Chapter 3 The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God

1 Cor. 10:32.

From the call of Abraham to the death of Christ, the broad distinction between Jew and Gentile was fully maintained. This distinction was of God, and therefore not to be interfered with. A middle wall of partition separated them. (Eph. 2:14.)

To Israel, that is, to the seed of Jacob according to the flesh, “pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” (Rom. 9:4, 5.) “To them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom. 3:2.) Great and special were their privileges— the Lord avouched them to be His peculiar people, to make them high above all nations which He had made, in praise, and in name, and in honour. (Deut. 26:18, 19.) “What nation so great, who hath God so nigh unto them? and what nation so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law?” (Deut. 4:7, 8.) “I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.” (Lev. 20:24.) “Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt.” (1 Kings 8:53.)

And be it specially observed, that these high privileges above all other nations did not pertain to them on the principle of faith, but on the principle of natural descent according to the flesh from Abraham in the line of Isaac and Jacob. It was the seed of Abraham, according to the flesh, who were forbidden to make a covenant with, or marry, the people of the land. (See Deut. 7:2, 3.) Hence, on their restoration from captivity, the strange wives they had taken, and those also who were the issue of such marriages, were put away; for the holy seed had mingled themselves with the people of those lands. (See Ezra 9:10) All other nations are comprised in the term Gentiles; and howsoever God might exalt or abase Gentile nations, at one time delivering them to unmitigated judgment, at another delivering into their hands universal dominion, even over Israel, as in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, still the secret of the Lord was with the chosen people; and if individual Gentiles be honourably mentioned, such as Melchisedec, or Hobab, outside of Israel; or Uriah the Hittite, Shobi the Ammonite, Araunah the Jebusite, or Ruth the Moabitess, inside Israel, it is only in their individual, never in their national character.

Yet such instances of blessing flowing out to others than the seed of Jacob, as individuals, both inside and outside the commonwealth of Israel, had their significance, as foreshadowing the purpose in the mind of God, that blessing should yet be given to the Gentile. Nor, indeed, was this purpose in any wise a secret; for it is written in Isaiah 11:10, “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse; … to it shall the Gentiles seek;” and again, “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6); and again, “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.” (Isa. 19:24, 25.) Many other Scriptures might be adduced to prove that God had in view from the beginning to bless the Gentile nations, as nations, when Israel should be restored, and not before. Meantime Israel as a nation is cast off and dispersed, “a people scattered and peeled;” and so long as this is so, God cannot and does not recognize any nation as His. Meantime, consequent upon the rejection of Christ by Israel, and the death of Christ, God has brought forth a new order of blessing. No longer for the time recognizing Israel in the flesh, or Gentiles in the flesh, He has been gathering out of both Jews and Gentiles a people for His name (see Acts 15:14), uniting them in one body to Christ the ascended Head at God’s right hand, and in positive distinction alike from Jew and Gentile, calling this elect membership the Church of God. (See 1 Cor. 10:32.)

The fullest distinctive teaching upon this point is to be found in the epistle to the Ephesians. There, in chap, ii., we find the natural state of both Jew and Gentile described — verse 2 being descriptive of “ye” Gentiles, and verse 3, “among whom also we,” that is, “we Jews.” Both were alike “dead in sins,” and both the objects of God’s love (ver. 4, 5), as we read, “God so loved the world.” (John 3:16.) The result of that love is, that they were now quickened together with Christ, raised up together, and made sit together in heavenly places in Christ. (Ver. 5, 6.) Mark the force of that word “together.” No longer separated by earthly and fleshly distinctions such as had obtained in time past (and will again be observed when God resumes His dealings with nations as such, in fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies), but united, being made one in the risen life of Christ.

This is further expounded with special reference to the Ephesians, in verses 11, 12, “in time past Gentiles in the flesh—without Christ—aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world—now in Christ Jesus made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

Then we read how this bringing of the Gentile into the place of nearness to God was effected. Certainly not by making him a Jew through circumcision, or in any way identifying him with the commonwealth of Israel. Such had been the case with Gentiles before, and these were called Proselytes—they ceased to be regarded as Gentiles, and forthwith were regarded as Jews. But the character of the blessing here spoken of is unique; for those who are partakers of it are no longer regarded as in the flesh at all; they are in Christ, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. (See Gal. 3:28.) They are “members of the body of Christ” (Eph. 5:30), being “by one Spirit baptized into one body,” of which Christ is the Head. (1 Cor. 12:13.) They form corporately, and in union with Christ, “ONE NEW MAN.” (Eph. 2:15.)

That this new man had no existence, and could have none, till the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was broken down, is evident from verses 14 to 16. Moreover, it is certain that, until the death of Christ, this middle wall was fully maintained; for the Lord had respect to all the Mosaic and Levitical institutions, interfering with none, and being Himself “a minister of the circumcision” (Rom. 15:8), He never overstepped the bounds of Canaan. It therefore follows of necessity, that not until by His death He had abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, did He begin to make in Himself out of the two (i.e. out of Jew and Gentile) this one new man. The Head being in heaven, the body began to be formed on earth—that body which indeed is “fearfully and wonderfully made”—and “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth,” and of which every member was “written in God’s book, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:14, 16.) Such is “the Church, which is His body.” (Eph. 1:22, 23.) In vain do we search in the Old Testament Scriptures for prophecies concerning such a dispensation—there, all is Jewish or Gentile—the “one new man” is the secret which God had kept hid in Himself since the world began. (See Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:26.) But now it is made manifest, even “the mystery of the Christ,” committed to, and written of, by the apostle Paul (Eph. 3:4), and very vaguely referred to by the Lord Himself. “This mystery in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel whereof I was made a minister.” (Eph. 3:5-7.) Hence this apostle speaks of the gospel which he preached as “my gospel.” (Rom. 16:25.) And again, of his communicating to those at Jerusalem that gospel which He preached among the Gentiles. (Gal. 2:2.) Moreover, he says he received it not of man, neither was he taught it (that is, as a matter of previous revelation), but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophesies indeed of a Christ to come, of His sufferings and of His glory, but the New reveals the wondrous fact, that a people chosen out of all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, are, by the sovereign grace of God, joint-heirs with Christ, members of His mystic body, sharers of His sufferings and rejection here, and of His glory and His throne hereafter. A people who shall come with Him when He comes, reign with Him when He reigns, judge with Him when He judges, and be glorified with Him when He shall be glorified. May the eyes of our “understanding be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 1:18; 3:9.)