The preaching of the Kingdom by John, and the disciples, was confined to the Jewish nation.
PROPOSITION 54. The preaching of the Kingdom by John, Jesus, and the disciples, was confined to the Jewish nation.
This necessarily follows as a sequence from preceding Propositions (as e.g. Props. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 29, 31, 33, 35, 38, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49). It is plainly stated in Matt. 10:5, 6 and 15:24, etc., “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, as ye go preach, saying: the Kingdom of God is at hand.” “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” These, and other intimations, are sufficiently distinctive of the fact.
Obs. 1. The special covenant to Abraham and renewed in David, the election of the nation, the very nature of the Kingdom—Theocratic-Davidic—allied with the Davidic throne and Kingdom, and hence the confinement of the Kingdom in its re-establishment to the descendants of Abraham in their national capacity, demanded such a restriction of the distinctive offer of the Kingdom to the Jews. It could not possibly be otherwise, unless God violates His solemnly pledged Word. So carefully does the Sacred Record guard this restrictive feature—necessary in the very nature of the case—that the only time Jesus left the Jews for Samaria, John apologizes for the same by urging its necessity (John 4:4), informing us, “He must needs go through Samaria,” i.e. His direct route lay through it.
Obs. 2. For some reason, a decided and exclusive preference is given to the Jewish nation. Why is this? If, as persons now so confidently assert, there is nothing in being a Jew, a real descendant of Abraham’s, how comes it at this crisis, that, when the Kingdom is preached, express charges and admonitions are given to avoid the Gentiles? Simply and solely because by the promise made to Abraham, by their previous Theocratic relationship, and by their national adoption in the Davidic covenant, the Kingdom that was preached, viz.: the restoration of the Theocratic-Davidic, belonged, as per covenant, exclusively to them. It would have been a violation of God’s oath to have passed by these covenanted people and to have turned to Gentiles, with whom no special covenant was thus made. This procedure of John, Jesus, and the disciples, in accordance with sacred covenanted relationship (but the subject of ignorant and unbelieving ridicule), teaches a fixed, fundamental truth, which must by no means be overlooked, viz.: that the regular lineal believing descendants of Abraham—the nationality of David—with those adopted (Prop. 29) by them, were entitled, by covenant, to this Kingdom. Hence the Kingdom was preached to them—tendered to them individually and nationally, and it was left to their choice to accept of it or to refuse it, because it was also in the Divine Purpose to bestow it upon “a willing people,” to the descendants of Abraham and those adopted, who made themselves worthy of a Theocratic Kingdom by faith, obedience, and holiness. The offer of the Kingdom is not in violation of but in unison with free moral agency.
Obs. 3. Even after the call to the Gentiles was made out, the apostles still affirmed this covenanted position of the Jews, so that Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:46) said to the unbelieving Hebrews: “it was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you.”[*]
Note. The explanation usually given does not cover this necessity, viz.: that the necessity arose because Jesus commanded His disciples to preach, “beginning at Jerusalem,” and it was solely to fulfil the command that this was done. Now, aside from Paul (Acts 9:20, 21), not having fulfilled the command, let the reader consider why the command itself was given; in that lay the necessity, the injunction of Jesus only manifesting it as existing. This can be none other than the one already asigned by us in Obs. 1 and 2. It is given by Peter (Acts 3:25, 26). and by Paul (Rom. 9:4), and because of it an express revelation in reference to the Gentiles was needed and bestowed.
