The Calling of the Gentiles – God’s Eternal Plan – by Terry Cropper
Be sure to read the first installment of this fine article by Terry Cropper.
God always had a desire to save the “gentiles nations.” Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV) “Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles.
Once we understand that Jesus is the Servant spoken of in Isaiah 49; we understand that Jesus’ ministry brings deliverance to the gentile nations. Now, my reading of the text, in Isaiah 49:6 certainly seems to indicate that in addition to the restoration of Israel, that God would then extend salvation to the nations. However, there are some who claim that this is false, and in fact, the text only predicted the salvation of the all twelve tribes, i.e. restored Israel.
Notice that the claim violates what the text specifically says. God said it would not be enough to restore Israel, the tribes of Jacob. With that in mind then, notice that God said. ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the nations of Gentiles.
Here is a statement to make a bigger point. God’s servant is certainly able to do far greater things than to save only one small nation. God’s servant would be the light to the Gentiles as well. God said that was not enough for the Messiah to save Israel / the tribes of Jacob! In addition to restoring Israel which would be too small a work for him, he would also offer life to the Gentiles!
“It would have been insufficient for the `God’s Servant’ to have received only the conversion of Jews as a result of his labors; therefore, God gave him the gathering in of the Gentles also, and made him the means of salvation even to the uttermost parts of the earth.” It is undeniable that God here predicts the calling of the Gentiles.
During the New Testament times the Apostle Paul alludes to this basic fundamental principles in Ephesians 2:11-13 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
In this passage the apostle is dealing with the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles. He identifies the Gentiles for us. He says they are the ones who are called “uncircumcised” by those who are circumcised, i.e., by Jewish people. He indicates the distinguishing mark of the Jews, and he has a good reason for doing so. He says, “You Gentiles are uncircumcised. The Jews are the circumcised people.” In being circumcised they were recognizing the fact that they were a people, belonging to God in a unique sense. The mark of circumcision was what indicated this distinction. So when Paul said the Jews were circumcised, he was symbolizing by that fact the advantages the Jew had over the Gentile. But he was also highlighting the fact that the Gentiles, the pagans, did not have these advantages.
Circumcision is made a great deal of in the Scriptures. It is referred to all through the Old Testament and the New. It began, you remember, with Abraham, who circumcised his son Isaac at the request of God. And it always indicated that here was a people who had a special access to God, a special relationship to him. This circumcision also applied to the proselytes converts living among Israel.
Exodus 12:48-49 An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the (mails in his household circumcised); them he may take part, like one born in the land… The same law applies to the native-born And to the alien living among you.” (Emphasis mine) The Gentiles/proselytes that were living among the Israelites had to undergo circumcision as well. The pagan Gentile world was without this. This is why the Gentile, pagan world was called “uncircumcised”
Then Paul states the one thing which can be said of all the uncircumcised, no matter what their background one great fact remains: you are separated from Christ. Paul goes on to describe: “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” Paul use of “alienated from here in the Greek is ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι meaning an alien alienated living outside the covenant relationship with God.
These gentiles that Paul is addressing in Ephesians 2:11-13 were not proselytes converts from early times. (Isaiah 56:3 ; Nehemiah 10:28; Esther 8:17 ). The name “proselyte” occurs in the New Testament only in Matthew 23:15 ; Acts 13:43 Acts 6:5 Acts 2:10. The name by which they are commonly designated is that of “devout men,” or men “fearing God” or “worshipping God.”
Paul goes on, and says the final condition of the “uncircumcised” gentiles was: “having no hope, and without God in the world.” Paul goes on now to show what has happened, Verse 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Paul goes on to develop some more fantastic truth, the blood of Christ brought them near. Paul asserts that Christ “has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us, referring to Gentiles and Jews who are believers in Christ.
The interesting fact that many Christians are unaware of, is that there was a physical barrier (a middle wall) that separated gentiles and Jews in the days of Paul, at the Temple in Jerusalem. Known as the “soreg”, this partition prohibited gentiles from entering into the temple courts. The soreg was a low wall surrounding the Temple in Jerusalem, which served as a boundary/partition wall. Beyond this point, entry was permitted only to Jews who were not impure through exposure to death.
The soreg featured signs, in a number of languages that warned these unauthorized people against entering the area of the Holy Temple. Some of the signs which were placed on the “soreg” have been discovered. The inscription says “No outsider shall enter the protective enclosure around the sanctuary. And whoever is caught will only have himself to blame for the ensuing death.”
Considering all of the above facts, it is safe to say, that Paul was referring to this “partitioning wall” in his letter to the Ephesians, as it was a prominent feature of the Jerusalem Temple at that time, which restrained gentiles non proselytes from entering in. It is also important to note that this wall was not part of the design God had given, but was a later addition made by the Jews in authority, to keep gentiles from entering the temple precinct. However, nowhere in the Old Testament would you be able to find such a structure that separates the proselytes from the native-born Jews. Gentile proselyte who had a desire to worship God were always welcome and assimilated by faith into the Israel of God. The calling of the Gentiles was always God’s plan!