SALVATION SENT TO THE GENTILES APART FROM ISRAEL
I have read in the writings of both mid-Acts and Acts 28 believers that before the dispensation of the mystery began salvation had never been sent to the Gentiles “apart from Israel”. I believe that the Gentiles have always had the opportunity to partake in God’s gift of salvation, i.e. that they were never dependent on Israel for the message of salvation. If that is true, it means that the question of when salvation was sent to the Gentiles “apart from Israel” has no place in the discussion of dispensational questions such as when the church which is His body began or when the dispensation of the mystery began. (Please see the paper on this web-site Are We Asking The Wrong Question?.)
We will discuss the following topics in our search for the truth as to whether the Gentiles were ever dependent on Israel for the message of salvation:
SCRIPTURES WHICH PROVE THAT GENTILES HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE GOD’S GIFT OF SALVATION
“GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS”
CHRIST “WILL DRAW ALL MEN”
GOD MANIFESTING HIMSELF
THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST
“I WILL BLESS THEM BLESS YOU AND CURSE THEM THAT CURSE YOU”
“SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS”
SCRIPTURES WHICH PROVE THAT GENTILES HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE GOD’S GIFT OF SALVATION
“GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS”
We read in Acts 10:34, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons'”. Let us consider the context so that the full meaning of this truth is appreciated. Peter had seen a vision in which he was shown “all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (Acts 10:12). The lesson that Peter learned from that vision is recorded in Acts 15:8-9 where Peter, speaking to the council at Jerusalem, said “And God, Which knoweth the hearts, bare them (the Gentiles) witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith”. After Peter had seen the vision he was brought to Caesarea to see Cornelius, a Gentile whereupon Peter preached the message of salvation to a group that included both Jews and Gentiles.
The point I wish to make with this passage is that when Peter said that “God is no respecter of persons”, he was saying that God makes no difference between Jews and Gentiles. But God did indeed have a favored nation. How are we to understand this seeming contradiction? We must understand that salvation is given to individuals who believe, it is not given to a nation. So in terms of nations, God had a favored nation. But in terms of individuals and their salvation, God sees all the same, and always has because He is no respecter of persons.
Salvation is, of course, an individual matter. That is to say, it is an individual, not a nation which is saved by grace through faith. Therefore, when discussing salvation we are not discussing God’s favoring Israel over all other nations, we are discussing God as “no respecter of persons”, i.e. Individuals. So in terms of salvation no one person has a better opportunity to receive God’s gift of resurrection life than another.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that there had been no opportunity for Gentiles to be saved apart from Israel before the dispensation of the mystery. That would mean that the hundreds of millions of people who lived too far from Israel to have ever heard of Israel or the Law of Moses or of Jehovah, the God of Israel, would have had no chance to receive the gift of salvation. But if that were true, Peter could not have said that God was “no respecter of persons”. That is to say, some individuals would have been denied any opportunity to receive the gift of salvation simply because they happened to live too far away from the land of Israel. In my opinion, that in itself is proof that Gentiles have always had the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation apart from Israel. But let us continue in our study.
CHRIST “WILL DRAW ALL MEN”
We read in Jn. 12:32, “And if I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me”. If Christ draws all men to Himself that means that all men have the opportunity to receive the gift of life, not just those who would have come in contact with Him or with Israel, but all men. To say that some, i.e. Gentiles, did not at one time have opportunity to receive the gift of salvation, is to contradict this statement of our Lord’s.
But some may argue that the Gentiles who had not heard of Jesus Christ could not have been drawn to Him and therefore, could not have been saved. That still contradicts the statement of our Lord that He draws “all men” to Himself, but let us consider that argument.
We read in Heb. 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith“. This tells us very clearly that Noah was made righteous because he believed God’s message to him concerning the rains that were to come. That is to say, when Noah believed God’s message to him and acted on that message, he was made righteous. I am suggesting therefore, that one is made righteous when one believes and acts upon the message that God has for him. That message may be different from one time to another, or even from one person to another, but that does not change the fact that once the message is believed and acted upon, the one who believes it is made righteous. Let us continue in this chapter for further evidence of that statement.
