Acts 26:16-18 – “But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your people and from the nations. I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
As Paul makes his defense before King Agrippa, he reveals the purpose for which Messiah had called him. He was to be a witness and a catalyst of deliverance for both Jews and the nations.
There has been much ink spilled over the centuries in Christian theological circles regarding how the “Gentiles” were to receive salvation through the preaching of Paul. But if we understand the overall context of Paul’s mission, I believe those of us who are non-Jews will have a deeper understanding and respect for our position in Messiah.
Those to whom Paul was sent were not just “Gentiles” anywhere and everywhere he could get to. Paul was specifically sent to reach out to both the Jews (those of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin) along with the ten tribes that had been scattered throughout the known world by that time. This is why he would always begin in the synagogue in the community, and only afterwards reach out to others in the area. When it says Paul was commissioned to the nations, these are the ones he is commissioned to call to Messiah: the former ten tribes who had become assimilated into the surrounding nations and absorbed into the wider Roman empire of Paul’s day.
This was the “good news” that Paul was bringing! Even though they had been lost to the nations, God was calling them back to be re-grafted into the original “holy root” of the forefathers through the work of Messiah!
Romans 11:16-18 – Now if the firstfruits are holy, so is the whole batch. And if the root is holy, so are the branches. Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not boast that you are better than those branches…
This is why the gospel had to be of faith and not of blood lineage anymore, because their bloodlines had become mixed among the nations and they had, from the strict Jewish orthodoxy perspective of the day, become “Gentiles.” This is also why the Jews who heard the message of the gospel were so enraged at Paul’s teaching, because they feared that their self-identification as God’s “chosen people” was being cheapened in offering it to those whom they did not consider worthy.
Through faith in the true Messiah of Israel, the scattered ten tribes were to be reunited with their believing brothers and sisters in Judah and Benjamin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies that all of the tribes of Israel would be reunited.
Ezekiel 37:19, 21-24 – “tell them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and put them together with the stick of Judah. I will make them into a single stick so that they become one in my hand.’ … “tell them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I am going to take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them into their own land. “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. “They will not defile themselves anymore with their idols, their abhorrent things, and all their transgressions. I will save them from all their apostasies by which they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God. “My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow my ordinances, and keep my statutes and obey them.
And this was the key to God reaching out to the rest of the world, and how he would get past the nation of Israel alone being his chosen people. By making the condition of the New Covenant by faith in Messiah, then ANYONE who believed in the Messiah of Israel would also be brough into the commonwealth of Israel, even if they had no genealogical connection whatsoever! This is not only good news, but GREAT news for everyone else in the world who would come to recognize Yahweh as the God of all creation. God’s forgiveness would be available through repentance to anyone in the world who would come to him, and so it is to this day.
This is the GREAT news of the gospel: forgiveness is available to all who repent of their rebellious ways. Those of us called by his grace and mercy can now and always “have a share among those who are sanctified” by faith in Messiah Yeshua.
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