Obs. 4. Even the instructions imparted in a more private way, and the mercy extended to Gentiles by Jesus, teach and enforce our Proposition. Keeping in view, as will be presently explained, the peculiar position of Christ, that He foreknew the rejection of this Kingdom by the Jews and the subsequent call of the Gentiles, it seemed eminently suitable in Him to exhibit His foreknowledge of the fact, and also His interest in and sympathy for the Gentiles. But He does not do this by sacrificing the covenanted relationship of the nation; He only confirms it in a striking manner.[*]
Note. Let us take the examples recorded, and illustrate this feature. Take the Syrophenician woman (Matt. 15:21–28; Mark 7:25–30), and when she first addressed Him for mercy, “He answered her not a word,” and when besought to send her away by the disciples, answered, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” and then added, when the woman in her faith worshipped Him, “it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.” Thus far He kept this covenanted relationship in view, and expressed it fully; but also foreseeing that this, the children’s bread, would be freely given to others in response to their faith, so now in the plenitude of His mercy and power He also, as an earnest, responds to the faith of the woman. If we refer to the centurion (Matt. 8:5–13), the mercy extended to him had direct reference in the mind of Jesus to the foreknown rejection of the Kingdom by the Jews and the introduction of others; for keeping in view His exclusive mission, He remarks, as explanatory of His course, “that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness.” Thus predicting the rejection of His offer, and the subsequent call of the Gentiles. So with other cases briefly mentioned, intimations of the same kind are given, and when they are lacking (as e.g. comp. Luke 7:1, etc., who does not state the language that Matthew does), we may rest assured, from the examples adduced, that brevity alone has excluded them. The peculiar case of Zaccheus shows that by his faith, charity, and joyful recognition of Jesus (Luke 19:1, etc.), he was adopted into the covenanted relationship, for the precise language is: “this day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham,” thus wonderfully foreshadowing, after He had foretold His own death, the future adoption of Gentile believers; and to make this the more striking, indicative of Divine inspiration, appends the parable of the nobleman and Kingdom (comp. Props. 108–110). Even in the memorable interview with the Samaritan woman—closer related to the Jews than others—and which, as we proceed in the argument, will be found to be based on the then unrevealed but still predicted purpose of God respecting Gentile worship, etc., He forgets not His restricted mission. For while partly unfolding to the woman and Samaritans this important feature coming, dependent on the foreknown fall of the elect nation, He presents that remarkable declaration (which some critics denounce as so excessively “Jewish” that it becomes “the dead fly in the ointment,” but which, as we see, is pre-eminently suitable to fall from Christ’s lips)—“Salvation is of the Jews.”
Obs. 5. Origen (De Princip., ch. 1, s. 22) first (and he has been largely copied) endeavors to break the force of our Proposition by saying that the Saviour came not specially to the “carnal” Israelites, “for they who are the children of the flesh are not the children of God.” Thus by a deliberate perversion of Rom. 9:8 he endeavors to make out a sense which the passage cannot possibly bear. Isolated, torn from its connection, the Scripture may be employed in a dishonest way, while in its orderly relation it strongly affirms our position. What children of the flesh are alluded to? All the children of Abraham, or some of them, or none of them? The answer is, that some of the children of Abraham were not identified with the covenanted relationship, viz.: Esau and his descendants; these are the children of the flesh purely, but some of the children were thus under covenant, viz.: Jacob and his descendants, and these of the flesh were not of the flesh only, but the children of promise. But they could not be the latter unless they were also of the former, and it is this union of the two that makes them to differ from the mere children of the flesh to whom the promise was not given.[*]
Note. This important point needs some additional remarks. The apostle’s argument does not proceed on the ground that because they are the natural descendants of Abraham they are rejected (for that would prove too much), but that even out of those born to Abraham some are chosen and others not; and that, in view of this distinction made by God Himself, He can in His sovereignty even yet, and does, reject those who reject Him. The apostle’s reasoning sustains the doctrine of election in Abraham’s line in a certain direction and within marked limits. Origen here laid the foundation upon which a multitude—ignoring the express declarations to the contrary—have thoughtlessly built, deeming it trustworthy, and being deceived by the mere sound of words. Origen, however, can be recommended for his candor and consistency, by which, from such a position, he continues to spiritualize until he finds spiritual counterparts for the Egyptians, Tyrians, Sidonians, etc., paving the way for Swedenborg and others.
