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The Apostle To The Gentiles
by Wayne Blank
Abraham The Gentile
The apostle Paul (see Paul's Ministry) was a Pharisee (see Pharisees), a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin (see Was Paul A Jew or a Benjamite?) and yet as such he was the means by which The Lord delivered His Gospel to all nations. That was not somehow a new doctrine of Christianity; The Lord told Abraham that all nations would be blessed from the Messiah who would be a descendant of him. Abraham is an appropriate choice to receive such a promise because Abraham himself was a Gentile, an Iraqi, not a Jew or an Israelite (neither of which yet existed in the time of Abraham; see Abraham Wasn't A Jew). Abraham knew salvation would be open to everyone because Abraham, while becoming the progenitor of the Israelites, was himself a Gentile e.g. when Jews look to "Gentile" Iraq today, they are looking at Abraham's native land (see Ur Of The Chaldees).
"And the angel of The Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By myself I have sworn, says The Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son [see Isaac's Faith And Obedience], your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:15-18 RSV)
By the time of the first coming of Jesus Christ, many of the people of Judah, the Jews, looked down upon Gentiles as religiously inferior, while proudly claiming Abraham, the Gentile, as the father of the Jews (which he was). Jesus Christ personally called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, apart from His sending the twelve apostles to the people of Israel ("These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Matthew 10:5-6 RSV). In terms of the number of people of humanity, Paul had a vastly larger responsibility than the twelve apostles did all together - even though the twelve at first regarded the newly converted Paul with little more than relief that he was no longer an enemy.
"Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James The Lord's brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they only heard it said, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God because of me." (Galatians 1:18-24 RSV)
Paul never lost sight of who he was, "a descendant of Abraham," while at the same time being awake to the reality that Abraham was not an Israelite. Paul recognized how short-sighted the people of Judah had become, because God's true people are anyone who truly obeys Him - just as Abraham the Gentile did.
"I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have demolished thy altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Ba'al." So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Fact Finder: (a) Did Jesus Christ say that God can raise up "children of Abraham" from anyone? (b) What made Abraham the Iraqi righteous in God's sight?