Exodus 19-20 / Matthew 18:21-35
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6
The Jewish people lived for centuries with the Law of God governing their lives. They had the priesthood, the tabernacle, the rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices engrained in them from an early age only to have them suddenly become redundant with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many of them, this was overwhelmingly difficult to understand, much less accept as many Jews believed themselves to be the exclusive recipients of God’s blessing.
Paul explains to the Jews that the mystery of God’s plan for salvation was one that terminated the stipulations of the Old Covenant and has now come to fruition in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Christ born in us is an offer extended to all people and unites both Jew and Gentile together as co-heirs with Christ. The first significant controversy in the early church was whether both groups were equal recipients of God’s blessing. There were many who believed you had to become a Jew first before becoming a Christian. Paul’s repeated use of words like “together” and “sharers” make his stance clear. The Old Covenant, with its exclusive focus on the nation of Israel, ended with the cross, and under the New Covenant, the people of God are no longer defined by a single nationality, but are a global entity consisting of Jew and Gentile in equality who are all baptized by the Spirit into Christ and united as one body of which Christ is the Head.
The Jewish-Gentile debate may not be as relevant today as it was in the first century, but sadly, attitudes of exclusivism still exist within the church. As the people of God, we are in Christ, set apart for God, and are made aware that we stand before Him clothed in the righteousness of Christ. However, we must be careful not to allow our status before God prompt a self-righteous streak, thinking we are in any way superior to an unbeliever. The only contribution we make to our salvation is our sin, for salvation is entirely the work of God. As Christians, we are to adopt an everyday disposition of humility, knowing we are entirely undeserving of God’s grace.
What makes the people of God so beautiful is that they are not exclusive. God welcomes anyone from any nation and any circumstance to share in His blessing. Our histories and backgrounds are irrelevant, because we are all made new in Christ. God chose to bring about this great mystery of “Christ in us” through the nation of Israel, but His blessing extends to all people, uniting both Jew and Gentile as God’s chosen people and heirs with Christ.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I am humbled to be part of a community of believers that welcome all people in Your name. I pray for the expansion of Your kingdom all over the world. Thank You, Lord.