In the last post I identified something mostly unknown to professing Christians… a “mystery” or secret God withheld from His creation until He chose to reveal that information to the Apostle Paul. In attempting to determine what that information is, let us first examine Gods intent for the nation Israel.
In Genesis 12:1-3 God calls Abram out of Ur (Babylon) unto a new location that remained undisclosed to Abram. Abram believed what God was saying to him and, following the Lords instruction, left his fathers house. God made a promise to Abram (because of that belief) that He would make of Abram a great nation which would in turn be a blessing to those who would bless Abram. I think we can fairly identify a nation as a large group of people. Key words to my point are located in Gen 12:3(b)… “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This is the very beginning of the nation Israel and defines their very purpose; that they should somehow be a blessing to others (all families). Many years later, the covenant of circumcision comes into play. It is the wall of partition which separates out those whom God has a covenant agreement with (a covenant is an agreement between parties) from those He does not. God has a covenant agreement with Israel and no other nation. See Genesis 17:11-14 (KJV…Only).
Still later (I am passing over much history here) as Moses is leading captive Israel (they were bad and God was punishing them) from Egypt, God establishes the Law with the nation. Exodus 19:5-6… “Now therefore, IF ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, THEN ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” Notice carefully the “If/Then” nature of this covenant agreement.
A nation of priests… what then is a priest? A priest is a mediator between God and man; one who was to perform the sacred rights on behalf of the people to make things “right” between the nation and God. Therefore the nation Israel, as a nation of priests, was to be the channel of blessing from God to the rest of the peoples (nations) of the world.
The nation responds to that covenant in Deut. 6:25… “And it shall be our righteousness, IF we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us.” The following of Gods Law then, will be the righteousness of Israel. Clearly, Israel is under the impression they will be able to follow Gods Holy Law. Could they; did they? Clearly they did not as the only man who could ever perfectly follow Gods Perfect Law was “God As Man” Jesus Christ. It was subsequently revealed (by Paul) that Jesus Christ was the “end” of the Law (Romans 10:4) to them that believed. Israel did not believe (and still does not yet see).
Jesus Christ Himself commanded the nation in what has become known collectively as the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-20, Luke 24:45-50 and Acts 1:1-8) to go into all the world and preach the Kingdom of God! They (the nation as a whole) did not, because they did not believe Christ was who He said He was. They did not believe Christ was God.
Since Israel failed to live up to their end of the covenant agreement, did God establish the nation as that nation of priests to the world (1 Peter 2:9)? Clearly, He did not. The world is not looking to Israel as Gods channel of blessing; nor should the world seek such in Israel today, as they failed to keep that which God commanded and failed to recognize their Messiah. (At least thus far.) Now the question must be asked: what are the Gentile nations (all nations “below” Israel) to do, now that Gods channel of blessing is (temporarily) “cut off” as they currently are? How was a lowly Gentile supposed to come to know God? As Paul writes to the Jewish leaders in Acts 28:28… “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
Herein lies the essence of the mystery made known to Paul… that Gentile believers might receive some portion of Gods blessing apart from the nation Israel. But is Paul’s message therefore different then that which the twelve were proclaiming? Did Paul not simply continue the twelves Kingdom message? Israel, Gods channel of blessing to Gentiles, is “cut off” at this moment. If we read Gods Word rightly divided as the Holy Spirit through Paul instructs, we observe clearly that Paul’s message (gospel – good news) is vastly different from the message (gospel – good news) given to the twelve. Paul’s good news is “apart” from the nation Israel’s good news. It is here we begin to understand how and why Paul claims such ownership over what he teaches.
Next Post – “Paul, not one of the twelve!“