For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
–Ephesians 3:1-13 (ESV)
Why is Paul doing this to me? No, he’s not doing this to me, but why did he say, “this grace was given (to Paul), to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…”
But why is he bothering to preach the unsearchable riches of Messiah to the Gentiles? I mean, why go through all the trouble?
Oh yeah. There’s this:
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
–Acts 9:10-15 (ESV)
Jesus declared Saul (Paul) to be his “chosen instrument…to carry my name before the Gentiles…” So Jesus had this in mind all along.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
–Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
I’m indebted to Marc’s comment on Derek Leman’s blog for making me think of Ephesians 3 in relationship to the “mystery” of the New Covenant for Christians and to Proclaim Liberty’s comment on my own blog for attempting to take my investigation of the “New Covenant connection” one step further.
It seems clear that Messiah intended the Gentiles to be made into his disciples and that through him, we would be saved. He specifically commissioned Paul to be the emissary to the Gentiles and to preach the Gospel to us. Those facts are indisputable as we see them presented in the scriptures, but the “mechanics” of how we enter into any sort of covenant at all with God through Messiah remains a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” to paraphrase Winston Churchill. I’ve been forced to reduce it down to a simple formula just to keep from going crazy. It is obvious to me from my reading of the Abrahamic covenant that the nations were always intended to benefit in connection to the Messiah.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 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 12:1-3 (ESV)
To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now 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.
–Galatians 3:15-16 (ESV)
I created a detailed breakdown of the covenant God made with Abraham to illustrate that of all the provisions God created in the Abrahamic covenant, only one of them (see Genesis 12:1-3) has anything to do with the nations being blessed by Messiah. That provision is the starting point for my understanding of my connection to God through Christ. My simple formula for understanding “the Jesus covenant” is this:
- God creates a provision in his covenant with Abraham that allows the Gentiles to be blessed through Messiah (Abraham 12:1-3).
- The New Covenant (Jer. 31, Ezek. 36) renews, affirms, and amplifies all of the previous covenants God made with the people of Israel and the people of Judah which, by definition, includes the Abrahamic covenant.
- Messiah alludes that the (new) covenant is poured out in his blood (death), (see Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20) for all people.
- Paul interprets the Abrahamic covenant provision referring to Gentiles as Messiah being our connection to God (see Galatians 3:15-16).
- Paul describes the process of Gentiles being made co-heirs to the Messianic promises through Messiah as a mystery (Ephesians 3:1-13).
Somehow in all of that is enough of a connection from the days of Abraham to the apostolic era (and forward in time to us) for me to be able to say that I really am attached to God in a (more or less) demonstrable way through Messiah Yeshua; through Christ Jesus. And as Proclaim Liberty states:
I can point to Zechariah and the Sukkot celebrations incumbent upon non-Jews in the messianic era. Remember that their participation was a requirement for rain upon their lands. Midrashically, there is a lot of significance to be derived from the concept “rain”. In fact, all manner of benefits upon non-Jews specifically can be derived from it. Combine this with Is.56 and Yehezkel 31 & 36 references, and one begins to see the formulation of a special vision for non-Jews — much better than mere “crumbs off the floor” (and, by the way, “dogs under the table” generally eat offerings from the childrens’ willing hands rather than from the floor).
There’s a lot I’ve left out such as the prophesy of Amos (Amos 9:11-12) referring to the “Gentiles who are called by My Name,” and of course, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples…” (Isaiah 56:7), but you get the idea.
Somehow, in some way, God has made a lasting provision for the people of the earth to be able to become attached to Him through the Messiah. Messiah directed the Jewish apostles to make Gentile disciples. Peter witnessed the Gentile Cornelius receiving the Holy Spirit and thus salvation without having to convert to Judaism. Paul was specifically commissioned by the Master to be his emissary to the nations and to preach the gospel of Christ to the goyim. Putting it all together should present us with a path for the Gentile to God. It’s there. It’s all there. It’s just hard to nail down the specifics.
My commentary on Brother Yun and Pastor Saeed Abedini shows us that being a faithful Gentile servant of God is more about faith, heart, devotion, and drive than the little bits and details we find in the Bible that make us (me) crazy, or the petty bickering we often find ourselves embroiled in on the Internet.
What is the purpose of the Torah in the lives of Jews today? When Messiah rebuilds the Temple in Holy Jerusalem, what role will the sacrifices play in the Messianic age? These are vitally important questions and they cannot be left in the mud waiting for the Messiah to come and pull them out, clean them off, and present them to us in pretty wrapping paper and tied up in a bow. But especially for the “Gentiles who are called by His Name,” it’s equally important to answer the basic questions, “Who am I?” Where do I belong?” “Does God care about me?” “What is my role in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
–Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)
If we Christians are searching for our “Torah,” I can think of no other teaching that we need to start out with than those words of the Master. If we are searching for covenant, we have it in Messiah. Having a relationship with God is like being married. While the marriage certificate is important, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on unless we actually live out the relationship in love and devotion. As time passes, the “marriage” grows, matures, and finally realizes its own magnificent potential, which was created by God for us through Messiah.
Addendum: One more valuable piece to this puzzle can be found by reading Gifts of the Spirit Poured Out on all Flesh.