Purpose of Paper
This paper will explain the theological basis developed in the Gospels and the Book of Acts concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles within the Church by first building upon the origins of the kingdom of God as revealed within OT scripture. This paper will also include specific passages of scripture as they relate to the inclusion of the Gentiles within the purpose plan of God using information from readings within this course.
The Origins of the Kingdom of God
The theme concerning the kingdom of God originated within the OT, since the days of the patriarch, Abraham. The Abrahamic blessing is said to be, “universal, limited in its participation only by the response of faith,” (PPoG, 47). Scattered within the pages of OT history and the Mosaic Law is Yahweh’s will for His kingdom to be revealed to all nations.
George Eldon Ladd explains that the Hebrew word malkuth in the OT and the Greek word basilea in the NT is, “the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king”. He further states, “The kingdom of God…is God’s reign”(Perspective, 85). God intended for the nation of Israel to be a kingdom which revealed His character and kingship to all nations. Even in their rebellion toward God He made a way for His plan and purposes to be fulfilled.
The nation of Israel was set apart to reveal to all nations the love of Yahweh. Steyne says, “Abraham could not keep the blessing of God all to himself. Instead he was commissioned to be a steward and share God’s redemptive blessings with all nations(Gen 12:1-3; cf. Gen 18:18-19)”. Steyne further says, “God’s command to Abram to be a blessing was passed on to all his children, whether they are physical or spiritual heirs(Gen 12:3; 18:18; Gal 3:8)”(1992, 101).
There are no expressions of the ‘kingdom of God’ in the OT,but there are 9 references to ‘Yahweh rules’, and 40 references to Yahweh as king(Kaiser, 2009, 128). And His kingdom was to be unlike the others, revealing His mercy, justice, compassion to all nations.
Philip Steyne says on the context of the monarchy over Israel, “The nations would see in Israel’s kings a reflection of their God and recognize His rightful dominion(Isa 45:21, 24)”(1992, 159). Isaiah 45:22 says, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other”. And Malachi 1:11 says, “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts(NASB).
Also, Yahweh promised King David that his kingdom would last forever, which theme the prophets after him proclaimed. This promise was embodied through the birth of Jesus, born through the line of David by the Holy Spirit and Jesus continued the theme of the Kingdom of God from the OT. Throughout the generations the Hebrews thought the promise would be an establishment of an earthly kingdom, especially during the oppression of the Roman empire. However, Jesus revealed that He was to establish the spiritual kingdom and that His ministry and kingdom continues through His Bride, the Church, awaiting for His final return to conquer death and Satan once and for all and complete His kingdom for eternity.
Thus, the idea and concept of the Kingdom was not something new, but was imbedded in the purpose and plan of God since the days of the Abrahamic blessing. “All nations would be blessed” through you. The Hebrew people eventually believed that only their nation was within the promise plan of salvation, but even Jesus revealed that the Gentiles of the world were part of God’s plan and He commissioned His disciples to proclaim His kingdom message and purpose to all nations after the reception of the Holy Spirit.
Within the NT it was said, “there are some 60 instances in the teaching of Jesus(not counting the parallel passages) in the Synoptic Gospels where the phrase kingdom of God points to the heart of His mission”. And, “Acts uses ‘kingdom’ and kingdom of God’ 8 times”(Kaiser, 2009, 128).
Jesus and the rest of the NT built upon the message concerning the Kingdom of God, which the patriarchs, the Mosaic Law, King David and the prophets proclaimed and were awaiting.
Jesus’ Message of the Kingdom
Jesus’ initial message to Israel was, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”(cf. Mark 1:13 and Matthew 4:17). The people in Jesus’ day were wanting and hoping for a physical Kingdom. Some had taken matters into their own hands in protest against the Romans and unjust national rulers, such at the Zealots, and even Barabbas. But the majority were waiting for the Messiah to come to them and force the Romans and unjust rulers out and re-establish the Davidic throne.
