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Chapter 16 - The Kingdom and the Time of the Gentiles
Salvation had been for Israel for those who trusted in the promises of God and demonstrated their trust through their works. Eternal life was to be obtained at the resurrection of the just. Jesus announced that this was to change in that those who trusted (had faith) in him would obtain immediate salvation.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. - John 5:24
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:14-15
This was called a 'mystery' in that it had not been specifically revealed before by God. Another 'mystery' that was revealed was that gentiles would also have the opportunity to receive eternal life through faith in Jesus.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: - Ephesians 3:2-6
While salvation by grace through faith was being dispensed to the nation of Israel in anticipation of the kingdom, Paul was also called to dispense this grace to the gentiles.
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. - Galatians 2:7-9
There were those among the Jews that sought to impose the law (most notably circumcision) on gentile believers because they were unable to see a different condition for the gentiles.
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. - Acts 15:5
James responded to this with the exercise of the power of 'binding and loosing' that Jesus gave to the disciples. (what you 'bind' on earth shall have already been bound in heaven, Mat 16). James declared what were requirements for gentile sojourners described in Leviticus.
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. - Acts 15:19-20
The entire letter to the Galatians concerned correcting the influence some Jews had gained directing them to follow the law and become circumcised. Even today there are those who would direct gentile Christians into the realm of law keeping. Gentile Christians have access to the kingdom the same way as Jewish believers, through the regeneration of being 'born again' in Christ.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: - Colossians 1:13
Our citizenship in the kingdom with the Jews is somewhat difficult to apprehend as distinctions dissolve and Christ is magnified.
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. - Colossians 3:10-11
We do not have a detailed understanding of what our relationship to the kingdom will be, but we do know that we are already part of the 'body of Christ'.
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. - Ephesians 5:30
We do have an indication that in the future we shall have a better understanding.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. - 1 John 3:2
Today those who believe in Christ are mostly gentile believers. As a group, we have been influenced often by the ideas of men to divide ourselves into denominations and follow the doctrines of men.
Some look to follow the laws given to the nation of Israel. Some seek to bring in the kingdom by making disciples of all nations. Others make lists of rules to follow to insure good conduct. However, rather than seek a basis of action, it may be better to consider what the bible gives gentile believers as an expectation or requirement.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: - Colossians 1:9-12
1. ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding
2. ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing
3. being fruitful in every good work
4. increasing in the knowledge of God
5. Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness
6. Giving thanks unto the Father
The gentile church is not given a list of tasks to accomplish. Most of the activity cited is to bring us to maturity as individuals. From this we might deduce that the purpose of the gentile church is to facilitate the growth of its members into maturity, which is Christ-likeness.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: - Ephesians 4:11-13
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