- The Savior of the World
- Life through Jesus Christ
- Salvation for the Gentiles through Jesus Christ
- The Gentiles as Part of God’s People
- Epilogue: Jesus Christ’s Mission and Israel
Prior to Jesus Christ’s mission, God dealt primarily with Israel, as his people. What Jesus Christ accomplished had momentous implications for all people – notably in making God’s salvation, with eternal life, freely available to every person in the world. An associated outcome is that people from all nations can readily become one of God’s own people.
- 1Jn 4:14 ⇓; Acts 5:31 ⇓; Acts 13:23 ⇓
- God sent Jesus to take away sins . . .
- . . . God sent Jesus to save the world
- God saves people through Jesus Christ
- God has provided salvation for the Gentiles through Jesus Christ . . .
Rom 3:22b-25a For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. ▤
In v. 25a Paul answers the question he poses in v. 24, indicating that God will save him through Jesus Christ (cf. GNT, NCV).
The “victory” is victory over death and sin. As such it is associated with salvation.
2Tim 1:8-9 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us toa a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,b … ▤
a Or with
b Greek before times eternal
1Pet 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. ▤
Through Jesus Christ’s resurrection, God has brought believers into a “living hope” (v. 3) – encompassing their own resurrection and an inheritance (v. 4), aspects of the salvation to be consummated in “the last time” (v. 5).
Rom 5:8-11 … but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ▤
God through Jesus Christ: saves us from his own wrath (v. 9b), justifying us by Christ’s death (v. 9a); reconciles us to him (vv. 10-11); and brings our salvation to completion (v. 10b).
- Zechariah’s prophecy that God would redeem and save his people through Jesus Christ:
Luke 1:68-79 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us
c from on high 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” ▤
c Or when the sunrise shall dawn upon us; some manuscripts since the sunrise has visited us
The salvation spoken of here is inclusive of both spiritual salvation and salvation from the oppression of enemies (vv. 71, 74) – ultimately fulfilled by the final deliverance of God’s people on Jesus Christ’s return. The term “horn of salvation” (v. 69) refers to Jesus Christ. Verses 76-79 speak of God’s salvation coming through Jesus Christ’s mission in both John the Baptist’s preparatory work (v. 77; cf. CEV, NCV, NIrV, NLT) and Jesus himself (vv. 78-79).
References to Jesus Christ as “Savior” generally have in view him being the Savior of the world.
Jesus Christ’s role as Savior in respect to Israel – as mentioned here and in 13:23 immediately below – is readily applicable to the world.
Titus 1:3-4 … and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; 4To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. ▤
God is our Savior (v. 3) in conjunction with Jesus Christ (v. 4), for God planned, initiated and oversaw Jesus Christ’s saving work. Additionally, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, God brings the believer’s salvation to fulfillment. Note that as well as in Titus 3:4 below, the phrase “God our Savior” is also used in the NT in 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:3; Titus 2:10; and Jude 1:25.
Titus 3:4-7 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ▤
d Some manuscripts and suffer reproach
The description of God as “the Savior of all people” implies that his salvation is open to all people of the world, although it only comes to fruition for “those who believe”.
e That is, completely; or at all times
f Greek And from him
Heb 9:11-12 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,g then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. ▤
g Some manuscripts good things to come
By his own blood – his sacrificial death – Jesus Christ entered God’s very presence in heaven as high priest, once and for all, to secure eternal redemption.
The first statement is understood by some commentators to mean that: Jesus is the way to the Father because he is the truth and the life. The second statement emphatically states that he is the only way to God, one implication of which is that Jesus is the only source of salvation.
h men and man render the same Greek word that is translated people in verses 1 and 4
As suggested by v. 6, the most significant part of Jesus Christ’s exclusive role as the “one mediator” (v. 5) was giving himself as a ransom to mediate peace between God and humankind. Thus this portrays him as the sole provider of salvation.
Peter acknowledged that the way to eternal life was found exclusively in Jesus’ message; there was no one else to go to for it.
John 10:7-9 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. ▤
Verse 8 is probably referring to the numerous false Messiahs who had come previously and/or to the supposed spiritual leaders such as the Pharisees. In v. 9, Jesus claims to be the only “door” leading into salvation, through which one can find “pasture” – the provision of one’s needs.
Paul and Silas’s reply to the question posed suggests that one can only be saved through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ alone is the foundation of the Christian faith and all it entails, including salvation.
- Life comes only through Jesus Christ:
The “bottom line” is that: those who have a right relationship with Jesus Christ have eternal, spiritual life; those who do not have this relationship with him, do not have life.
- . . . and all his followers will be gathered to him
- On Jesus Christ’s return his followers will be rewarded
Luke 21:25-28 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” ▤
Phil 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. ▤
Verse 21 speaks of Jesus Christ, as “Savior” (v. 20), bringing the salvation of believers to fulfillment on his return).
The consummation of believers’ salvation is contrasted here with the alternative future of having to suffer God’s wrath.
- A further reference to the culmination of the salvation of believers:
Note that the final phrase is speaking of either: the believers’ salvation being from God (cf. NCV); or the “sign” being from God, pointing to the believers’ fearlessness as coming from God.
The “life” spoken of in the NT that Jesus Christ provides is often referred to as spiritual life. It involves being “alive to God” (Rom 6:11), with God’s Holy Spirit indwelling us, renewing and nourishing us. With this, we have a spiritual consciousness that enables us to live in communion with and in dependence on God, eternally. This spiritual life is only attainable through Jesus Christ and what he has accomplished.
i Or For this is how God loved the world
God’s will – which he has determined and implemented – is that those believe in Jesus Christ will have eternal life.
Here Jesus Christ speaks of God granting him such authority so as to provide eternal life through him.
Rom 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ▤
For comment on “reign in life”, see the comment on Rom 5:17-18, 20-21 – under Through Jesus Christ we can have eternal life as opposed to death.
1Jn 5:11-13, 20 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. ▤ … 20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. ▤
The last statement of v. 20 could be referring to Jesus Christ, but more likely God. In either case, the verse as a whole supports the assertion that God provides life through Jesus Christ.
The “gift of God” probably refers to the “living water”, although Jesus could be in view as the one through whom God has provided the “living water”. The “living water” is spiritual water – signifying either that which gives spiritual life or spiritual life itself. If it is the former it may well primarily refer to Jesus’ teaching, inclusive of his claims and substantiated by what he was to accomplish. Note that in 7:38-39 Jesus uses the term “living water” to refer to the Holy Spirit.
