The Gentiles and the Kingdom of God

Unit IV Writing Assignment

By

Jared A. Laskey

030081567-USA

Global University Graduate Studies

Submitted to Dr. Teague

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for

MIS5013

The Biblical Theology of Missions

Global University

June 2011

The early church and Paul relied on the Holy Spirit. Since the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God was poured out upon those in the Upper Room (Acts 2), the early believers knew and understood the necessity of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission given to the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the Spirit that empowered the believers for works of service, that ministered in mercy and signs and wonders. They knew that without the Holy Spirit working in them, there would be no ministry and no power to the gospel message.

Philip Steyne said, “To serve in the cause of God’s mission to the nations, is to depend totally on the Holy Spirit to work in, through and with His people” (1992, 285). And that is what the New Testament books record, the complete reliance on the Holy Spirit and His ministry through them to the world He called them to reach.

The Church of the New Testament continued the promise plan of God, understanding its mission was the continuity of the message given to Israel, by becoming a witness to all nations, in preaching the gospel (Steyne 1992, 296). In Isaiah 43, God was prophetically calling Israel to be His witness to all the nations of the world, testifying of Him. And in Acts 1:8 Jesus continued that calling by instructing the early Church to be His witnesses throughout the world after receiving the empowerment from the Holy Spirit.

The Church knew and understood this call and reliance on the Holy Spirit, and its efforts are recorded within the book of Acts, as well as in the letters and epistles of Paul and Peter. More of the church’s efforts are documented within James and John, and then concluded within the prophetic literature of the book of Revelation.

Purpose of Paper

This paper will give a summary of what the NT epistles teach concerning the place of the Gentiles within the Church, explaining how the Gentile passages within Acts and the epistles are related to a theology of missions. It will conclude by showing the relationship of the completion of the church’s mission to the return of Christ within the Book of Revelation.

The Church Continues the Abrahamic Blessing

After Jesus rose from the dead and commissioned His disciples in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 to spread the the gospel, the Book of Acts records the early days of the Church and how the gospel spread to the Gentiles. At first the Jewish church had difficulty believing and accepting that other nations were part of the salvation plan. However, after what God did through Peter at Cornelius’ home as well as through Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch, the church then accepted its task to evangelize non-Jews, especially through the persecution that erupted after Stephen was martyred.

The Church realized that God had always intended for all nations to be drawn close to Him, to receive the good news of His salvation, wanting all nations to worship Him. Psalm 2 says, “Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will shatter them like pottery. So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling” (vs. 8-11).

This psalm was written through King David who knew and understood Yahweh’s plan of redemption. This passage of scripture is declaring to all kings and judges of the world to serve the Lord, the ruler over all creation, and it was from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit within Acts and His illumination of the OT scriptures that the Church began to reach out and accomplish its missionary mandate, continuing the Abrahamic covenant. This conviction was seen through a number of revivals in history, but especially in the beginning of the twentieth century through the Pentecostal outpouring.

Dr. Allan H. Anderson says, “For Pentecostals, evangelism meant to go out and reach the ‘lost’ for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Azusa Street revival resulted in a category of ordinary but ‘called’ Pentecostal people called ‘missionaries’ fanning out to every corner of the globe within a remarkable short space of time” (http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/aanderson/Publications/towards_a_pentecostal_missiology.htm). For Pentecostals this zeal and biblical truth is mirrored in the Biblical book known as Acts of the Apostles, or Acts of the Holy Spirit, and can be modeled from Paul..

The Apostle Paul

His name was Saul, and according to his testimony he was, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:5-7).

He is first mentioned in Acts persecuting the followers of the Way, approving on Stephen’s death in Acts 8:1. He was so zealous for the Judaism of his time that he received letters to imprison Christians, capturing them from other cities and bringing them bound in chains to Jerusalem. However, in Acts 9:1-21, he was radically saved while en route to Damascus to persecute followers of the Way and was immediately preaching salvation through Jesus Christ in the synagogues.

In time Saul became known as Paul, which meant “small” or “humble” in Latin. In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit called him and Barnabas to preach the gospel by going on a missionary journey. The disciples of the Antioch church laid hands on them and commissioned them for the work they were set apart to do.

Paul and Barnabas’ Ministry Transition

At first they preached the gospel to the Jews by going into the synagogues, but in Acts 13:47 they spoke the OT scriptures in Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6, “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that You may bring salvation to the end of the earth’”, which many Gentiles received as good news in revealing they were also part of Yahweh’s plan of salvation.

Paul testified that during his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Jesus told him, “I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified” (Acts 26:17-18 HCSB). This was Paul’s calling and the ministry mindset.

