THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE EQUALITY OF JEWS AND GENTILES
When considering the equality of Jews and Gentiles there are three questions that could be asked. 1) At what point did persons of the nations become equal with persons of Israel? 2) At what point did believing Gentiles, not as persons but as Gentiles, become equal with Jewish believers?3) At what point was there no difference between Jews and Gentiles?
At what point did Gentiles become equal with Israel? In one sense they have always been equal because “God is no respecter of persons”. Let us put that quote in context. We read in Acts 10 that Cornelius was told by an angel to send for Peter. When Peter came to Cornelius he said to Peter, “…..Now therefore are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33). And in the next verse we read, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:34). The point is that God wants all men to be saved and, in that respect there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. In other words, as people all men are equal in God’s sight because He is no respector of persons.
Consider also that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” (Jn. 3:16). Note that Christ was sent to the world, that includes Jews as well as Gentiles. Christ was sent equally to Gentiles as well as Jews.
Our second question is: at what point did believing Gentiles, not as persons but as Gentiles, become equal with Jewish believers? I understand, of course that most in the Acts 28 community believe that this equality was achieved when Israel was set aside at Acts 28. I must however disagree. Let us consider prayerfully and with open minds Eph. 2:13-16.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross. having slain the enmity thereby”.
This tells of the creation of one body. It tells us that when that one body was created the equality of believing Jews and Gentiles with respect to their national origins was established. When did this happen? This passage is quite clear, it happened “by the cross“. The paper on this web-site The One Body Of Ephesians Two Is Not The Church Which Is His Body will prove that statement from Scripture. It is my prayer that the reader will not cling to the traditions of the Acts 28 position without at least considering the paper mentioned here.
Our third question was, at what point was there no difference between Jews and Gentiles?
That question is answered in one word, i.e. “sussoma”. But before we discuss that word we must first understand the several ways in which the Holy Spirit used the word “ethnos”
The Greek word translated “Gentiles” in the KJV of Eph. 3:6 is “ethnos”. “Ethnos” occurs 164 times and is translated “Gentiles” 93 times, “nations” 64 times, “Heathen 5 times and “people” 2 times.
The truth that “ethnos” is used of Gentiles as opposed to Jews is found in Matt. 10:5-6, “…..Go not into the way of the Gentiles….but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Here, it is clear that Gentiles are all those who are not Jews.
The truth that “ethnos” is used of a nation as an entity is shown in such verses as Romans 4:17, where in reference to Abraham we read, “I have made thee a father of many nations“.
As mentioned above, “ethnos” is used by the Holy Spirit for Gentiles and for nations as entities. But nations are made up of individuals, and the Bible also uses the word “ethnos” in reference to the individuals in the nations as well as the nations as an entity in themselves. The truth that “ethnos” is used of people in the nation is seen in John 11:51-52, “…..he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation (ethnos); and not for that nation (ethnos”) only…..”. It is clear that Jesus died, not for a nation as such, but for the people in the nation(s). Acts 17:26 is important because in this verse the Holy Spirit used the word “ethnos” to refer to people of all nations, including. Israel “And hath made of one blood all nations (Gr. ethnos) of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth……”.
We are now ready to resume our study of “sussoma”. That word is found in Eph. 3:6 but it is, unfortunately, translated “same body”. One of the main reasons that that translation cannot be correct is that “sussoma” is an adjective that modifies the plural noun “ethnos”. Greek is one of the many languages in which an adjective must agree in number with the noun it modifies. Because “ethnos” is a plural noun, obviously the translation “same body” cannot be correct because it does not convey the plurality that Greek Grammar demands.
So what is the best translation of “sussoma”? The word is used only one time in the Word of God and, I am told, it is never used in Greek secular literature. That being the case, how did those to whom Paul wrote the epistle to the Ephesians know what the word meant? I believe they would have done the very same thing that we would have done when we find a word we had never seen before. We would break the word down into its component parts.
“Sussoma” is made up of the prefix “sun” (it is spelled differently but is the same word) and the root “soma”. “Sun” is usually translated “together” and “soma” is always translated “body”. In the case of Eph. 3:6, because it must be plural, “sussoma” literally means “together bodies”.
Would that have made sense to those to whom Paul wrote? Absolutely! They would have known that Israel had been separated from all other nations to be God’s chosen people (see I King 8:53 and Lev. 20:24). They would have seen that Israel, in order for the nations to be “together bodies” would have had to have been set aside by God. And that is exactly what did happen at the end of the Acts period.
We can now answer our third question: at what point was there no difference between Jews and Gentiles? As a result of Israel having been set aside at Acts 28 there is no difference between Israel and all other nations of the world. Because there is no difference in the nations of the world in God’s sight, there is no difference in God’s sight between the people of Israel and the people of all the other nations. We may conclude therefore that when Israel was set aside at Acts 28 is the point at which the people of all nations became, in God;’s sight, the same.
We see that in the prison epistles where Paul used the word “ethnos” of those of the present dispensation, he does not use the word “ethnos” in the sense of Gentiles, ( i.e. those who are not of Israel) he used the word in the sense of people of the nations, as did Luke in Acts 17:26 “And hath made of one blood all nations (Gr. ethnos) of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth……”. Let us look at a few examples of that.
Eph. 3:8, “…..that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Surely Jewish believers were not excluded from the unsearchable riches of Christ. That being the case, “ethnos” must be understood as the people of the nations. .
Eph. 4:17, “……walk not as other Gentiles walk…..”. Verse 18 goes on to explain more specifically how they walked, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart“. I believe this is applicable to both Jews and Gentiles and “ethnos: should therefore be understood as people of the nations. .
Col. 1:27, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Are we to understand that Paul is excluding Jews from the hope of glory? I think not. I believe that here too “ethnos” should be understood to mean all the people of the nations.
Please see the paper on this web-site Are There Jews And Gentiles In The Dispensation Of The Mystery? for a complete list and discussion of all the occurrences of “ethnos” in the prison epistles.
The point is that when Israel was set aside at Acts 28 all the nations became “together bodies” and all the people of the nations became more than equal, they became, in God’s sight, the same.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please write to: email@example.com