Verse 4, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained a witness that he was righteous…..”. God’s message to Abel is not recorded, but this verse makes it clear that there was indeed such a message and having believed that message and acted upon it, Abel was made righteous.
This entire chapter speaks of saints who believed the message that God had for them and, having acted upon that message, were counted among the faithful. The point is that these faithful spoken of in Heb. 11 believed in that particular message that God had for them at that particular time. Since the earthly ministry of Christ, the message is, of course, that we must believe in Him to be saved. (“God so loved the world that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, Jn. 3:16) But before Christ’s first coming the message one had to believe in order to be saved varied. from person to person.
Coming back then to Jn. 12:32: when God draws all men to Himself each man must believe that particular message that God has for him. The Jews would believe one message and the Gentiles who never heard of Jehovah, would necessarily have to believe a different message. (That message will be discussed in the sections below.) But the point is that all men are drawn to God and being drawn, all men have the opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation.
GOD MANIFESTING HIMSELF
We read in Rom. 1:19-20, “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead….” This passage tells us that God makes Himself known to man by the things that have been created. When one believes the message of the nature of God, (i.e. His “eternal power”), as exhibited in “the things that are made”, one is made righteous.
Rev. 14:6 is another verse which speaks of God being seen in His creation and reads, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people“. In point of fact, the very next verse tells us exactly what this angel that will preach the everlasting gospel will say, and therefore we know precisely what the everlasting gospel is. We read in Rev. 14:7, “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him That made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters”. In other words the everlasting gospel is about God as Creator.
This everlasting gospel will be preached in the time of the tribulation to “them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”. So it is very clear that the everlasting gospel will be preached to Gentiles during the tribulation. And it will be preached by an angel, i.e. apart from Israel.
In short, the Gentiles did not need Israel to show them God’s “eternal power”. God has manifested that to each man by “the things that are made”.
Rom. 2:13-15 reads, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”. This passage tells us that Gentiles will be justified by obeying their conscience. The Gentiles certainly did not need Israel for that.
But most have some difficulty with the phrase “the doers of the law shall be justified”. Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works. But we read in Rom. 3:21-22, “But now, the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of (Genitive of Relation, i.e. pertaining to) Jesus Christ..”. There are, of course no contradictions in the perfect Word of God. We must therefore consider these two seemingly contradictory passages.
Because James discusses the place of works in salvation, let us consider James 2:14-26 as it will help us to understand the seeming contradiction between Rom. 2:13-15 and Rom. 3:21-22. We read in verse 14 of James two, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” James continues this same thought for the next two verses and then in verse 17 explains quite succinctly the point of this passage, “Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone“. In other words, one must complete his faith by his works.
Many, incorrectly in my opinion, see this passage as James saying that salvation is by faith plus works. But that cannot be what James is saying here because that would contradict what Paul wrote in Rom. 4:4, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt“. Paul is contrasting works which makes salvation a debt, with grace which makes salvation a gift. That is to say, on the one hand, if one works for his salvation that puts God in debt to give him salvation. It is clear however that no man can be justified by works alone, but that does not change the argument of this verses, i.e. works is contrasted with grace. But on the other hand, if one simply puts his faith in God, God, in His matchless grace, gives him the gift of salvation. The point is that to say that salvation is by faith plus works contradicts Rom. 4:4 which is clearly a contrast between faith and works.
Salvation is purely a gift of grace and works make perfect, or completes one’s faith (see James 2:22) . Let us come back to James 2 to confirm that truth from Scripture. We read in verse 21, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” But according to Romans 4 Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith. The only way to avoid a contradiction between James 2 and Romans 4 is to see that works complete one’s faith. In point of fact, James says this very thing in verse 22, “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (The Greek word translated “perfect” is also translated “finish”, “fulfill” in other occurrences and is defined in the Companion Bible as “consummate”.) In verse 23 James completes his point, “and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:’ …….Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone”. But this is not faith plus works, it is faith that is completed by works.
THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST
“I WILL BLESS THEM THAT BLESS YOU AND CURSE THEM THAT CURSE YOU”
We read in Gen. 12:2-3 of God’s promise to Abraham, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.….”. Many take this last phrase to mean that if one blesses the seed of Abraham, i.e. Israel, they may have the opportunity to receive God’s gift of salvation, but if an individual curses that nation they cannnot be saved. Let us consider that thought.
As far as I know, we are never told in the Bible of an individual who cursed Israel. We do read of kings doing that by their actions, but that is a matter of a nation cursing Israel, not of an individual, per se.. And as stated above, salvation is a question of individuals, not of nations, being saved, . So let us consider the punishments as recorded in the Word of God that will come upon those nations who had cursed Israel.
Isaiah ten speaks of a nation, i.e. Assyria, that God Himself used to accomplish His plans against Israel. But they will be punished for what they did because the king did not acknowledge God in his victories over Israel. We read in Is. 10:5-6, “O Assyrian! the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in their hand is Mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the People of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil and to take the prey and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” In verse 8 we read of the arrogance of the King of Assyria, “For he saith, ‘Are not my princes altogether kings”? Then in verse 12 we read of God’s intentions toward Assyria for their arrogance, “Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks”. And verses 16-19 tell of the Lord’s punishment of Assyria. “therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his (the king’s) fat ones, leanness; and under his glory He shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. ……and it shall burn and devour his thorns, and his briers in one day; and shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standard bearer fainteth. And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them”.
Note there is not one word of anyone losing the opportunity of salvation in the punishment of Assyria.
Ezekiel 25 speaks of God’s punishment of four nations for their treatment of Israel. Let us consider their punishments. We read in Ezek. 25:3-5, “And say unto the Ammonites, ‘Hear the word of the Lord God; Thus saith the Lord God; ‘Because thou saidst ‘Aha’ against My sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity; Behold therefore I will deliver thee to the men of the east for a possession, and they shall set their palaces in the thee, and make their dwellings in thee: they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk. And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couchingplace for flocks: and ye shall know that I am the Lord”.
Here again it is clear that there is no hint of anyone being denied the opportunity of salvation.
Let us continue in Ezek. 25 with Moab and Seir. We read in verses 8-10, “Thus saith the Lord God; ‘Because that Moab and Seir do say, ‘Behold the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen;’ Therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers…….., unto the men of the east with the Ammonites, and will give them in possession, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations”.
Note again that there is not one hint of God denying anyone the opportunity of salvation.
We read in verses 12-14 of Edom. “Thus saith the Lord God; ‘Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; Therefore thus saith the Lord God; “I will also stretch out Mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword”.
Again, there is not one hint of anyone being denied the opportunity of salvation.
We read in verses 15-16 of the Philistines. “Thus saith the Lord God; ‘Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred; Therefore thus saith the Lord God; ‘Behold, I will stretch out Mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast'”.
I believe the point is made that when God declared His punishments on these nations that had thought to do evil against Israel, those punishments had nothing to do with a denial of the individual people of those nation the opportunity to accept God’s salvation.
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world”.
The first thing we must determine is: what period did Paul have in mind when he wrote the phrase “in time past”? That question is answered quite succinctly in the next verse with the contrast of that phrase with the phrase “but now”. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ“. The blood of Christ was, of course, shed at the cross. So Paul contrasts the position of the Gentiles before and after the cross.
Many make the argument that this passage says that in times past Gentiles had never had the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation apart from Israel. That argument is based on the assumption that this passage concerns the Gentiles in relation to salvation. But let us not assume anything, but rather take another look at this passage.
