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The Apostle To The Gentiles

"For I would have you know, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when He who had set me apart before I was born [see When Does "Life" Begin?], and had called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus." (Galatians 1:11-17 RSV)

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).

Earth

"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.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day."

And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever."

So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them." (Romans 11:1-14 RSV)

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?
(a) Matthew 3:8-9
(b) See On His Own Two Feet and James 2:17


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