls to protect our identity. This division can be manifested in different ways: social, racial, economic, political, and even theological.
In Ephesians 2:14-18 the Apostle Paul argues against such division, primarily concerning the issue of race. In the context, Paul is speaking about the deep rift between Jews and Gentiles. The division that extends all the way back into the Old Testament. These two ethnic groups, who once hated each other, are now one in Christ. Paul describes how Christ has broken down the wall of separation and has reconciled both groups together. The issue at hand is a hard one but a very pressing issue.
The cross has spiritual implications (Ephesians 2:1-10) and social implications (Ephesians 2:11-22)
In the larger context, Paul shows that the death of Jesus both has spiritual and social implications. In verses 2:1-10 the text demonstrates that we are reconciled to God by faith. This logically leads Paul to discuss the social implications of the death of Jesus in verses 11-22. For this article, I want to focus primarily on verses 14-18 of the text and show a few ways this impact those in Christ.
Jesus Has One People
It’s important to realize when we talk about the social implications of the gospel that we don’t miss the gospel. Paul makes clear that in order to be reconciled to each other that we first must be reconciled to God (v. 13). Those who were far from God are now brought near through the death of Jesus. His substitutionary work subsequently changes the way we view the people of God now. The Bible claims that the two groups (Jews and Gentiles) are now one and Christ has torn down the dividing wall of hostility.
This means that the two groups of Jews and Gentiles in Christ are now one because Christ Himself has torn down the very things that seek to divide them. So practically for us, we may not experience hostile Jew and Gentile tensions, but we do experience division as it is related to race. In Christ, we are no longer divided based on race, culture, or ethnicity; rather we are one in Christ. This means that there is no hostility but peace. The reason why, “He is our peace.” Jesus is the One who creates peace between fallen people like you and me.
One New Humanity
Since Jesus has One New people, He has broken down the wall that divides them. The “wall” in context is referring to the “the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations.” Paul probably has in mind the identity markers of Israel such as circumcision, food laws, and the Sabbath. The very things that would make a Jew, a Jew. However, in Christ, those identity markers have been torn down! For Paul, his identity was not found in him being Jewish but in Christ.
This means that in Christ, He has redefined the people of God. To be included into the people of God is not a matter of social or ethnic identity. Rather it is a matter of identity in Christ. This means that anything that divides people has to be broken down by Jesus. Paul does not mean that race, ethnicity, or cultural heritage are not important. Actually to the contrary. Even as a follower of Jesus, Paul still maintained some of his Jewish culture. But those things don’t define God’s people. The people of God are a beautiful mosaic of different people, languages, nations, and tribes. And Paul’s point is that Jesus Christ has created One New Humanity. As Diognetus argued, Christians are a “New Race.”
Reconciled into One Body
Paul further argues that reconciliation has happened through the cross of Jesus Christ which has resulted in one body. Reconciliation is the removal of animosity and the acceptance as equals. This one body language could mean the church body or Christ’s bloody body. I personal understand the phrase to mean that through the One body of Jesus (bloody body), He has now reconciled us into One Body (the Church) John Piper says:
That is what God is aiming at in our salvation: a new people (one new man) that is so free from enmity and so united in truth and peace that God himself is there for our joy and for his glory forever. That’s the aim of reconciliation: a place for God to live among us and make himself known and enjoyed forever and ever.
The death of Jesus reconciles us to each other. We are created for each other, and we need each other. We are part of the people of God that does not divide itself over issues of race, ethnicity, or culture. Rather we are reconciled, brought into friendly relationship, with each other by the death of Jesus.
Christ Preached Peace
Paul grounds his argument by saying that Jesus Himself preached peace. I believe this is referring to both peace with God and with each other. Through the death of Jesus, we now have peace with God (Romans 5:1), which results in peace with each other. I’m convinced this is our message. We don’t preach peace for the sake of unity and harmony. We preach peace, as Jesus did, in order to people would experience peace with God that results in peace with each other.
Access to Spirit and Father
Lastly, Paul seeks to prove that these two groups, now made one through Jesus Christ, have access to God by the Spirit. It is by the Spirit that the existence in the realities of the New Humanity can occur. The Spirit Himself provides the access needed to be in proper relationship to God. As one New Humanity brought about by the death of Jesus and applied to us by the Spirit, we can experience complete access to God’s grace, mercy, and peace. We do this in unity together because of the work of Jesus.
Christ has come to break down the spiritual and social Berlin Walls in our lives. Christ died to make us one in Him. His death accomplished more than just a personal relationship with God. It provided a way to have relationship with each other. This text is a call to unity. We must forsake those things that divide us whether they are racial barriers, cultural concerns, or ethnic division. We have to cast of those identity markers that divide the church. Our identity as the people of God is not based on any social, racial, or political identity. Rather it is based on Christ.
Now realize: we are not color blind, and we should not pretend that race doesn’t matter. Rather the church must be on the frontlines of discussing the issue of race by proclaiming peace! And peace is only found in Christ. We must know that God in Christ by means of His Spirit is calling fallen humanity into a New Humanity – the church which is made up of many races, languages, tribes, and people.