John 12:49-50 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me. ▤
God’s “commandment” (v. 50) is usually understood here to refer to the commands that he gave Jesus to teach, rather than to his commanding Jesus what to say (v. 49). Either way these verses show that God has provided eternal life through Jesus Christ teaching what God told him to.
- God has enabled Jesus Christ to have life in himself:
This indicates that Jesus has intrinsic life. The implication in this context is that – like his Father – Jesus is “the source of life” (GNT) with “the power to give life” (CEV).
j Or was not any thing made. That which has been made was life in him
“In him was life” is possibly here referring primarily to physical life (cf. v. 3). However even if this is the case, it still is probably also alluding to spiritual or eternal life, as being brought by Jesus Christ.
John 6:33, 35 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” ▤ … 35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ▤
Here Jesus speaks of himself as the source of spiritual life. The phrases “shall not hunger” and “shall not thirst” speak of him satisfying one’s spiritual needs, supplying what is needed for spiritual life.
Those who follow Jesus do not live in falsehood and ignorance, but have the light or truth that produces spiritual life.
Descriptions of Jesus Christ as “the life” point to him as the source or way of life – the one who brings life.
The phrase “the author of life” could be referring to Jesus Christ’s role in creation, but more likely it has in view his role in giving spiritual and eternal life.
- John 10:28 ⇓
- Jesus Christ’s “name” signifies him in his attainment of salvation and eternal life
- “In” Jesus Christ God’s people have eternal life
- [Outcomes of belief in Jesus Christ:] We have eternal life
Eternal life encompasses the spiritual life that Christians experience now, as well as its developed form of the afterlife. (As such the verses in the previous subsection are also relevant to this subsection.) Having said this, often references to “eternal life” have the afterlife primarily in view.
Note that eternal life is more than just eternal existence, which all will have. In the afterlife it will involve: having a glorified and spiritual “body” or form; being perfectly holy; and a very perceptible experience of God, in which believers will live in God’s actual presence, in constant fellowship with him.
John 4:13-14 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.k The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ▤
k Greek forever
Regarding “the water that I will give” see the comment on John 4:10 – above in God provides life through Jesus Christ.
That “which the Son of Man will give to you” appears to be the “food” (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV) that leads to eternal life, rather than being a direct reference to eternal life. The food is ultimately Jesus himself – “the bread of life” (v. 35 ⇑). As such it is inclusive of Jesus’ teaching (cf. v. 68 ↓), as supported by what he accomplished in his mission. To obtain this spiritual food one must believe in Jesus, believing what he taught and claimed about himself (cf. comment on vv. 48-58 ⇓).
Jesus has the words or message of the way to eternal life.
The last statement is most likely primarily speaking of Jesus’ resurrection ensuring or leading to the resurrection of believers and subsequently life ever after.
John 17:2-3 … since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. ▤
As is implied in v. 3, eternal life involves living in fellowship with God (cf. 1Jn 5:20) and Jesus Christ, the means of eternal life.
The punishment or price for sin is ultimately eternal “death”, costing us eternal life. But by giving his life in dying for our sins, Jesus Christ has paid this price for us. He gave his life as a substitute for our lives, that we might live eternally rather than suffer eternal “death”.
Note that in addition to verses speaking of eternal “death”, there are verses in this subsection that speak more generally of spiritual death, in the present life and/or the afterlife.
John 3:16, 36 For God so loved the world,l that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ▤ … 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ▤
l Or For this is how God loved the world
John 5:21, 24-25 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. ▤ … 24Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. ▤
Verse 21 seems to be drawing a parallel between God raising the physically dead to life and Jesus giving spiritual life to the spiritually dead. Jesus’ raising of the physically dead, particularly that of all people at the end of the age, is presumably also encompassed. In v. 25 “the dead” may well be the spiritually dead; the time had come when such people could hear Jesus’ words and come to spiritual life.
John 6:48-58 I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the breadm the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” ▤
m Greek lacks the bread
There are two subtly different but interrelated interpretations of what Jesus meant when he spoke metaphorically of eating of him, the bread of life. One is that it simply means to believe in him and depend on his death, for eternal life. The other is that it means to partake of Jesus Christ – including following him, trusting him and living in fellowship with him – for the sustenance of one’s life, which likewise leads to eternal life.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.n Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ▤
n Some manuscripts omit and the life
Jesus is the one through whom resurrection and life come (v. 25a). Those who believe in him will live even though they die physically (v. 25b). At a spiritual level they will never die (v. 26a), but will live eternally.
Rom 5:17-18, 20-21 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18Therefore, as one trespasso led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousnessp leads to justification and life for all men. ▤ … 20Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ▤
o Or the trespass of one
p Or the act of righteousness of one
The phrase “reign in life” (v. 17) is understood by many to refer to the future reign that believers will participate in through Jesus Christ, but the context indicates that it could more specifically be referring to their “triumph over sin and death” (NLT), pointing also to spiritual life in the present. In v. 21, Paul speaks firstly of sin reigning, having the power of death, with all people under its reign and facing death. Paul then speaks of God’s grace taking hold of people with them being made “right with God” (NIrV®; cf. AMP, NCV, NLT) to bring them to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
2Tim 1:9-10 … who saved us and called us toq a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,r 10and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, … ▤
q Or with
r Greek before times eternal
By his resurrection Jesus Christ has “ended the power of death” (GNT, cf. NLT), and those who put their faith in what he has accomplished will have life after death, with immortality.
Luke 1:78-79 … because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit uss from on high 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. ▤
s Or when the sunrise shall dawn upon us; some manuscripts since the sunrise has visited us
The “sunrise” refers to the Messiah. The phrase “who sit in darkness” probably refers to people living in the darkness of their sins. The subsequent phrase, “in the shadow of death”, may well then be speaking of people living under the prospect of eternal “death”, the consequence of their sins. The light given by the Messiah would save people from this.
Those who follow Jesus’ teaching will not see “death”, i.e. the conclusive and irrevocable destruction of the afterlife.
1Cor 15:54-57 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤
Through Jesus Christ believers are given victory over death (vv. 54-55, 57). The “sting” of death – its “power to hurt” (GNT) – comes from sin; sin’s potency in turn comes from the consequent condemnation of the sinner by the law (v. 56). So with the law no longer being what determines a believer’s righteousness – because of what Jesus Christ accomplished – death no longer has a “sting” for believers.
Heb 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. ▤
By destroying or breaking the power of the devil (cf. NLT) – the one who holds the power of death – Jesus Christ saves people from the power of death and frees them from enslavement caused by their fear of death. This enslavement may refer to being encumbered and stifled by a fear of death, or possibly to enslavement to Satan as the one who wields the power of death.