Obs. 6. This exclusive mission to the Jewish nation, viz.: the direct offer of the Kingdom to them and to no other nation, removes at once the arbitrary constructions put upon this so-called “Jewish Partialism” by commentators and others.[*]
Note. Thus e.g. Dr. Alexander (Com. Isa. Introd., vol. 2, p. 8) tells us that “their national pre-eminence was representative, not original;” “symbolical, not real;” “provisional, not perpetual.” Such language is based, in view of their rejection for a time and the call of the Gentiles, on an entire misapprehension of the covenanted relation and election this nation sustained to God. This nation was singled out and chosen from all others (Prop. 24, etc.), and certain blessings were covenanted to it (Prop. 49), and in such a form that while individuals of the nation and even the nation itself might reject them, yet ultimately by a wise ordering and provision, in gathering out a selected people and in the manifested judgments of the Messiah, these blessings shall be manifested through the basis of that nationality because of its relationship to the contemplated restored Theocracy. Hence this national pre-eminence, thus even observed by Jesus and His disciples, was original and real, being founded on the covenants, and although now for a time (during “the times of the Gentiles”) nationally rejected, yet the perpetuity of this covenant relationship is manifested by the oath of God, the assurances given of its fulfilment, the continued preservation of the nation, the predictions of its future restoration and pre-eminence, and the necessity of Gentiles being engrafted into “the commonwealth of Israel” and becoming the adopted “children of Abraham” in order to receive the promises under the covenants.
There seems to be in some writers a confounding of the provisional in the Levitical economy with the things established by the covenants; and, what is still more misguiding, having in their own minds the Kingdom of the Messiah already existing without a restored Davidic throne and Kingdom, they, with this veil over their eyes, must, of course, discard the most solemnly covenanted arrangements of God, and place, with Gentile “high-mindedness,” the Jewish nation, to which pertains the covenants, in an attitude of inferiority. Ignoring the express covenant language, and mistaking the Kingdom itself—two fatal doctrinal mistakes—this prohibition of Christ’s not to go to other nations is to such writers either a very tender or a very difficult subject to explain, so that they pass it by or gloss it over in the fewest possible words, or else totally refuse to allude to it as something to them utterly inexplicable. Strauss and other unbelievers object to Jesus sending His disciples only to Palestine, and not to Phœnicia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, etc., but such an objection has no force when viewed from the covenanted standpoint. It has only propriety and pertinence when it is assumed that the modern notion of the Kingdom was the one preached. Therefore the usual replies given to Strauss do not meet the objection fairly, as e.g. Ebrard (Gosp. His., p. 333), which is insufficient, limiting this exclusive preaching of the Kingdom to a “ground of prudence,” and then in order “to form in Judea a centre and starting point for the new Kingdom.”
Obs. 7. If the Kingdom of God is really what the multitude affirm it to be, viz.: the Church, or the reign of God in the heart, etc., what consistent and valid reasons can possibly be assigned for its being thus restricted nationally to one people? It seems strange that intelligent theologians fail to see that none, on their hypothesis, can be given.[*]
Note. Even Millenarians, who adopt the prevailing Church-Kingdom theory (as preparatory to the final Messianic Kingdom), involve themselves in difficulties. Thus Olshausen informs us: “We cannot suppose that in this (restriction) Christ was accommodating Himself merely to the weakness of the disciples, but rather to the demands of the times, and the immediate destination of the twelve” (Com. Matt. 10:5). And this, in place of the “everlasting covenant,” is offered as a reason to infidelity. No wonder that unbelievers revel in this accommodation theory to “the demands of the times.” Olshausen adds another conjecture: “It was necessary, first of all, to prepare in the nation of Israel a hearth to receive the sacred fire, and to keep its heat in a state of concentration.” These surmises show an evident seeking for, and manufacturing of, a reason, which by no means covers the question; for, even admitting these doubtful suppositions, why alone select the Jewish nation (that rejected Christ, etc.), and not others? Why should the times demand this exclusiveness, if a mere spiritual apprehension was concerned? The response, alone affording a solid reason, always follows: the covenant and covenant relationship made it necessary. Barnes (Com. Matt. 10:5, 6) has much to say about the Samaritans, but waives the plain (but to him, with his Church-Kingdom view, knotty) question, by saying: “The full time for preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles was not come. It was proper that it should be first preached to the Jews, the ancient covenant people of God, and the people among whom the Messiah was born. He afterward gave them a charge to go into all the world.” “They (the Jews) had been the chosen people of God; they had long looked for the Messiah; and it was proper that the Gospel should be first offered to them.” This is all that he has to say, basing the restriction upon proprieties, and not, where the Bible places it, upon the covenanted promises and their national identity with the Davidic people over whom and in whom the Kingdom was to be established.