There are so many religions in the world and each one of them claims that it is the true religion, while all others rest are mistaken. This fact causes many to doubt the very existence of God. A multiplicity of religions undoubtedly indicates the internal realization within our hearts that there is something greater than ourselves out there. We actually think that since, in addition to God, evil spiritual powers exist as well, their goal is to purposely confuse us, using the existence of as many different religions as possible.
BUT – WAIT A MINUTE – ARE RELIGIONS, GENERALLY SPEAKING, EVEN CAPABLE OF LEADING US TO GOD AT ALL?
Religion is a system of rules, such as: what we should wear, what we should or shouldn’t eat and when, where and how to perform odd external customs. But do religions, whichever they may be, have the capacity to change our hearts and eventually lead us to God?
One of the most famous parables in history is called “the Parable of the Prodigal Son”. It is a 2000 year old parable, which was told right here in Israel by the most famous Jew in the world: Yeshua. A parable which is documented in the New Testament. Gathered around Yeshua were two types of people: Religious men and sinners. The religious men were arrogant, conceited and condescending people, who believed that, on their own, thanks to rules and customs which they themselves invent and abide by, They can reach God.
The sinners were the people who had no interest in God whatsoever. All they cared about was enjoying life as much as they could and earning as much as possible, even if their profit came at the expense of others.
“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ ” [Luke 15:11-12]
An inheritance is something you get after someone dies. Asking the father for the inheritance whilst he still lives is insulting. It is just as if he would have said to his father: “as far as I’m concerned – you can go ahead and die” “I don’t want you; but only your possessions.”
“So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” [Luke 15:12-15]
A Jew who lives with pigs and would gladly eat their food. You can’t reach a lower, more humiliating point.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” And he arose and came to his father.” [Luke 15:17-20]
The younger son acknowledges the fact that he has been sinful and rebellious. That he is unworthy of being with his father, and plans to beg his wealthy father to let him be a simple servant, if he should even let him anywhere near his estate. By the way, the hired help don’t live in the house, but rather outside the estate, and come to work every day. The younger son hoped that he could earn and repay his debt to his father bit by bit.
“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” [Luke 15:20]
In the ancient Middle East, it was beneath a wealthy father to run like a child. Children run and play, landowners do not. Let alone those whose children have humiliated and sinned against. But this father was special. And, against all odds, he ran, kissed and hugged his young son.
“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. [Luke 15:21-22]
The people who heard this parable probably expected the father to say something like: “You haven’t showered in two weeks. You smell of pigs. Go clean yourself up, and then come and talk to me. Or, as would probably be said today: “You wish to repent? Go, put on Tefillin, wear a yarmulke, keep the commandments, go to synagogue for a few weeks, prove your commitment and later we’ll talk and see what can be done.” However, that wasn’t the case with this father. Not only did the father refuse to let his young son become a servant he wouldn’t even let him finish his sentence.
Instead, he demanded that his servants fetch him the best robe.
Who does the best robe belong to?
The father himself, of course.
And that robe was to be put on the filth, stench and sludge of his young son. Landowners wore robes. Kings wore robes. Robes represent the honor, majesty and splendour of the people who wear them.
In other words, the father chose to cloak the sins of the past, using his own power and authority.
His son’s rebellion and filth were covered with the cleanest, most luxurious robe he owned.
“And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again;he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” [Luke 15:22]
The father threw a party in order to celebrate his son’s repentance.
WHAT DOES REPENTANCE REALLY MEAN? The word “repentance” today has been given a different connotation than its original meaning. Nowadays, it refers to external actions, such as wrapping leather straps around one’s arm, or wearing a round piece of fabric on one’s head. But the word’s original meaning is “regret”. A true, honest and deep regret which comes from the heart for the choices and wrongdoings we have undertaken.
Through the way he treats his young son, we can perceive the father’s grace, mercy and love. A father who is willing to forgive and atone for past trespasses himself.
If the young son thought that he would be working outside and slowly earning his way back in the house, by throwing the celebration, the father was essentially saying: “No way. You cannot buy me. You have no chance of earning your way back to me.I will be doing it for you. I will be bringing you back to the family.”
In the same way, we, imperfect people, have no chance of “earning” our way back to God. Only God himself, in his grace, can grant us that gift. It makes no difference how many difficult or complex rules we invent for ourselves.
RELIGION IS NOT THE ANSWER“. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in.” [Luke 15:25-28]
The older son may have been in physical proximity to the father, but he had an entirely different way of thinking. He was proud and conceited, just like those pharisaic rabbis gathered around Yeshua who heard the parable. The older son had the audacity to be angry.
At the fact that the fatted, expensive calf was killed in honor of his brother. What truly upset him was that now he would have one less calf as his inheritance.
“Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.” [Luke 15:28]
The older son is standing outside, whining and making a scene in front of everyone, and refusing to join the celebration. The father puts his pride aside and steps outside to try and convince his older son to join the celebration.
