The Prologue and the First Commandment: Part 3
Feb 28, 2007
Let us now project ourselves into the near future and see how the First Commandment will be applied in the Kingdom of God.
At present, even in Saul's Kingdom (i.e., Pentecost), this Commandment is applicable. In Saul's Kingdom, the only way to be a citizen of the Kingdom is to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ. One must recognize Him as King and as Savior and the only Lamb of God able to pay for the sin of the world through His death on the cross.
This is really an issue discussed in my book, Who is a Jew? There I showed how Paul uses the term "Jew" (Greek: Ioudeos, "Judean" or "Judahite") in a legal sense, rather than in a genealogical manner. In Romans 2:28, 29 Paul appeals to the law, in which a genealogical member of the tribe of Judah was not necessarily a Judahite in the eyes of God. The law trumps genealogy, and it was written into the law that for certain sins, a genealogical Judahite could be "cut off from among his people" and no longer considered to be a tribal member.
The bulk of the people in Jesus' day violated the law of sacrifice (Lev. 17:1-6) by not bringing the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God to the Sanctuary as required, and so they did not apply His blood to their hearts. This cut them off in the eyes of God, leaving only a tiny remnant of Pentecostal disciples as citizens to carry on the tribe of Judah. These came to be known as the Church (i.e.,kahal, "congregation"), citizens of the Kingdom.
The way to citizenship in the Kingdom is open to all, but all must come in through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no such thing as a "Jew" (in God's eyes) who has not accepted Jesus as the Messiah and King. Further, all true believers--those justified by faith--are members of the tribe of Judah (that is, the Kingdom of Judah), led by the King of the Judeans.
Membership in Judah or Israel was always open to others, even in Old Testament times. See the book of Ruth, for example. Or see the case of Moses' wife, Zipporah, who was a Midianite (Ex. 2:16-21). Or even Joseph's wife, Asenath, who was an Egyptian (Gen. 41:45). The Bible does not speak of their racial heritage, but only their nationality. Yet regardless, they were not born Israelites but became Israelites by faith and became tribal members in particular.
The New Testament breaks down the middle wall of partition separating the Court of the Gentiles from the more privileged Jews (Eph. 2:14). This was not a wall mandated by the law of God or even by precedent in Solomon's Temple. This was a wall erected by the traditions of men who thought of themselves as more holy than other men of faith. It is amazing to me that men of other nationalities would have such great faith that they would be drawn to Him even in the face of Jewish discrimination.
I am reminded of the story in Matthew 15, where Jesus taught the disciples a valuable lesson. First, He taught them about the traditions of men and how such things were to be thought of as "dung" that defiled men. Then Jesus took the disciples on a "field trip" to illustrate the one big tradition that still afflicted the disciples. Beginning in verse 21 we read,
" (21) Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. (22) And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.' (23)But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, 'Send her away; for she crieth after us.' (24) But He answered and said, 'I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' (25) But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, 'Lord, help me.' (26) But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the DOGS.' (27) But she said, 'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table'."
Jesus then healed her daughter, and immediately turned around and went back to Capernaum. In other words, Jesus went to the coast of Tyre and Sidon specifically to heal this woman's daughter. When the mission was accomplished, they turned around and went home.
But Jesus had a secondary motive. It was to teach His disciples about this big dung-tradition in their hearts. When the Canaanite woman began to call upon Him, Jesus began to treat her as the disciples did--and, indeed, as any tradition-laden Jew might have done. First, he ignored her, and this brought the disciples' attitude into the open.
Then He said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." That statement was true enough, but more importantly, it reflected the heart attitude of the disciples. He was only giving voice to what they were already thinking, in order to draw the disciples into a trap.
Finally, Jesus even called her a dog, which was the full expression of Jewish hostility toward people of other nations. The woman's response must have amazed even the disciples, for instead of being insulted, she pressed on to receive even the crumbs from the master's table.
By this time, I can see the confusion on Peter's face. Can you not see Jesus looking at them with a knowing smile? This woman had more faith in Him than the disciples did! She knew more about humility and the character of Christ than Peter did! The point had been well made. Jesus healed her daughter, and then they turned around and went home. That was their "field trip." It was one of their most valuable lessons, showing how even Canaanites could manifest faith in Him--and even greater faith than was found among genealogical Israelites of Judah, Benjamin, Levi, or any other tribe.
Thus, the lesson is clear: we are not to despise Canaanites or any other person for their racial, national, or genealogical heritage. Jesus Christ came to destroy the traditions of men, including that middle wall of partition that kept non-Jewish believers at arm's length from God when they came to the temple.
Unfortunately, many in the Church have rebuilt that same wall of partition over the years. No such wall existed in Solomon's Temple. Solomon made it clear that this was to be a house of prayer FOR ALL PEOPLE (1 Kings 8:41-43; Isaiah 56:7). All men were to have equal access to God through Jesus Christ. No one was privileged to come to God apart from Jesus Christ, based only upon his holy genealogy, nor was any man to be excluded from a direct relationship with God if he had placed his faith in Jesus Christ.
The traditions of men said, "Only Israel was given the law," implying that other people were either incapable of a relationship with God, or that genealogical Israelites were to refrain from teaching other people the principles of the law. Along with this tradition was its twin--that God chose Abraham to hoard all the blessings for himself, instead of being the channel through whom God would bless all families of the earth.
No, the First Commandment is for all of humanity. It is not possible to put all things under the feet of Christ apart from every knee bowing to Christ and swearing allegiance to Him (Isaiah 45:23; Phil. 2:9-11). This will not be accomplished by killing every non-believer or by sending every non-believer to an eternal torture chamber. It will be accomplished by raising all non-believers from the dead and then subjecting them to the judgment and discipline of the law, which will teach them righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).
Then the First Commandment will be fulfilled, not as a mere command, but as a prophecy to all men, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."
This is the final part of a series titled "The Prologue and the First Commandment." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones