Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“Therefore, the law is indeed holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”
Paul, in Romans 7:12
“Everyone who commits sin also transgresses the law, for sin is lawlessness.”
John, in 1John 3:4
From last time:
If you had told Jesus’ disciples that the door by which Jews entered into the kingdom of God would be closed, and that as it closed, the holy baptism that John the Baptist preached would be holy no more, and that having a genealogical connection to Abraham would mean nothing to God, they would have considered you a blasphemer, perhaps worthy of death. Even Jesus was a Jew, they would have contended. Didn’t that mean something?
Yes, it meant something. But what did it mean? When Paul returned from his visit to the third heaven, he had the answer:
8. For I say, Christ Jesus was made a minister of the circumcision for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,
9. and for the Gentiles to glorify God for mercy, as it is written, “For this cause will I confess you among the Gentiles and sing to your name.”
10. And again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
11. And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and extol Him, all peoples!”
12. And again, Isaiah says, “There shall be a root of Jesse, and he shall arise to rule the nations. In him shall the Gentiles hope.”
13. Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you might abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit.
This revelation to Paul about the Gentiles is something that the disciples, on Pentecost morning when they were born of the Spirit, did not understand. They did not know that God was making such a New Covenant that the only true worshippers left on earth would be those who worshipped the Father in spirit and in truth. The disciples were very good Jews, and they had watched Jesus be a very good Jew as he observed all the commandments of the law. They did not yet comprehend the ramifications of what Jesus told the woman at the well: “God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” It would take Paul to teach all men, including Jesus’ own disciples, that the phrase “in spirit and in truth” meant that all ceremony is excluded. It meant that communion with God is a matter of the heart, that baptism is a matter of the spirit, that robes of righteousness have replaced robes of linen. But they did not yet understand that.
What God did in Christ was so great, so far beyond the thinking of even the best people on earth, that even his own disciples did not expect what happened and would not have believed it even after it was done, had God not continued to have mercy on them.
That is the greatness of Paul’s work. He was taken up into the third heaven; he heard things unlawful to speak; and then he returned to earth to educate even those who were apostles before him concerning what God had really done in Christ Jesus. Paul is the man who broke the yoke of the law off the back of God’s people, not Peter, not James, not John. Paul unlocked the shackles of the law’s carnal ceremonies and holy days and set God’s people free indeed!
Next time, Part Four: The Manner of the Jews