“So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad,for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” [Luke 15:29-31]
The only thing that was important to the father was the acknowledgement of sin and the repentance for it. But that couldn’t convince the older son, who was pious and proud. He thought that he was perfect. He claimed that he was righteous. “I never transgressed your commandment at any time”.
The irony in the parable is that the younger son, who had sinned, DID return home and to his father’s heart, as he had acknowledged his sins. Whereas the older son was left on the outskirts of the celebration, on the outskirts of the Kingdom of God. Far from his father’s heart. It wasn’t the older son’s wrongdoings which distanced him from his father, but rather his good deeds. His pride. His self righteousness. The elder son didn’t truly love his family. He was there for their possessions. He kept the laws and rules so that he might one day have the power and control. He was actually using his father.
‘You waste a calf and throw a celebration for the young son? You haven’t even slaughtered a goat in my honour!’ ‘and I have obeyed you my whole life! I was righteous!’ ‘I behaved myself and followed your every rule to the letter. It isn’t fair!’
The older son cannot grasp his father’s love for someone who has sinned against him.
All the elder son had to offer was religious fanaticism and condescending sanctimoniousness. He was certain of his perfect righteousness.
YESHUA DIVIDED MANKIND IN TWO:
The younger son represents those of us who rebel against God, enjoy his creation, but have no interest in Him. He probably looked at his older brother his whole life and thought to himself: ‘You and your friends are pious, fanatic, judgmental, and think only of yourselves. You have narrow, primitive minds. You are all that is wrong with the world.’
Whereas the older son represents those of us who are far away from God’s heart. Because we think that they are good enough on their own. That we are righteous. That we have “won over” God, thanks to various customs and rules invented and religiously kept by us. Perhaps, on the outside, he seemed perfect. However, on the inside, his heart was evil and spoiled.
Without a doubt, Yeshua had bitter accusations towards our nation’s religious leaders.
He taught that the kingdom of God could only be entered by those who recognised their own weaknesses and sins. Yeshua claimed that, if you think that your piety, the rules you invent for yourself, can grant you entrance into the kingdom of God – you are mistaken.
Yeshua labels all religions in the same way: Religions generate pride and arrogance, since they make us believe that we are earning something of God. That, through customs and rules we create for ourselves, we impress Him and win points with Him.
According to Yeshua, religions cannot open the door to the perfect kingdom of heaven for us. And that is precisely the message that Yeshua and the New Testament teach us. A message which was demonstrated by Him when He gave up his life for us sinners and criminals. A message which meant bad news for the religious leaders, as the power and control were no longer theirs, because now there was no more separation between Jews and Gentiles, sinners and “righteous” men, between men and women, slaves and freemen, or between the rich and the poor.
Through Yeshua, everyone has access to the kingdom of God. The bottom line is that we are all far away from our father’s heart in heaven.
We are all what is wrong with the world.
That is why Yeshua taught us that we are to be reborn. Meaning, we are to acknowledge that we are all either the younger son, running away from God, or the older son, thinking we are righteous and perfect. But none of us are perfect. We are all sinners, and our imperfections prevents us from making perfect decisions. Therefore, we cannot be our own solution. We need the perfect Messiah to atone for our sins. Only He himself can let us into the kingdom of God. We can’t do it on our own.
And it makes no difference which race we belong to, what we wear, or how many daily hours we spend studying thousands of complex rules, which don’t really change our hearts for the better anyway.
To summarize, God has already put in the work for us. He has revealed himself to us as the Messiah, clothed us with his most luxurious robe, and was left on the cross naked to die for us and atone for our sins.
Thus, he provided us with the key to the perfect kingdom of God.
When we acknowledge the fact that we didn’t earn this by our own merits, but rather that God did it for us, we will see that we have no right to patronize or look down on anyone else because we are all in the same boat. And rather than building walls between ourselves and others, we will strive to love others. Not out of fear or coercion, or out of trying to gain anything, but because HE LOVED US FIRST and gave His life for our sins.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Separated, alienated, strangers, having no hope, without God in the world. Do you hear the unrelenting drumbeat of despair?
Paul spoke of the Gentiles vs the Jews, and so I will too, but when I speak of the Gentiles, please hear your name: The Gentiles: that’s you and me, folks.
And the Gentiles were aliens from the society of Israel. And your point is … ?
Well, the people of Israel were the holy people. We’ve seen and heard that holy really means different, separated from, other than. In what sense were the people of Israel different from other peoples?
They were different in the sense that in the realest way, their only king was God. Other nations might be governed by democracy or aristocracy, but Israel was theocracy. Their sovereign was God. When the Psalmist sang, “I will extol thee my God and King,” he meant it perfectly literally.
The Gentiles might be ruled over by kings and tyrants and rulers and unpredictable senates and councils; the king of Israel was God. To be an Israelite was to be a member of the society of God; it was to have a citizenship which was divine. Clearly life was going to be completely different for any nation which had a consciousness of destiny like that.