Obs. 8. The difficulty that theologians, who endorse the prevailing Church-Kingdom theory, are under to reconcile this preaching of the Kingdom exclusively to the Jewish nation with their own system of belief, is indicative of a serious flaw, a fundamental doctrinal defect, in the same.[*]
Note. The difficulty is found in a multitude of writers. It may be both interesting and profitable to give additional illustrations. Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 154) thinks: “The difficulty can be solved by supposing, first, that Jesus was often obliged to use the language of His hearers in order to be more easily understood; next, by remembering that the blame cast upon the heathen was well deserved, and that it does not imply praise of the Jews; and lastly, by admitting that in His wisdom Christ designedly drew a narrow circle for His disciples in their first mission of evangelization.” The reader may well ponder such a circuitous and accommodating way of giving no reason why Jesus “in His wisdom” “drew a narrow circle for His disciples.” Fairbairn and others try to evade this restrictive mission, this confinement of the preaching to one nation, by saying that Christ before His ascension said that they were to be His witnesses at Jerusalem, and then preach the Gospel in all the world (Obs. 3, note 1). This does not remove the obstacle to their view; it is in fact no answer to the question, because, as we shall show, the reasons for the removal of this restriction are also given and recorded. Christ gave His command to go to other nations after the postponement of the Kingdom and calling of the Gentiles was fully determined; and even when the command to preach to all the world was given, such was the decided influence of this restriction upon the minds of Jewish believers that it was only made manifest after the day of Pentecost and after special revelation and council held, how it could be removed. Such writers fail to answer why the exclusive mission was first given, and shielding themselves under what afterward, for well assigned reasons, took place, do not see that the final removal, instead of explaining, only makes the restriction the more conspicuous. Dr. Neander (Life of Christ), not satisfied with the common view entertained, tells us that Christ’s ministry was confined to the Jews, and that before the truth could be offered to the heathen it must be “fully developed in the disciples,” etc. It follows then that the truth partially developed (contained in “the husk”) was good enough for the Jews, but not for the Gentiles. Besides this, Neander flatly contradicts himself; for what must we say to such an announced full development in the disciples, taken for granted to meet a contigency, and his repeated assertions in other places (some of which we have already quoted) that the disciples and apostles had only “the germ” which was afterward to be developed in the church—that they could never entirely divest themselves of “Jewish forms” and “Jewish prejudices.” Explanations like these amount to nothing; they are simply conjectures worked out by a preconceived theory. Neander endeavors to guard his explanation by stating, what is emphatically contradicted by the Record, viz.: that the disciples could not infer from this restriction that the Samaritans and heathen were to be excluded from the Kingdom of God. It is surprising that such an assertion can be made in the light of the most positive prohibitions to go to the Gentiles. That such was their opinion or inference, derived from a specific covenanted relationship and confirmed by the language of Jesus, is evident from the special vision vouchsafed to Peter to indicate the call of the Gentiles, and from the apostolic meeting when the question of the call was discussed. Thus able men pervert Scripture, in endeavoring to bend it, honestly meant, to a favorite theory.