On occasions the Bible makes reference to “the book of life”. In this book are listed only the names of those who will receive eternal life. Those whose names are not written in the book of life, instead of having eternal life, will suffer spiritual death.
Phil 4:3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion,t help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. ▤
t Or loyal Syzygus; Greek true yokefellow
Rev 13:7b-8 And authority was given it [the first beast] over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. ▤
The reference to the book of life “of the Lamb” (cf. Rev 21:27 ↓) appears to imply that Jesus Christ has authority over it, determining whose names are included in it or omitted from it (cf. Rev 3:5 ↑).
Rev 20:12, 15 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. ▤ … 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. ▤
This speaks of entry into the new Jerusalem of the afterlife.
Wicked people are spoken of here.
Ex 32:32-33 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. ▤
The “book” is understood to be the same one referred to in the other verses in this subsection.
Dan 12:1-2 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. ▤
Generally commentators interpret v. 1 to be referring to the end days as a time of distress primarily for God’s people, with the reign of the antichrist quite possibly in view (cf. 11:36). The eternal deliverance of those whose names are “written in the book” is probably in view (cf. vv. 2-3), bringing “everlasting life” (v. 2).
- Believers’ names are “written in heaven”:
Similarly Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”
- God has extended his salvation to the Gentiles
- God has provided salvation for the Gentiles through Jesus Christ . . .
- . . . Jesus Christ died for all people
- God has made the way of faith in Jesus Christ open to Gentiles as well as Jews – there is no difference
- The gospel about Jesus Christ is preached also to the Gentiles . . .
- . . . Through the gospel Gentiles come to faith
- God has given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles as well as to Jews
The term “Jew” basically refers to the descendants of the people of the former Israelite kingdom of Judah. In NT times these people largely lived in the southern part of the land of Israel. The term “Gentiles” refers to non-Jewish people.
In OT times it was firstly only the Israelites, then after the Babylonian captivity more specifically the Jews, who were “God’s people” and as such knew of God’s salvation. But through Jesus Christ’s mission, God has made salvation open to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:26, 47-48 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. ▤ … 47For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. ▤
In v. 26, “those among you who fear God” refers to Gentiles, in contrast to “sons of the family of Abraham” which refers to Jews. In v. 47 Paul applies God’s words to the Messiah to his own work, his work being part of the fulfillment of God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles through the Messiah.
u Some manuscripts add verse 29: And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves
The use of “Greek” in comparison to “Jews” (v. 23) denotes Gentiles.
Rev 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ▤
This strongly suggests that this great multitude “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (v. 9) – largely Gentiles – had been granted God’s salvation (v. 10).
Acts 10:10-15, 28, 34-35 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” ▤ … 28And he [Peter] said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. ▤ … 34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. ▤
Peter’s vision revealed God had granted the Gentiles salvation. The vision showed firstly that God’s people were to no longer follow the OT stipulations regarding unclean food (vv. 12-15), but the greater applications that Peter was soon to learn were that Jews were no longer to view Gentiles as unclean (v. 28) and that God accepts all people (vv. 34-35).
Acts 15:3, 12 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.v ▤ … 12And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. ▤
v Or brothers and sisters; also verse 22
The fact that Gentiles had been converted (v. 3) and that God’s miraculous signs and wonders had been performed among the Gentiles (v. 12), reflect that God had extended his salvation to the Gentiles. Note that similarly to v. 12, 21:19 says, “After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.”
- Jesus Christ sent Paul to the Gentiles, to turn them to God, so that they might be forgiven and sanctified:
Acts 26:16-18 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. ▤
Luke 2:27-32 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29“Lord, now you are letting your servantw depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” ▤
w Greek bondservant
Rom 1:4-5 … and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, … ▤
Through Jesus Christ believers, like Paul, have received from God the ministry of calling people from among all the Gentiles to faith and obedience – which lead to salvation. Particularly if the phrase “through whom” has in view what Jesus Christ has accomplished (cf. NIrV), this reflects that God has provided salvation for the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
Rom 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ▤
Arguably the context indicates that “Lord” is most likely referring to Jesus Christ (cf. v. 9). Salvation comes to both Jews and Gentiles through calling on Christ’s name – which involves looking to him in faith, believing what the gospel says of him.
Rom 15:8-12 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” ▤
Christ’s ministry to the Jews was to confirm God’s promises to the patriarchs (v. 8), particularly the promise that they would be a blessing to all nations. The prime blessing that would come by them would be salvation through the Messiah. So the Gentiles would both praise God and rejoice with the Jews over the fulfillment of these promises (vv. 9-11), and put their hope – presumably primarily hope for salvation – in the Messiah (v. 12).
1Cor 1:21, 23-24 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. ▤ … 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ▤
God saves people through belief in the message of Jesus Christ and his death (vv. 21, 23). As such Jesus Christ is the power and wisdom of God for salvation for both Jews and Gentiles (v. 24).
Gal 3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spiritx through faith. ▤
x Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
The blessing given to Abraham is most likely justification by faith (cf. vv. 6-9) – a key aspect of salvation. Through Christ and his redemptive work (v. 13), this blessing has come to the Gentiles (v. 14).
Jesus Christ’s spiritual presence with every believer, including Gentiles, gives them the real hope of sharing through him in the glory of the afterlife – and thus also having salvation.
Jesus died for all people, making it possible for anyone to be saved.
2Cor 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. ▤
The usages of “all” here may refer to all people. If this is so, “one has died for all, therefore all have died” (v. 14) would mean that as Jesus Christ died on behalf of all, his substitutionary death is applicable to all people – “all share in his death” (GNT) – although it must still be appropriated by each individual. Some however interpret “all” as referring only to all believers. This would mean that “all died” (v. 14) is then either referring to only believers sharing in his death, or to believers dying to their old sinful selves – “we have all died to the old life we used to live” (NLT).
y men and man render the same Greek word that is translated people in verses 1 and 4
Heb 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. ▤
Note that “so that” appears to continue on from Jesus being “for a little while was made lower than the angels” rather than to him being “crowned with glory and honor”.
Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, … ▤
The inclusion of this verse in this subsection needs to be qualified. This verse is not necessarily implying that Jesus died for all people, only actually saying that he died for people from all nations. As such, it may be in the same vein as John 11:51-52, speaking of all of God’s people of all nationalities rather than simply all people.
2Pet 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. ▤
This speaks of the false teachers – who presumably are not truly believers – as being bought by Christ’s death. As such this suggests that Jesus Christ paid the price to redeem every person, including those who fail to recognize and accept his redemption.