It is told that when Pericles, the greatest of the Athenians, was walking forward to address the Athenian assembly, he used to say to himself: “Pericles, remember that you are an Athenian and that you talk to Athenians.” But for the Jew it was possible to say, “Remember that you are a citizen of God, and that you speak to the people of God.” There is no consciousness of greatness in all the world like that. And the Gentiles were excluded from it.
Second, the Gentiles were strangers from the covenants on which the promises were based. The Jewish idea of a covenant was this. They believed that God had approached their nation with a special offer. “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you your God” (Exodus 6:7). This relationship involved not only privilege, but also obligation. This covenant relationship involved the keeping of the law. The relationship depended on the people keeping and observing and obeying the law which God gave to them. But it gave to the Jews the peculiar and the unique consciousness of being the people of God. Simply to be a Jew was to have the consciousness of dignity. Paul could not forget, because it was a fact of history, that the Jews were uniquely the people of God, the instrument in God’s hand.
Third, it says that the Gentiles were without hope and without God in the world. The Gentile could say, “We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish.” But they could not triumphantly add, “But naught changeth Thee.” It was really true that the Gentile was without hope because they were without God. Israel always had the shining, radiant hope in God, which burned clearly and inextinguishably even in her darkest and most terrible days; but in his or her heart the Gentile knew despair, because he and she was without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once
were far off have been brought near
in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Those who were afar off have been brought near. Isaiah heard God say, “Peace, peace to him that is afar off, and to him that is near” (Isaiah 57:19). When the Rabbis spoke about accepting a convert into Judaism, they said that the proselyte to the faith had been brought near. For instance, the Jewish Rabbinic writers tell how a Gentile woman came to Rabbi Eliezar. She confessed that she was a sinner, and asked to be admitted to the Jewish faith. “Rabbi,” she said, “bring me near.” But the Rabbi refused. The door was shut in her face. But now, in Jesus Christ, the door is open. Those who had been far off from God—you and I—have been brought near, and the door is shut to no one. The blood of Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.
A poem by Robert Frost entitled, “Mending Wall” concerns a wall that stands between the poet’s property and his neighbor’s. The poet and the neighbor have to be repeatedly mending it, picking up and putting back the stones that have fallen from the wall. The wall refuses to stay up. The neighbor wonders why. In his opinion, “good fences make good neighbors.” But the poet says there is something in nature, something in reality itself, that will always knock down walls and fences that people put up. He says, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”
St. Paul would emend Frost’s line to read “Someone there is who doesn’t love a wall, who wants it down.” That someone, clearly, is Jesus Christ.
There was a literal wall between Jews and Gentiles in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was the wall that divided off the inner court of the Temple, where only Jews could go, from the outer court, into which Gentile visitors could come. The inner court was where the real place of worship was. This meant, of course, that only Jews, only members of the sacred community could go in to worship God. A wall stood between the two kinds of people: Gentiles, who were without God, and Jews who belonged to God.
“But now,” the Scripture says, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That is, Jesus died on the cross, bearing the sins of all people, removing the sin and guilt that kept us all far away from God. “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, this is putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you Gentiles who were far off, and peace to those (the Jews) who were near; for through him both of us have access in one spirit to the Father.” (vv. 15-17). Christ has made us right with God, by his work on the cross. Now, anyone who believes in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, is already right with God, close to God, and one of God’s people.
There is no need to look to the Law to make us valuable and worthy and important in God’s eyes. “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances.” The only basis for God’s accepting us and looking upon us as worthy is the basis God has provided. That basis is the life and death and resurrection of the Son, Jesus.
Thus the Law and the special covenant with the Jews is done away with, as a wall between people. There is no true grounds for anyone to feel superior to anyone else, since the only proper basis for anyone’s sense of self-worth is the fact that Jesus loved you and me, and gave himself for us. This is all that any of us can claim, and we cannot ask more of anyone else than is required of ourselves.
The implications of this go infinitely beyond the particular wall that Ephesians speaks of. All other walls of hostility must be done away with, too, and for the same reason. Ephesians 1:10 speaks of God’s plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ. It is God’s purpose to unite in Christ all human beings, and indeed all creation, across all barriers, to overcome everything that divides us and keeps us enemies. No more walls!
It is impossible for a Christian of any race or nationality, for example, to look down on a person of any other race or nationality. Nor can my personal animosities or feelings of superiority toward my neighbor stand between us any longer. We are all in the same boat. We all have no reason to boast, no grounds for pride, except the grace of God in Jesus Christ; and anyone can claim that grace. Christ died for all people. “He is our peace; in his flesh he has made all groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us.
One of the most fascinating and significant prophecies recorded in the bible is Daniel’s seventy weeks vision. The Jews had been in exile and Daniel understood from Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would bring them back to the Promised Land after seventy years. As Daniel was deep in prayer, the angel, Gabriel, appeared to him. God had sent Gabriel to give Daniel understanding concerning Israel’s destiny beyond those seventy years in exile. It concerned Israel’s future until the end.