Schmid (Bib. Theol., p. 54) misses the historical connection, and entirely overlooks the covenants, when he affirms: “His only reason for limiting His own operations, and at first those of His disciples, to the Jewish nation, was to gain a firm foothold and starting point for His entire scheme.” He assigns the cases of the centurion and of the Samaritan woman (Obs. 4, note 1) as proof. These exceptional cases only prove that the foreknowledge of Jesus anticipated the final result of His mission, and gave a foretaste of hope to the Gentiles. In addition to what has been said, see our next Proposition for a reply to Schmid. Renan (Life of Jesus, p. 213) thinks: “If, in other cases, He seems to forbid His disciples to go and preach to them (Gentiles), reserving His Gospel for the pure Israelites, this also is undoubtedly a precept dictated by circumstances, to which the apostles may have given too absolute a meaning.” The Record as it stands is sufficiently satisfactory and consistent with both what precedes and follows; there is not anything “seeming” about it. For, “the absolute meaning” is a necessity grounded in the preceding covenants: the circumstances dictating such “a one-sided” mission, are found in the election of the nation; the disciples, instructed by Jesus and conversant with the covenants, are better qualified to express the idea fairly than Renan, who cares very little for both. Indeed, if the mission of John, Jesus, and the disciples had been made indiscriminately to Gentiles and Jews, what would have become of God’s covenants made with Abraham and David? What would God’s solemn affirmation then be worth? Let the analogy of Scripture answer, why such a restriction was laid in the preaching of the Kingdom, and the reply comes clear and distinct, that it was conditioned by covenant promises which belonged exclusively to the seed of Abraham and the people of David. If this prohibition were lacking, this exclusive turning to the one elect nation were not exhibited and recorded, then an important and essential link in the golden chain of Divine Purpose were also missing.
Obs. 9. The reader will bear in mind that the message of the disciples—a peculiar and distinctive one—to say “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” was not addressed by them to any Gentile. The same is true of John, and also of Jesus, who carefully avoided it in His address to Gentiles (Obs. 4, note 1). The reason is, as we have seen, that the Kingdom belonged to the Jews, and until the call of the Gentiles was entered into on account of Jewish unbelief, the message pertained to the Jews and those adopted as Jews.
Obs. 10. The Kingdom was ultimately to be extended from the Jews so that it would embrace the Gentiles also, as indicated plainly by the prophecies (Prop. 30). This opinion was held by the Jews, as the titles given to the Messiah showed (e.g. Mac. 2:7, 14, “the King of the World”). But this ordering did not interfere with the Davidic covenanted basis, or with the predicted (on this account) supremacy of the nation (Prop. 114).
Obs. 11. Some writers, anxious to find some basis for their idea of the Kingdom, and consequently that it also was preached to the Gentiles, assume that the mission of the twelve was exclusive, but that of the seventy was general, including the Gentiles. But this, as we see from the covenanted position of the nation, would be contradictory and fatal to the truth.[*]
Note. Advantage is taken of the omission in Luke 10:1, etc., of the exclusive injunctions elsewhere recorded, and a hasty, desired deduction is made. Thus e.g. Dr. Killen (Old Cath. Church, p. 5) remarks that “the seventy symbolized His regard to the whole human race,” an opinion derived from some tradition that the inhabitants of the earth were divided into seventy nations, speaking seventy languages, etc. It is surprising that so careful a writer as Olshausen (Com. Matt. 10:5 and Gen. Introd. to Paul’s Epistles) makes the ministry of the seventy “also directed to the Gentile world,” and “these seventy appear as the representative of the whole Gentile world.” Now there is positively nothing in the Record to lead to such an inference; more than this, the statement of Luke, carefully considered, teaches the exact reverse. For these seventy were only to go to the places “whither He Himself would come,” and therefore not outside of Christ’s own mission; the message was the same that the twelve delivered, and Jesus would not contradict Himself in the injunctions covering the same; the nighness of the Kingdom to the people preached to (as we shall show, Props. 57–59, etc.) indicates the Jews; the denunciations against Jewish places only and the lack of any mention of Gentiles visited, shows the restrictive character of the mission; the fact that the call of the Gentiles had to be made the subject of special revelation, that the seventy were Jews with Jewish ideas of covenanted relationship, looked for the restored Davidic throne and Kingdom, etc.—these things afford ample evidence of the restrictive nature of their mission corresponding with that of the twelve. If there was anything symbolical in the number chosen, then it would be better, as many do, to make the twelve representative of the twelve tribes and the seventy of the nation, either through the number of the Sanhedrim, the Elders of Moses, or the family of Jacob.