We’ve been members of two large church (two different countries) that welcomed everyone. In one, the pastor sometimes poked at congregations with the attitude “us four, no more, shut the door.” This morning’s reading shows that Paul battled this same attitude. Jewish believers had a problem accepting Gentile believers. If these non-Jews must be let in, then they must keep Jewish customs. Paul didn’t agree.
My book says, “Paul’s wide outlook and genuine concern that the Gospel might reach out to all the world triumphed over the narrower perspective and more limited concern of the Jerusalem apostles. He had truly caught the vision of his Lord that the message should go out to all nations.”
Paul’s vision was not new. The Old Testament has ample evidence that this was God’s plan all along. In the first Bible book, He said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Jesus also said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
One verse that hints strongly at the heart of God says, “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name.” (Isaiah 65:1)
Paul understood that the Jews were called the people of God because He selected them to know Him and to take His truth to the nations. However, they failed. Even then, Almighty God had a plan to use that failure to bring good — even the accomplishment of the very thing they failed at!
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. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. (Romans 11:11–14)
How this works is beyond my ability to understand and explain yet the Bible says God intended the world to know about Him, selected the Jews to convey that message, they said ‘us and no more’ but God was not surprised. His redemption plan was always about Jesus, just as Peter told them . . .
“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— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22–24)
After the resurrection, many Jews believed but many resisted — to the point Paul told them he was taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. In fury, the Jews tried to silence and even kill him, but God rescued this man many times so he could do what his predecessors and persecutors were supposed to do but had failed.
From this summary, I rest in the reality that when God decides to do something, He cannot be stopped. Satan and all who oppose God have been trying to silence Him and His people for centuries. They are still at it. Our culture will allow religious rights to almost every group that demands them, but not to the group that God has selected to bear His name.
Yet He cannot be silenced or stopped. I’ve been reading amazing stories, one of a mission to the homeless fought by the mayor and leaders in a city, yet God went to bat for them and it happened and is thriving. Another is the diary of a servant of God in a medical mission to a very anti-Christian country. She tells of God consistently and graciously being in their midst when humanly speaking there was no hope.
Oh Jesus, redemption history tells of the power of God to finish what He starts, to keep His promises, to win when all seems doomed. Your life, death, resurrection and glorification declare the same power. This universe, this world, this land, Your church, and my tiny and insignificant life are in Your hands, along with every single person and issue on my prayer list. If anyone should say, “How can you believe in God?” I am able to answer them, “How can you not?”