JEWS AND GENTILES IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY
Let us begin this study with a definition of terms. What is the Scriptural definition of “Gentiles”? The Greek word translated “Gentiles” is “ethnos”. It is the word used in Matt. 10:5-6 where we read, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them saying, ‘Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; But go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel‘”. This passage contrasts Gentiles with those of the “house of Israel”, i.e. Jews. We know that Jews are all those descended from Jacob. Therefore, Gentiles are all those not descended from Jacob.
“Ethnos” is also used of nations as an entity in such passages as Rom. 4:17 and 18 in which we read that Abraham is the “father of many nations“.
And “ethnos” is used for the people in the nations in such passages as Jn. 11:52 where we read of the high priest prophesying that “Jesus should die for that nation“. Jesus did not die for a nation, He died for the people in the nation
Luke 23:2, “…….we found this fellow perverting the nation (Gr. ethnos)…”. This “fellow, i.e. Christ was being accused of perverting the people of Israel.
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……”. In this verse “ethnos” obviously refers to the people of all nations, including, of course, Israel.
Acts 24:17, “…after many years I came to bring alms to my nation (Gr. ethnos)…”. In this verse it is Paul who is saying that he brought alms to the people of Israel,
Acts 26:4, “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation (Gr. ethnos) at Jerusalem….”. Paul was among the people of his own nation, i.e. the people of Israel.
Romans 1:5, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations (Gr. ethnos) for His name”. This verse speaks of faith among all the people of all nations, including Israel.
The question I would like to address is how God sees people in the present dispensation. I suggest that God does not see Jews and Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery, He sees only people of the nations. Let me explain.
The paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God? gives the Scriptural evidence for my belief that Eph. 3:6 tells us that in the dispensation of the mystery “nations are together bodies”. That is to say that Israel, having been divorced, i.e. set aside as God’s separated nation, is no longer a separated nation, so all nations are together in God’s sight. God does not see Israel differently than any other nation. That being true, does He see Jews and Gentiles as such or does He see them as simply people from the nations? I suggest we look at all the occurrences of “ethnos” in the prison epistles for the answer to that question.
Eph. 2:11, “….remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh….”. This is in reference to what some were “in time past”, and therefore has no bearing on our study of whether there are Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery.
Eph. 3:1, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles….”. The Greek word translated “for” in the phrase “for you Gentiles” is “huper”. The Companion Bible Appendix 104 gives the following definition: “In the interest of…. . On behalf of…. . For the purpose of… .” I do not believe that Paul was a prisoner in the interest of, or on behalf of, or for the purpose of Gentiles as opposed to Jews. I believe that he was a prisoner for all the people of the nations. If we translate “ethnos” as “Gentiles” we by definition, exclude Jews. That being the case “ethnos” is better translated “nations”, and to be understood as people of all the nations.
Eph. 3:6, “That the nations should be together heirs, together bodies and together partakers……..” (For the Scriptural reasons for this translation please see the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God?.) In this verse the two outer adjectives, “together heirs” and “together partakers” are obviously blessings of the believers of the nations, while it is equally clear that “together bodies” is an adjective describing nations as an entity. If we translated “ethnos” as “nations” we would understand it as the people of the nations in regard to together heirs and together partakers, and as nations in regard to together bodies.
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. If we translated “ethnos” as “nations” rather than “Gentiles” we include believers of all nations, including the nation of Israel.
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. I believe that if we translated “ethnos” as “nations” and understood it to mean the people of the nations, all are included.
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 if we translated “ethnos” as “nations” and understood it to mean the people of all nations all believers are included and all is clear.
I Tim. 2:7, “Wherefore I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle…..a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity”. Paul did not exclude Jews from his preaching, God is no respecter of persons. Here again, if “ethnos” were translated “nations” all would be included. However, we must use common sense and understand it to mean the people of the nations.