Essentially, God has decreed 70 weeks of years, meaning 490 years (70 times 7) for Israel and the city of Jerusalem before the end will come. Bear in mind that these are lunar years (360 days a year) and not solar years (365.25 days a year), which we are more accustomed to. During these 70 weeks of years, God will deal with Israel’s sin and rebellion against His covenant, and He will turn the nation back to Him. At the same time, all the prophecies pertaining to Israel and the present world will be completely fulfilled.
At the Beginning & End of the First 69 Weeks
Daniel 9:25-26 (NASB) - "So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.26 "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
The countdown would begin on the day when the decree to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem was issued. This event happened 93 years later after Daniel was given the vision. A Persian king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, issued the decree for the Jews to rebuild the broken walls and their beloved city. Based on the date given in Nehemiah 2:1 (the month of Nisan on the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign and assuming it falls on the first day of Nisan in the Jewish calendar),the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, United Kingdom, computed the date to be 14 March 445 B.C.
According to the prophecy, the 70 weeks of years are divided into 3 periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks and the final 1 week.
At the end of 7 and 62 weeks, which is essentially 69 weeks, “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing.” 69 weeks of years equal to 483 years(69 x 7) or 173,880 days (69 x 7 x 360). Using 14 March 445 B.C. as the start date, the date for the end of the 69 weeks of years works out to be 6 April A.D. 32.
Fascinatingly, this was the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and presented Himself to the Jews as their Messiah. However, the political and religious Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the prophecy has indicated -- “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing.” They executed Him on a cross. They cut Him down and cut Him off.
Barely 40 years later, “the people of the prince who is to come,” that is, the Roman armies under the command of Titus Vespasianus destroyed the temple and Jerusalem. The formidable Roman military force literally came in like a flood. As Jesus had also prophesied, “not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matthew 24:2). During the next few decades, the Romans continued to put down guerrilla attempts by small Jewish rebel groups until they banished all the Jews from the land.
The Church Age
After 69 weeks of years, the prophetic clock for Israel stopped ticking. The final one week of Daniel’s 70 weeks was suspended indefinitely. In a sense and prophetically speaking, Israel disappeared from the scene and the church emerged and took centre-stage since then until today. This period is known as the church age. It is also known as the time of the Gentiles. We are living in the church age.
The church is a mystery (Ephesians 5:32). The entity of the church was unknown to the Old Testament saints. No rabbis or scholars anticipated the emergence of the church.
The Final One Week
Daniel 9:27 (NASB) - "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
The church age straddles between verse 26 and verse 27. It will come to an end when God decides to rapture the church. On that day, our Lord Jesus will appear in the sky. There will be an element of surprise to it. it will be sudden and unexpected. Suddenly all the faithful Christians will be snatched up by Jesus and caught up to be with Him, and then brought to heaven (I Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4;15-17).
When this happens, the last one week (7 years) of Daniel’s 70 weeks of years will kick in. The prophetic clock for Israel, which has stopped for more than 2,000 years, will start ticking again. This is the 7-year tribulation period, which we read in the book of Revelation when God unleashes His wrath and judgement on the inhabitants of the earth.
God will finish His dealing with Israel in this last 7 years and then the end will come. It will be a terrible time of severe judgement for Israel. There will be wars and catastrophic disasters in Israel. This is the consequence of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah some 2,000 years ago.
Besides the rapture, another political event will also mark the beginning of the final one week of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy. The Anti-Christ will make a covenant with Israel and her enemies guaranteeing her peace and security. However, he will break the covenant and turn against Israel at the 3.5-year mark (“in the middle of the weeks”). He will also set up something sacrilegious, described as “the abomination of desolation” by Jesus (Matthew 24:15)in the rebuilt Jewish temple.
The good news is that finally all the remnants of Israel will be saved (Zechariah 12;10, 13:8-9; Romans 11:26).
At the end of 7 years of Tribulation, Christ Jesus will return to the earth with the armies of heaven, which includes the church (Revelation 19:7-8, 14). He will fight and utterly defeat the Anti-Christ (the beast) and the kings of the earth and all their armies that are gathered to fight Him and Israel (Revelation 19:19-21).
Notice that the church is not present during the 7-year Tribulation period. It is God’s appointed time to deal with Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the church, which has been raptured 7 years earlier, will return to the earth with Christ Jesus. The church will return as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-8, 14, 17-18).
This amazing prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks points to the existence as well as the sovereignty of God over human affairs. God is in absolute control over the world and everything that is happening. He has sovereignly decreed the times for both Israel and the church, and the Jews and the Gentiles. He alone determines how this present age will end. Jesus is the Lord of history and the future.
Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
First-century Christians weren’t prepared for what a truly radical and radically inclusive figure Jesus was, and neither are today’s Christians. We want to tame and domesticate who he was, but Jesus’ life and ministry don’t really allow for it. He shattered barrier after barrier.