- By his death Jesus drew all people to himself:
Verse 32 most likely means that when Jesus was “lifted up on the cross” (NLT), he would draw people – or in effect begin to draw people – from all nations to himself for salvation.
God has made the way of faith in Jesus Christ open to Gentiles as well as Jews – there is no difference
Acts 14:1, 27 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. ▤ … 27And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. ▤
Acts 21:20, 25 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, ▤ … 25But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled,z and from sexual immorality.” ▤
z Some manuscripts omit and from what has been strangled
As with 14:1 above, this indicates that many Gentiles as well as Jews believed, adhering to God’s way of faith – indicative of it being made open to both Gentiles and Jews.
The phrase “us and them” refers to Jews and Gentiles – as do “the circumcised… and the uncircumcised” in Romans 3:30 below.
Rom 3:22-24, 29-30 … the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, ▤ … 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. ▤
Rom 10:8-13 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ▤
Gal 3:8, 13-14 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justifya the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” ▤ … 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spiritb through faith. ▤
a Or count righteous; also verses 11, 24
b Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
The blessing given to Abraham (v. 14) most likely refers to justification by faith (v. 8). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (v. 13) – the former way to righteousness and justification, which is in contrast to the way of faith (cf. vv. 9-12). Christ did this in order that the blessing of justification by faith might come to the Gentiles through him (v. 14).
As noted earlier, in this context “those among you who fear God” is referring to Gentiles.
Acts 26:19-20 Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. ▤
Rom 15:15-19 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; … ▤
Illyricum (v. 19) was a province of the Roman Empire, north of Macedonia. In preaching the gospel “from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum”, Paul preached in numerous predominantly Gentile cities.
Gal 2:7-8 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), … ▤
Acts 13:47-48 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. ▤
Acts 15:7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. ▤
Acts 26:17-18 … delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. ▤
Here Paul reiterates Christ’s commission to him to take the gospel to the Gentiles to enlighten them and turn them to God (v. 18a), so that they would be forgiven and sanctified by faith in Christ (v. 18b).
Rom 1:4b-5, 14-17 … Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, ▤ … 14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,c both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,d as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”e ▤
c That is, non-Greeks
d Or beginning and ending in faith
e Or The one who by faith is righteous shall live
Paul again is speaking of his call to preach the gospel about Jesus Christ (cf. vv. 1-3, 9) to the Gentiles, so that by believing it they would be saved (v. 16), made righteous by faith (v. 17). Note that “Greeks and barbarians” (v. 14) refers here to the Gentiles as being either of cultured Greek ways or uncultured, i.e. non-Greeks (cf. text note). Presumably Paul expected to find both categories of Gentiles at Rome (v. 15).
Rom 16:25-26 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— ▤
1Cor 1:21, 23-24 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. ▤ … 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ▤
As noted earlier, this indicates that God saves people through belief in the message of Jesus Christ and his death (vv. 21, 23). As such Jesus Christ is the power and wisdom of God for salvation for both Jews and Gentiles (v. 24) who believe.
Acts 10:44-46a While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. ▤
Acts 11:15-17 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way? ▤
Here and in 15:8 immediately below, Peter speaks of the events of 10:44-46a above, where Jewish believers witnessed the Holy Spirit being given also to Gentiles who believed.
Being “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Thus this verse implies that God has given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.
f Or servants; Greek bondservants
g Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
Christ brought redemption (cf. v. 13) in order that justification by faith would come to the Gentiles through him, so that all – including Gentiles – might receive the promised Holy Spirit.
- The promise of the Holy Spirit for repentant Jews and Gentiles:
Acts 2:38-39 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” ▤
The “promise” (v. 39) is that of the Holy Spirit (cf. AMP), here promised to not only repentant Jews but also to “all who are far off” (v. 39), which probably refers to Gentiles.
- Gentiles have been accepted by God as being of his people
- Jesus Christ has made Jews and Gentiles one
- Gentiles have been included in the true “Israel” . . .
- . . . God’s people are now of the heavenly Jerusalem
- Those who have faith are the true, spiritual children of Abraham . . .
- . . . and God’s promise or blessing to Abraham is for all who have faith
- Note: Believing Jews still have a privileged status, amongst God’s people
- God largely rejected the Jews and accepted the Gentiles, due to the Jews rejecting Christ and the gospel . . .
- . . . The Jews’ negative response contrasted with the responsiveness of the Gentiles
- Despite Israel’s current state – which has benefited the Gentiles – Israel will be saved
Acts 15:7-9, 14-19 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. ▤ … [James:] 14Simeon [Simon Peter] has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16“‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17that the remnanth of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18known from of old.’ 19Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, … ▤
h Or rest
In v. 14 James is referring to God earlier saving some Gentiles through Simon Peter’s preaching to them (vv. 7-9; Acts 10:34-35 ↑). He then appears to use a quotation that ultimately refers to the end of the age (vv. 16-18) to affirm that what Peter had described – along with the general concept of the Gentiles coming to God (v. 19) – is consistent with the Scriptures.
These verses provide evidence that people from among the Gentiles have been accepted by God as being of his people along with Jews, in that: God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit just as he did to Jews (v. 8) making no distinction between Gentiles and Jews (v. 9); God had not long before taken some Gentile people for himself through Peter (vv. 7-9, 14); there are Gentiles who are called by God’s name (v. 17); and Gentiles are said to have turned to God (v. 19).
Rom 9:22-26 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” ▤
In vv. 25-26 Paul quotes from Hosea to show that from among the Gentiles who formerly were not God’s people, would now be those who God would call his people (cf. 1Pet 2:10 ↓).
1Pet 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ▤
Peter was writing to readers who were predominantly Gentiles.
This speaks of the Gentiles rejoicing “together with his people” (NCV™; cf. AMP, NLT), arguably pointing to them now being part of “his people”, i.e. part of God’s people.
2Cor 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ▤
Most of Paul’s letters were written to churches composed basically of Gentiles, as was the church at Corinth. So references to them being God’s people – as in this verse – illustrate that Gentiles are included in the people of God. The same can be said of expressions such as “God’s chosen ones” (Col 3:12 ↓).
The forming of churches by Gentiles illustrates that they had become part of the people of God.
The “other sheep that are not of this fold” are the Gentiles, who are not of Judaism.
John 11:50-52 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation [of Israel], 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. ▤
Eph 2:11-20 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you 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 the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,i but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, … ▤
i Or sojourners
The references to “peace” and “hostility” in vv. 14-16 are quite possibly referring to that between Gentiles and Jews, rather than between them and God; this may also be the case with “peace” in v. 17. However, having said this, this peace between them was only made possible by Christ’s work in making peace between them and God, i.e. in reconciling both of them to God (v. 16a).