Paul’s call was to go to the Gentiles and bring them from darkness to light, out of the hands of demonic powers and idolatry into relationship with the one true God through Jesus by His gospel message. Acts 26:18 in the NASB says that the Gentiles, “May receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” So from his very conversion Paul was called and knew that the Gentiles were included in salvation, within the redemptive plan of God, receiving the inheritance promised to Abraham. And that was what he was committed and commissioned to do. As he traveled and wrote his letters to the churches he associated with and planted within the known world.

Gentiles in the Epistles

The epistles are letters written to specific churches, yet believed to be divinely influenced, and then shared from house to house, church to church. Paul’s letters were designed to keep new believers and churches in the faith, as well as to show them how to live and reach out in love to the world around them. However, the epistles did not specifically instruct the Church to continue missions as Philip Steyne says, “Paul’s letters to the New Testament churches do not directly remind them of their missionary mandate. Instead, his letters witness to his own missionary activity which was an example to them of Godly living. The example set by the apostles was sufficient motivation to maintain the task of world evangelism” (1992, 270).

Steyne continues discussing the epistles saying, “Each letter presupposed the mandatory, ongoing task of world evangelization” (1992, 287). Thus, it was widely known, accepted and practiced that the Church was to continue the message and ministry of the gospel, advancing the Kingdom of God throughout the world.

Paul wrote about the apostolic calling in Romans 1:5-6, “We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling”. This was an apostolic call and example which the Church was to emulate by taking the gospel to all nations. Paul’s apostolic call specifically was to go to the nations where there were few to no churches and preach the gospel, and bring about obedience to the Lord Jesus, not just for the Jewish nation.

Paul revealed that everyone was included in the plan of salvation, that no one was exempt nor elite within it.Galatians 3:28-29 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord and Savior, no matter what nation, gender or racial creed, are part of God’s Abrahamic blessing. Israel was a physical representation of that blessing, but the Church is now a spiritual representation, around the world, awaiting the promised return of Jesus.

Revelation and the Completion of the Church’s Task

The Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John. This book uses apocalyptic language, declaring spiritual truth of past, present and future events from when it was written. Its purpose reveals Jesus, the triumphant King, and all nations will be around the throne of Jesus, worshiping Him, having their ethnic identity present yet united in one voice and spirit. Within its pages, everything centers around the throne, around the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah. All events in time and all things are in the hands and plan of King Jesus.

Revelation encompasses the world within its pages. Revelation chapter 7 gives a picture of the diversity within Heaven saying there is, “A great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb” (vs. 9).

It reveals tribulations that will befall the world, but also the final and ultimate redemption of creation by Jesus Christ, the triumphant King and ruler of everything. It finalizes and completes the purpose and plan of God and shows the fulfillment of the Great Commission and Abrahamic Blessing. It encourages the church of the Apostle John’s day to continue its mission and ministry despite persecution, looking forward to accomplishing its task and seeing the end of all things and the beginning of a time where there will be no more mourning, or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4).

In the context of cities in theology David Lim says, “The challenge of biblical revelation is that the eschatological reality of the New Jerusalem is not just to be fulfilled in the future, but is also to be the basis for God’s construction of ‘new cities’ on earth today. God is calling out a people called the Church to be His agent of transformation in the cities since Pentecost until the New Jerusalem is finally unveiled” (1988, 147).

This further clarifies and solidifies the concept of the theology of missions, from the Abrahamic blessing in Genesis through the New Testament and concluded upon the descent of the New Jerusalem on the New Earth. The Church today is to continue the Great Commission, seeing cultural impact and spiritual transformation in people’s lives the world over.

Philip Steyne says, “God’s Church will triumph over all powers because Jesus Christ is present with His elect in all circumstances and He is the Victor. He conquers death, Hades, the world, the dragon, the beast, the false prophet, and all those who worship the beast…the purpose of Revelation is to energize the Church to confidently face the forces of evil as she declares redemption through Jesus Christ” (1992, 289).

Near the end of the Book of Revelation it says, “On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (22:2). This is testifying that in the New Earth in the future where Jesus rules, all nations are included in the Tree of Life. Thus, all people should be part of the mission today in order to see it come to complete fruition.

In conclusion Walter Kaiser states concerning the book of Revelation, “God is sovereign over all power and dominions. In the end, ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever’…Evil may be strong, but God is stronger, and He will finally triumph gloriously” (1978, 383-384).

Reference List

Anderson, Allan H. 1998. Towards a Pentecostal Missiology. http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/aanderson/Publications/towards_a_pentecostal_missiology.htm (accessed June 12, 2011).

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. 1978. The Promise-Plan of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Lim, David S. 1988. The City in the Bible. Evangelical Review of Theology 12.2:138-156.

Steyne, Philip. 1992. In Step With the God of the Nations. Columbia, SC: Impact International.