One example is Jesus’ encounter, in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus and the woman talked about Jesus being the Messiah, why he was even deigning to talk with her, and the unnamed woman’s past and present, which she initially sought to hide from Jesus. (It included her five previous husbands, according to the account in John, and the fact that “the one whom you now have is not your husband.”) Yet not a word of condemnation passed the lips of Jesus; the woman felt heard, understood, cared for. Jesus treated her, in the words of one commentator, “with a magnetic dignity and respect.”
The encounter with Jesus transformed her life; after it the woman at the well became “the first woman preacher in Christian history,” proclaiming Jesus to be the savior of the world to her community, according to the New Testament scholar Kenneth Bailey.
This story is a striking example of Jesus’ rejection of conventional religious and cultural thinking — in this case because Jesus, a man, was talking earnestly to a woman in a world in which women were often demeaned and treated as second-class citizens; and because Jesus, a Jew, was talking to a Samaritan, who were despised by the Jews for reasons going back centuries. According to Professor Bailey, “A Samaritan woman and her community are sought out and welcomed by Jesus. In the process, ancient racial, theological and historical barriers are breached. His message and his community are for all.”
This happened time and again with Jesus. He touched lepers and healed a woman who had a constant flow of menstrual blood, both of whom were considered impure; forgave a woman “who lived a sinful life” and told her to “go in peace,” healed a paralytic and a blind man, people thought to be worthless and useless. And as Jesus was being crucified, he told the penitent thief on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus was repeatedly attacked for hanging out with the wrong crowd and recruited his disciples from the lower rungs of society.
And Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, a story about a man who helps a wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, made the hero of the story not an influential priest, not a person of social rank or privilege but a hated foreigner.
For Christians, the incarnation is a story of God, in the person of Jesus, participating in the human drama. And in that drama Jesus was most drawn to the forsaken and despised, the marginalized, those who had stumbled and fallen. He was beloved by them, even as he was targeted and eventually killed by the politically and religiously powerful, who viewed Jesus as a grave threat to their dominance.
Over the course of my faith journey, I have wondered: Why was a hallmark of Jesus’s ministry intimacy with and the inclusion of the unwanted and the outcast, men and women living in the shadow of society, more likely to be dismissed than noticed, more likely to be mocked than revered?
Part of the explanation surely has to do with the belief in the imago Dei, that Jesus sees indelible dignity and inestimable worth in every person, even “the least of these.” If no one else would esteem them, Jesus would.
Among the people who best articulated this ethic was Abraham Lincoln, who in a 1858 speech in Lewiston, Ill., in which he explained the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence, said, “Nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”
Yet another reason for Jesus’ connection with outcasts undoubtedly had to do with his compassion and empathy, his desire to relieve their pain and lift the soul-crushing shame that accompanies being a social pariah and an untouchable.
But that is hardly the only reason. Jesus modeled inclusion and solidarity with the “unclean” and marginalized not only for their sake but for the sake of the powerful and the privileged and for the good of the whole.
Jesus must have understood that we human beings battle with exclusion, self-righteousness and arrogance, and have a quick trigger finger when it comes to judging others. Jesus knew how easily we could fall into the trap of turning “the other” — those of other races, ethnicities, classes, genders and nations — into enemies. We place loyalty to the tribe over compassion and human connection. We view differences as threatening; the result is we become isolated, rigid in our thinking, harsh and unforgiving.
Jesus clearly believed that outcasts had a lot to teach the privileged and the powerful, including the virtues of humility and the vice of supreme certitude. Rather than seeing God exclusively as a moral taskmaster, Jesus understood that the weak and dispossessed often experience God in a different way — as a dispenser of grace, a source of comfort, a redeemer. They see the world, and God, through a different prism than do the powerful and the proud. The lowly in the world offer a corrective to the spiritual astigmatisms that develop among the rest of us.
It’s easy for us to look back 20 centuries and see how religious authorities were too severe and unforgiving in how they treated the outcasts of their time. The wisest question those of us who are Christians could ask ourselves isn’t why we are so much more humane and enlightened than they were; rather, it is to ask ourselves who the modern outcasts are and whether we’re mistreating them. Who are the tax collectors of our era, the people we despise but whom Jesus would welcome, those around whom are we determined to build a “dividing wall of hostility,” to use the imagery of the Apostle Paul?
“How Christians, including me, responded to the AIDS crisis in the ’80s haunts me,” my longtime friend Scott Dudley, senior pastor of Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Wash., recently told me. “Had we, like the first Christians, cared first and cared most for modern day ‘plague’ victims, I think we’d be in a whole different conversation with the L.G.B.T.Q. community. We may still have significant differences of opinion. However, I believe the dialogue would be one of more mutual respect, and I believe the L.G.B.T.Q. community would feel less afraid of the wounds Christians can inflict.” But even if the conversation were not different, as Scott knows, caring first and caring most for those victims of a plague would have been the right thing to do.