Note that “brought near” (v. 13) may be referring to being brought near to Israel and “the covenants of the promise”, as per the theme of the following subsection. Alternatively, as a number of other translations stipulate, it may be talking of being bought near to God. Even if the latter interpretation is correct, the passage is still very pertinent to the following subsection (as it is to this subsection) indicating that believing Gentiles now have “citizenship in Israel” (NIV® vv. 12, 19).
j The words This mystery is are inferred from verse 4
Note that commentators differ somewhat on what “the promise” refers to, but it does seem clear that it is a promise relating to the saving work of the Messiah – in which Gentile believers share in together with Jewish believers.
k Greek bondservant
“Christ is all, and in all” points to Christ as being that which unifies his people. He is “all that matters” (CEV, NLT); all the distinctions previously referred to become irrelevant, no longer forming any kind of barrier. Note that in addition to “Greek”, Gentiles are also referred to here by the terms “uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian” – with the latter two speaking of uncivilized Gentiles in particular, in contrast to “Greek”.
Rev 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” ▤
Jesus Christ has formed people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” into one kingdom.
The term “Israel of God” (v. 16) refers to those who are “a new creation” (v. 15b). It stands in contrast with circumcision (v. 15a) – the sign of God’s old covenant with Israel, in which they were his people. As such the term alludes to a new “Israel” – “the new people of God” (NLT), “God’s true people” (CEV). This new people of God is composed not just of believing Israelites or Jews, but believing Gentiles as well.
Rom 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. ▤
Verse 29 may be saying that any person can be considered a “true Jew” (NCV™, NLT; cf. AMP, CEV, GNT) if they are one “inwardly” – and so these verses would be rightly included in this subsection. On the other hand it may be speaking of only Jews, differentiating between those who inwardly manifest all that Jews ought to be and those who are only outwardly Jews. Note that “letter” (v. 29) is a reference to the “the written Law” (GNT; cf. CEV), which is visible and “outward”, in contrast to the Spirit.
Rom 11:17-18 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing rootl of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. ▤
l Greek root of richness; some manuscripts richness
The natural olive “root” represents Israel, particularly the patriarchs with whom Israel’s relationship with God was established. The “wild olive shoot” represents Gentile believers accepted into the true, spiritual Israel (i.e. God’s people).
Rom 15:27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. ▤
That the Gentiles have now been accepted into the true “Israel” is reflected here by the fact that they now share in the Jews’ spiritual blessings.
The phrase “every tribe of the sons of Israel” – here sealed for protection against forthcoming judgments – may be symbolic of the whole church as the new, spiritual Israel (which would mean that the verse is relevant to this subsection). Alternatively actual Jewish believers may be in view.
An application can be made of this verse to the concept of the true “Israel” being composed of all godly people, including Gentiles.
This may well be alluding to the conversion of people from among the Gentiles, becoming part of “Israel” and likewise identifying with Jacob.
For Jews, Jerusalem is the focal point of their worship and identity. But those of the new or renewed people of God – the true “Israel” – ultimately belong to the new Jerusalem. It is where they will dwell forever with God.
m Some manuscripts For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia
Those who live as Jews, under the law given at Mount Sinai, are associated with the present city of Jerusalem (v. 25). Contrastingly believers are of the heavenly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is the “mother” of believers in at least two senses. Firstly, they are born again of what she represents – a faith that is free of slavery to the law (cf. vv. 24-25). Secondly – as per the theme of this subsection – they belong to her. This second point is indicative of the heavenly Jerusalem being where believers belong – their ultimate home.
In a spiritual, positional sense, believers now partake in the heavenly Jerusalem and what it signifies, assured of the full realization of this.
Rev 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. ▤
Having the name of the new Jerusalem written on one, signifies that one belongs to her. Those who overcome, persisting in their faith, will be marked as such. Moreover, they will be an integral part of God’s temple, presumably his temple in the new Jerusalem and a key part of it as the earthly temple was of Jerusalem.
Rev 21:2, 9-10 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. ▤ … 9Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, … ▤
The new Jerusalem will be inhabited by God’s people. In view of this, some commentators see this depiction of the new Jerusalem as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, to be a portrayal of the church as Christ’s bride. As such it would speak of God’s people, members of the church, being of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Rom 4:9-12, 16-18 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. ▤ … 16That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” ▤
The term “the circumcised” (vv. 9, 12) denotes Jews and “the uncircumcised” (v. 9) denotes Gentiles.
Rom 9:6-9 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” ▤
There is a similar issue in this passage to that commented on in 2:28-29 in the previous subsection. Paul may be speaking of all believers who prove to be spiritual kin of Abraham by having faith in God’s promises – hence its inclusion here. However some commentators understand it more literally as referring to the Jews in contrast to other descendants of Abraham, the Jews being descendants of Isaac (v. 7) who was promised to Abraham (vv. 8-9). Possibly Paul is using terms indicative of the latter meaning to allude to the former.
Luke 19:8-9 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. ▤
The assertion that Zacchaeus was “a son of Abraham” (v. 9) seems to refer to Zacchaeus’ faith, evidenced by his actions (v. 8), implying that he was not merely a physical descendant but also a spiritual descendant of “Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal 3:9 ⇓).
Matt 3:7-10 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ▤
This points to the fact that Jews are not necessarily children of Abraham in a spiritual sense, while Gentiles can become so (v. 9b). Moreover, unrepentant Jews will be cut off from Abraham, and so no longer be of God’s people (v. 10)
The background to the following passages is that because Abraham believed God’s promise that his descendants would be countless like the stars, God credited Abraham’s belief (or faith) to him as righteousness (cf. Gen 15:5-6). Note that in a number of the following passages Paul speaks of this blessing of righteousness – given in association with God’s promise – as being itself a promise.
Rom 4:9-11 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, … ▤
As soon becomes clear, v. 9 is speaking of the blessedness of people to whom, like Abraham, God credits righteousness by faith apart from works (cf. vv. 1-6). (Note that these three verses were included in the previous subsection, but here italics have been applied to additional clauses pertaining to the theme of this subsection.)
Rom 4:13-16 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16That is why it [the promise] depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, … ▤
There is no record of God specifically promising Abraham that “he would be heir of the world” (v. 13). Paul could be alluding to Abraham being the father of all believers, who like him would be granted righteousness by faith. As such, Paul would have in view the promise that Abraham would be “the father of many nations” (vv. 17, 18 ⇑), Gentiles as well as Jews. This interpretation appears to be supported by the cross reference in the ESV to Genesis 17:4-6. Alternatively, it could be referring to Abraham and his spiritual offspring inheriting the earth (cf. Matt 5:5) – in the form of the world to come – as an ultimate fulfillment or extension of the promise to Abraham that he would inherit the land of Canaan.
