Why is God Saving Gentiles Today?
Today, for various reasons, many Gentile believers ask, “Is God saving Jews today?” But precisely the opposite question was asked in the first century (cf. Acts 15) by Jewish believers: “Is God saving Gentiles today?” Why has God saved so many Gentiles during the past 2 000 years — and why is He still saving Gentiles (and Jews) today?
God’s overall prophetic program can be subdivided into three distinct plans: God has a plan for the nation Israel; He has a plan for the Church; and God has a plan for all 70 of the Gentile nations. However, all three of God’s plans take the Jewish people to some extent into account, as Deuteronomy 32:8-9 indicates: ‘When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel. For Jehovah’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance’ (ASV). Not only does God have a plan for Gentile salvation, but that is somehow connected with His plan for the Jewish people. There are two reasons for Gentiles salvation and both reasons are directly connected with God’s program and plan for the Jewish people. First, to take out from among the Gentiles a people for His Name (Acts 15:14). Second, to provoke Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11).
To Take From Among the Gentiles a People For His Name (Acts 15:13-18)
When God cut the covenant with Abraham, He said that ‘in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3). The Abrahamic Covenant contains both physical and spiritual promises. While the physical promises are limited to the Jewish people only (such as the land of Israel), the spiritual promises are to extend to the Gentiles as well (as Genesis 12:3 makes clear). In Old Testament times, many Gentiles were saved: think of Ruth (1:16; 4:10), the queen of Sheba and the ‘men of Nineveh’ (Matthew 12:40-42), to name but a few. But more Gentiles are being saved during the Church age.
The risen Lord told the 11 apostles to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). From Acts 2 to Acts 7, the gospel of Christ was taken to the Jews, but when Stephen got stoned to death, many Jewish believers fled Jerusalem and where they went, they started to spread the gospel, certainly in Judea (from Acts 8 onwards) but also in Samaria. The Samaritans have some physical connection to Jews, so when Samaritans started to become believers (Acts 8), this did not cause too much of a stir among Jewish believers. But in Acts 10-11, Peter opens the door also to Gentile believers. When he got back in Jerusalem, Peter had to explain to his fellow Jews what happened (cf. Acts 11:15-17). Further, as a result of Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey, described in Acts 13-14, many more Gentiles came to faith and this stirred up controversy among Jewish believers: Is God saving Gentiles today?
The first Church council that ever took place is described in Acts 15. Are Gentiles saved on the basis of grace through faith or must they also be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses? As Acts 15 makes very clear, the answer to the first question is ‘Yes’ and the answer to the second question is ‘No’. And what is the reason for the larger number of Gentiles being saved? Acts 15:14 states that ‘God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name’ (ASV).
This naturally raises more questions. First, what is the position of the Gentile believers particularly in connection with unconditional and eternal Jewish covenants (Abrahamic, Land, Davidic and New)? Second, if God is saving (physically uncircumcised) Gentiles because they put their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for their sins, what is the position of Gentile believers in connection with the Jewish people?
Regarding the first question, the answer is NOT that Gentile believers have taken over the place of Jews in God’s plan. This theology of replacement or transference is incorrect. Neither the Church nor Gentile believers ‘take over’ the unconditional and eternal covenants that God gave to Jews and their representatives. Gentile believers partake in the spiritual blessings contained in the Jewish covenants. As Ephesians 3:6 states it, in the Body of Christ ‘Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel’ (ASV). Notice the words ‘partakers of the promise’; it does not say that Gentile believers take over the promise. What is that promise? The key spiritual blessing is the promise of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus through the gospel. The position of Gentile believers is that of partaking of the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants — not the physical blessings, for that belongs to the Jews as God promised to the Jews in the Jewish covenants — but as God promised long before in Genesis 12:3, Gentiles would and do partake of spiritual blessings of Jewish covenants.
To Provoke the Jews to Jealousy
What is the position of Gentile believers in the Church age in connection with the Jewish people? The second reason for Gentile salvation is to provoke Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11-14). Unfortunately, some Gentile believers provoke Jews to anger. But what should happen is this: Gentile believers are to come alongside Jewish unbelievers and live such lives and be such consistent verbal witnesses that eventually the Jewish person is to begin to burn with jealousy until they finally say, “What is this Gentile doing with my Messiah?” Gentile believers must present the gospel so that Jewish persons will know what he or she must believe to receive salvation from God.
Gentile salvation is connected with God’s program and plan for the Jewish people. The first reason is to take out from among the Gentiles a people for His Name. The second reason is so that Gentile believers will provoke Jews to jealousy. There is more to be said about this topic and you are encouraged to read the full article of Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries .
If you would like to find out more about why God is saving Gentiles today, we suggest you consider reading the original article by Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum, ‘Why is God Saving Gentiles Today?’.
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