The Outsiders

The gospel is good news. It’s the story of God’s redeeming work, reconciling mankind to Himself. It’s the story that’s been unfolding since the beginning chapters of Genesis, from the dawn of time, and will continue to the final chapters of Revelation, to the end of time as we know it, when Jesus returns and establishes a new heavens and a new earth. It’s a story for all people at all times. But it didn’t always appear that way.

Genesis 12. God chooses Abraham to be the father of the Jewish nation and reveals that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed. Moses recounts the story for the children of Israel coming out of Egypt as he rehearses their history and the God who has saved them. God makes a shocking statement to this motley crew, “You will be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, the Israelite nation is reminded of their privileged position and relationship with God, while the nations are pictured as His enemies, as outsiders. So no doubt, the early church, being primarily Jewish, struggles with the inclusion of the Gentiles (the nations) into the fold.

The story of the conversion of Cornelius in the book of Acts should have settled the question of God’s acceptance of the nations. It’s always been a part of His plan. But this early Jewish church is faced with a major dilemma. If the Gentiles are welcomed in, it will mean a final irreparable break with Judaism. And so some of the converts from the ruling parties of the Jews have a hard time seeing the Gentiles come to faith without first becoming Jews because it feels like they are turning their backs on their Jewish heritage.

Yet it is undeniable that God is at work among the Gentiles through the ministries of Paul and Barnabas. And the Jerusalem church, at the first church council, supports them. The outsiders are in. They don’t have to become insiders first, they don’t have to become Jews, to be Christian. And Luke, writing for a predominantly Gentile audience, records this for his readers.  And as the book of Acts unfolds, Luke turns a subtle spotlight on another group of would be outsiders – women. Both in Jesus’ ministry and now in Paul’s, a number of prominent women begin to take part as the gospel goes out to the ends of the earth. The gospel is good news for all.

Until next time…stay salty.

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