Verse 14 is saying that if it is through the law that one is to become an heir then the role of faith is nullified and the promise is void, in part at least because no one can keep the law – which in fact brings wrath (v. 15). In v. 16, “the adherent of the law” refers to Jews – to whom the law was given – in the context probably believing Jews in particular.
Gal 3:14, 16, 22-24, 29 … so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spiritn through faith. ▤ … 16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. ▤ … 22But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ▤ … 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. ▤
n Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
The “blessing of Abraham” (v. 14a) primarily refers to justification by faith (v. 24; cf. v. 8 ↓), by which we receive the promised Spirit (v. 14b). Similarly, the “promises” (v. 16) and “the promise” (v. 22) probably refer to righteousness or justification by faith and to the Spirit – possibly along with associated blessings, particularly salvation and life. The promises were made to Abraham and to his “offspring”, Christ (v. 16) – in whom they are fulfilled. The promises are shared in by faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 14, 22), by which one is identified with Christ as Abraham’s offspring (v. 29).
- God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham is fulfilled by God justifying the Gentiles by faith:
o Or count righteous; also verses 11, 24
God promised to bless all nations through Abraham (cf. . . . and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham). This promise is fulfilled by God justifying the Gentiles by faith. For all who follow Abraham’s example of having faith in what God has said are considered righteous as he was, and so are justified. As reflected in the following subsection, a related aspect of God’s fulfillment of this promise is that Jesus Christ – the object of the faith that leads to justification for people of all nations – was himself a descendant of Abraham. So as the Savior of all nations came through Abraham, the nations were thus blessed through Abraham.
The Jews’ privileged status is largely related to their religious heritage (cf. Rom 3:2 ↓; Rom 9:4-5 ↓; Acts 3:25a ↓) and to the related fact that salvation came through them (cf. Rom 9:5 ↓; Acts 3:25 ↓; Luke 2:30-32 ↓; John 4:22 ↓).
Rom 9:3-5 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,p my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. ▤
p Or brothers and sisters
The clause “to them belong the adoption” (v. 4) refers to God effectively adopting Israel as his children (cf. Deut 14:1; Ex 4:22; Isa 43:6; Hos 1:1). The phrase “the glory” (v. 4) probably refers partly at least to the manifestations of God’s glory to the Israelites, such as in the cloud in the desert (cf. Ex 16:10) and in the temple (cf. 1Ki 8:10-11).
The clause “for glory to your people Israel” implies that God’s salvation would bring glory or honor to Israel because of the Messiah – the means of God’s salvation – coming from Israel.
- On Judgment Day, punishment and rewards will be given to Jews first:
Rom 2:9-10 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. ▤
This order may suggest that the Jews have a primacy in both status and responsibility.
- Jesus Christ came foremost to Israel . . .
- . . . and the gospel of Christ was first preached to the Jews
- But the Jews largely rejected Jesus Christ . . .
- . . . and many Jews strongly opposed the spreading of the gospel
- The Jews’ negative response to Jesus Christ brought God’s judgment
- God largely rejected the Jews and accepted the Gentiles, due to the Jews rejecting Christ and the gospel . . .
- . . . The Jews’ negative response contrasted with the responsiveness of the Gentiles
- But God has left a faithful remnant of Israel
- Despite Israel’s current state – which has benefited the Gentiles – Israel will be saved
One aspect of Jesus’ role as “shepherd” of Israel in his first advent was to guide the people in God’s ways, leading them to salvation.
Galilee, Samaria and Judea (cf. Acts 10:36-39a ↓) were adjoining regions – listed here north to south – which largely encompassed the land of Israel. At least most of Jesus’ ministry took place in these regions, thus reflecting the prominence of Israel in his mission.
Jesus’ directions to his disciples reflect the priority of the people of Israel, the Jews, in his own mission.
Matt 15:21-28 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.q ▤
q Greek from that hour
Jesus’ words appear to point out that the people of Israel were the primary focus of his mission (vv. 24, 26), while also testing the faith of the Canaanite woman (vv. 26, 28).
John 11:51-52 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. ▤
Here “nation” refers to the Jewish nation. The mention of Jesus dying for the Jewish nation before reference is made to the “children of God” of other nations, arguably points to the primacy of the Jews in Jesus’ mission.
Acts 10:36-39a As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. ▤
Luke 1:16-17 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. ▤
John the Baptist’s ministry, preliminary to Jesus Christ’s ministry, is spoken of here. John was to minister to “the children of Israel” (v. 16) – “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (v. 17), i.e. for Jesus to come to them. This points to the priority of Israel in Jesus’ mission.
Israel is given prominence even in this reference to Jesus Christ after his mission.
Acts 2:5, 14, 22-24, 36-39 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. ▤ … 14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. ▤ … 22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. ▤ … 36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” ▤
This is the first recorded proclamation of the gospel following Jesus’ ascension, made to a crowd largely composed of Jews.
Acts 13:14-16, 23-26, 43 … but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. ▤ … 23Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ 26“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. ▤ … 43And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. ▤
This is an example of the priority given to the Jews in the early preaching of the gospel. Note that in this context “you who fear God” (vv. 16, 26) likely denotes Gentiles. However these Gentiles would have been converts to Judaism, as indicated in v. 43 and by the fact that they were worshiping in a Jewish synagogue (vv. 14-16).
Acts 13:45-46 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. ▤
Acts 18:5-6 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” ▤
This implies that Paul had initially made the Jews his priority in spreading the gospel.
The phrase “to the Jew first” alludes to their unique position and chronological precedence, in which God used them in bringing his revelation and plan of salvation to the whole world. They were God’s chosen people, the recipients of the OT laws and prophecies, the participants with God in the first covenant, and the people through whom the Messiah came. Additionally, the gospel was to be first revealed to them, which is what Paul has in view here.
- Jesus Christ’s ministry to the Jews was to bring salvation to the Gentiles:
Rom 15:8-9 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” ▤
Christ’s ministry to the Jews – “the circumcised” – was in order to confirm God’s promises to the patriarchs (v. 8), particularly the promise that they would be a blessing to all nations. The prime blessing that would come by them would be salvation through the Messiah. The Gentiles would then glorify God for his mercy to them through the fulfillment of these promises (v. 9).
This indicates that the Jewish people largely did not accept Jesus’ message.