However, Jesus preached and demonstrated the Kingdom differently; by the power of the Holy Spirit. Blind eyes were open, the deaf would hear, the leprous would be healed and the dead were raised to life. Jesus revealed that He was the ‘I Am’, God incarnate, the king of the universe in human form.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 says, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus was speaking of Yahweh’s provision for His children, and of being unlike the religious figures of their day who proclaimed to everyone their spirituality.
Mark 10:14 says, “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all”(NASB). The children were coming to Jesus to be blessed and His disciples and others were turning them away, but He used the opportunity as a lesson to everyone that the Kingdom was to be received and accepted like a child. How a child has innocent faith, so must people have childlike trust and faith in order to receive salvation.
Throughout the Gospels the message of the Kingdom is found as well as in the book of Acts. The book of Acts especially documented the history and expansion of the Early Church and revealed the gradual change within the Church from being solely focused on the Jews to being run by the Gentiles.
The Inclusion of the Gentiles in the Gospels
In Recovering the Unity of the Bible, Walter Kaiser quotes Willis J. Beecher saying, “The most prominent concept in the New Testament is the proclamation of the kingdom and its anointed king” (2009, 129). Jesus was received as a king in Luke 19:28-44, and it was this king who challenged the theological paradigms of the Jews showing that all nations, as declared by the prophets, were included in the kingdom of God.
The gospels record Jesus breaking tradition and prophesying over a Samaritan woman, and the Jews and Samaritans’ had a severely strained relationship. Both saw one another as inferior. But through the signs performed by Jesus the village of the Samaritans in John 5 believed in Him. This challenged the disciple’s understanding, in that the possible distant cousins of the Jews could believe in Jesus.
And Jesus healed the Syrophoenician’s daughter, revealing that the blessing of healing was not limited to the nation of Israel(Mark 7:24-30). And later Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant who had died.
And when Jesus rose from the dead, before He ascended to Heaven He gave His last will and testament to the disciples gathered at the mountain in Galilee. Matthew 28:18-20 says, ” And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
This was one of the greatest passages affirming that the Gentiles part of the plan of salvation. David Hamilton of YWAM says, “When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He commanded His followers to ‘disciple all the ethnos’” which imperatively means, “He was calling them to go to all peoples…”(Hamilton, What the Bible Says Part 2, In His Kingdom, 60).
The Inclusion of the Gentiles in the Acts of the Holy Spirit
From the beginning of Acts the Spirit was poured out on the 120 and then 3000 Jews from many nations gathered in Jerusalem for the feast were saved due to seeing the signs and wonders that took place. Many of these Jews returned to their nations with the good news. However, what is seen in Acts is that the Church withheld the gospel message for some time from the Gentiles. But there were those followers of the Way who were obedient to the Holy Spirit. Acts 8 reveals Philip the evangelist preaching the gospel to the Samaritans, despite tensions between the two nations. This was also what Jesus had previously done in challenging the elitist theology by having contact with the Samaritan woman at the well and the village believing in Him in John 5. Also, Philip saw the salvation of an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:25-40.
One of the most stunning events in the Book of Acts which revealed that the Gentiles is found in Acts 10. Acts 10:10 says, “But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.”
Immediately after this vision messengers from a Gentile named Cornelius, who had a visitation from an angel instructing him to summon Peter came to his house. Acts 10:45 says, “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.”
The vision and the immediate experience of witnessing Gentiles receive the Spirit confirmed to the disciples that Gentiles were part of the kingdom of God.
The book of Acts concludes with Paul saying to the Jews that the Gentiles would listen to the salvation of God. The final 2 verses in Acts says concerning Paul in Rome he was, “welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered” (Acts 28:30-31).
Now, the challenge of the Church today is to finish the Great Commission, to complete the work of the disciples by reaching all nations with the gospel and teaching them to obey the word of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit the Church will accomplish this by partnering with the Lord, and awaiting His return as triumphant king.