Thursday, January 14, 2010

Covenantal Transitions; The Jew – Gentile Distinction in the New Testament

The introductory post explains the purposes, goals and scope of this blog. If you have not read it, I suggest you start there and then, look through the posts to get a feeling for where I have gone and where I am going. But, if you don’t have the time, feel free to read this post alone. The blog is meant to be a series however.

The Lord Jesus Christ was born a Jew. His mission and ministry was strictly to the Jews. His messages were to the Jews. He was circumcised the eighth day like all Torah observant Jews and, he was born fully under the Law. All of the Jews that he taught and ministered to were under the Mosaic Covenant. He even proclaimed that he came only to the Jews.

Matt 15:24  But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."


This passage involves a Canaanite woman who was not a Jew who had sought him to heal her daughter. He replied that he was only sent to Israel. Now, when she demonstrated great faith and resolve, he healed her daughter in the end but, the point was made that he was sent only to the Jews.

This is an important point to remember. Most all of the four gospels are strictly old covenant. It is important to be aware of the audience when looking at what was written and/or said. In the case of the gospels, the audience was Jews under the Mosaic Covenant. In fact, the term New Testament is somewhat deceiving because the Greek term translated testament is the word diatheke and it means covenant. The fact remains that the New Covenant was not instituted until the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Matt 26:28). This means that much of the New Testament is really old covenant and, a lot more of it is transitional, i.e., between the covenants.


So, it follows that Jew/Gentile distinction must be taken into consideration when interpreting the New Testament scripture. This is especially true of Jesus instructions. Always keep in mind that the audience is made up of Mosaic Covenant Jews. It is important to remember that there is a transition happing in the New Testament writings and, the narrative is moving from John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet warning that the axe is already laid at the root, to the ministry of Jesus announcing his kingship and kingdom’s arrival, to the cross and resurrection, to Pentecost when the Jewish believers received the Holy Spirit, to Cornelius home where the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, to Paul’s writings explaining the concept of the new creation. It is quite a transition indeed.

In fact, most of the doctrinal disagreement that exists in the evangelical world is based upon various ways of looking at the transition and the messages found in the gospels, epistles et.al. This is quite obvious when you look at Luke and Acts. Both were written by the same person; Luke, written basically before the cross and, Acts, all of it, written after the resurrection and most of it after Pentecost.

The important aspect to think about is the difference in the redemptive declarative in the two books; Especially in light of the fact that the target audience of Luke was the Gentiles.  In Acts, we see that belief, faith is the catalyst for salvation. It adds credence to the prime importance of the redemptive decrees such as John 3:16-17 or Romans 10:9-10. 

1 comment:

  1. We also see in Acts that the Torah and customs were to remain in force for Jews and that Gentiles were to keep the four basic laws that applied to chassidi umos haolam... the rightoues of the nations...(Acts 15/21)

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