This illustrates Jesus’ rejection by the Jews, referring here in particular to those of his hometown.
r Greek to his own things; that is, to his own domain, or to his own people
s People is implied in Greek
Although the first occurrence of “own” is sometimes taken to refer to the world (cf. v. 10), the second at least is more often understood to be referring to Jesus’ own people, the Jews.
John 5:16-18 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. ▤
Note that references to Jesus being persecuted by the Jews, generally have the Jewish leaders in view.
John 8:48, 52-53 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” ▤ … 52The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” ▤
John 10:30-33, 37-39 I and the Father are one.” 31The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” ▤ … 37If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. ▤
Acts 3:13-15 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servantt Jesus, whom you [Jews] delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. ▤
t Or child; also verse 26
Acts 7:51-54 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” 54Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. ▤
Note that in addition to the Jews’ betrayal and killing of Jesus Christ (v. 52b), Stephen also points out other aspects of their obstinacy towards God (vv. 51-53) – raising their ire (v. 54), leading to them stoning him (cf. 59).
Acts 9:22-23, 28-29 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. 23When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, ▤ … 28So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.u But they were seeking to kill him. ▤
u That is, Greek-speaking Jews
Acts 13:44-45, 49-50 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. ▤ … 49And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. ▤
Acts 18:12-13 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” ▤
Note that Paul is speaking here – and in the following passages.
Acts 26:19-21 Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. ▤
2Cor 11:23-24 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. ▤
1Thes 2:14-16 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!v ▤
v Or completely, or forever
Note that opinions vary as to which revelation of God’s wrath is being referred to in v. 16. It could be a contemporary occurrence, or possibly a future one – with the present tense being used to indicate its certainty. It could concern one particular group of Jews, or the Jews as a whole. Alternatively, some think that sinful humankind in general may be in view, with the earlier reference to the Thessalonians being persecuted by their own countrymen (v. 14).
- The Jews did not submit to God’s righteousness, which comes through Christ:
Rom 10:1-4 Brothers,
w my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. x ▤
w Or Brothers and sisters
x Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified
The Jews were ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God (v. 3a), through belief in Christ (v. 4). Thus their zeal for God was misplaced (v. 2), as they sought to establish their own righteousness rather than submitting to God’s righteousness (v. 3b) by believing in Christ.
Matt 23:29-38 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,y whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38See, your house is left to you desolate. ▤
y Some manuscripts omit the son of Barachiah
Verse 32 appears to indicate that this generation of Jews – particularly the spiritual leaders (cf. vv. 29-31) – would in a sense bring to completion the sins that their ancestors began. This would include them killing a number of those who would spread the gospel (v. 34). Their generation would suffer a judgment that would be the culmination of God’s judgment for all the righteous blood that they and their forefathers had shed (vv. 35-36). The judgment may refer – initially at least – to the destruction by the Romans of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 (cf. Luke 19:43-44 ↓; Luke 23:28-31 ↓). The “house” (v. 38) that would be left desolate, may be the temple (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT); Jerusalem and the nation are other possibilities. In v. 37, Jesus speaks of his longing to take the Jewish people under his care and guidance, but they were not willing.
Luke 19:12, 14-15, 27 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. ▤ … 14But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. ▤ … [The king:] 27But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” ▤
The king represents Jesus Christ, and his enemies represent the Jews or at least their leaders. Verse 27 has in view their judgment on Jesus Christ’s return.
Luke 19:41-44 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” ▤
Jesus wept with heartfelt compassion because the people of Jerusalem had not recognized their “visitation” (v. 44b), the time of God’s intervention, providing salvation and the opportunity for peace (v. 42). Consequently they would face destruction (vv. 43-44) – which came by the Romans in A.D. 70.
Luke 23:26-31 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” ▤
In v. 31 “when the wood is green” may refer to the time of Jesus being with them. The verse then would probably be contrasting the Jews’ rejection of Jesus – leading to his crucifixion by the Romans – with the horrors that would befall the Jewish nation in the “dry” time to come when Jerusalem would face destruction by the Romans (cf. Luke 19:43-44 ↑).
Rom 11:7-10 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” ▤
Having rejected the gospel of Christ and sought righteousness in their own way, the bulk of the Jews did not obtain righteousness (v. 7a) – in contrast to the elect amongst them. Instead God judicially hardened them, leaving them bereft of spiritual perception (vv. 7b-8) and facing grave punishment (vv. 9-10).
In the psalm from which the quotation in vv. 9-10 is taken, “table” may well allude to the food metaphors of the preceding verse in the psalm, depicting the ill treatment of the psalmist by the wicked. As such Paul may have in mind the wickedness of the Jews in rejecting Christ, using the quotation to speak of the Jews’ unrighteousness leading to judgment. Alternatively some commentators consider that Paul is using the reference to feasting to allude to the rich religious heritage of the Jews under the old covenant as becoming a snare to them in their failure to accept the gospel of the new covenant (v. 9), resulting in looming judgment (v. 10).
- Zechariah’s portrayal of two shepherds:
Zec 11:7-17 So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. 8In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. 9So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” 10And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. 11So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. 14Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. 15Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. 17“Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” ▤
Zechariah firstly portrays a shepherd who many think is the rejected messianic Shepherd-King (vv. 7-14) and then a “foolish” or “worthless” (CEV, GNT, NLT) shepherd (vv. 15-17) – which some understand to symbolize the final anti-Christ. The flock is of course Israel – “doomed to be slaughtered” (v. 7), i.e. marked for God’s judgment (cf. vv. 4-6). It is not clear who or what the three shepherds (v. 8) represent. The covenant made with the nations (v. 10) most likely speaks of God having restrained other nations from overrunning Israel; the revoking of this left Israel open to destruction. Verses 12-13 were fulfilled as a prophecy when the Jewish leaders paid Judas thirty silver coins to betray Christ and then, on Judas returning it, using it to buy the potter’s field (cf. Matt 27:3-10). Verse 14 then associates the disunity of the nation with its rejection of this first shepherd.
God largely rejected the Jews and accepted the Gentiles, due to the Jews rejecting Christ and the gospel . . .
Matt 21:33-46 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servantsz to the tenants to get his fruit. 35And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;a this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”b 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. ▤
z Greek bondservants; also verses 35, 36
a Greek the head of the corner
b Some manuscripts omit verse 44
The master represents God; the servants, his prophets; and the son, Jesus Christ (who is also symbolized by the “stone that the builders rejected”, v. 42, cf. v. 44). However opinions differ on the other aspects of the parable. One view is that the vineyard represents the kingdom of God; the tenants depict the Jews generally; and the “other tenants” (v. 41) refers to believers who would come from among the Gentiles. Such a view would neatly fit the theme of this subsection. A somewhat different view is that the vineyard represents Israel; the tenants depict the Jewish leaders; and the “other tenants” (v. 41) refers to all true people of God, not just chiefly Gentiles.
