Good News for Israel & the Gentiles!
An Invitation to all Believers
Thursday, August 30, 2007
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Welcome to another edition of the Bible in the News. This is Paul Billington presenting this weeks comment from a somewhat different angle as we take a look at the news in the Bible. Yes, the Bible is always in the news, as our comments week-by-week demonstrate on a regular basis. But that is because (putting it the other way round), the news is in the Bible. This of course is the meaning of that word "Gospel." In old English it means "Glad Tidings," or in up-to-date talk, "Good News." This is the news that the Bible tells us about--This is the central message of the Book.
Most people probably associate the Gospel with the New Testament, but the concept is really one that owes its origin to the Old Testament. The word 'Gospel' is actually an early English word meaning "good message" and is the equivalent of the Greek word 'Evangelion'--from which also comes our word Evangelist, or Evangelical. As we consider this news in the Bible, this good message, we find that it has very little to do with the emotional and effervescent outbursts that are seen among so-called Evangelicals today. In fact it is true to say that the Gospel of the New Testament cannot be properly understood without a working knowledge of the Old Testament. Look what the apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:8. He wrote:
"And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed."
When we turn to the passage that the apostle Paul cites here, that is Genesis chapter 12:3, we find that it is part of a promise that God made to Abraham. If we read the whole context (that is verses 1-3) several things are involved. This promise to Abraham concerned 1. A LAND 2. A GREAT NATION 3. A GREAT NAME AND BLESSING 4. CONSEQUENCES OF BLESSINGS AND CURSES, and then finally, 5. A BLESSING FOR ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH (that is to say, All nations) through Abraham.
Other promises to Abraham given later fill out some of the detail, but this is the Gospel in a nutshell--says the apostle in effect. Now you cannot select one item from this package and de-select the other items. The fact that all nations are to be blessed in Abraham does not mean that the reference to the Land, or to the great nation can be set aside. Far from it; these items are emphasized in the later promises and certainly form part of the good news that Abraham was taught. The land is specifically emphasized in Genesis 13:14-17, and again in chapter 15:18.
The other aspect of the promises which receives a growing emphasis later, is the great nation and the seed. look at Genesis 22:16-18.
God said, "By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
This "seed" clearly has a plural sense; it is a multitudinous seed--multiplied like the stars in the heavens and like the sand on the shore. Many Christians ignore this obvious reference to Abraham's natural descendants, and argue that Paul in the New Testament says that the seed is singular, meaning Christ only. This is a misunderstanding of Galatians 3:16. The word "seed" (as in English) can be taken in the singular sense--A SEED--or it can be taken in a plural sense. It is the same with the Hebrew in Genesis. The apostle's emphasis in Galatians 3 is upon "thy" seed; a seed that identifies with Abraham. This is the emphasis pointing to Christ and not the word "seed" itself. THY SEED is Abraham's special seed, the holy seed if you like, and refers to the Christ; but this does not contradict what Paul wrote about the Jews in Romans 11, where he says of Jacob, "they are beloved for the fathers' sakes."
The nation of Israel is the seed of Abraham, and we read that in Isaiah 41:8. It says: "But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend."
Again however, this does not mean that disobedient and disbelieving Jews are counted as the seed. The Ahabs, the Zedekiahs, the Nadabs, the Olmerts and the Baraks--such are cut off, just as Jesus points out in John 8:39,40. But the BODY of the nation has been preserved over the centuries and will be the recipient of the promises. This is the teaching of the New Testament Gospel. for example in Acts 26:6,7 the apostle explains that this is the ground of his trial. He says:
"And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews."
And again in verse 22, 23,
"Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."
In fact the Acts of the apostles begins by recounting how Jesus discussed the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), that is, the kingdom that would be restored to Israel (verse 6). The Acts concludes with the same subject, "the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20) and the preaching of the kingdom of God (chapter 28:31).
So this is why we read of Jesus preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23 etc). The Gospel is the Good News about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. That is why you will hear so much about Israel on this weekly programme. The restoration of the kingdom to Israel is the heart of the Gospel. It concerns a real, literal, political kingdom upon earth, and that kingdom is to be developed out of the nation of Israel.
How can this be? Well, it can ONLY be through the work of Jesus Christ, that is why the apostles preached "the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12). It is Paul again who, when speaking of the seed of David in Acts 13:23 says:
"Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:" So Jesus is a saviour first and foremost to Israel. Let this be recognized and we shall soon see why the true Christian aligns himself with the nation of Israel. This is further explained in the letter to the Ephesians where Paul reminds his readers (chapter 2:11-13) that they have now become citizens with the saints (verse 19).
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye 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: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ... Now therefore ye are NO MORE strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
This, says Paul, is the revealed secret of the Gospel (Eph. 3:6), "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."
So here is Good News for both Jew and Gentile. It is the Gospel of the Bible, the central message of the Book, inviting us to become partakers of the promises through Jesus Christ. That, briefly, is the news in the Bible. It involves more than we have been able to cover in this short programme, but at least we can better understand why we focus so much upon Israel, the events happening there, and those prophecies that relate to our nation and our land.
We will talk with you again next week God willing. www.bibleinthenews.com www.biblemagazine.com
Printed: Thursday, August 30, 2007
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