No society and no religious faith can live without moral rules. Jesus wasn’t an antinomian, one who believes that Christians, because they are saved by grace, are not bound to religious laws. But he understood that what ultimately changes people’s lives are relationships rather than rule books, mercy rather than moral demands.
Jesus’ teachings are so challenging, so distinct from normal human reactions and behaviors, that we constantly have to renew our commitment to them. Every generation of Christians need to think through how his example applies to the times in which they live. We need our sensibilities to align more with his. Otherwise, we drift into self-righteousness and legalism, even to the point that we corrupt the very institution, the church, which was created to worship him and to love others.
Soon after calling Matthew to follow Him, Jesus ate a meal with “many tax collectors and sinners” in Matthew’s house (Mark 2:15). Matthew had been a tax collector, and these “sinners” were his friends and acquaintances who were now spending time with Jesus. Matthew wanted to introduce people in his social circle to Jesus. The scribes and the Pharisees, who despised tax collectors, complained, but Jesus’ actions in spending time with sinners were in perfect accordance with His mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
In Jesus’ day, rabbis and other spiritual leaders enjoyed widespread respect and were held in high esteem in Jewish society. Almost everyone looked up to the Pharisees. They were strict adherents to the Law, they were the guardians of tradition, and they were the exemplars of piety. In their vaulted position, they avoided those whom they deemed “sinners”—those who did not follow their system of rules. Pharisees and the other religious class of Jesus’ day would definitely not have socialized with tax collectors, who were infamous for embezzlement and their cooperation with the hated Romans.
Jesus chose to eat with sinners because they needed to know that repentance and forgiveness were available. As Jesus’ ministry grew, so did His popularity among the social outcasts of society. Once Matthew was part of His inner circle, Jesus naturally had more contact with the pariahs of His society. Spending time with the tax collectors and sinners was only natural, since He had “not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). If Jesus was to reach the lost, He must have some contact with them. He went to where the need was because “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31).
Sitting at Matthew’s feast, Jesus broke societal taboos and condemned the Pharisees’ legalistic system of attaining righteousness. The fact that Jesus ate with sinners shows that He looked beyond culture to people’s hearts. Whereas the Pharisees disregarded people because of their past behavior, Jesus saw their spiritual need.
All through Jesus’ ministry, He reached out to those who needed Him. He conversed with a despised Samaritan woman at a well—surprising even His disciples (John 4:27). He forgives an immoral woman in Luke 7, He helps a Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7, He touches a leper in Luke 5, and He enters Zacchaeus’s house and dines with him in Luke 19. Again and again, Jesus touched the untouchable and loved the unlovely.
Jesus came to save sinners. Tradition, cultural bans, and the frowns of a few do not matter when a soul’s eternal destiny is on the line. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
Jesus saw individuals, not just their labels. He had compassion and sought to meet the needs around Him. In sharing the word of God, Jesus ate with sinners and spent time with them. Seeing all of this, sinners were no doubt inspired to know Him better. They recognized Jesus as a righteous man, a man of God—the miracles He performed bore witness to that—and they saw His compassion and sincerity.
Jesus didn’t let social status or cultural norms dictate His relationships with people. As the Good Shepherd, He sought the lost sheep wherever they had strayed. When Matthew hosted the dinner party, Jesus accepted the invitation. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the good news of the kingdom with those who most needed to hear (see Matthew 4:23). He was criticized for His actions by the self-righteous legalists of His day, but criticism did not deter Him.
Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus didn’t require people to change before coming to Him. He sought them out, met them where they were, and extended grace to them in their circumstances. Change would come to those who accepted Christ, but it would be from the inside out. The kindness of God leads sinners to repentance (Romans 2:4), and Jesus was full of kindness.
Jesus showed us that we shouldn’t let cultural norms dictate whom we evangelize. The sick need a physician. Lost sheep need a shepherd. Are we praying to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the field (Luke 10:2)? Are we willing to go ourselves?
Judgment and Hope1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?
2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
3 But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations;
4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring on them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”
5 Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your own people who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame.
6 Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORDrepaying his enemies all they deserve.
7 “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son.
8 Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.
9 Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God.
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
12 For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.
15 See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment on all people, and many will be those slain by the LORD.
17 “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one who is among those who eat the flesh of pigs, rats and other unclean things—they will meet their end together with the one they follow,” declares the LORD.
18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.
19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations.
20 And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the LORD. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels.
21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the LORD.
22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.
23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.
24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
Isaiah 66 Commentary...
God looks at the heart, and vengeance is threatened for guilt. (1-4) The increase of the church, when Jew and Gentile shall be gathered to the Redeemer. (5-14) Every enemy of the church shall be destroyed, and the final ruin of ungodly men shall be seen. (15-24)
Verses 1-4 The Jews gloried much in their temple. But what satisfaction can the Eternal Mind take in a house made with men's hands? God has a heaven and an earth of his own making, and temples of man's making; but he overlooks them, that he may look with favour to him who is poor in spirit and serious, self-abasing and self-denying; whose heart truly sorrows for sin: such a heart is a living temple for God. The sacrifice of the wicked is not only unacceptable, but a great offense to God. And he that now offers a sacrifice after the law, does in effect set aside Christ's sacrifice. He that burns incense, puts contempt upon the incense of Christ's intercession, and is as if he blessed an idol. Men shall be deceived by the vain confidences with which they deceive themselves. Unbelieving hearts, and unpurified consciences, need no more to make them miserable, than to have their own fears brought upon them. Whatever men put in the place of the priesthood, atonement, and intercession of Christ, will be found hateful to God.