We read for example the phrase, “strangers from the covenants of promise”. Salvation is not a covenant, “it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). The covenants include the Abrahamic covenant in which God promised Abraham that his seed would be a great nation, and the Mosaic covenant of Lev. 26 which promised the nation of Israel that if they obeyed the law they would be blessed and if they disobeyed they would be cursed, and the Davidic covenant which promised David that his Seed would sit on the throne of the nation of Israel for ever. But again, salvation is not a covenant, therefore this phrase, at least, does not pertain to salvation. It pertains to the blessings given to Israel as a nation. If this phrase refers to the blessings of Israel as a nation as opposed to salvation given to individuals, that would suggest that the other phrases in this context also refer to the blessings of the nation, as opposed to individual salvation. Therefore, let us, with open minds, consider the other phrases of this passage.
Let us consider the phrase, “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”. There is absolutely nothing in this phrase which suggests that because they were aliens from Israel they had no opportunity to receive God’s gift of salvation. In point of fact, only the faithful of Israel would be saved (please see the paper on this web-site Will All Israel Be Saved? for the Scriptural evidence of that statement). So being of the commonwealth of Israel is no guarantee of salvation. And neither is not being of the commonwealth of Israel a sign of being deprived of the opportunity to receive salvation.
“Having no hope”. This entire passage, as we will see as we continue in the study of each phrase, has to do with Israel as a nation, not with individual salvation. What is the “hope” of Israel as a nation? The hope of Israel as a nation is, of course, the millennial reign of Christ. Gentiles of the Old Testament period could participate in that hope by becoming proselytes and after the cross by being grafted into the good olive tree (see Rom. 11:11). This hope was not the hope of salvation, it was the hope of millennial glory.
Let us consider the phrase, “ye were without Christ”. Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and King of Israel. As such the Gentiles were indeed “without Christ”. But, it could be correctly argued, that He is also the Saviour of the world. But we must consider this in context. The context, as we have seen, concerns what the Gentile nations did not have in relation to Israel as a nation. Again, salvation is a gift promised to those individuals who believe, it is not a promise to a nation. Therefore, the topic of this particular passage is not Christ as Saviour of individual believers, it is Christ in His fulfillment of what He is and will be to Israel as a nation.
How are we to understand the phrase, “without God in the world”? The Gentiles worshiped many gods, but the one true God is, of course, Jehovah. Jehovah is often referred to in the Old Testament as “the God of Israel“. Therefore, even though the Gentiles did worship many gods, they did not worship the only true God, Jehovah. Therefore, it could be said that they were “without God in the world”.
The point of this section is to show that Eph. 2:11-12 has to do with the promises made to Israel as God’s chosen nation. Salvation is not given to a nation, it is given as a gift to individuals who believe. Therefore we must conclude that this passage has nothing to do with the place of Gentiles in terms of salvation.
“SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS”
We read in Jn. 4:22, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews“. This does indeed say that there is no salvation apart from Israel. But we have seen several Scriptural arguments that tell us that the opportunity for salvation has always been available to Gentiles apart from Israel. We know that there are no contradictions in the Word of God. I believe the context will help explain this seeming contradiction.
Let us consider the role of Israel during the millennium. We know that Israel will be, in the millennium what they were chosen to be, i.e. a royal priesthood (see Ex. 19:6). And we are told in Is. 52:7 ,”How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, ‘Thy God reigneth'”. ” Note especially that those to whom the message is preached will say “Thy God….”. This tells us that it is Gentiles finally praising the God of Israel, Jesus Christ. How did they come to do that? They had been brought the message of salvation by God’s nation of priests, i.e. Israel.
In other words, during the millennial reign of Christ Israel will go unto the unbelievers of the earth and preach the salvation of God. Those who accept that message of salvation will be given eternal life and will live in the new Jerusalem.
If we consider the context and specifically the time period about which Christ said that salvation is of the Jews, we will see that because Israel will preach salvation to the entire world during the millennium, at that time, and at that time only, salvation will be of the Jews.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org