Monday, September 12, 2005

Yet others I will gather too: Is 56:8

The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, ‘Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.’” (Isaiah 56:8)
Jesus spoke something very similar when He said, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16) I have heard many explanations of these scriptures. The Mormon religion claims that these verses foretell Jesus’ appearing to the Nephite people on the North American continent after His resurrection. Several years ago, I heard a woman on the television say that this scripture referred to extra-terrestrial alien life forms. However, I believe that these scriptures both refer to the gentiles. The Father and the Son were both confirming that the gentiles would be partakers of the promises made to Abraham. Paul confirms this when he writes, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in You.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatians 3:7-9) The secret is now out-of-the-bag, God’s salvation is for both the Jew and the gentile.

Some of the early Jewish believers had trouble accepting that God would save the gentiles. They were the children of promise, they were chosen to receive the law, and they were the ones from whom the Messiah would come. After returning from Cornelius’ house, some of the Jews back in Jerusalem were disturbed that Peter had preached the gospel to gentiles. “And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” (Acts 11:2-3) Peter’s only defense was that it wasn’t his fault, God had chosen them and given them salvation and had baptized them with His Holy Spirit. “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” (Acts 11:17)

While most believers today would just as readily accept a gentile believer as they would a Jewish believer, there is still the tendency for us to become exclusive. We often make distinction between those who are on the inside and those on the outside. We speak of “our church” instead of “their church”. We see church as being for us instead of being for those around us, those currently outside the church. Even within the church we have our small circle of friends, so tight is the circle that it becomes hard for others to enter in. I have even known small groups that resisted the efforts of other to join and to become a part of their group. The gospel is inclusive and God intends that His church would be inclusive as well. How accessible is your church to those outside? How easy is it for people to come in and find fellowship? How welcome do they feel when the visit your church? Is your church a place where Jesus can bring the hurting and wounded to find acceptance and healing? This is the kind of church that Jesus is looking for.

David Robison

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