Verses 5-14 The prophet turns to those that trembled at God's word, to comfort and encourage them. The Lord will appear, to the joy of the humble believer, and to the confusion of hypocrites and persecutors. When the Spirit was poured out, and the gospel went forth from Zion, multitudes were converted in a little time. The word of God, especially his promises, and ordinances, are the consolations of the church. The true happiness of all Christians is increased by every convert brought to Christ. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, such a river of peace, as will carry us to the ocean of boundless and endless bliss. Divine comforts reach the inward man; the joy of the Lord will be the strength of the believer. Both God's mercy and justice shall be manifested, and for ever magnified.
Verses 15-24 A prophetic declaration is given of the Lord's vengeance on all enemies of his church, especially that of all antichristian opposers of the gospel in the latter days. Ver. ( isaiah 66:19-20 ) sinners. These expressions are figurative, and express the plentiful and gracious helps for bringing God's elect home to Christ. All shall be welcome; and nothing shall be wanting for their assistance and encouragement. A gospel ministry shall be set up in the church; they would have solemn worship before the Lord. In the last verse the nature of the punishment of sinners in the world to come is represented. Then shall the righteous and wicked be separated. Our Saviour applies this to the everlasting misery and torment of impenitent sinners in the future state. To the honour of that free grace which thus distinguishes them, let the redeemed of the Lord, with humility, and not without holy trembling, sing triumphant songs. With this affecting representation of the opposite states of the righteous and wicked, characters which include the whole human race, Isaiah concludes his prophecies. May God grant, for Christ's sake, that our portion may be with those who fear and love his name, who cleave to his truths, and persevere in every good work, looking to receive from the Lord Jesus Christ the gracious invitation, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
. . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
(Galatians 3:26–29 ESV )
Key Observation: How society has taught us to categorize, limit, and relate to one another must have no force among those who are “in Christ.”
Old Testament texts like Exodus 4:22–23 and Deuteronomy 14:1–2 applied the title “sons” or “children of God” to the people of Israel. Paul applies the title to all people who are “in Christ,” whether Israelites or Gentiles. Where Jews and Gentiles are “in Christ” together, there is no longer a “Jew” over here and a “Gentile” over there. There are only people “in Christ.” Trying to introduce the Law at this point means reintroducing the division of people into Jews and Gentiles. It means undoing what God has done.
Paul recalls the ritual of baptism to drive this home. In the early church, people were often baptized by being fully immersed in water. This became a powerful image that could be developed in several ways. In Romans, Paul will speak of being submerged in baptism as the burial of a believer’s old self with Christ. What burst forth from the water is a new person, living a new life of righteousness with Christ. Here, Paul speaks of being submerged into the water of baptism as being plunged into Christ. The person goes in a Jew or Gentile, a slave or a free person, a male or a female. The believer emerges, however, with Christ engulfing, covering, and enveloping him or her like a garment. After baptism, what we should see when we look at one another is Christ, into whom we have all been plunged together.
The Jew divided up humanity into Jew and Gentile, slave and free person, male and female. The Greek would replace the first pair with “Greek and barbarian” (cf. Colossians 3:9–11), a Roman with “Roman and non-Roman.” All would affirm the second and third pairs to be meaningful. These divisions of humanity are not just innocent observations of difference. The distinctions are laden with value judgments and unequal power relations. They reflect the racism and chauvinism of this “present evil age” from which Christ rescued us (1:4), not the new creation.
Paul’s vision challenges us to break fully free from the power of this “present evil age” on our relationships and roles within the church and our outreach beyond. Paul would challenge a Christian named Philemon in this regard. Onesimus had left Philemon as Philemon’s slave. After spending some time with Paul, Onesimus put his trust in Jesus and received baptism. Would Philemon still cling to the old relationship, according to which he (a free man) owned a slave? Or would Philemon honor the new relationship, according to which he and Onesimus had become brothers together in God’s family? (see Philemon 1:8–21). Living as new creation requires living in very new ways with one another.
Paul concludes this paragraph returning to the topics of 3:15–18. Those who have been baptized into Christ have become part of Christ. They have thereby become part of the singular Seed, the one descendant of Abraham, to whom the promises were given. By virtue of being one with the Seed, they have become heirs of the promises themselves. There is nothing more that circumcision or Torah observance can do for them—except undo what the Spirit has already accomplished in their midst.
Questions for Reflection
What is the Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament? How does Christ fit in to the larger story of salvation reaching as far back as Abraham? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life?