I Tim. 3:16, “….God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world……”. It is a matter of record in God’s Word that God was indeed preached to Jews. Therefore, we must translate “ethnos” as “nations” in this verse. Again, we must understand it as referring to the people of all nations.
II Tim. 1:11, “…..I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles”. There is no reason to assume that because Israel had been put aside that Jews were no longer part of Paul’s ministry. Again, we must understand “ethnos” to refer to the people of the nations. If we translated it as “nations” then that interpretation is open to us. If we translate “ethnos” as “Gentiles” we say that Jews are excluded. I do not believe that that is the message God has for us in this verse, or in any other verse.
II Tim. 4:17, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion”. There is no reason to assume that Paul never preached to Jews after Israel was set aside. I believe that Paul preached to all who would hear, both Jews and Gentiles. Again, if we translate “ethnos” as “nations” all are included and Jews are not excluded from Paul’s preaching.
A CONSIDERATION OF COL. 3:11
We read in Col. 3:9-11, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him That created him; where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all”.
What does this passage tell us? In order to answer that question we must consider the context. To begin with we must note that this passage is found in the so-called “walk” portion of Colossians. That is to say, chapter three centers on the Christian’s walk with Christ, not doctrinal matters. The beginning of verse 9 sets the theme for the passage. “Lie not one to another”.
In Eph. 4:22-25 we have the exact same subject as we have in Col. 3:9-11. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speaking every man the truth with his neighbour…” . By comparing Scripture with Scripture and seeing that Col. 3 is the parallel passage to Eph. 4 we have learned that the “old man” is the old nature (referred to in Rom. 6:6 as the “body of sin”) and the “new man” is the new nature given to believers which enables them to walk worthy. We are now ready to determine what Paul meant when he wrote in Col. 3:11 that there is “neither Greek nor Jew”.
I believe that Paul was saying that each believer has the new nature, and having that new nature erases the difference between Jew and Gentile, between circumcision and uncircumcision etc. . The NIV has translated Col. 3:11, “Here there is no Greek or Jew….”. That is to say, among those who have the new nature, there is no difference between Jew and Greek .
Now the question is: does Col. 3 tell us the same thing as the fact that “ethnos” in the prison epistles tells us, i.e. that there are neither Jews or Gentiles, but people of the nations? In my opinion, it does not. One reason for that opinion is that while it was the putting aside of Israel that led to “ethnos” being the people of the nations, it was having the new nature or “new man” that nullifies any distinction between believers. Let me clarify that.
The point of Col. 3 and Eph. 4 is that by virtue of every believer having the new man, there is no distinction between believers. But the point of the use of the word “ethnos” in the prison epistles when applied to those of the present dispensation is that because Israel is now lo-ammi, God does not see people as Jews and/or Gentiles, but as people of the nations.
Also, where the new man, or new nature, is given only to believers and may be understood in that very limited way, “ethnos” is sometimes used of nations as in Eph. 3:6 in regard to nations being “together bodies”, i.e. sussoma. Also, Eph. 4:17 speaks of “ethnos” as unbelievers “……walk not as other Gentiles walk” where the new nature is never given to unbelievers.
One of the truths that need to be “rightly divided” are dispensational and universal truths. The former are those which are true for a particular dispensation. The latter are truths for all dispensations. In this discussion it is clear that “ethnos” being understood as the people of the nations is obviously a dispensational truth, as it is contingent upon the fact that Israel has been put aside. On the other hand, it is clear that all believers of every dispensation receive the new nature, which makes the point of Col. 3:11 and Eph. 4:22 a universal truth.
WHAT IS THE TEACHING OF GALATIAN 3:28?
We read in Gal. 3:26-28, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”.
The phrase “for ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” tell us that this is a universal truth as is Eph. 4 and Col. 3, the two passages discussed above. That is to say, all believers of every dispensation are children of God. This passage in Galatians does not tell us that because Israel had been put aside there is no Jew or Gentile. It tells us that because all believers are children of God none of the distinctions mentioned in this passage exists.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org