Luke 14:15-18a, 21-24 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servantc to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. ▤ … 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you,d none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” ▤
c Greek bondservant; also verses 21, 22, 23
d The Greek word for you here is plural
This is often viewed as alluding to the invitation into God’s kingdom being extended to the Gentiles (v. 23), following its rejection by many of the Jews (vv. 18-20) – who would in turn be denied access into it. Note that v. 21 appears to be portraying the invitation being given to outcasts of Jewish society, many of whom did respond to Jesus and/or the gospel.
Rom 10:16-21 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” ▤
After indicating that the Jews generally rejected the gospel (v. 16), Paul examines the possibilities that perhaps this was because they either did not hear it or did not understand it. He emphatically states that they did hear it (v. 18). He then indicates that they should have understood it, using the OT quotations to imply that the Gentiles with less spiritual understanding had responded when confronted with the gospel (vv. 19-20). The Jews’ problem was not that the gospel was beyond their understanding but that they themselves were “a disobedient and contrary people” (v. 21).
Rom 11:11-12, 15 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusione mean! ▤ … 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? ▤
e Greek their fullness
In vv. 11, 12, “their trespass” refers to the Jews’ rejection of the gospel (cf. v. 28 ↓) and God’s way of righteousness that is by faith. Their “failure” (v. 12) could refer to their failure to take hold of God’s salvation and/or them being rejected by God (v. 15), broken off from their place as his people (cf. vv. 17, 19-20 ↓).
Rom 11:17-22 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing rootf of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. ▤
f Greek root of richness; some manuscripts richness
Rom 11:25, 28-31 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:g a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. ▤ … 28As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may nowh receive mercy. ▤
g Or brothers and sisters
h Some manuscripts omit now
Matt 8:8-12 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,i ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israelj have I found such faith. 11I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” ▤
i Greek bondservant
j Some manuscripts not even in Israel
Those that would “come from east and west” (v. 11) refers to those who would come from outside of Israel, i.e. Gentiles like the centurion. The “sons of the kingdom” (v. 12) refers to Jews who were as such a part of God’s people and of his kingdom, but who without faith would be thrown out. These last two verses are very pertinent to the previous two subsections.
Acts 13:45-48 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. ▤
Acts 18:5-8 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. ▤
The many Corinthians who believed (v. 8b) would have been largely Gentiles. Note that Crispus (v. 8a), as the synagogue ruler, would have been a Jew. He and his household were exceptions to the generally negative response of the Jews towards the gospel.
Acts 28:24-28 And some [of the Jews in Rome] were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26“‘Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 27For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”k ▤
k Some manuscripts add verse 29: And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves
- The Gentiles have obtained righteousness, by faith – in contrast to Israel:
Rom 9:30-32a What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness
l did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. ▤
l Greek a law of righteousness
In vv. 31-32 Paul appears to be speaking of Israel failing to obtain the righteousness of the law – the righteousness that the law embodied.
Rom 9:27, 29 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israelm be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, ▤ … 29And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” ▤
m Or children of Israel
Note that v. 29 quotes Isaiah 1:9. Rather than “offspring” (from the Septuagint), the original text is arguably better translated as “survivors” (cf. NRSV, Isaiah 1:9), which more closely reflects the concept of a remnant (v. 27).
Rom 11:1-7 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham,n a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, … ▤
n Or one of the offspring of Abraham
God did not totally reject his people Israel, for as in Elijah’s time (vv. 2-4) God chose a remnant from among them. “The elect” (v. 7) refers to those among the Jews – “a chosen few of the people of Israel” (CEV). Israel in general failed to obtain righteousness (cf. 9:31-10:3); in contrast the elected remnant amongst them did.
Acts 2:22, 41 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— ▤ … 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. ▤
This and the following references – along with the above cross references – illustrate that thousands of Jews did respond to the Gospel message about Jesus Christ, making up a sizable faithful remnant of Israel.
The contexts indicate that Jews are primarily in view here and in 5:14 below – as in the other references in this subsection.
Rom 11:11-12, 15-16, 23-24 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusiono mean! ▤ … 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. ▤ … 23And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. ▤
o Greek their fullness
In v. 15, “their rejection” is probably speaking of the Jews being rejected by God, but possibly the Jews’ rejection of the gospel is in view (cf. CEV). Opinions differ as to the meaning of “life from the dead” (v. 15). Possibilities include: further spiritual renewal and/or blessing for the world; the resurrection of the dead; or Israel’s spiritual resurrection. In v. 16, “firstfruits” and “root” represent the patriarchs, while “whole lump” and “branches” depict the Jewish people as a whole. The verse is not meaning that all Jews are holy, but that God will fulfill his promises made to them as a people (cf. 3:3-4). (cf. NSB)
Rom 11:25-32 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:p a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27“and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” 28As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may nowq receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. ▤
p Or brothers and sisters
q Some manuscripts omit now
In keeping with the context, the clause “all Israel will be saved” (v. 26) probably refers to Israel as a whole, rather than every individual Israelite or Jew. Alternatively some see it as referring to all redeemed Israelites (or even all believers including Gentiles), past and living. (cf. NEL, ZBC, NBC) Likewise “all” (v. 32) refers not to all individuals but to all peoples, i.e. Jews and Gentiles. Verse 30 is speaking of God’s mercy – through the gospel of Jesus Christ – being turned to the formerly disobedient Gentiles as a result of the Jews disobediently rejecting the gospel (vv. 11b-12a, 15, 23, 25, 28). But, v. 31 explains, now that the Jews too have become disobedient they are able to share in God’s mercy shown to the Gentiles.
As noted earlier, v. 38 may speak initially of the desolation of Jerusalem – and the temple in particular – by the Romans. But in light of v. 39, Israel’s ongoing state – particularly its spiritual state – may also be alluded to. Verse 39 could well be implying that a good proportion of Jews will rightfully acknowledge Jesus Christ (cf. Zec 12:10), at the time of his return. As such this would point to the salvation of Israel.
- A possible further reference to the end of the prominence of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation:
The “times of the Gentiles” may be referring to the time of the Gentiles’ prominence, relative to the Jews, in God’s plan of salvation. However, the period of Gentile domination of the city of Jerusalem could well be in view instead.