“‘All the prophets from Samuel on down said the same thing, said most emphatically that these days would come. These prophets, along with the covenant God made with your ancestors, are your family tree. God’s covenant-word to Abraham provides the text. ‘By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ But you are first in line: God, having raised up His Son, sent Him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways.'”  Acts 3:24-26 (The Message).

This is a Jewish setting. Peter was speaking to Jews in their homeland, in their capital city. Abraham was their ancestor with whom God had made a covenant and through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. His hearers were first in line for the privilege of believing in and receiving their Messiah. Their prophets had foretold His coming to their nation and it was their expectation that was fulfilled at that time.

What does all this have to do with us Gentiles? What part do we have in this event and this promise? Do we have a place in God’s promises to the Jews or have we hijacked what is not legitimately ours?

Paul addresses these questions in his letter to the Roman church. It is obviously an old and perennial issue.

Firstly the matter of our claim to what was promised to the Jews through Abraham. Gentiles have no claim to natural descent from Abraham but Paul argues that we have another claim which is just as legitimate and even more secure. It is not circumcision which secures our place in God’s covenant but faith in God’s promises that makes us spiritual children of Abraham.

Just as Abraham entered into covenant with God by throwing in his lot with Him and doing life His way, so every other person, Jew or Gentile, who follows Abraham’s example, is Abraham’s offspring. Not every Jew is a spiritual offspring of Abraham even though he may claim Abraham as his father.

Jesus had the same issue with the Pharisees who prided themselves on being descendants of Abraham, yet refused to recognise Him. (Their behaviour negated their claim and Jesus called them the children of the devil). Therefore we can rightfully participate in the benefits of God’s covenant with Abraham if we have entered his family line by trusting God as he did.

The second issue is – have we, the Gentiles, replaced the Jews in God’s scheme of things because they forfeited their claim to the covenant promises? There are some who arrogantly claim that God has finished with the Jews because they rejected their Messiah and put Him to death.

This is ridiculous for several reasons: The first believers were Jews; the church was born in a Jewish community; all the apostles were Jews; many Jews from all over the Roman Empire, together with Gentile believers, made up the church. There are Jews all over the world today who have received Jesus as their Messiah.  What Paul did say was that ethnic, gender and social distinctions fall away in God’s kingdom, that Jesus broke down the dividing wall of prejudice and hatred between Jew and Gentile and recreated a new system of unity in Himself.

Those who claim that God no longer has a plan for the Jews have not understood His grace. Every Jew has the same opportunity to believe in his Messiah as every Gentile has. God has not cut them off. Instead He has opened the door to include anyone who joins Abraham as a member of God’s family through faith in Jesus.

Just as Abraham launched himself on God’s word and became the channel of God’s indescribable grace to the world, so every one of us, Jew and Gentile, who follow his example, perpetuate the same blessing to our generation and those who believe in turn to the next.

Luella Campbell

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